Monday, December 31, 2007

Out of It

So... I've been out of it lately. That is, I haven't been writing new blog posts or reading blogs for awhile. See the unread count on my Google Reader widget?

Silly me forgot to take Monday off from work. Meh. Slow day and an empty office... perfect for catching up on my reading.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dirty Tricks

Playing a low level character in World of Warcraft can be annoying at times. I'm talking about the random party invites from level 1 characters, usually on the wrong continent. Don't bother accepting them because they're just ploys to pitch you gold buying or character leveling.

Ahhh, but thanks to Blizzard's recent changes the party invites have disappeared. I don't have the link with me but the kids at Blizzavision removed the ability for free trial memberships to do party invites (I may have read it on a blog... sorry for not remembering who said it). So nice not having to Decline a party invite every 30 minutes.

Last night I was messing around on my level 27 shaman, and the same level 1 character kept spamming the Ashenvale general chat with things like: "Where can I find iron ore? PST" and "Free 16 slot bags. PST"

Odd that someone with 16 slot bags to spare wouldn't know how to find iron ore nodes... or know enough to sell the bag in the auction house and buy the iron ore. Hehe. I got to try the new report spam feature. Daddy likes.

My guess? The next dirty trick the gold sellers are trying. Good luck.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I mentioned my family gave me season 1 of Heroes on DVD for my birthday. I watch an episode every few nights. Last night I felt inspired.
O Muse! Speak through me, you winged dove.
Sing your bawdy tale of lust and love.

No, not inspired like that. (That was my lame Pope imitation, btw). I was looking at the kittens on for um... my daughter... because she likes cats... right. I never tried the LOLCAT BUILDER feature. Very easy and somewhat amusing. Here is one of my creations.

funny pictures

P.S. Thanks for all the support from everyone in comments, emails, and guild forums. I can't tell you how much it means to me during this difficult holiday season. Much love.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ghost Wolf FTW

I rolled a shaman to join my guild's Monday night team. My target is level 35, and I'm at level 24 now. The shaman class is fun to play with its mix of ranged and hand-to-hand combat plus heals. The ghost wolf travel form is crazy. It's like having a mount at level 20. Fun, fun.

The Game Dame posted a couple articles with tips on playing shamans. Good stuff for a newbie shaman like me. Check it out:
Last weekend I was tapped to fill in for a Team Manaka (the guild's Saturday team) member who couldn't make it because she had to work. The all guild team consisted of a warrior, priest, mage, hunter, and shaman (me). I was nervous because I was a substitute for a regular team member, but no worries once we got rolling. Friendly, fun, and mature. That's how I describe the team. Everything clicked and we had a great run.

I've played the healer and DPS in many small group dungeons from Ragefire Chasm through Underbog (tanked a few times too). But this was the first time I was playing back up to all three of the primary roles. This was a challenge, but a fun challenge. When the priest went out of mana, I backed him up. When the mage pulled aggro, I frost shocked the mob over to me and kept it occupied. But I spent most of my time dropping totems, interrupting enemy spellcasters, and smacking things in the noggin.

I picked up a couple pieces of armor and a rolling pin. No, that wasn't a typo. A better one-handed mace dropped and I won the roll for it. Cookie's Tenderizer (I think). It looks like my toon is swinging a rolling pin though. Increased my DPS by about 15%. I'd post a screen capture... but I'm at work. Hehe.

Fun Fact Friday: In real life I worked at a small bakery for about a year. The specialty breads and pastries type of bakery. While I never had to whack a murlock over the head with a rolling pin, I made some killer sweet rolls.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Waking Up

Just skip reading this blog post. I'm all full of sad today and spilling it here.


Six months ago I told Avril about Second Life, thinking it was a Sims-like MMO. My wife played the Sims and Sims 2, but lost interest in them over time. I think the games were too static and lacked the human spark that makes online games so much fun. She really jumped into Second Life. I'm impressed with the quality of the objects she builds and sells in her online store, which she says gets about 25K in daily traffic.

Three months ago I bought a second computer at her urging. My thought was that we would play games on the same nights and NOT play games on the same nights. I saw it as a win-win... more time with Avril and more time playing games. That was my hope... but that hasn't happened. She plays every day. I miss my wife. I love her. I told her I miss her. But she ignores me. For example, I gave her one of those Missing You cards and wrote a sweet note inside. She didn't say anything.

When I was a raider in World of Warcraft, I had troubles keeping games balanced with life. I was playing too much and cutting into the time we'd normally spend together. I was putting a strain on our relationship. I woke up. I made changes to when and how I play games. When I returned to WOW, it was with a better understanding of how to keep things balanced.

I don't know what to do. I'm worried to be honest. I feel like a fool writing about it here.


P.S. Promise my next few posts will be about my recent UI changes or running Dead Mines with the 7S team or something, anything less emotional.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Blood Watch Is Under Attack

The other night I hearthed back to Blood Watch to turn in a few quests for my dranei shaman, fly to Exodar to train skills, and then log out. It was late and I was tired, but I like to leave my characters in a "ready to play" state.

After the loading screen disappears, I'm greeted with a ghost town. Some level 70 warlock sack o' shite has turned the sleepy village of Blood Watch into a killing field. I have to admit I was impressed with the thoroughness of his rampage. Bones everywhere. Not a NPC left, and he'd take them out soon after they respawned. Guess I missed all those "Blood Watch is under attack!" messages in my chat frame.

A dozen or so lowbie players were standing around. Some were laughing about it. Some where cussing about it. I'm more like ho hum. Time to make bandages or quickly sell junk to a respawning vendor before Mr. War Crime one shots him.

Eventually some high-level Alliance take pity and shoo the warlock away. Thankfully this scenario doesn't happen often. I can appreciate the thrill of taking out an entire town in a starter zone. Not my thing... smells like griefing to me. Why waste all that time just to deny other players access to vendors and quest givers?

I have an idea. To encourage that "here comes the cavalry" behavior, give these good samaritans a reward for swatting a pest. Bonus honor, gold, special two hour buff, experience, fluff trophies, whatever. Anyone doing damage to the griefer or healing someone doing damage receives a reward appropriate to their level.

Ah... the joys of playing a popular MMO.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Blogroll Update - December 07

Time to update my blog roll links. Adding the following bloggers to my list:
  • Girl Meets WoW
  • Lost In The Grind
  • Random Battle
  • The Game Dame
  • The Pensive Harpy
  • WorldIV
Also... despite the controversy I may cause with this bold, risk-prone action... I have reversed the reverse alphabetical sort of the blog roll. Gasp! Panic! The list is now alphabetical.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Happy Burrr-thday

Happy birthday to me. Avril and I went out with some friends, and tried to recapture my youth by drinking far too much beer. McMenamins FTW. Thankfully I have plenty of sick days left at work. Hehe.


The usual suspects for gifts. Money is always welcome. I was thinking either an iPod or a widescreen monitor. The kids gave me Heroes Season 1 on DVD. I missed the first half of the season. A garden hose (?) and cordless laser mouse rounded out the gifts.

Our gas furnace celebrated my birthday by breaking, which makes for a cold night here in the Northwest. Avril's too busy doing her online thing to keep me warm at night, but that's a different story. I hoped the overpriced Mr. Fixit that came out would just call me an idiot for doing something stooopid like not relighting the pilot light. If only... so much for that iPod.

An example of the cosmos balancing itself out. Hehe. No worries though.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Small Group Feel Inside a Guild

I know a few people in RL that play World of Warcraft. Unfortunately their work schedules are opposite of mine or they play so infrequently that I rarely see them online. The people I liked from my old raiding guild are still in that raid-or-die mentality. While they were polite when we chatted, I got the feeling I was little more than a failed raider and ex-guildie to them. Sigh.

What is a hardcore casual player to do? I enjoy the solo play, but the group content is what takes the game to another level. I tried being a raider, but that didn't fit my play style. Pickup groups are too risky and frustrating. I like reading Wilhelm's posts over at TAGN about his regular WOW gaming group as they tackle different instances week after week.


That's what I want... a group of players that keep their characters within a narrow level range and meet once or twice a week to have fun and run instances. But how? How to join a group when most of my friends and family are non-gamers. If they are gamers, they're the Halo type of gamers.

Does this sound familiar to you? Keep reading.

Earlier this summer I posted a short series on why I left WOW. Stormgaard from Se7en Samurai commented on it and suggested I check out his guild. After resubbing last month, I did. The guild I recently joined, The Seven Samurai on Alleria (Alliance), is genius in how they establish teams (small play groups) within the larger guild environment. Money quote shamelessly reposted here:

Our guild teams offer members the opportunity to group on a regular basis without having to worry about out-leveling each other. The secret to this is that team characters are only played on the nights specified for each team. Think of it like a weekly "Poker Night" - it's in the exact same spirit. We pick different classes that compliment each other and have a blast leveling through the game together.

Anyone may join one of our established guild teams or create their own if they wish. If you join an existing guild team it's required that stay within a workable grouping level range of the other members. If you wish to create your own team you will need to name at least one team captain so that other guild members can contact you if they have any questions.

There is a one-to-one relationship between characters and teams. That is, once you have one of your toons join a team, you only play on that team and on the scheduled night. (Except, obviously, to do stuff like tradeskills or training, etc.) The key is once a character joins the team you keep your character near the same level as the rest of the team. You progress through the content together.

Also, perfect if you like playing multiple toons. For example, I could have one character on the level 20 team, another on the level 45 team, and a third at 70. Plus a couple of other alts I play on the off days. That's an example of course... my new toons are currently levels 3, 11, 14, and 20.

Joining an existing team or starting a new one is simple and informal. Filling in on a team if someone is absent is also a possibility. Just ask in game or post something in the forums. So much simpler than that raiding guild I was in. Daddy likes. Hehe.

I didn't okay this with the guild ahead of time, but if you've read this far down the post, then I assume you're interested in The Seven Samurai. We play on Alleria server on the Alliance side. Players are spread across all the US time zones, so chances are there's a team for you. Post a message in the forums if you're interested in joining or ping someone online.

Wush I Had A Edjukashun

Apparently my crazy blog writing skills are at the high school level. Intentional, of course. Hehe.

cash advance

Click the picture to try other blogs or web sites.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Auction House Made Easy

The Auctioneer addon is an important tool in the World of Warcraft, but has no part in the UI that I am slowly piecing together. Why? I use Auctioneer to streamline the whole buying and selling process. But the addon is a memory hog.

I want to spend as little time as necessary posting the raw materials my toons collect or the random equipment that drops. Plus Auctioneer lets me earn some money the old fashioned way... buying low and selling high. I earned about 5 gold with literally about 2 minutes of work. Not bad since I only have a couple under 20 toons on this server.

The first step in my system is to create a character that just hangs out in a capital city. This is the only character with the Auctioneer addon loaded. His only purpose is to move items from the mailbox to the auction house, and then send money back out. My other characters send him stuff in the mail instead of posting the stuff in the auction house themselves. This reduces time spent travelling and keeps my main characters' bags tidier.

The next step is to scan the auction house often, but not more than once a day. The key is patience. You can't download the addon, run it a few times and expect the magic to happen instantly. You want at least a week's worth of data to get a clear picture of an items real value. The more times it scanned the auction house, the more confident you can be in Auctioneer's suggested price. I click the Scan button and find something else to do. In fact, it's running as I write this blog post.

After the scan completes, I can mouse over the item in my bag and a new little tooltip tells me what Auctioneer thinks is the items real value. Also, in includes info if the competition is above or below price. No more having to search the auction house manually to figure out how much my stack of light leather is worth. That's not fun for me. Some people may enjoy it. Thank you, but I'll take the easy route.

Next up is searching the auction house for items priced well below market value, so I can scoop it up and repost it. Flipping under priced items is easy money... assuming you're willing to take the occasional loss. My rule of thumb is to not risk any more than I'm willing to lose. Right now it's about 50 silver. That's my threshold. I won't buy an item to resell for more than 50 silver. As my toons' wealth grows that threshold will increase.

I can't stress how important patience is to making money with Auctioneer. You need to wait for data to collect. You also need to wait to post items at the right times. I've had to sit on a good item for a few weeks, because some yahoos were underselling it.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Random Junk Dec 3

Odds and ends tonight. Busy in RL over the weekend... and leveling up Alliance toons to join teams in my new guild, Seven Samurai. But more on that in a future posting.

My boss actually followed through with her promise of comp time to pay me back for the 3 weekends I worked last month. Nice. I took Monday off of work... good thing too because I went out to a bar Sunday night and indulged in a little too much holiday cheer. Never mind Daddy, kids, his tummy feels icky.

I use Google Reader and it's sitting at 150+ articles to read. I glimpsed at the titles and looks like some good stuff. I'm saving that for tomorrow morning at work. Hehe.

My wireless network frustrated me. Past tense. I was getting bumped off the Internet too frequently, which makes battlegrounds or healing in a group a very bad thing. My solution was not elegant but quick and effective instead: get wired.

Shaman is a fun class.

If you've read this far, my thanks for sticking through my rambling. Adios.

Friday, November 30, 2007

WSG Twinks Waahhhh

My new Alliance priest dinged level 19 a couple days ago. My gear is laughable - a mix of low level greens and whites. Plus I rerolled on a new server, so no gold stockpiles to dip into. Occasionally I get these crazy thoughts such as let's upgrade my toon's gear by earning all those cool PVP rewards.

I played the 10-19 battleground bracket for the first time in two years. I was prepared to get slaughtered by twinks. No delusions here. Getting whacked in two hits though... yikes.

Twinks. Blizzard sure screwed up. Let's have a player's first experience in Warsong Gulch be against a bunch of twinks with enchantments created and balanced for level 60 toons. Why does everything in World of Warcraft have a minimum level requirement except enchantments? I'm talking about the old 1.0 WOW enchantments. Blizzard's mistake. Stat bonuses for a level 60 toon should not be stacked on a level 19.

I'm not claiming to be some kind of hotshot in the battlegrounds, but I know how to play a priest. Last week I was playing my level 49 undead priest in WSG and AB. Rarely died. Top healer in most matches. Mid-range on the damage. I know I'm whining, but it's something bugging me.

I played enough matches to get the back piece: 10 tokens needed, 10 lost matches. Hehe. I actually had a couple of close matches, but the Horde twinks outnumbered the Alliance twinks.

For the record, I have no problems with the concept of twinks. It actually sounds fun planning and building a twink to compete in the battlegrounds. The enchantments are too much though. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Battleground Buffing

Dear Horde Teammates,

While waiting for the battleground to start, please give out whatever 10+ minute buffs your class is capable of giving. Simple concept really. Power up your team, increase odds you'll overwhelm your enemy, and gain early momentum.

As a priest I have a little ritual I do before the battleground starts. I work my way down the list of raid members giving them Power Word: Fortitude, Renew, and Shadow Protection. Guess how much mana it costs me? Zero. Nothing. Z-E-R-O. That's right... if you haven't heard, buffs are free before the battleground starts. So why aren't more people buffing? Hello, Mr. Mage, please give me an intellect buff because a priest out of mana is worthless. You liked how I gave you a 35% increase to your hit points. Feels good, huh? Now return the favor.

Buffing yourself and teammates gets tricky after the battle starts. I tend to buff myself after rezzing. Buffing other people depends if I'm playing offense or defense and the current situation. For example, if I die protecting the flag carrier, I'm not going to spend time and mana buffing because I need to get back to the carrier ASAP so I can shield, heal, and decurse.

In Arathi Basin I go defense... either static at a single node or mobile and bounce between hot spots. When I'm playing defense I have usually have time to buff my fellow defenders and allies rezzing in the nearby graveyard. People are typically thankful and surprised.

In Warsong Gulch I go offense, mixing heals and dispels with fear, silence, and DOTs. I hand out very few buffs after the WSG starts. I can't afford the mana to buff everyone, and I don't have time to sit for a drink to recharge. The flag carrier (and any other guards) get buffs, of course, when we're hiding on the roof or behind the graveyard.

My motivation for buffing in battlegrounds? 75% selfish and 25% altruistic. I like to win. I like receiving more tokens and honor points. I like the gear I can buy with them. Getting a "thank you" feels good, but I like winning more. Greed trumps goodwill. My guess is you feel the same way, so let's see more buffs in the battlegrounds.

Thank you,


P.S. If the Alliance is smart, they'll buff up before the battleground starts. Which means we better do the same, or we're starting at a disadvantage. Duh. So, please, more buffing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

BigDaddyUI 0.6 - Chat and Automation

I dropped five more addons into this evolution of my World of Warcraft UI.

Two mods are working behind the scenes to make life simpler. Automaton handles boring stuff like automatically selling gray items at the vendor, repairing my items, and ignoring duel requests. The FreeRefills addon buys items up to a predefined level. For example, I set FreeRefills to automatically restock my ammo, pet food, and drinks. No forgetting to grab meat for the cat or bullets for my gun. FreeRefills does not have a GUI config dialog. Instead, you have to use slash commands to set it up. For example I have to type "/fr add [Rum and Coke] 20" to get my undead priest sh1tfaced. This addon is a better fit for higher level characters and hunters.

After moving the minimap to the lower right corner, I added another action bar in two vertical columns. I scaled the size down some with the thought I'd put occasionally used spells like buffs or pet summoning. However, the default tooltip position was covering part of the minimap and this little action bar. TinyTip to the rescue. I configured it to use almost all the default appearance and info settings. I'm using the addon to reposition the tooltips. I like TinyTip because of its small memory footprint compared to a few others I tried out.

Next on my list of addons were chat related. I wanted to update the look to match the more modern style I'm evolving towards. I installed the Prat and MiniChat addons and monkeyed with the settings.

Okay, MiniChat does one thing... add an arrow in the upper right corner to minimize or expand the chat panel. If you've played World of Warcraft, you know how bad and stupid the chat can be at times. Now with a click the chat panel is minimized, showing only a single line of text.

Prat, on the other hand, has a bewildering number of options. I left most of the settings alone, except a few minor look-and-feel tweaks. I'm putting this addon on the list to review in more detail later.

A couple new screen caps below. FYI... click on them to see the images full size.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Princess Power

After returning Puzzle Quest to GameFly, I put a few games for my daughter at the top of the queue. They sent us Disney Princess Enchanted Journey for the Nintendo Wii. If you have a young daughter who adores Disney princesses, this is the game for you. We've had fun this weekend playing the game together. My 12-year-old son even played it with his sis, but I doubt he'd admit it to his friends at school.

The controls are easy to learn and use. You use the Wiimote and nunchuck to move the princess avatars around 3D worlds from the Disney movies. You can also jump, climb ledges, and use a magic wand to defeat the occasional non-scary enemy.

Two features she (okay... we) enjoyed were customizing her princess avatars similar to a simplified version of Sims 2 and the two player cooperative play. I encourage my daughter to be more than a princess (she says her favorite princess is Mulan because she is a warrior too) ... but sometimes it's just plain cute to indulge her with the pinkness and tiaras. With the two player co-op mode, we could enjoy the game together.

The completely voice-acted plot is similar to the other Disney princess types of games: help a different princesses restore order by completing simple mini-games. For example, we were helping Snow White's friends sorting gems by color or helping Ariel's crab buddy escape a friendly octopus in a whack-a-mole style game.

My only complaint is the game is too short. We completed in the four-day Thanksgiving weekend without trying too hard.

All things considered, I recommend this game for your young daughter under 8. Rent it if you can, because replay is minimal.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Seven is a Lucky Number

Much love to my new World of Warcraft friends on Alleria server. They were gracious enough to let me join their guild: The Se7en Samurai. Check them out.

I played one Alliance toon to level 5 a lifetime ago, so this will be new content for me... at least for the first month or two. I've had fun starting over on a new server. All my other alts received gold and big bags from my upper level characters, so this "starting over from scratch" thing is a refreshing twist.

Friday, November 23, 2007

BigDaddyUI 0.5 - Map, Buffs, and AutoBar

Another day means more World of Warcraft mods to add to my evolving UI. Two simple, one complicated. All from By the way, check out this WOW addon search tool I saw posted up on WOW Insider. Searches all the major addon sites.

I'm using simpleMinimap addon to square off my mini map, scale it down a little, and move it to the lower right corner. This area was a dead space. I considered dropping the mini map altogether because I rarely look at it, but it does have it's uses so it stays.

Now that mini map is out of the way, my buffs look odd hanging out in their default position. I used Buffalo before taking my break from WOW, so that's that addon I'll start with unless something better comes along. Buffalo meets my requirements: customize the position and spacing of the buffs and debuffs and add countdown timers to them. I like to glance at my buffs and know if I have 3 minutes or 23 minutes left on my fortitude buff.

I'm not showing my target's buffs, which is an issue I need to fix. For example, I ran a few Arathi Basin battlegrounds with my priest and had difficulties knowing who to buff or not. But I'm not sure how to handle target buffs or what addon to use. Pitbull, Grid, or something else? Meh.

Most recent screen capture below. Me healing in Arathi Basin. I thought my priest was level 50 or 51, but pleasantly surprised Sorrows was still at 49. Time to kick Alliance in the teeth.

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The map and buff addons were quick additions, but this next addon was trouble but worth it. I'm talking about AutoBar. This addon builds a bar of buttons based on various pre-configured categories of consumables and the such. AutoBar scans your bags and selects what items to show based on how you set it up. For example, I have one slot dedicated to healing potions and healthstones and another to foods. The cool part is the buttons expand if you have more the one item in a category. All my buff potions are shown when I mouse over the slot. Plus! AutoBar automatically adds items on the fly, which means no more searching around my bags for that one random potion I just looted.

I didn't like the default slot categories though, so I started with a blank slate. After setting it up, I accidentally reverted it back to all empties. D'oh. The config panel is so-so but would benefit from a dose of user friendliness. I shouldn't complain, the addon author has my thanks. Check out AutoBar's wiki here.

What addons am I using so far? This is a complete list:
Bagnon *
Bagnon Options *
Bartender 3
ClearFont 2
ClearFont 2: Font Pack
Fubar ExperienceFu
Fubar LocationFu
Fubar MiniClockFu
Fubar PerforamnceFu
OmniCC *
OmniCC Options *
Pitbull 2.0

Where am I getting these World of Warcraft addons?
Most of the addons come directly from the list of beta addons. A few addons are from the WowInteface site (marked in list).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

BigDaddyUI 0.4 - Rework and Timers

First off let me say that all those minor unit frames and action bars in World of Warcraft are giving me headaches. I'm talking about the pet, focus, and target's target unit frames. Also, the stance and pet action bars are annoying me. I want the UI to look balanced and simple whether I'm off fighting baddies or crying my eyes out on a park bench. See below.

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You can tell from the screen cap that I moved the PitBull player and target unit frames side by side. You can't see it in the example above, but the pet unit frame is to the left of the player unit frame with the focus unit frame above that. If I don't have a target selected, the UI looks off balanced. However, this move lets me position the Quartz cast bars above the unit frames instead of to the side. I found that when I was playing the game I was watching my cast bar closely to perfectly time my next spell. Big increase to DPS but my eyes were too far off the action in the middle of the screen. Function will always trump style.

I tried a few different spell timer addons and picked ClassTimers because of easy setup and breadth/depth of features (my mantra). Like player and target casting bars, a buff/debuff timers are critical. For example, I can see at a glance how long I have until my sheeping or rooting wears off. ClassTimers gets high marks because I can place separate timer bars for my character, my target, and my focus. The screen cap isn't a good example.

The stance and pet action bars will have to wait. I'm not happy with how tight the bottom of the screen feels. I want to keep the action bars and unit frames centered, but then the chat frame is squished on one side and there is dead space on the other. You know what would help is a widescreen monitor. Hehe. Think I can convince Avril it's a necessary family expenditure... instead of say new tires for her car?

Guilded, Really?

Last night after Heroes I logged into my level 30 tauren warrior, which I left parked at the mailbox in Undercity and who was never in a guild. I was working on my UI, figuring out where to put the stance bar and toying with another new batch of addons. My bull was motionless for thirty minutes easily. Then I received a whisper from a complete stranger.
Stranger 1: do you want to join my guild?
Me: why?
Stranger 1: why not?
Me: /who Stranger 1 ((level 17 belf warlock in guild XYZ))
Me: good point

I decide this guild either immediately recognizes my skill, intelligence, charisma, and good looks OR their recruitment standards are so freaking low that they will take any random mid-level toon standing by a mailbox. I go back to working on the UI and mind my own business.

Twenty minutes later a female troll starts flirting with me at the mailbox. I, of course, start flirting back Tauren style.

Stranger 2 blows you a kiss.
You whistle at Stranger 2.
You moooooo at Stranger 2.
Stranger 2: Would you like to join my guild? We're a fun, casual guild with 300+ members.
Me: /who Stranger 2 ((level 43 troll mage in guild XYZ))
Me: lol, is your guild on a recruitment spree? you're the second person to whisper me about joining

Turns out this is the guild leader, and we chat for awhile. I figure what the hell and joined up. They had forty odd people logged in at 11:00 PM on a Monday night. Players were spread out between the low 20s and low 50s. Hmmmm. I tend to go with the flow, so let's see what happens.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

BigDaddyUI 0.3 - Fubar, Fonts, Cast Bar

Ugh. Fonts. I wanted my UI to be more unique, more personal, more preciousssssss... sorry, wrong MMO. I skimmed a few free font sites and decided to use a combination of Zeroes Three from Abstract Fonts and Arial from my system's Fonts folder. I had to hack the lua files for ClearFont2 to use these fonts plus customize when to use what font. For example, I want to use Zeroes Three for most short things like names and numbers, etc. But for long blocks of text such as chat frames and quest log, I prefer the more readable Arial.

Last night was the first time I edited an addon's code. I backed up the original and only had to revert to the saved copy once. I don't know Lua, but it doesn't appear to be a difficult language. One thing I clued into fast was Notepad isn't the hottest tool to use. Anyone know of a good Lua resource online or maybe a book?

I installed Fubar2 plus a few plug-ins. Fubar has about a billion plugins, and I eventually settled on four to start. I have my eye one a few others, but don't know if it's worth cluttering the bar low priority info such as the number of empty bag slots or how much money I have. I dumped the plugins into a solid black bar along the top edge. Long term I may move them around or do something creative with eePanels. Here are my four starters:
  • PerformanceFu shows my frame rate, latency, and addon memory usage.
  • SimpleClockFu is what just that... a simple digital clock.
  • ExperienceFu shows my character's level as a percent and any rested XP bonus.
  • LocationFu tells me where I'm standing (I get lost easily... /jk).
Next on the list of addons was a casting bar called Quartz. This excellent addon was released during my break from World of Warcraft. Easy to use and many features. I placed the player and target cast bars to the right of their unit frames, and then tweaked the size, color, etc. to match. I disabled about half of Quartz's features until I have more time to explore them.

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Latest version... baby mage in action...
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Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Truth is Out There

Thanks to Blizzard's notorious Armory, the whole world now knows I am an untalented hack. See for yourself.

My baby mage hit level 10 and now shows up in the Armory. Looks like I forgot to spend that talent point. Newb.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Vid Card Surprise

So this morning I'm browsing through the Fry's Electronics ad not expecting to see anything. But to my surprise there is an X1650 Pro 256 MB video card for $30 after rebate. Thirty dollars. True, the card is... um... less than spectacular. However! This new video card is a full eight (8) tiers above my current nVIDIA 6150 according to Tom's Hardware. Plus my power supply is big enough to handle it. Hot damn.

Lucky for me my sweet wife works near Fry's. She grumbled a little, but in the end spoiled me and picked up one for me. I owe her one.

Now comes the fun installing the card and drivers. Microsoft Vista and I are not friends, but we're learning to live with each other. If all goes well, I'll be back in Azeroth soon with cranked up graphic settings and a respectable FPS. If it doesn't, then expect to hear me whining about it here.

I snapped the new video card into place, plugged in the various cables, and fired up my computer. Panic! The mouse and keyboard were not working. I tried removing the card and going back to the onboard display but no luck. I jumped on Avril's computer and looked on the forums for help. D'oh. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had the mouse and keyboard cables switched. Sad part is they're color coded. Oooops. After switching them back I had no problems getting the new vid card going.

My frame rate in World of Warcraft went from 25 FPS to 120 FPS. I have most of the graphic settings maxed now and the game averages around 60 FPS.

Link is a happy boy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

BigDaddyUI 0.2 - Bars and Bags

Tweaking my UI was one of the things I missed about World of Warcraft. Ahhhh. Good to be back.

I added three new addons to my evolving UI and modified the action bars and unit frames. Let's start with some example screen caps.

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I am experimenting with something different. Instead of stacking slabs of action bar buttons down, I'm staggering the action bars and using the cyCircled addon to create rounded buttons instead of square. Let me know what you think. Never mind the colors for now; all I did was darken the borders because the default is bright white. The benefit of this staggered set up is I can lay my buttons out in a variety of interesting shapes such as triangles, diamonds, and hexagons.

Continuing with changes to action bars, I added OmniCC. This replaces the default cooldown timer on my spells and equipment. The addon is quick to setup and has a good amount of control over details. That is how I like my mods. Easy to setup and modify balanced against breadth and depth of options. The only change was to increase the font size.

Bagnon is my preferred single bag solution. No more clicking through five bags to find something. Bagnon also includes a search feature. For example, I double click the top of the bag frame and type "armor" and everything but armor is shaded. I shrunk the bag frame by 20% and reduced the number of columns, so it slips into the dead space on the right of the screen. Using Bagnon also means I can hide the bag bar and use the B key to open and close my inventory instead.

The bright colors on the player and target unit frames were bugging me too much. I darkened the colors used by Pitbull by about 25%. Much more subdued. Yellows, however, are on the verge of baby poop color, so I may have to tweak the settings more. I forgot to mention before but I grabbed the SharedMedia addon because I like the clean look of the Smooth texture.

What addons am I using so far? Here is a complete list:
  • Bagnon *
  • Bagnon Options *
  • Bartender 3
  • ClearFont 2
  • ClearFont 2: Font Pack
  • cyCircled
  • OmniCC *
  • OmniCC Options *
  • Pitbull 2.0
  • SharedMedia
Where am I getting these addons? Most of the addons come directly from the list of beta addons. A few addons are from the WowInteface site (marked with an asterisk above). I haven't checked, but you can probably find all the addons listed above on WowInterface or sites if you're not into using beta versions of addons.

Puzzle Quest Complete

Last night I completed Puzzle Quest with my level 46 druid. Fun game. The ending was less climactic then expected, but a good game none the less. I strongly recommend Puzzle Quest. Especially if you have a portable game device like a DS because Puzzle Quest is good for filling those little gaps of time. For example, last week I took my son to the dentist. I could either read magazines filled with celebrity gossip and holiday recipes or save the world from evil. Uh, easy choice. I got a few weird looks, but they're just jealous.

If we bought Puzzle Quest instead of renting it from GameFly, I'd be more inclined to play it again with a different character class. There were side quests I skipped, and I'd like to explore the spell research feature more. When they come out with Puzzle Quest 2, I'll most likely buy it. I'd be surprised if there wasn't a sequel to this game.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Smooth Patching

First time patching World of Warcraft on my Vista box, but I felt confident there would be no problems. I logged in to my admin account and ran the installer from there. No issues. One small bump with my firewall. Again. I don't remember having to reset program permissions every time I updated with my XP box. At least it is one file instead of Lord of the Ring Online's three. I'll have to look into if this is a Vista thing or a Symantec thing.

One unexpected change was support for dual processors. But I didn't see that translate into better performance. Actually things are worse as far as I can tell. Pre-patch my FPS averaged about 20 in town and 35 out in the wilds. Post-patch my FPS dropped to 15 in town and 25 in the wilds. But I hardly notice. Totally playable. I don't have the choppy graphics like I had in LotRO. An occasional stutter in town, but the game just plays smoother. Hoping it was a temporary thing.

Still dreaming of an 8800GT and a big widescreen flat panel...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BigDaddyUI 0.1 - Genesis

One feature World of Warcraft nails is its user interface. The default UI is clunky and sprawling but usable and restricted. The perfect thing for a new player. Advanced players can choose from a massive number of addons, ranging from lesser tweaks to major UI revisions. Creating and modifying WOW's UI is something I missed. Since restarting the game last week, I've spent at least half the time online trying out addons. Then I had a thought... why not blog about the evolution of my UI.

What is my ideal UI?
Words to describe how I visualize the perfect UI: simple, minimal, clean, easy, fast, elegant, sleek.

The perfect UI organizes the outputs and inputs by priority. That is, the information and actions most important are located closest to the combat. I don't want to take my eyes away from the action to monitor my cooldowns or check my mana or whatever.

My ideal UI would use a darker color palette and use visual elements to integrate the different pieces into a single system.

What type of player am I?
I am a "mouse button clicker" type of player. If I was a "keyboard key pusher" type of player, my UI could be bare bones. However, I need action bars and plenty of them. I can keep my UI looking clean by hiding some action bars until I mouseover them, which is perfect for skills, spells, and items of lesser priority.

A few guidelines...
  • Stick to the standard color associations such as green for health, blue for mana, red for aggro, and so on. Avoid any confusion.
  • The only time I want to have bright colors popping up on screen is when something needs my attention.
  • Same goes for movement. Those 3D portraits look interesting but they distract me to much when the picture starts moving around.
  • I want to keep one UI for all my characters, but I realize that I may have to create a variant for my healers.
  • As a general rule I stick with Ace2 addons, but there are a few exceptions.

Let's start my new UI with three addons to cover the basics. Please keep in mind that this UI will be an evolution, changing over weeks as I add, modify, and remove addons. Plus your feedback and suggestions are always welcome.
  • ClearFont2 and Font Pack: The default fonts are difficult to read, especially at smaller font sizes. I changed the fonts to the sans serif font Insomniax. Long term I want to replace this with a better font, but this one will do for now.
  • Bartender 3: There are a variety of action bar mods out there. Bartender 3 is my favorite because it is simple to setup and provides many detailed options. My first order of business was to create two 12 button action bars centered under my character. The bag bar is shrunk and shoved to the far corner. The screen captures below don't show it, but I have a third action bar along the right edge of the screen hidden until I move my mouse over it. I've stuck all my infrequently used things like buffs and my hearthstone.
  • Pitbull: This is a new (to me) unit frame addon and my favorite. Setup is daunting, but the addon gives you a superior level of control. I created player and target unit frames to start. Colors and texture has to change, but keeping it simple for now. I positioned the unit frames between my character and the action bars. I prefer them there instead of the default up in the corner. I'm not sure if I want to leave them stacked vertically or spread the frames out horizontally.
The following are two screen captures. I'm new to using ImageShack, so bare with me while I work out the kinks.

The first shows my baby mage strolling around the woods one evening.

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The second shows him playing with woodland creatures. Hello, kitty.

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My plans are to add a few more addons at a time and blog about them. Then comes the revisions to make the UI flow and look pretty.

Monday, November 12, 2007

5 Lessons in 5 Years

Stormgaard at Se7en Samurai tagged me with a meme: 5 Lessons in 5 Years. Three will be gaming related and two more general life lessons learned. I'm playing fast with the rules, so my apologies up front.

1. Pay to play is okay.
I missed the boat on many of the earlier MMOs because I was staunchly opposed to paying a monthly fee to pay them. No Everquest. No Dark Age of Camelot. No Ultima Online. I thought how stupid is it to buy the game in the store and then pay for it over and over to play it. Silly rabbit. I finally got it a couple years ago. Fifteen bucks a month isn't outrageous and is actually cheaper compared to buying a new game every couple months.

2. MMOs are like a zillion times more addictive.
Than anything really. I burned through many sleepless nights playing Diablo 2, but nothing like World of Warcraft. I didn't expect that level of obsession. I hate to admit it, but the game was affecting other areas of my life. Lucky me that I pulled out before things got crazy. I see some people I care about starting down that path, and it worries me. I'm no saint though. Since restarting WOW, I want to play more and more. But now I know this beast. MMOs by their design are addictive. They are built to keep you logging in month after month, night after night. Almost all of them reward you for time spent in world. Plus they have no end. No plot that is neatly wrapped up after defeating the final boss. No game over screen followed by rolling credits. The more free time you have, the further you will advance, and the bigger your rewards. I'm just regurgitating what I've read in other peoples blogs. Nothing new here.

3. Vid card specs hurt my head.
I learned that video cards specs, while utterly complex, are necessary to understand. I've made two mistakes with video cards. The first was thinking the amount of memory was the only thing that mattered... 256 MB is 256 MB ... right? Years ago I bought a seriously outdated Radeon card on sale when I was playing Neverwinter Nights. The graphic quality and FPS improved. True. But I couldn't play newer games because the technology was too old. The second mistake was not taking the time to understand that not all 6000 series nVidia cards are created equal. Just like many things in life, vid cards are available in a range from low- to high-end. I'm determined not to get burned again on vid card buying.

4. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.
I'm in the middle of learning a big, fat lesson about life the hard way. Sorry to be cryptic... but you really don't want to hear about it and I am light years from being ready to write about it. Moving right along.

5. Switch jobs to advance.
Quick little quiz for you... to advance your career/paycheck do you stay with the same employer year after long year or do you take a risk and find a new job? Guess what I think. Yes, there are exceptions and maybe this applies only to the high tech fields like IT departments and software development shops. Once upon a time I had old-fashioned notions that hard work and loyalty and perseverance would one day be rewarded with a promotion and raise. My grandpa worked the same job for decades and retired with a pension. Those days are gone. I slugged through eight years in an entry-level position. Eventually I was doing tasks that a senior level tester did before he left the company. I got smart (okay, a little smarter) and found a new job. Almost half again as much money, less work, and more respect. Crazy. It worked for me, it can work for you too.

Time to tag a few people with the 5 Lessons in 5 Years meme. My picks:

Friday, November 9, 2007

LF2M Training Wheels

Picture the first time we see the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz. Rusted joints. Can't move. That is how I feel restarting World of Warcraft. Solution? Roll a new toon and let the well-crafted newbie experience bring me back up to speed. I rolled a new blood elf mage on my old server and sent him bags and gold. I didn't play much of the new Horde zone before, so this will be a good place to restart. Time to remember how to play WOW again.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

WOW is a Go Go Go

The install of World of Warcraft on my Vista computer was trouble free. Ninety minutes to install WOW and the expansion from CD, download and install a 500+ MB patch, and reactivate my account (oh...and deactivate LotRO). That went so much smoother than expected. No complaints. No bumps.

My characters were all waiting for me. I picked one and zoned in. Yikes. I forgot how clunky the default UI looks. Rebuilding the UI is going towards the top of my to do list. But it's 11:30 pm and I'm sleepy and I'm going into work early to set up the test lab for a big test run. Did I log off and go to bed? Nope. Instead, I fiddled with the video settings to find the best balance of looks and performance. Then I jumped over to WowAce and downloaded a few addons and started tweaking the UI. Dad was bad. Very, very bad. But sleep is for wusses.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Back in Black

Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.
Cliched. I know.

Two boxes are sitting next to me on the desk... World of Warcraft and the Burning Crusade expansion. I can hear them whispering to me. They want me to install them on my computer. Ah, but I know better then to rush into installing the game on my Vista PC. I learned that lesson the hard way.

I'm braving Blizzard's forums to research the recommended install process. Short of reformatting and loading XP, my best bet is to run the installer from the administrator account, install the game to a new folder outside the Programs folder, and run the game and any patches as an administrator. I think.

But before I start my adventure in installation, I want to take a moment to sketch out why I'm putting Lord of the Rings Online on hiatus and restarting WOW.

I'll avoid beating any dead horses and whine about why I left WOW. I've been out of the game for eight months and I miss the game. WOW has its flaws, but the game simply gets more things right than any other MMO I've tried since leaving eight months ago. I don't want to go totally fanboy here, but WOW is just a great game. Also, I played Horde only (except Dranei) so there's plenty of content to explore.

Another reason is WOW will perform on my system. You see, I don't have a real video card. Not yet at least. Maybe if I'm a good boy Santa will leave me something under the tree, but for now I'm stuck with 128 MB of integrated graphical crap. I started WOW on my old PC with 64 MB integrated before upgrading the vid card, so I know what to expect.

LotRO doesn't perform unless the game is on the lowest graphic settings. The game is beautiful but I can't play it that way. Ugh. My choices were ugly looking or horrible playing. I wanted to love LotRO like how I loved WOW. I tried. I did. I'm not trying to slam LotRO, but the game didn't click for me.

The 2.3 patch comes out next week with its casual player goodness. Project Fubar at work ends next week. So here we go. Back to Azeroth. Fingers crossed.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Simple Questions

Avril asks simple questions that contain deep wisdom. It started this weekend when my darling wife asked me an innocent question: How is Lord of the Rings going?

I told her about my problems with the graphics (secretly hoping she'd green light a new, sexy 8800 luck). I told her about feeling limited and stuck. How the game started with a rush but has since gone limp. I told her that I haven't logged into Middle Earth for days and don't mind that I haven't. I told her that I don't feel the excitement I felt when I played World of Warcraft. I should still be in the honeymoon phase with LotRO. What's wrong with me? Instead I'm pining away for my first MMO love.

Avril's next question floored me: Why don't you play Warcraft instead? I sputtered something dumb that honestly I don't remember, but her idea stuck with me. I can't shake it. My wife's simple question haunts me. Why don't I play Warcraft? But I'll take Treebeard's advice on this one... don't be too hasty.

Expect to hear more on this subject.

P.S. Do you watch Heroes on NBC? You should.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

LotRO Firewall BS

Why do I have to mess with my firewall for every little Lord of the Rings Online patch? I have to add the same three programs to my allowed programs list. WTF?! Keep in mind I'm running Vista, which means I have enter my admin password to install the patch and again to access the firewall. I checked the official tech support forums, and they only confirm that's what I must do. I don't have these issues with other online games. Stupid. Stoooooopid.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Googling Big Daddy - LotRO Version

You've seen this blog meme before. The one where the writer lists different search terms people are using to Google (is that really a verb now?) his or her site. Here is my contribution to it... filtering for Lord of the Rings Online related items because a majority of recent hits from Google search have been LotRO. I've played the game for all of five weeks and rolled a few alts, so I'm a bona fide expert. Uh, right...

I'd post the strange ones I get (such as these little gem: older daddy, daddy games, and daddy roleplay), but I get weird stuff that kinda freaks me out. Daddy must be some kind of code word in some subcultures. I'm scared to look.

On with the list...
  • "hunter pet lotro" I wish, but sorry to say you are confused. Hunters in LotRO do not get pets. You're thinking World of Warcraft. Turbine borrowed plenty of ideas from Blizzard, but that class feature wasn't one of them.
  • "good race/class combo" Huh? Long term it doesn't matter. Just pick a race whose lore interests you and has character models you want to look at from behind for the next few months. Then pick your favorite class. Unless you are min-maxing... I'd advise read the forums for in depth analysis. Good luck.
  • "lotro hunter, soloing" Piece of cake, just be careful to pull one mob at a time. Two at most... but you're asking for trouble. Soloing is easy in LotRO until your quest log is three-quarters group quests. Good luck.
  • "lotro lore master race" Assuming this person was wondering if an elf or a man would make a better loremaster and not some white power degenerate. Just pick a race and go with it. I think it's worth trying out each race, so pick one you haven't tried yet.
  • "lotro hunter crafting" I'd recommend crafting bows. Heavy armor won't do you any good. Crafting in LotRO is not fun. Lie to yourself and say it is enjoyable, but deep down you know the truth. You might as well pick a vocation with multiple gathering professions, sell everything at the auction house, and use the funds to buy better gear than you could otherwise craft for yourself.
  • "lotro class dps" Easy. If you like to go ranged, the hunter class is for you. Sneaky more your style? Go for a burglar. Pick a champion if going toe-to-toe with multiple enemies sounds like fun.
  • "lotro dwarf loremaster" Nope. Only elves and humans.
  • "lotro cleric" Nope. Minstrel is the game's healer class. A few other classes have minor healing abilities. But no clerics here.
  • "lotro roleplay" Landroval server. Also check out LOTRO RPHaven . I've done a bit of light roleplaying, but I just can't get into it. Meh.
  • "lotro farming spreadsheet" Really? You want a spreadsheet to support farming? For what, pipeweed? This person should be playing EVE Online. I don't mean it as a slight against that game.
  • "character to start lotro" Here is an idea for you. Start one of each race and class combination. You have 4 races, 7 classes, and 20 possible combos. I kid. Read the descriptions of the classes and pick your favorite. Rolling alts is easy, but be prepared to delete characters because you're capped at 5 toons per server.
  • "lotro epic quest chains" Good stuff, but you will need a group to advance or wait until you're character's level is well beyond the recommended quest level. I've enjoyed the epic quest chain and how it weaves itself around the plot of the books.
  • "lotro crafting blog" Nope. Not here. My little hobbit has done a good bit of crafting, but I won't with my other characters.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Go to Hell, Bildo

Okay, who showed Bildo how to capture and post videos? Kidding. Jump over to Bildo's site to check out two short vids he shot of Hellgate: London gameplay (see here and here). Both show the engineer class in action and switch between first- and third-person shooter. Good stuff. Go now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More Puzzle Quest

Sorry to say this but no MMO lovin' for me the last few days. I have been squeezing in Puzzle Quest though. My druid is in the low 30s now, and I'm having a blast with the game. I recommend it. Last night Avril caught me snoring away on the couch with the DS in my hands. Oops. My only excuse is I've been exhausted lately.

Puzzle Quest Rune List
See here. Check out this web tool to help with forging items in Puzzle Quest. Select a base, modifier, or power rune from the list, and it shows you details about all possible item combinations. The location of the rune is also listed. The site has a few other things such as spell casting calculator, spell list, and item list.

Puzzle Quest Map
See here. Large (as in huge) map for the Puzzle Quest game. I'm assuming the map is the same for all platforms but YMMV. This map shows everything, including all cities, quest paths, incomes, rune locations, and creature spawn points.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Random Junk Oct 28

Yes. It's another odds and ends post.

First, my apologies to Bildo for trying to hijack his post about upgrading his computer's power supply. I read his post about upgrading his vid card and PSU. That got me thinking about my desire to my upgrade box too. I asked a few of the programmers at my work where they'd go to buy a new vid card, and they said to check out So, I'll post the same question here... anyone have any experience with the web retailer or can recommend another?

Second, the family carved pumpkins for Halloween. Avril carved the fancy tree and ghosts. Mine is the pumpkin king inspired one at the end. The rest are the kids. As you may have guessed pumpkin carving is one of our traditions. See below.

Third, for your viewing pleasure... the Azerothian Super Villains. They have four episodes out on YouTube (episode 3 below). Looks like it was first posted about six months ago, so this is old news. But new to me, and I like sharing with you.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Friday Night Queue

Now this is something new and unexpected. I logged into Lord of the Rings Online and was greeted with a login queue. The first one I've seen in this game. My guess is all the peoples checking out the new housing. Makes sense now that I think about it. New patch with piles of upper level content. Of course players will want to explore it.

I rolled an elf loremaster and played the first few levels. I'll post my impressions of the class after I've unlocked more core abilities and experienced its gameplay.

Friday afternoon the managers gathered the teams together and told us we were working again this weekend. Damn. Project FUBAR refuses to die. I wish it would. It's seriously cutting into my MMO time. I've been playing more Puzzle Quest on the Nintendo DS lately because I find it easier to jump in and play for a brief session. When I play LotRO, I want to play for longer blocks of time. That doesn't work well when I'm nodding off early. I apologize for whining... but it's my blog, so nyah.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


A few posts back I complained about hitting a little wall in Lord of the Rings Online. I don't feel a burning desire to play as much as possible like I had with another MMO that won't be named for fear I'll hear its siren song again. I had a blast playing when my hobbit hunter was lower level, but I'm stuck in a funk now that I'm in the mid-20s. I read about this kind of thing happening, but I hoped it wouldn't hit me until I was in my 40s. What to do?

Time to roll an alt and give my main a short break. I played a minstrel up to level 7 and that was fun. So either I will go back to playing that character or roll a new loremaster. That is assuming this patch ever finishes downloading. The Book 11 update was released today. See here. While the patch notes list some interesting things such as player housing, I don't see anything that will benefit me now. Hohum.

P.S. My work schedule is leveling out, which means more time for play and more time for blogging. Woot.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Forging Items in Puzzle Quest

Puzzle Quest employs a simple but fun and flexible method for crafting items. What a refreshing change of pace compared to crafting in MMOs. That's comparing apples and oranges, but it's still a welcome change.

To craft an item, you select three runes from your pool of available runes. The runes are divided into three categories. The first determines the base item and one of its effects. For example, last night I used Rune of Daggers, which gives me a weapon dealing bonus damage. The second rune is a modifier rune that, um, modifies the other two runes. I chose Rune of Dwarves, which gives +2 to the base rune and +50% to the next rune. The third rune adds a special effect to the item such as bonus mana at the start of battle or a chance to do some effect during battle. I selected a rune giving me bonus red mana at the start of battle because fire is my lowest mastery and slower to build up.

The system involves collecting various runes by searching for and defeating monsters across the world map. The more powerful runes are guarded by more powerful monsters, so you must be higher level to acquire them. I found that the rune keepers in the area I'm currently questing are challenging but not too high of a level. I'm level a level 21 druid, but expect this to hold true as I advance through the game. Almost every location on the map has a rune, so you end up with a big pool of varied runes. Another bonus to collecting runes is more experience points and money.

The runes have a crafting difficulty associated with them. The more powerful the rune, the more challenging the puzzle to craft the item. A low quality item may require scoring three "hammer and anvil" points while better items require six or more points. You score these "hammer and anvil" points by destroying a new type of icon added to a new forge puzzle game. This type of game has some special rules that I don't fully understand to be honest. I just kept plucking away at the puzzle until I got three of the icons in a row or destroyed them with a red skull combo.

Unfortunately my character has a limited number of equipment slots. I wish he had a few more, so I'd have a reason to forge more items. So my only gripe with the crafting system in Puzzle Quest is I want to do it more often. How many games can you say that about?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sleeping on the Keyboard

I've been so exhausted this past week, knocking myself out to test this rush project at work. I wrote an automated test tool to speed up manual testing. It's a simple thing really... just shortcuts the tedious prep work to set up for each test case. Not to brag too much, but it worked like a charm. We were completing tests five times faster then expected, but with a 30% failure rate. Not good, but not my problem. I just find the defects and log them. Except for this FUBAR project. Friday was a twelve hour day, and we spent half of it proving the test tool was solid and the defects were real. Just venting here.

I tried playing Lord of the Rings Online this week, but I couldn't seem to get a good session going. I logged in a couple nights and I just wandered around the Lone-lands or the North Downs. My eyelids were heavy and within 30 minutes I was heading off to the shower before bed.

Saturday night I played for a few hours, but the shine's worn off the game. Hard to describe. Level 24 isn't as much plain ol' fun as level 14. I'm still enjoying LotRO, but I'm not as excited to play. Let's assume it's more me being exhausted than anything else. I hope...

The 2.3 patch for World of Warcraft is looking damn sexy. Not saying I'm going back any time soon. Just mentioning I think the changes are hot.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Alternate Identities

I have a question for you. Who do you tell about your blogging and/or gaming? And when do you tell them?

I recently told my wife Avril about this blog. I'm excited to share this site with her but still nervous about it. Weird. So if I mysteriously stop posting, you'll know my better half dropped the hammer. Just joking. I guess it's one thing to share my thoughts more or less anonymously with random people on the Internet and another thing to share with someone I know in real life.

I could see telling close real life gamer friends and family about my blog... some day. I'm only a few months old, so maybe at the one year anniversary I'll have a big coming out party. Wait. I didn't mean it like that.

Now, when it comes to talking face-to-face, I don't make it a secret that I play video games. I have no issues telling people I like games. But...if I'm talking to non-gamers about it, I won't drone on about raiding in World of Warcraft or finally finishing the mail delivery quests in Lord of the Rings Online or my killer black control deck in Magic: The Gathering. When I'm talking with some of my hardcore gamer co-workers, the floodgates open.

I'd like to think this is normal behavior. Not some sign of deeper psychological issues.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Random Junk Oct 15

We're in crunch time at work. Ten hour days. Plus six hours over the weekend. We should be done by the end of the month. My company has a few projects at different stages in the software development process. One is in the elaboration phase, another in construction, and a third in transition. Then the parent company dropped a hot project on us. Everything is paused; everyone is thrown on to Project FUBAR (my name for it). We've had busy periods before, but nothing like this. What does this mean? Less time gaming because I have to go to bed earlier.

Speaking of gaming, I hit a small wall in Lord of the Rings Online. Pluck is at level 22 now. I completed all quests in the Lone-lands that were doable at my level. I'm too low to tackle the higher level ones. I tried. Red means dead when your a semi-squishy hunter and you pull two mobs by accident. To be honest I was frustrated. Then I remembered I had one quest that took me into The North Downs. Beautiful... more level appropriate quests.

My son and I are working on a Heroscape battlefield. I should post some pictures when we're done. We're taking longer than usual because we keep coming up with new ideas to try out. I set up a table in the garage for a more permanent table top gaming area.

I bought a new computer chair over the weekend. The local office supply store had a sale for 40% off. I like stumbling on to a clearance sale. I am so comfortable. Padded arm rests and everything.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bitter and Vindictive

I am torn. I feel guilty and petty for celebrating the misery and misfortune of others. But I can't help feeling smug and satisfied when certain people get their just deserts.

A friend at work started playing World of Warcraft a couple months before I left the game in March. I won't go over the whole leaving WOW story again because I've beat that dead horse enough. But one of the reasons I left WOW after almost a year and a half was guild drama and a painful guild split.

My friend at work told me to check out his main character in the Armory. I'd forgotten about that tool. Of course I checked out my old guild too. They had a couple dozen characters in their teens and twenties. Many of the names were old raiders from the Molten Core days. Blew me away to think they'd deleted their old characters and started over new. Good for them.

I also checked out the splinter guild... the traitors that rushed to level 70 after the expansion was released and left to form a new guild to start raiding. They're gone. Dead. I emailed someone from my old guild and he said he heard they had some big, ugly blow out a few weeks ago and a bunch transferred servers and some quit out right.

Does this make me a bad person? I'm happy they got what they deserve. Evil devouring itself or some such like that. But I also don't like being bitter. I had good times with them. If anything I should thank them for helping me decide to leave WOW. Since then I've come to a more balanced approach to video games.

There. I feel better sharing instead of letting it fester inside me. Too bad I didn't have this blog a year ago. Enough of with the feelings already. Time to log in and hunt some orcs.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Am So Addicted this machinima music video from Baron Soosdon. I don't know what it is about it. The music is outside the range of what I typically listen.

Maybe if I had the tools and the time, I could create something like this. Nah. Who am I kidding? Just give me a game to play.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Two-Tailed Wargs and Other LotRO Mutants

Since my first day in Lord of the Rings Online I've grouped on and off with the same burglar. We seem to play on the same days and times. And he's a good guy and a competent player. Maybe not the ideal two classes to duo, but, we do crazy damage.

The other night we were working on Lone-lands quests. One quest had us collecting warg tails when we noticed that every dead warg had two tails. The next quest had us collecting body parts of of lynxes. Same story. Every corpse gave us both the quest items. In other words, we weren't penalized for grouping together to play the game. Compare that to other MMOs (ahem, WoW) were you are penalized for grouping on collection quests.

This got me thinking about features I'd like to see that support grouping. I've seen these in various games, but it would nice to have them all in one place. Pardon the incoherence.
  • Simple quest sharing. A little icon next to the quest that I can hover over and see who in the group has eligible to receive the quest or has already completed it.
  • Option to show your quest log to a group member. I'd love an option to just show my quest log to my group. Instead, I have to take five minutes to describe that one quest with the orcs, you know, east of the ruins south of the inn. No, the one where you collect their ears not their toes. No, not the orcs with swords. The ones with the spears... and so on and so forth.
  • Have everyone confirm before an escort or guard quest begins. Hey, game designers, how about a simple confirmation dialog before starting an escort quest when I'm grouped? For example, the other night I was busy rummaging through my bags and character inventory. My buddy assumed I was ready to start the escort. I didn't even notice they'd started. And why is that every escort quest I've seen in LotRO has the NPC running directly towards the big group of mobs instead 10 yards to the right? Now I have to fight the regular mobs plus all the triggered spawns. I digress.
  • Credit for collecting items. If the quest says to collect something, give all team members credit for it. In fact, if my friend is nearby, let him get the quest item too without having to loot the corpse. Same thing for those quests where you have to interact with X objects such as poisoning water barrels.
  • Tracking group progress on a quest. If you don't give every group member credit for collecting a quest item, then let me see at a glance where they're at so I now if we need to keep killing woozles or not.
  • Quest chains. Okay, for epic quest chains I understand not being able to share quest number 37 out of 51. But, WTF if the quest chain is I talk to person A, talk to person B, and then kill ten rats. I can't share that final quest in the chain because my buddy didn't talk to some NPC in Tanarsis.
  • Travel, summoning. Dungeon Runners had a nice feature where you could easily teleport to a team member's location. I wouldn't want something that extreme, but then again I don't want to spend 45 minutes running to meet up.
  • Level adjustment options. You know, mentoring and sidekicking.
  • Scaling challenges and rewards. Sure, why not.
  • Dynamic spawning. The more people in an area, the more mobs. Simple.
What would you like to see to support grouping?

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Chair

I have discovered how to attain perfect balance between gaming and every other responsibility and joy in life. It is simple really. Three little steps:
  1. Sell your comfortable gaming chair. Or, alternatively, give it your your wife to use.
  2. Find yourself an old uncomfortable wood chair.
  3. Sit in the chair while you game.
Forget about comfort. Forget about ergonomics. Nothing limits game time like the pain induced by a poorly designed wood chair. I can't go more than an hour without my shoulders, back, and neck stiffening up. At first it wasn't so bad. But, as you know, starting a new MMO means playing more often and playing longer. See illustration below. Impressed by my artistic ability?
All sarcasm aside, the chair I'm using has got to go. This weekend I'm heading to my local office supply store and finding a good chair. Not this leftover from the Spanish Inquisition.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Now What? Now Where?

My intention was to play a variety of classes and races in Lord of the Rings Online. I wanted to try out the classes before committing to one class. I played a champion up to level 3 and a minstrel up to level 7. I'm just having too much fun with my hunter. Eventually I want to play a loremaster and minstrel up through the levels. But for now, me and my hunter are happy.

Pluck, my little hobbit hunter, dinged level 18 this weekend. I'm having troubles finding quests in the Shire and Bree-land that are appropriate for his level. But where to go now? North? East? South? I like to explore and discover things on my own, but travel time at low levels just sucks. Run, Pluck, run.

I didn't see much in game telling me where to go next. One quest had me going northwards and another to the east. Online sources weren't much help either. The official LotRO Lorebook had no info. The Google maps of the regions are kinda sorta neat but I'd like some actual info. I tried another site,, and eventually found the answer I was looking for: Lone-lands. Pluck is heading eastward, which is the direction the Fellowship went. Coincidence?

I completed all of the Book 1 epic quest line. I'm enjoying this feature. Ask me again my third or fourth time through the epic quest line and I may be singing a different tune. Othrongroth was difficult (chapter 11). No joke. I tried it at level 16 with another level 16 hunter and a third level 26 hunter. We made it past the first few groups but wiped hard. If only we had another hunter or two. We tried different tricks such as advanced trap tactics and ping-ponging mobs between us. Luckily a minstrel was looking for a group for chapter 10. We helped her, and then she joined us on another try of Othrongroth. What a difference a healer makes. We had a few tight spots, but thanks to insane DPS and a kick ass healer, we finished the chapter. Woot!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Avast Ye Scurvy Dawgs

I've heard Aarrrhhhh and Ahoy and even a Yo Ho Ho today. Seems the big buzz around the blogs is the release date and stress test for Pirates of the Burning Sea. I'll admit the game has me interested.

But where's the news about that other pirate themed MMO? You know, the one based on the 40-year-old ride at Disneyland. I heard they made a movie or something out of it. It has pirates and treasure and naval battles and voodoo and undead seamen.

For whatever reason Pirates of the Caribbean Online doesn't generate much hype. But look, they're in beta numero dos. And you can sign up for it. And tell me about it.

Password Paranoia

The software company I work for has (once again) changed its policy for login passwords. The industry trend is for tougher passwords. In a few years we'll be giving DNA samples before we can login.

Here is my company's policy in a nutshell. I'm forced to change the password after 3 weeks. The password must be nine characters long. The password must contain three of the following four things: lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers, or special characters (such as # * +).

In other words, I have to speak l33t to make a good password. Gone are the days when I could use "snugglebunny" as my password. Do you think "1PwnzUrM0mzL0lz" is an acceptable corporate password?

I've got too many user names and passwords to remember. I'm tempted to just reuse the same ones over and over. But that's just stupid. Then again, writing them down on a notepad in my desk drawer isn't the safest either.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

One Dwarf, One Elf, and One Woman

The other evening the kids helped me create three new characters in Lord of the Rings Online. If you're a parent and a gamer, you understand how there are things you can do when the kids are awake and things you can't do. For example, playing healer on a difficult dungeon run is out. Designing alt characters or crafting items or posting auctions is possible. My son leans towards characters with brightly colored mohawks and odd facial tattoos (uh oh) but my daughter is a good helper. At six she has a knack for designing a good-looking toon.

We created a dwarf champion, an elf loremaster, and a human minstrel. The original plan was to make a dwarf minstrel and a human captain, but I felt the dwarf racial abilities were more suited for champion then minstrel. I played the dwarf champion through the first few levels in the newb zone. I shouldn't rush to make a decision after playing a class for 3 levels, but the champion's game play didn't interest me. The human minstrel, however, has me hook, line, and sinker.

The one problem with my human minstrel is that the character is a female. My daughter wanted me to create a woman character, and what dad can say no to their little girl... so Elisawyn was born. This wouldn't be a problem except for two reasons: 1) this is an MMO and 2) I may join a light RP kinship.

I tried roleplaying a female character in D&D for a few sessions. Difficult and a bit weird. Pretending to be a bard in Middle Earth will be hard enough. My minstrel is only level 6, so rerolling her as a male wouldn't be an issue. On the other hand I've known guys in WOW that played female toons and it wasn't much of an issue. Plus roleplaying online is different than roleplaying while sitting across the table. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Tetris Effect

When I close my eyes to go to sleep, I see a grid of colored gems and they line up three or four in a row and combo after combo cascades. I'm not playing Puzzle Quest that much. Really.

Weird how the brain works. I experienced the same thing when Avril and I use to stay up and play Dr. Mario on the N64 together. I could see piles of pills lining up as I drifted off to sleep.

I used to have an old school Gameboy with Tetris when I was in high school. I played the crap out of that game. I can vividly remember the game, but not how the first girl I kissed looked. That sounds odd, but do you know what I mean? I'm rambling.

I just read about the "Tetris effect" on Wikipedia. Here is the article:
The Tetris effect is the ability of any activity to which people devote sufficient time and attention to begin to dominate their thoughts, mental images, and dreams. It is named after the game of Tetris, which requires the player to rotate and move falling blocks of different shapes to create, and thereby eliminate, complete horizontal lines of blocks.

People who play Tetris for a long stretch of time may be subsequently involuntarily prompted to think about ways different shapes in the real world can fit together, such as the boxes on a supermarket shelf or one's home furniture. This was parodied in The Simpsons episode Strong Arms of the Ma. They may also see images of falling tetrominos at the edges of their visual field or when they close their eyes. They may also dream about falling Tetris shapes when drifting off to sleep.

The Tetris effect can occur with other computer games involving prolonged exposure to sequential images, with any prolonged visual task (such as classifying cells on microscope slides, weeding, picking fruit, assembling burgers, or even playing chess) and can also occur in other sensory modalities. For example, in audition there is the tendency for a catchy tune to play out unbidden in one's mind (an earworm). In kinesthesis, a person newly on land after spending long periods at sea may move with an unbidden rocking motion, having become accustomed to the ship making such movements (known as sea legs or mal de debarquement).

Stickgold et al. (2000) have proposed that the Tetris effect is a separate form of memory, likely related to procedural memory. This is from their research in which they showed that people with anterograde amnesia, unable to form new declarative memories, reported dreaming of falling shapes after playing Tetris during the day, despite not being able to remember playing the game at all.

Maybe I'm not so weird after all.

P.S. Sorry to hear about Ryzom on the chopping block. The game scored high on innovation, but couldn't complete against the big MMOs.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Puzzle Quest and LotRO Crafting

My son scored big points with me this weekend. The mailman dropped off the latest game from GameFly and it was Puzzle Quest for the Nintendo DS. Good boy.

If you haven't heard, Puzzle Quest is an addictive blend of RPG and puzzle genres. Just Google for "puzzle quest review" or "puzzle quest impression" and you'll find plenty of articles and commentary on the game. I'm playing a druid and having fun with his mix of direct damage, healing, and control spells. If a game appeals to ages 12 and 34, you have a good game. The only turn off is misclicking gems with the stylus. Frustrating to get penalized for a misclicked illegal moved only to have my enemy get a sweet four-gem combo.

This weekend after the kids were off to bed, I'd play Puzzle Quest for an hour or so. After that it was Lord of the Rings Online. Pluck is finishing up the last few quests in the Shire. Last night I was in the perfect PUG. Never thought I would put those to words in the same sentence. (Googling "perfect pug" fetches some odd results). I play a hunter, and I was joined with a guardian that knew how to tank and a minstrel that knew how to heal. We knocked out quite a few group quests. That was the best threesome since... well...

I also spent some time advancing Pluck's crafting skills. I took woodsman for him so he can make his own bows. Over the past week I've been collecting wood and hides and dropping them in the bank vault. Do you know how boring it is watching a progress bar repeat several hundred times? Luckily I have Puzzle Quest. So while Pluck processed a mountain of materials, I leveled my druid in Puzzle Quest.

Turbine lifted the crafting system from World of Warcraft, made some small improvements, and dropped it into LotRO. The only difference I see so far are mastery options and apprentice/journeyman/master levels. Nice but nothing to change the boring set it and forget it type of crafting.

Friday, September 28, 2007

LotRO Hunter First Impression

Pluck, my hobbit hunter on Landroval server, is closing in on level 14. I am enjoying the class more and more as he gains new abilities. Hunters in Lord of the Rings Online dish out massive damage from a distance to single targets. At this low level I have a variety of shots: slow my opponent, place a DOT, and do extra damage. I've purposely avoided looking into what skills are available and when. As Pluck levels up, I'm pleasantly surprised when he gets a cool new ability.

When I solo in this game and fight "at level" mobs, I find myself finishing off their last bit of life in melee. Hunters in LotRO wear medium armor and have some decent attacks. Pluck isn't super squishy, but he can't go toe to toe with multiple bad guys for too long. My favorite melee attack animation is where Pluck slashes his opponent with an arrow and then shoots them with it.

My main in World of Warcraft was a hunter. I miss my kitty cat pet from that game. Hunter's in WOW are ideal for solo players. The pet tanks while you shoot from a distance. If the pet dies or you get aggro, just Feign Death to shed aggro. Unless I group up in a fellowship, Pluck doesn't have a meat shield protecting him. Instead, I have to plan out fights more carefully. For example, hunters in LotRO can stand still before a battle to gain focus, which lets me use more powerful attacks. (I assume Pluck will gain more skills that require Focus at higher levels.) If he moves after gaining focus, he loses it. I need to start the battle in the right location and know when and where to lay a trap if I'm facing a group of monsters.

I have mixed feelings about no ammo in LotRO. On one hand the game is simplified because I don't have to waste bag space or remember to restock before leaving town. Less time spent micro-managing my inventory means more time adventuring and exploring. On the other hand the game feels less realistic, and finding better quality ammo was fun (in the achiever's sense of the word).

I've been in fellowships about a third of my time in game, which is the perfect percentage for me. I ran one instance with two other hunters and a burglar. The poor burglar didn't have much to do. The PUG had obviously played MMOs before. We stayed close together and focused our artillery to drop mobs fast. The typical skills for playing a ranged DPS class in a group apply to LotRO as well. For example, pulling, trapping, avoiding cc'd mobs, and managing aggro. Overall I find group play in LotRO fun.

My plan is to play Pluck up to level 15, and then roll a minstrel. For the Horde! Er... I mean... for the Shire!