Archive for November, 2008

Oblivious to the Irony

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , , , on November 30, 2008 by Mark Pannell

Predatore the Death Knight rides atop his ghastly steed. There is no emotion in his glowing blue eyes nor in his empty soul. Every ounce of this being is defined by the destruction that he deals; the carnage that he brings. He gallops across an empty field. His next victims are taking the last breaths of their lives. They just don’t know it yet. Everything in his field of view narrows to throbbing shades of blood red as tunnel vision sets in. Nothing stands between him and his next kill except a patch of land that shrinks with every stride of his mount. He glances to the left to ensure that his murderous rampage will be a solo affair. He glances to the right and fixes his gaze on an object sparkling a few yards away. “Oooh! Purple Lotus!”  He yanks hard on the reins, bringing his steed to a screeching halt. He dismounts and hustles over to the bloom, plucks it from the earth, and carefully tucks it into his backpack. He giggles to himself as he summons his Deathcharger and thinks about the glyph he’s going to make when he mills a few more of those Purple Lotus blooms first into pigment, then into ink. A grizzly scene, right?

It’s not every day that you hear about a mass murderer who enjoyed quilting. The Associated Press rarely break stories about suicide bombers who did a little scrapbooking in their free time. Why? Because killing people en masse isn’t really conducive to crafty hobbies. But when we hear about a Death Knight Herbalist or a Warlock Tailor, we don’t bat an eye. Think about that for a second. Borne of the undead and created for destruction, the Death Knight is a killing machine by design. Yet none of us has any problem with the irony involved. Nice.

The old flower-gatherer has his Herbalism up to 300, but he got writer’s cramp and took a break from Inscription at 215. The fundamental problem with leveling both professions from the ground up is that Herbalism levels so much quicker than Inscription. Predatore can currently be found galloping about Swamp of Sorrows, searching for any plants that mill to Violet Pigment. All of these herbs have already faded to grey on the Herbalism side, but I need enough to make another 35 Celestial Ink before I can move onto the next zone. I’m getting really anxious to get Inscription up to 300 so I can resume leveling Predatore himself in Hellfire Peninsula. As it stands, Devv has been footing the bill for all of the parchment and training, but the old girl is down to about 150G. If Predatore can’t start paying the bills soon, every toon on the roster is going to be broke. Nothing like a menacing, murderous Death Knight who depends on his sugar momma to send him money so he can learn how to pick flowers and write letters.

The Philosophy of Sidegrades and Cow-Punching Noobtards

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , , , , on November 26, 2008 by Mark Pannell

A few days ago, Vonya over at The Egotistical Priest wrote an interesting post about the idea of upgrades in Northrend. As a relatively seasoned raider, her PvE purples outshined anything that I’ve ever equipped. But the point she made even applies to less seasoned players like me. Some of these alleged “upgrades” that we were promised in the brave new world seem more like sidegrades. If you’ve read more than a post or two on this here blog, you know that I did just about zero endgame raiding at 70. So my purples were a mix of welfare epics and world event epics. Either way, the stats were as impressive as anything I could have acquired given my complete lack of raiding experience. I assumed that as I headed into the frozen continent to the north, I’d be picking up greens with stats so mind-blowing that I’d vendor my Merciless Gladiator gear and never look back. Not so fast.

What I’m finding, just as Vonya found, is that most of the new goodies are “sidegrades” at best. Note to… well, you guys: all credit for the term “sidegrade” goes to Vonya. Just so we’re clear. Back to the diatribe. As a Fire Mage, I loves me some Intellect, Stamina, Spell Power, Crit, etc. When one of these new-fangled antarctic armor pieces drops, it may give 20 more Stamina than the piece I have equipped, but it’s at the expense of 15 Spell Power. The really tough choices are the ones where I’d gain about 40 of one stat, but dump a ton of another in its place. Bah!

Hopefully you’ve all read Vonya’s post by now. If not, this paragraph will be a spoiler. In the end, she makes the decision to go ahead and equip the sidegrades. After all, we’ll eventually be replacing every piece of our 70 gear anyhow. Plus, if Blizzard thinks that I suddenly need a ton of Haste rating, who am I to argue with them? But it brings another issue of mine into the spotlight. Maybe it’s not all about the stats for me. I think the second half of the equation is the negative stigma associated with wearing greens again. As a late bloomer, I was proud to have finally worked my way into mostly purples with some blues. I never had to go through this at level 60 because I was already in Outlands by then. So when I dinged 70, I started accumulating some purples and equipping them with a quickness. For once, I wasn’t embarrassed to be strolling around Shattrath.

Let me go ahead and tell you a seemingly unrelated story that will make more sense when I tie it all together in the end. Why? Because I love when writers do that and I don’t have the tact to do it without holding up a huge banner that says, “Check this out This is some quality writin’s right here!” Ya know what? If I eliminated all of the unnecessary banter from my posts, I could probably host this blog on Twitter. Back to your regularly scheduled ramblings.

Earlier this year, a co-worker friend of mine took up WoW. He rolled a Human Warrior and quickly made his way to level 5. From 5 to 10, he slowed down a bit. I don’t mean  that he slowed down due to the increased XP required to level. I mean it seemed like it took far too long for him to ding 10. Then, getting from 10 to 20 was an absolutely ridiculous amount of time, even for a new player. A few of his friends and I started asking him investigative questions in an attempt help him figure out what he was doing wrong. But we couldn’t get a feel for what was holding him up. Finally, we all partied up to help him level a bit. We stopped off at an armor merchant in Ironforge to get repairs before heading out. A friend asked him if he needed repairs. He replied, “Repairs? What do you mean?” Mystery solved.

Turns out, our pal had no idea that he needed to repair his items from time to time. He just ran around killing mobs until either the durability of his weapon hit zero or a new one dropped for him. If the former happened, he started punching critters for XP since he could no longer take on mobs of the same level without a weapon. If you beat enough cows to death, they’re eventually gonna give you a world drop sword. I’m not even kidding here.

What’s the point of my story? Putting on greens again makes me feel like a cow-punching noobtard. I just have a hard time stripping off purples to equip greens. As a player who started post-BC, I never had the experience of replacing Old World epics for Outlands greens. For seasoned veterans, my argument probably seems ridiculous. And when the next expansion drops, it will probably seem ridiculous to me too. But if you happen to be playing on Silvermoon Alliance side and see a Draenei Mage standing out in the middle of the Borean Tundra with the telltale <AFK> lingering above her head, leave me alone. I’m thinking.

What I’ve Learned as a Low Level Hunter

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2008 by Mark Pannell

Every class in WoW is unique. Aside from Devv, I’ve never leveled beyond 21. When I decided to level a second toon all the way to endgame, I knew that there would be challenges. I have friends who have leveled every class to 70 in the years that they’ve played this game. The biggest eye-opener for me has been just how different classes are even at low levels. From 1 to 5, there’s so little variation in play that Blizzard could pretty much just give us a tap-in at this point. But even as early as 10, the mechanics of the game change drastically from class to class. As of this writing, Arpeggio and his trusty sidekick Allegro are both about 50% of the way through level 14. Here’s what I’m discovering as a Fire Mage in Hunter’s clothing.

  1. It’s easy to get cocky. Devv has been a Fire Mage since she was 10. I never experienced the wonders of grinding with Frost Nova and Blizzard. As such, I never got in over my head unless I made a bad pull. But a Hunter is an entirely different story. A Hunter is a ranged DPS maestro with better armor than a Mage and a furry little friend tanking for him. Second verse, same as the first. It’s easy to get cocky. Doing a little questing in Loch Modan, I died a bunch. I would round up three mobs that were a couple levels higher than me and grind away. But when a wandering mob stumbled upon us, we were doomed.
  2. Buffs? What buffs? Unlike a Mage, there aren’t an ass-ton of buffs to throw up before marching into battle. I’m so used to the ritual of Conjure Food, Conjure Water, Conjure Mana Gem, self-cast Arcane Intellect, Molten Armor, and Evocation to replenish all that mana. When I log into Arpeggio, it blows my mind that my man is ready to go right out of the gate. A quick whistle for Allegro and we’re in business. The downside is that I frequently forget to throw up my Aspect of the Whatever when I resurrect.
  3. Ranged weapons run out of ammo. Pretty basic, I know. But I’m so used to spells which are only dependant upon mana that I completely forget to check the ol’ ammo bag before running into the thick of things. Earlier today, I put up a Hunter’s Mark on a mob and sent Allegro into the mix. He immediately picked up two adds. I drew my rifle and… *click*. OK, so it  doesn’t actually make a “click” sound. But you get the point. Nothing. No ammo. And Arpeggio hadn’t even acquired the Heal Pet ability yet. Allegro was quickly set to Passive and Follow and we hauled ass for the horizon. We didn’t quite make it. Lesson learned.
  4. Bag space is an issue.With an entire bag slot devoted to either an ammo pouch or a quiver, bag space becomes a problem for Hunters very early on. Arpeggio’s sugar momma hooked him up with three Imbued Netherweave Bags and he still gets pretty full after questing for a while. In addition to the hijacked bag slot, Hunters have to carry enough food and water for themselves and their pet. That’s like a double whammy. Throw a gathering profession into the mix and bank alt becomes a necessity very quickly.

Once the duo crack 20, I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts to share. Kaddisfly and Kittiesfly got to 19 as slowlyas possible. The experience of “leveling” them hardly gave me an accurate view of what playing a Hunter would be like. I’m looking forward to experiencing the subtle nuances of the class the same way I learned how to play a Mage from the ground up. On a completely unrelated sidenote, Devv is now 3700 away from being Exalted with Gnomeregan Exiles. Gnomer will complete the full compliment of home factions and with it, the “Ambassador” title. It’s been a grind to say the least. I’m of the opinion that if you get to Exalted with Gnomer alone, you should get a title. Something like “Runecloth Grinder” would be appropriate.

How to Level to 80 Quickly in World of Warcraft

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2008 by Mark Pannell

Don’t do what I’m doing. Seriously. OK, I’ll admit it. The title was a cheap trick to see how much search engine traffic I could grab from people too lazy to download QuestHelper or Carbonite, which is technically lazy to begin with. By now, I’m sure most of those poor misled individuals have stopped reading, so back to my small group of dedicated readers.

Devv is only halfway through level 71. Predatore is still stuck at 58. And Arpeggio is up to level 10 now. Wait. Who? Yeah. I know. Of all the things I could have done to make best use of the forty bucks I dropped on Wrath, I’m leveling a new alt; a Dwarf Hunter, to be exact. Arpeggio has been stuck at level 5 ever since Kaddisfly prompted me to create a Hunter to level. I knocked out the quick quests to get from level 1 to 5, then let him sit in Coldridge Valley for several weeks.

The Hunter class is at its most boring from levels 5 to 10. Up to level 5, you almost level just from walking into a new zone. After level 10, you have a pet to keep you company and to do most of the grunt work for you. But the grind from 5 to 10 is unbearably slow and boring. For starters, you’re knee-deep in melee combat. Beyond level 10, a Hunter should never be getting involved in melee combat unless they’re getting themselves out of a bad situation. Oh sure, you can open with a Viper Sting, throw in an Arcane Shot and try to kite Auto-Shot until the mob drops. But the sad reality is that at some point, you’ll be face-to-face with any mob that’s within a level or two of your own. Even Raptor Strike seems to be more about Blizzard showcasing a cool little animation than the damage it actually deals. It’s not until you acquire Concussive Shot that you can finish an entire one-on-one fight ranged. But the key words here are “one-on-one” If you get adds, you’re still playing Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots with the cuddly critters and humanoids of *Insert Starting Zone Name Here*.

But I digress. Actually, this entire blog is a digression. Never mind the man behind the curtain. The point to be made here is that I’m really not getting my money’s worth out of the expansion. If I spent a lot of time with Devv out in Northrend, my investment would be justified. Death Knights can’t be created without purchasing the add-on. Leveling Predatore would make sense. What am I doing? Leveling a character who I could be playing even if I didn’t own Burning Crusade. That makes sense. So what started this whole mess? I decided that I was… wait! It seems like I should start a new paragraph.

Cool. I decided that I wanted to level Ellyza so I could get her Enchanting up to the point where I could disenchant the drops that Devv was picking up right before Northrend. Enchantress (bank alt #2) is sitting on full bank tab and two 16-slot bags full of goodies that require Enchanting level 275 to DE. When I logged into the old girl, she had 11 talent points free and a clean slate. I decided to ditch my Disc leveling idea and throw all of the points into Shadow. I took her out to Redridge Mountains to finish up the quests that she still had open before sending her off to Auberdine. It took me all of about five minutes for me to realize that leveling a Priest sucks. Sure, they can melt faces later on in life. And if you manage your health and mana accordingly, you can survive long fights. But at level 20, Priests just seem like underpowered Mages with the ability to Rez and Heal. I really hope I didn’t offend any Priests out there. It’s not that the class sucks. It’s that I suck at playing the class. I think I’m gonna need some advice from Pugnacious Priest on this one.

So, back to Arpeggio. I quickly got frustrated with Ellyza, had no interest in enduring low framerates in Northrend, and wanted nothing to do with jockeying for position for my turn to kill mobs in Eastern Plaguelands. So I logged out to the character select screen and noticed my old pal Arpeggio chillin’ at cinco. It took me just shy of two hours to get to level 10. After the pet taming questline, I decided to pick my first pet. I made the conscious decision to pick a pet that appealed to me personally. At the highest levels, pet selection can make a massive difference. In PvP, your pet can make or break you. But as a “just for fun” leveling alt, I decided to bypass the Petopia research and just go with something fun. With that in mind, I tamed a wolf just north of Kharanos. Sticking with the musical theme, I named him Allegro. OK, OK. Here’s the story. Shot rotation is half the fun of being a Hunter. The distinction between the different flavors of shots is much like an arpeggiated chord. Allegro, on the other hand, likes to go rushing in to whup some ace.

When I went to bed last night, Arpeggio and Allegro were nestled snugly in their beds in Ironforge. The former learned a little Mining and Engineering before calling it a night. His pet made it clear that he is notgonna eat bread before getting some shuteye himself. So, yet another distraction enters the fold. If I can stay focused enough to actually level Arpeggio beyond 20, I’m sure I’ll become even more addicted to reading Pike‘s thoughts than I already am. Even if you’re not a Hunter, her blog is one of the better ones out there. Do yourself a favor and check it out. As for me, I’ll get the Armory listings for Arpeggio and Predatore added when I get home later tonight. If anybody on my roster makes it to 80, it’s gonna be a frickin’ miracle!

Rolling a Death Knight… and a Demonologist

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2008 by Mark Pannell

To a certain extent, I got my framerate issues straightened out. I’m pulling down around 35 FPS in highly populated areas and exceeding 65 FPS in ghost towns like, say… Ironforge. With that headache out of the way, I decided to roll a Death Knight. Sticking with the Italian naming convention, I created Predatore as a Human male DK. If your Italian is a little rusty, drop the “e” and Bob’s your uncle. Simply put, Predatore is a badass. He’s at level 58 right now and I’ve decided to hold off until level 60 to shoot him through the Dark Portal. It’s not that he couldn’t handle the mobs there right now. There’s just something deeply satisfying about plowing through Hellfire Peninsula like a steamroller.

When I first started racking up talent points, I decided to go deep into the Frost tree. It seemed to have slowing and AoE type attributes similar to a Frost Mage. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that Frost wasn’t the best soloing spec. Between some forum posts, articles on WoW Insider, and this post over at Arcane Blaster, I decided that Blood was the way to go. As of about two hours ago, Predatore is 49 points into the Blood tree.

So far, I’ve gotta say that every point was well spent. When I was specced Frost, I had to be very careful not to bite off more than I could chew. Since moving to a Blood spec, I haven’t died. Not once. To give a good basis for comparison, I was taking on mobs that were three or four levels below me in WPL when I was specced Frost. After speccing Blood, I went to the northern part of EPL and took on five level 60′s at once. I threw Mark of Blood on one of the mobs and intentionally saved him for last. When his body finally dropped and I stood before the carnage, I took a glance at my health bar. Full. I’m not kidding. I had just knocked out five mobs that were all two levels higher than me and I came away literally unscathed. This Death Knight business is gonna be a good time.

As though I didn’t have enough to do with Devv working her way to 80 and Predatore rekindling the flames of love I once felt for this game, another distraction entered the mix last night. My wife and son and I went to Target on one of those completely pointless, need to spend money for no reason trips. Since discovering a couple killer deals on the clearance endcaps, I’ve become obsessed with scouring them for deals. It’s to the point where my son and I nearly jog to the front endcaps in excitement the second we walk in the door. In his defense, he’s 3 1/2, so he’s pretty much just going along with what Daddy does. I, on the other hand, have no excuse. I just love catching bargains. At any rate, last night’s trip was no exception My first discovery were some insanely-priced PS3 and XBOX 360 games. None of the titles really gave me an adrenalin rush, so I moved to the next endcap. There I discovered Age of Conan for $19.98. Although I’ve read mixed reviews of the game and certainly didn’t need another monthly fee, I figured twenty bucks was worth it even if I didn’t wind up playing it beyond the free month that came with the game. I pay $15 a month to play WoW. My rationale was that I’d be paying $15 for one month of AoC and only $5 for the game itself.

After convincing myself that purchasing AoC was the only logical thing to do in that particular situation, I started doing a little reading. I was committed to researching all of the different character classes to determine which one would be most appealing to me. When I started playing WoW, Starman over at World of Warcast recommended that I play a Mage. I did literally no research. I just took his advice and rolled a Mage. And I don’t regret doing it.

But this time, I decided that I was going to get knee-deep in articles, blog posts, and wikis to make the most educated decision. When I actually started doing my research, I realized that all of those articles, blog posts, and wikis were a lot of words. So, rather than read all of that material, I took a quick peek at what the PvP armor looked like for the female Mage classes. Pretty sweet. Pretty… sweet. Much like my wife decided that she was a Vikings fan because she liked their uniforms, I came to the conclusion that a Mage was right for me because their PvP gear looked badass. That and, let’s be honest… a Mage is really all I know. The Demonologist class appeared to be a nice mix of a WoW Mage and Warlock, so there you go.

I haven’t actually rolled my Demonolgist yet. In fact, I haven’t even installed AoC yet. As a cruel twist of fate, I’m always scheduled off of work on Tuesdays. That usually means a lot of staring at the “Suggested Realm” screen until WoW finally comes back online. But I think my new ritaul is going to be working on my Demonologist. I will name her Devv.

Wrath of the Ice Cream Truck

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , on November 15, 2008 by Mark Pannell

When I was a kid, I lived out in the country. My house was surrounded by corn fields. The nearest city was about fifteen miles south of us. Cable didn’t run down our road. No pizza joints would deliver to us either. So, on the rare occurrence that the ice cream truck made it out our way, it was a big… deal! Whatever crops were planted in the field surrounding our house were usually pretty low to the ground in early- to mid-summer, making traffic on country roads visible for a mile. When one of the neighbors spotted the ice cream truck, it was on. Everyone made a mad dash for their mothers and their purses. Visions of crunchy cones, root beer floats, and orange creamsicles haunted us as the mobile sanctuary of dairy delights crept closer and closer to our homes.

Once the truck arrived, we ordered our goodies, then retreated to one of our porches to devour our treats. The first bite, lick, or sip always set the tone for the disappointment that was about to follow. Much like Christmas day, it’s not that the experience wasn’t as good as we expected. Rather, it was exactly what we had expected. I think kids tend to have fantasies that would do Charlie and the Chocolate Factory proud. We all knew exactly what we were getting, but when it failed to be the absolutely mind-blowing experience that no ice cream treat could ever live up to, then it was just an ice cream cone. Or a root beer float. Or a popsicle. But that didn’t stop us from getting ourselves worked up in a tizzy for the next time the ice cream truck made its rural invasion.

To a certain extent, my experience with Wrath has been a lot like the ice cream truck. It didn’t fail to meet my expectations, per se. Rather, the expansion is exactly what I expected it would be. I think there are shortcomings to living in the age of information. The biggest one is that we’re fed so much information, that nothing is left to the imagination anymore. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures, watched dozens of videos, and read dozens of blogs about the latest WoW expansion. By the time I got it installed and loaded up for the first time, it all seemed a little old to me. I think I absorbed too much information prior to the release date. And to be honest, it kind of took something away from the experience. Truth be told, I’ve played WoW for a grand total of one hour since Thursday morning.

While some of the problem is certainly information overload and maybe a bit of being burnt out with the game in general, there’s another factor worth mentioning. I’ve been meaning to do some upgrades on the old WoW console formerly known as my computer. As much as I hate installations and patching, I decided to pull the trigger and pop the hood on the ol’ girl before installing Wrath. I picked up a new graphics card, 2GB more RAM, a 21.5″ widescreen HD LCD monitor, and a new OS drive. When I fired up WoW for the first time, I cranked all of the settings, knowing full well that I had enough horsepower to do so. Imagine my disappointment when the visuals were choppy at best. A quick ctrl+R confirmed that I was topping out at around 25 FPS. I nudged the settings down a bit, but could still muster little more than 35-40 FPS. Turning in place nearly always dropped my framerate back down into the low 20′s. This is the part where I call on you, the readers, for advice. I’ll be scouring Tom’s Hardware and other sites for feedback, but I want to get this resolved quickly. It’s really bothering me and affecting my Wrath experience. LOL. Anyhow, here are my current system specs:

  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+
  • Abit KN9 Ultra Socket AM2 mobo
  • Ultra X2 550W modular PSU
  • 4GB Corsair XMS DDR2-800 (5-5-5-18)
  • Western Digital Raptor 150GB 10,000RPM SATA 3G HDD (OS drive)
  • XFX GeForce 9800 GT 512 MB
  • ViewSonic 21.5″ Widescreen HD LCD @ 1920 x 1080
  • Windows XP Professional SP3

The only possible issues I can see from that setup are the processor and the power supply. I was running a PNY GeForce 7900 GS on a 19″ LCD at 1280 x 1024 before and consistently pulling down 40-50 FPS. I know that the increased resolution has increased the demand on the system, but I would have assumed that the 9800 GT could have more than handled that. Maybe the processor is the bottleneck. It just seems highly unlikely given the poor performance even with the settings all the way down. The other possibility is that the PSU isn’t supplying enough power to the graphics card. Well, it might be the 12V rail, not the total wattage of the PSU that’s the problem. I haven’t looked up the specs on my power supply yet, but again, I doubt that’s the problem either. Trying to eliminate all possibilities, I even uninstalled and re-installed the nVidia drivers three or four times. It’s getting really old. And yes, V-Sync is off. I didn’t drop all of this money to get piss-poor performance. If I don’t get the issue resolved in the next 24 hours, I’m replacing the proc with a 65W AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+. If that doesn’t work, I’m going to throw a 620W Corsair modular PSU into the mix. If that still doesn’t work, I’m calling XFX and telling them they can kiss my ass. The End.

A Nod to Sonny

Posted in WoW Observations on November 14, 2008 by Mark Pannell

I’ll be publishing a new post soon, but I wanted to take a second to show some appreciation for the writing of a fellow WoW blogger. Sonny over at Arathi Highlander just posted an excellent piece about a wallet. Yes, that’s right. A wallet. I would elaborate, but I think that not doing so makes it more intriguing, thus making you more likely to follow the link and check it out for yourself. The post prompted me to add him to my blogroll as well. I’ve noticed a little bit more traffic on my WordPress.com stats page lately, so I’d like to redirect you all for just a moment. Plus, it makes it look like I’ve actually posted something here. Good trick, right?

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