Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Spiderheart Miscellany

I've got posts in progress, including some notes on my first experience with death knight tanking. (Short form: wow, went great; death knight tanking is more fun for me than warrior tanking.) Unfortunately I've also got the Martian death flu again. So for the moment, here's a grab bag of screenshots.

The war of chickens! Akaa has the pet chicken you can earn with some amusing effort in Westfall; Spider's got the mechanical chicken that's a token of thanks from the gnome whose wandering robots one rescues in Tanaris, Feralas, and the Hinterlands. Unfortunately, no showdown of nature versus art seems impending:

Spi - Chickens.jpg

I got some pictures of Tivara and the Kalu'aks' mighty turtle ferries a while back, but happened on this angle just the other day, as Spider was returning from a quest on the sea floor in the Dragonblight:

Spi - Great Turtle.jpg

Sean, I have not forgotten the World in WoW series, I've just been sick, busy, or sick and busy so much. But it is coming, because I'd like to write a bit about the overall situation as far as gods and titans goes so as to have a proper context for writing about Dragonblight questing. It involves the dragonflights a lot, and the more one knows of the lore, the more fun they are. In the meantime, here's a fun moment. Quests in Darkshore and the Wetlands have Alliance characters helping out at dwarf-run excavations and gathering up pieces of fossils and relics. Then one puts them together, and a manifestation of the titans shows up to tell everyone to knock it off and get the hell off the titans' lawn:

Spi - Makers in Menethil.jpg

The above moment came about because I thought it would be fun to build up Spider's reputation with lots of people. So does the one below. WoW players have pretty well all seen this, but for those of you who use me as your surrogate...

Uldaman is another dwarvish dig site, in the Badlands region in the center of the Eastern Kingdoms. As with several other such sites, the Ironforge dwarves exploring it ran into troggs from below and hostile Dark Iron dwarves from above, and the quests for Alliance characters involve a lot of "please help finish this bit of exploration" requests. There's a spot where the adventurers put together a broken staff and use it to open up a magically sealed chamber, and it is a good swipe:

Spi - Map Room.jpg

As noted previously, the death knights are undead, just now free-souled rather than bound to the Lich King. So they have a lot of cool abilities. A friend pointed out to me recently that I'm seldom so happy in WoW play than when I can transgress a normal limit on characters' interactions with the world. Take the Path of Frost, which lets characters and their party mates walk, run, and even ride across water. Here's Spider escorting a guildmate of level 20 or so from Menethil Harbor to Southshore, bypassing the higher level critters of the Arathi Highlands:

Spi - Path of Frost.jpg

This is the best shot I've yet gotten of the Acherus Deathcharger, death knights' standard mount. The skin peeling back to reveal glowing bones first appeared on warlocks' dreadsteeds, and I've not yet gotten tired of it:

Spi - Riding in Barrens.jpg

Dating services! Who knew that one would have to provide dating services? So here's the story. The kalu'ak (the walrus people seen in some previous posts) have an ongoing concern for the health of the ecosystem they live in. Sensible folks. There's a community of sea lions on islands off the Howling Fjord's west coast, with bulls on the south side of a strait and cows to the north, and the community's bull leader dead at the hands of rampaging buccaneers. Now the bulls are muddled and don't know how to get to the cows. There's a daily quest to gather up enough of their favorite fish to lure a bull across the strait. And when it works? Twue wuv!

Spi - Sea Lions.jpg

Kalu'ak elsewhere, in the Dragonblight, are engaged in a pitched struggle with the wolverine-like wolvar. It's an interesting situation. The kalu'ak leader frankly blames the Horde and Alliance for the mess, their expanding settlements pressing the wolvar into crowded conditions that make them more irritable and violence. And the kalu'ak elders think the wolvar are as fundamentally entitled to good lives on the land as themselves. So there's a daily quest to round up wolvar pups so that they won't get slaughtered in the battles—the elders of the kalu'ak realize the risks of going too far in battle and wish to have the wolvar's future in hand before any grand struggle.

Wolvar pups are really, really cute. You can see Spider's shoulder at right for a sense of scale:

Spi - Snowfall Glade Pup.jpg

And finally, some more heroism. There's an Alliance settlement at Wintergarde, on the eastern side of the Dragonblight. Recently the Scourge started hitting it with a very great deal of force, directed from the floating necropolis of Naxxramas. I'll have more to say and show about that pleasingly epic set of adventures later. This is just a great moment from one of them, using a griffon supplied by the soldiers of Wintergarde Keep to pull out trapped villagers from among the incoming hordes of undead:

Spi - Wintergarde Rescue.jpg

Hoping to do more substantial posting this week, as I de-stress on various fronts. Enjoy, in the meantime!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You know how you can tell you weren't just being a drama queen?

When one of the developers apologizes for having nerfed Beast Mastery too far, and promises adjustments between now and the release of the next raid content.

I may still be overreacting in some ways, but it's nice to have the vindication.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

For now, not a hunter or a raiding blog

It's a very good thing that I have some characters I like to play and some people I like to play with, because the more I look at the informed folks' experiences with hunters after the 3.0.8 patch, the more it looks like what I was doing with Tivara simply isn't viable anymore.

First, links.

And it goes and goes like that. I'm not bothering with Elitist Jerks links, since I find their forum culture toxic. Out in that portion of the real world which includes people playing and writing in ways I find interesting, there's a genuine consensus: Beast Mastery will no longer allow a raiding hunter to do an impressive amount of damage. Raiding is very much a game of parts, in which each participant needs to do the handful of things they do particular well, and do them reliably, so that the whole is an assemblage of really good parts. For hunters, that's putting out a lot of damage in short order.

{Edit and Update: Pike, of Aspect of the Hare, says in comments: "At this point I have respec'd to Beast Mastery, for me the DPS gain from going to MM was very minimal. Though MM was fun because you had to press a bunch of buttons, but in the end it got too distracting." So that's one voice back in the BM direction. Thank you for commenting, Pike, much appreciated.}

Unfortunately, the options for hunters doing that now all look really unappealing to me.

Marksmanship (and, to a lesser degree, Survival) specs rely more on shot rotation macro. For those of you playing along at home, that's a macro assigned to a key or button that, when pressed or triggered repeatedly, fires off a sequence of shots arranged so that cooldown times and synergistic effects add up to the biggest bang for the buck. Abstracting it out, a shot rotation macro might fire in turn special shot A, special shot B, special shot C, A again now that it's cooled down and ready for use again, B, B again, C now that it's cooled down, and then start the sequence over with A again. Comics fans can think of this as playing Silver Age Green Arrow.

The thing is, I don't like that kind of macro use. There are macros I like and use, to combine two or maybe three actions into one, or to assign the target of a spell based on the circumstances of the fight. (Whenever I play a healer, all my character's healing spells get a stock treatment: cast this heal on the target if it's friendly, on the target's target if the target is hostile, and on my character if I don't actually have a target right now.) The more complex ones feel to me like I'm playing at being a programmer in the days of time sharing and batch jobs rather than playing at being a character in a fantasy world—the degree of detachment from play bugs me. I'm just not tuned in if I'm not getting to make some choices in play, even at the cost of some efficiency. When it takes that much automation to do the job well, the job isn't worth doing, for me.

Survival has a different problem, in that its distinctive combinations of talents call for a fair degree of mobility in the midst of fights. I don't do mobility well. I can't reliably manage a bunch of the mouse-movement-and-shooting combos at all. My reflexes got set in an earlier videogaming day and have only decayed since then, and after a very long futile struggle to assimilate this stuff, I admitted that I was getting nowhere and that I should find my fun playing what I can do in my keyboard-centric sort of way. It's why, for instance, the Combat tree for rogues was such a delight for me: I didn't have to keep trying to stay behind targets all the time. Subtlety is, to my taste, a much cooler rogue tree and full of sneaking nastiness I love, but Combat's what I could actually take to a fight. Well, Survival's trap-dancing high-maneuverability approach is another one of those things I can't make work. I like the idea, and I love to watch a good Survival hunter in play. I just can't do it.

So there I am.

It's always possible I could hassle out something that wouldn't be too uncomfortable for me and not too unproductive for raiding. But...I'm not motivated to play that kind of compromise-hunting game right now. So until I see some reliable signs that hunter approaches that I actively like will work again, Tivara will be in raid retirement.

At the moment, as recent posts have indicated, I'm putting most time into my night elf death knight, Spiderheart. I think I'm going to start up a new alt or two to take advantage of Lunar Festival goodies, and let that do it for now. In a separate post I will comment on features of death knights that are making them remarkably rewarding for me. Spider's coming up on level 72 and my gang's really, really not rushing to endgame since we are confident that opportunities will be there when we get there. Lots of side questing, working on reputations, and stuff like that. When will I next raid? Dunno, to be honest. Sometime in February, I'd guess, but I have no idea, nor any urge to hazard a guess, not when the present moment is working so well with this character.

This concludes the whining portion of today's programming.

Son of the Scarlet Monastery

I heard from several folks, here and in e-mail or IM, who didn't actually know you could pull off getting the whole Scarlet Cathedral with one pull. Well, yeah. This evening Spiderheart went back with Akaa and two friends of ours with new characters in the upper 20s, and did it repeatedly.

Spi - Cathedral take 2 overview.jpg

Spi - Cathedral take 2.jpg

Spiderheart is currently frost-specced, so she has lots of spells to reduce damage, the chance of her being stunned, and like that. I turn on these things while charging straight at Morgaine, then spread plagues in all directions, and just sort of go to town. Akaa, being a holy paladin, keeps Spiderheart healed up and flying right.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Taking it easy, not letting the sounds of my own wheels drive me crazy

I was chatting with a friend yesterday afternoon, and they pointed out that I usually do best with stressful stuff by just setting it all aside for a while, giving it time to settle down or clearly not settle down or do whatever it's going to regardless of my efforts. They're right. Anything that has me fretting as much as hunter and guild stuff have recently is, whatever else may be said of it, not working as a game.

While I was thinking over that, I read a typically smart post by my friend Adam, "Retro Raiding and the Calm Casual". The upshot of this particular post is that accepting his position well behind the cutting edge and not worrying about it has opened up a lot of fun for him. He's taken his druid Leafshine into Zul'Aman, which was still a very tough nut for his guild to crack pre-Lich King, and done some other retro-raiding sightseeing, and like that. Go see the details for yourself, if you wish; what matters here is that he feels at liberty now to move as he wishes, rather than according to any external timetable like that created by raiding needs.

That's resonating very deeply with me today.

I loved being among the first in Archon to 80, as I posted about at the time. Then guild bickering stole away a lot (though not all) of that pleasure, and chronic insomnia and health crud has kept me rattled and disoriented. One of the great pleasures, I've identified, in playing Spiderheart is that nobody I'm playing with cares in the slightest what pace of progress I set. My friends are happy when I'm happy, and enjoy teaming up when it's appropriate, and there just aren't egos or competition at stake. And I'm freed of the fun-sapping side of the impulse to advance because I can't be in the first wave with any of my alts—not without a time machine, at least, and I have none.

I've been playing this way this week already, but hadn't quite so consciously formulated it as an actual goal until today. So:

• Tivara is on the shelf for the moment, because I'm bothered by hunter stuff. I will let the theorycrafters sort out post-3.0.8 options and then see how I feel.

• Archon in on the shelf for now, because even where I feel I've genuinely mended fences, I can't stop the stuff rattling around unpleasantly in parts of my mind where memory does not care to pay attention to current judgments.

• Spiderheart goes front and center for now, because death knights have nearly everything I love about warriors, plus magic that doesn't require me to hassle mana, plus that great gothic ambience. Speaking of which:

Spi - Scarlet Monastery copy.jpg

That's Spiderheart in the middle, with a lich's cackling head over hers to show she's using the Lichborne talent to improve her defense and intimidate bystanders. The floor is angry red and the people are dark purple because Death & Decay is rotting the bodies and burning the souls out of everyone in the vicinity—that's what all those 155-hp ticks are from. Commander Mograine is face down on the floor facing her, just to her left; Whitemane's also on the floor back by the altar, hard to see in this picture.

It wasn't a single-pull clear of the Cathedral. I tried that and got close, but didn't quite make it. A level or few more, though, and it'll work.

• I'm thinking about a dual-gathering alt to support Spider financially; enchanting + tailoring is a very handy combo, but not cheap. I might do a night elf druid, which I've been vaguely talking about forever, or something else. We'll see. Something with stealth would be nice, and I'm not worried about leveling fast, given how lucrative mining is right from the outset.

I'm not committing myself in the long term to any general shift of priorities. This is what I'm doing right now to accommodate physical and mental stresses, mostly from illness and its side effects. This seems fun-maximizing right now, and there'll be time to consider what else might be fun right then when my situation changes, as inevitably well.

Now if you'll excuse me, Spiderheart has an appointment with mana-hogging members of the blue dragonflight. She doesn't touch the stuff herself, but allies do, and besides, it's just rude....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

As heard in Deep Rising

Spiderheart got her first ever look at Northrend this morning. She's seen city-sized demons in combat, peered over the edges of a shattered world, died, been a plaything of the Lich King, regained her freedom, rejoined the society of the living as a perpetual outsider, become an exalted ally of half the members of the Alliance, and gone forth in search of her former master. As Treat Williams put it so well in Deep Rising...



"Now what?"

In the wake of the patch, scattered thoughts

Persistent bugs and why I'm bugged. I know enough about large project management to know that there's no simple fungibility of effort and assets, no way to just say, "Bob, stop working on the next arena graphics and go fix the Cower problem." I also know that it's folly to commit to public dates when you're trying to fix something that could be making weird cascading problems, as when the cross-continent boats were making servers crash; I'm quite willing to believe that some bugs persist because they are genuinely hard to fix.

But I still wish there were some public discussion on Blizzard's part, at least acknowledging the existence of the persistent bugs and talking a little about what the fixes will involve. Blizzard needs someone to be the Speaker to Howling Mobs on matters like this, and really could afford to hire that someone.

In the wee hours this morning, I decided that I'm not being altogether irrational about this, for a simple reason: synergy. Abilities, talents, gear, and all the rest are supposed to interact—that's what drives tactical and strategic planning in World of Warcraft. So when one part is persistently out of whack, there's reason to worry about that throwing off anything interacting with it. Bad data's infectious, Dad used to say.

Yeah, I know I keep picking at this. I still don't feel entirely confident I've framed my deepest underlying concerns properly, either in my own mind or out here in text.

The fun of not losing things. I've touched on this one before, I know: I hate it when I no longer get to use things that have been handy, and the irrelevancy of trapping at the high end is an ongoing disappointment. So far, at least—up to level 68, where she is now—I haven't had to do that with Spiderheart and her death knight abilities. Something new comes into the mix every few levels, most recently the very handy Anti-Magic Shell, but nothing falls out of use. I don't mind retiring an old spell or ability in favor of a more comprehensive one, like paladins going from separate spells to cleanse disease and cure poison to one that does both. But it's a disappointment to just have something no longer matter.

Teamwork. A paladin and a death knight do not form an unstoppable combo. However, anyone wishing to stop them had better be prepared to work pretty hard at it.

Not just Huntard Corner: Wowhead and Reputation Grinding

This may be helpful to someone of any class, not hunters.

I've been doing the rep grind a lot this week with Spiderheart as I wait for Akaa to close the last few levels so that we can hit Northrend together, and because Akaa (as noted in a previous post) is way ahead of Spider there and gosh darn it I want funky mounts too. Now, I'd known in a vague sort of way that Wowhead will let you look at data collections, but never checked its rep listings.


Take the one for Exodar reputation, which I've been on most lately. It shows all the quests that give Exodar reputation, which I wanted. But it also shows all the quests that give overall Alliance reputation, since that's added to all the groups within the overall category. With these reminders in hand, I could and did spend a few hours in Alterac Valley battlegrounds and save myself 30-odd stacks of runecloth turned in to the cloth quartermaster in the Exodar.

Gotta like that. I'll certainly be making more use of this in the future.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

To think that I saw it on Azuremyst

Each playable race in WoW has its own mount: elephant-like elekks for the draenei, tigers for night elves, horses for humans, mechanical ostrich-like things called mechanostriders for the gnomes; massive rhino-like kodo for the tauren, raptors for trolls, living running birds called hawkstriders for blood elves, worgs for orcs, skeletal undead mounts for the undead Forsaken. It's always been the case that some mounts are available to others but not all, with constraints based on size. Lots of races can use tigers and horses, but only dwarves can join gnomes on mechanostriders.

Until today, that is.

In patch 3.0.8, the racial limits on mounts were removed. Now, it's still not super-easy to get another race's mount, because your character has to have a very high reputation with them. Not everyone wants to take the time to do the quests and gathering this requires. My friend who plays Tivara's questing partner Nyo, on the other hand, likes that sort of thing a lot, and uses it to break up the routine of leveling up. Her draenei paladin Akaa is indeed exalted with all five Alliance races, giving her the Ambassador title, and letting her be the first non-gnome I saw on a mechanostrider:

Spi - Akaa on mechanostrider.jpg

Bugs, Mr. Rico! Zillions Of 'Em!

One of the things I most like about playing on Earthen Ring's Alliance side is that it has the best-developed network of cross-guild contacts for pickup events I've seen anywhere in WoW. Yesterday I took advantage of it to join in some spur-of-the-moment visits to old raid instances. Here are pictures from Ahn'Qiraj.

Knowing that I have non-WoW-playing readers, here's the scene...

Kalimdor is the western continent on Azeroth, and not nearly so extensively settled as the Eastern Kingdoms. There's more room for stuff to be lurking hither and yon. At the south end of the Barrens there's a couple hives of mysterious bug-like creatures identified as silithids. They're a good challenge for characters of level 18-20 or so. Bigger, more complicated hives turn up in more zones characters go to in the 20s through upper 40s or low 50s: in the Shimmering Flats desert part of Thousand Needles, deep in the tropical forests of Feralas, and in the titan-preserved ancient wilderness inside Un'Goro Crater. Clues come together.

Back in the ancient days, one of the elder gods, C'thun, had its lair in the southwest corner of Kalimdor, in what was then lush forest. One of the titans fought it to the mutual death, or so it seemed. Alas, it's hard to get rid of elder gods. C'thun made avatars of itself in the Qiraji, an other-dimensional race of semi-humanoid insect creatures, and used them to direct an army of silithids. The Barrens silithids are a few feet long and a couple feet high; the ones used in the invasion of what's now called Silithus were (and are) huge. A thousand years ago their armies built up a fortress at the south end of the zone where C'thun fell, and called it Ahn'Qiraj. From there they headed north, sweeping everything ahead of them until an alliance of all the sentient races on Kalimdor at the time turned them back. The gates were sealed up, a watch set, and a thousand years passed.

One of the big, big events in the tail end of "vanilla WoW", as we hip veterans call the time before release of the first expansion back, was the return of the silithids and Qiraji in force. A fascinating spread of cross-faction quests and challenges culminated in the re-opening of the gates of Ahn'Qiraj to let adventurers take on the newly reinvigorated challenges behind. The ruins of Ahn'Qiraj is a 20-person raid instance, the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj, with C'thun waiting in its depths, a raid for 40 people.

In roleplaying terms, this was a special bit of fun for me. Spiderheart had some of her best moments as tank and off-tank in AQ20 (the Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj, that is) but never got past the first boss in AQ40 (the Temple). Then she went off to Outland, and died, and came back undead, and is now carving a new place for herself. This was a chance to revisit old glories and help put a spoke in the wheels of the silithid effort to make a fresh comeback while everyone's busy with things through the Dark Portal and up in Northrend.

This is a good sample of Silithus scenery, with one of the several hives that dot the wasteland:

Spi - Silithus hive.jpg

The Gates of Ahn'Qiraj, seen on the approach:

Spi - Gates of Ahn'Qiraj.jpg

The courtyard behind them, looking back the way Spiderheart came in. showing the funky silithid mix of Egyptian-ish elements and gratuitous magic like floating spires:

Spi - AQ Courtyard.jpg

Inside the Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj, with some of the Alien-esque massive chitin and other extrusions on display:

Spi - Near Kurinaxx.jpg

Here we are putting the boot in on General Rajaxx, who led the big fight a thousand years back, and ripped apart the only son of night elf Archdruid Staghelm along the way:

Spi - Rajaxx.jpg

I mentioned earlier about the big bugs. Here's a typical pack of them, in the process of being squished by us. Overhead there's a druid's thunder cloud with lightning zorching down on the left. On the ground, at least two death knights' Death & Decay area-effect cursing and a paladin's Consecrate holy damage spell compete for pixels. Whole lotta squishin' goin' on:

Spi - silithids.jpg

AQ has another of my very favorite monsters, a race straight out of Babylonian carvings. This is their leader, Moam:

Spi - Moam.jpg

And then there are the Anubisaths. Here's one now, walking somewhat like an Egyptian:

Spi - Anubisaths.jpg

And here it is up close and personal:

Spi - Anubisath.jpg

Ossirian the Unscarred is the commander of all the forces in the ruins. Here he is in mid-fight...

Spi - Ossirian Up.jpg

...and at its conclusion:

Spi - Ossirian Down.jpg

And that's about enough pictures for one post, so I'll cover AQ40 and BWL later.

Some Raiding Dissatisfaction

I find that so far, I'm really enjoying the questing and instancing more than the raiding in Lich King. Specifically:

• Naxxramas is very obviously a place made to support a lot more mobs than it now has, and the huge emptiness is oddly disconcerting after a while. I'm not sure what I'd suggest filling up some of the empty space with, but something would be good.

• Onyxia's Lair was and is a one-boss event, with 3-4 "trash" mobs to deal with before her. I liked that and still do. But I don't like quite so many other one-boss raids showing up. I find that it takes me a little while to get fully warmed up and engaged in a raid, so that I'm seldom at my best when it comes to Archavon or Obsidian Sanctum.

• Yesterday I took Spiderheart with friends on achievement-driven runs to Ahn'Qiraj 20 (complete clear), AQ40 (partial), and Blackwing Lair (complete), and it really brought home how far tactics have been stripped out. I certainly don't miss all of the fiddly bits. But I do miss engaging off-tanking, tanking in which AOE attacks are not the obviously best choice pretty much all the time, and like that.

I've read that the developers are intending to add more complexity in the big fights in Ulduar. I hope it works out!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Best Strategy Guide Ever

This is Sartharian of the Obsidian Sanctum (picture swiped from Wowwiki):

Sartharion, from WoW Wiki

This is a fairly typical diagram from a raid strategy page (also from Wowwiki), showing how the main tank (green dot) is to position Sartharion (yellow ellipse) and where the meleers (purple dots) and ranged damage-dealers and healers (blue dots) should stand when lava waves (orange bars) come in from the left:

Sartharion raid strategy

With that in mind...

Go look at this guide to the Sartharion fight.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Caution: Slippery When Wet

I've already mentioned the fun I have with death knights' spell Path of Frost, which lets them run and ride across water at full speed as long as they're not taking damage. I got to the span from Rut'theran Village at the base of the new damaged world-tree Teldrassil to Darkshore on the Kalimdor mainland accessible via Path of Frost?

Yes. But it's close. Next time I'll use some kind of riding speed enhancement.

Riding to Darkshore

For my non-WoW-playing readers...if that yellow bar nearly depleted in the picture above had gotten all the way to zero, Spiderheart would have started taking drowning damage. That would have cancelled Path of Frost and slowed her progress even more. But as it is, a tick or two later, she crossed into the safely shallow waters around the spiky islands that dot the Darkshore coast, and from there on to the nearest harbor was safe travel.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not a water sign, nor an earth sign, nor an air sign...

All death knights can summon ghouls. For those who lack the relevant talents in the Unholy tree, these are unnamed; they come in as "Risen Ghoul", last a couple minutes, and die. Unholy-specced death knights can make theirs last longer, or indeed permanently. (Well, until they get destroyed. Then it's time to summon a new one.) The names are chosen at random by matching A and B parts, and anyone traveling around death knights sees the patterns pretty quickly.

I do believe that there's a Firesign Theatre fan somewhere in Blizzard's staff, I must say:

Spiderheart and Mudhead

Friday, January 09, 2009

Random Thoughts, and Tools

I'm more annoyed than I'd quite realized by some of the persistent bugs in hunters. It's not that any of them is critical in itself, but the fact they drag on and on without redress adds cumulative wear and tear to my play experience. Sure, I have a macro to fix the growl and prowl bug and it's on a button and I mash it...but missing it even occasionally means that my pet does worse than it should, for an unobvious reason. I can afford my repair bills, but the extra cost from volleys damaging Tivara's bow more than they should does eat up some coin. I mostly resent the frittered-away attention.

In happier news, I'm finding my iPod Touch very handy on several fronts. My computer's at the low end of viability for playing Lich King, and it helps when I can turn apps off so as to free resources. I can use Mobile Safari to hit Wowwiki and Wowhead's mobile site, the Google app to look up other stuff, play music (either iTunes or Pandora as I wish, and Sirius when their mobile app is out), consult Twitter when others are afk, and like that. So Safari, Mail, iTunes, and other apps can all go quit on the WoW machine. I've been writing this during raid pauses, and the boost is significant: my frame rate is significantly higher in visually busy moments. More fun for me, better for the raid.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A General State-of-the-Mri Post

I'm not much looking forward to the hunter changes in 3.0.8. It's not that I think they'll be the end of the world or anything, but there's this about my psyche: I don't mind learning new things, but I have a hard time and don't enjoy unlearning existing thoughts and habits. So I'm sort of in a holding pattern right now, doing the stuff I do and I waiting for news that'll affect what I do with Tivara in the future.

In the meantime I've been playing deathknights more, and also some with my long-neglected Alliance shaman, and having fun. I think it's also helping limber me up for the hunter changes, as I switch from one set of tools to another and have a whole lot of fun with each one.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

GM's Island

There's a place within the game where GM characters hang out, that players can't or at least aren't supposed to be able to get to. The current one is in the northwest, in the vicinity of Teldrassil, and is apparently positioned in the midst of unmapped territory so that you can't get there without a terms-of-service-violating exploit. But before that one went in, there was a GM's island way in the south of Kalimdor, on an island south of the Tanaris desert zone. A couple years back, before Burning Crusade, it got freshened up for use as part of the long quest chain involved in getting the stuff to open the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj. Some of you no doubt saw it then, but I didn't.

This evening I was puttering around with Spiderheart, my night elf death knight, helping a friend leveling up her paladin. Suddenly she commented that I might very well be able to get to the old GM Island. I thought it over and decided she was probably right. Death knights get a spell called Path of Frost that lets them walk and ride across water at regular speed, and like all death knights, Spider's got a nice fast mount as default equipment. So I turned her mount's head south. She rode out of the safe shallows into the deep-sea area where fatigue starts accumulating. But she wasn't more than halfway to the threshold for drowning damage when she crossed into the shallows around what proved to be the northern half of a pair of islands:

Approaching GM's Island

The island is low and sandy, with flanking high ridges. In the interior are some buildings of gnomish design:

Gnomish Buildings, 1

Gnomish Buildings, 2

Gnomish Interior

The islands aren't quite empty, though. There are pirates:

Pirates, 1

Pirates, 2

Between the islands there's a derrick of goblin design:


The south island has some goblin-style buildings:

South Island, 1

Goblin Building

South Island Overview

And here's the view heading north, with the Tanaris mainland off in the distance:

Heading North

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Picture(s) of the Day: A Titan in the Wild

The Dragonblight is home to the great gathering of dagons, the Wyrmrest Temple. And north of the temple is a road that runs into the heart of Northrend. It's patrolled day and night, by this guy. This is what it's like to have mythology at arm's reach.

Jotun the Curse Bearer, 1

Jotun the Curse Bearer, 2

Jotun the Curse Bearer, 3

Neither Tivara or I yet know what curse he's bearing, but I'm sure we'll find out in due season.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Death Knight, Part 5: The Epilogue

One of the things I've done while sick is start another death knight. For a year or two I played a night elf warrior named Spiderheart. (Her upbringing had been, shall we say, not full of parental love.) Eventually I bogged down and felt that none of the mid-60s options to me were working out, and there were guild problems, and what with one thing and other the character went first into retirement and then into oblivion.

Now she's back as a death knight. (That story will follow another time.) And while I took a peek at the death knight starting zone as it is "now" in game time in the gap between the 3.0.2 patch and the actual release of Wrath of the Lich King, I realized that I hadn't done so since the expansion came out. So Spiderheart went and checked out what remains of the Scarlet Enclave. It proved a nicely melancholy sort of place.

New Avalon is empty now, even of ghosts. The Ebon Blade left behind banners, but there are no guards; neither the Scarlet Crusade/Onslaught nor the Scourge seems to want to interfere with the place now.

New Avalon Town Center

The citadel is almost completely gone—not much of a surprise after the assault by undead wyrm that concludes the Lich King's assault, of course:

New Avalon stronghold in ruins

The pond that lay beside the blacksmith's shop got completely vaporized in the final assault, and the siege engine that toppled into the gap is still smoking:

Smoking siege engine

The inn, which was full first of desperate citizens hoping in vain for escape and then of Scourge troops planning their assault on surviving defenses, is quiet as well. I note here that this particular design has been in WoW since the beginning and I have yet to tire of it:

Empty upstairs room

The cauldron whose construction so occupied er Noth the Plaguebringer in phase 2 of the attack still bubbles and releases its toxic brew, but it's untended now:

Untended Scourge cauldron

Overhead, the Ebon Hold remains, filled now the rebellious death knights who face Northrend and Icecrown and seldom, one suspects, ever think much about what's below:

Ebon Hold over the remains

I daresay that not one player in a hundred or a thousand ever goes to look at this stuff or thinks much about it if they do. And yet here it is, not just stock ruins but some customization as well, rich in ambience. I was reminded of one of the prose poems by one of my very favorite horror authors:

When all the landscape is dying, descending fragrantly to earth, we alone rise up. After light and warmth have passed from the world, when everyone stands melancholy at the graveside of nature, we alone return to keep them company. This is our season to be reborn. The supple swish of summer trees has become a dry rattle in a cooling wind, and our ears begin to tingle as we lie dark and deep in our beds. Crinkled leaves scratch against our doors, calling us from our lonely houses.

When the world goes gray on its way to white, every living heart summons us with its fear; and, if circumstances are favorable, we will answer. We take as many as we can back to the grave with us, because that is our task. Our senseless cycle is out of nature's season: we go our own way, deviates of matter longing to bring an end to the charade of all seasons, natural or supernatural.
And we are always dreaming of the day when all the fires of summer are defunct, when everyone like a shriveled leaf sinks into the cooling ground of a sunless earth, and when even the colors of autumn have withered for the last time, dissolving into the desolate whiteness of an eternal winter.

Thomas Ligotti, "Autumnal", Noctuary