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.