Archive for the ‘Gaming’ category

Update; Two more first kills

January 23, 2009

Playtime has been limited lately – a few other things keeping my busy and/or distracted – but what time I’ve had has been constructive.

This week I hit exalted with both Son’s of Hodir and the Kaluak, so I now have my good shoulder enchants and epic fishing pole.  Doing daily quests for these two factions have taken up much of my non-raid playtime, so not having their quests on my list daily is a bit odd.

Tuesday night we did our 10-man Naxx, this was our first one night clear of the zone.  Under 3.5 hours;  certainly not setting any speed records, but a pace that I’ve quite pleased with.  The simple fact that I don’t need to remind anyone how anything works is still amazing to me.  Once people have seen the fights twice, everyone just does their thing.. having spent BC being forced to remind people to get up close to Nightmare, or not to move in Flame Wreath, well, this is pleasantly different.

So, Thursday night we were left with Sartharion and Malygos.  In late December we had tried leaving a drake up in Obsidium Sanctum, but quickly decide that we weren’t ready yet.  Last night, having plently of time, we decided to try it again.

I suggested leaving Tenebron – the drake in the back, who summons whelps – up for the fight, as this seems easiest.  When Tenebron joins Sartharion he only brings his whelp adds, and higher shadow damage for anyone in void zones.  Since the void zone damage can be pretty simply avoided, that just left the whelps to deal with.

The first pull was simply letting the off-tank get a feel for where things are positioned.  Discovered that Tenebron lands in the rear (on Sartharion’s left flank), with his portal being closer to the front (Sartharion’s right flank, on the fire wall boundary).  Since we want the melee stacked on the portal, so they can pick up the Whelps, the drake needed to be pulled back to where the dps normally stays.

For the second try Tenebron was pulled to position, but the drakes and elementals caused havoc – and the fire wall ate a lot of people.  It is funny that something that is so simple on by itself manages to cause problems as soon as another element is added.  It felt like my off-tank had too many things going on (Drake, whelps & firewall) and everything just felt like it was going at light-speed.  Rather than suggest that I give it a try, we had a feral off-tank the all the adds.

The third try did it.  After two hectic attempts, everything slowed back down, and it felt fairly easy.  Adds were (mostly) controlled, within a few minutes Tenebron died, and then it was simply a matter of not screwing up Sartharion.  The progression pull-to-pull was great, and it is a more interesting fight done this way.

Following on from that, Maylgos was the plan.  The past few weeks we’ve spent quite a bit of time throwing ourselves against him – we’ve seen phase three enough that drake control has improved considerably, but we’ve always been behind on the enrage timer when we get to that phase.  So, I swapped to my Malygos spec (basically added Improved Spell Reflect to help in phase two) and off we went.

On the way I explained to 3.0.8 changes – no CoH or WG while in Vortex, and some of the tricks being used to stack sparks are gone.

Buff buff buff, feast, flask and go.

One shot. /gasp

Mostly, it was just that we had higher dps.  Phase one was done with over 7 minutes on the timer, and we were on our drakes with more than 4 minutes left.  We lost three people along the way (while on drakes) – but still got him down with more than a minute to spare.

There was some discussion about exactly what changed – many thought the fight must have been nerfed in the 3.0.8 patch, but from a glance at the WWS numbers it looks like we just had a lot more pew-pew.

A still have a few things to mop up, but I hope to have the time this weekend to get a new title.

Moving into the new home

December 17, 2008

Last night was another scheduled raid night. Pre-raid we had finished up the admin work of transferring guild leadership over to one of my wife’s alts – and so we were ready to /gquit on our mains and to make the jump to the new guild.

It is really hard to describe, but in the span of five minutes I went from a bit anxious to completely at peace. Perhaps it is because we’ve run with these guys for several weeks, maybe it was the amazingly warm welcome, and the immediate jokes in chat certainly helped – but it somehow felt like coming home again.

The evening’s raid went well. After a bit of a late start, we tried Sartharion (once) with one drake up before deciding to just get our loot and run. Following that we cleared Naxx’s Spider wing and the Plague wing up through Heigan, and which point we had to split. I’m hoping they went ahead and took down Lotheb, because I’d like to get a quick start on the other wings Thursday night.

Anub’Rakhan was ever nice enough to drop me an upgraded tanking ring, which I thoroughly appreciated.

We are still in the honeymoon period- that is certain – but for now at least, I’m very pleased that with the decision.

Weekend Update, non-WoW

December 16, 2008

Outside of WoW, it was time to replace some hardware.

My phone – a several years old Windows Mobile model – was about dead. I’d held off on replacing it since nothing on the market is ‘perfect’. Realizing that I could repeat the ‘just 3 months till the Next Big Thing comes out’ cycle forever, I went ahead and bit the bullet. Picked up an iPhone. It being an Apple product creeps me out slightly, but I really do like it a lot.

There are a few things I don’t like – the total lockdown Apple has on the platform being the main one, along with a lack of easy (non-ToS violating) support for tethering being another. That said, it is a vast improvement over my previous smart phone, and the existing Android phone just isn’t what I’m looking for (yet).

If that were the only toy I’d bought over the weekend, I’d have plenty to keep me busy playing.

However…

We also have a pair of older laptops that we get some use out of – mostly for small things around the house and especially while traveling. They have both been misbehaving, and are showing signs of serious hardware problems – so much so that we’ve basically stopped using them. We’ve talked about finding a replacement for months, and with Holiday travel coming up – now is the time.

Enter the Aluminum Macbook. /shudder

I really really really wanted to get a Windows machine. Perhaps something nice from Dell – but everything I looked at was either too low end, or a very expensive gaming machine. I just need a mid-range laptop, light, good battery life, with a reasonably powerful video card. For the money (even with the Apple tax) – the Macbook hit what I’m looking for.

Plus… it is sooooo pretty. /sigh

So… now that I’ve sold out, should I be looking for a package in the mail? Trendy jeans and a black tee? A cap with a discrete Apple logo? An iPhone app listing directions to the nearest coffee shop with WiFi and a too-cool-for-me indie soundtrack?

Running With Strangers or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the PuG

December 8, 2008

I’ve talked about how often I’ve been PUG’ing, but I don’t think that I’ve mentioned how much of a change this is.

As my wife and I leveled our current Mains (Warrior/Priest) to 60 I don’t think we grouped up more than a handful of times, and I certainly don’t remember running any instances.

We played a bit at 60, and in BC we ran the leveling instances – but only a few of those were PUGs, and for those we waited until we were already at the upper-end of the level range. All this is hardly surprising. We had little experience in instances, weren’t super confident, and it was just easier to not deal with it. I’ve since found out just how common this is – many many people talk about nervousness in groups. Looking back it seems silly, and this reticence over grouping did gradually fade on the trip to 70. By the time I was working to get my Karazhan key grouping was no longer stressful, and as we worked to gear the guild up for our first trip to visit Attumen I preferred it to any other form of play.

At level 70, much of my playtime was spent in 5, 10, or 25 man groups. However, I still almost always grouped with guild members or, at worst, the occasional friend of a friend or an ex-guildie. Using trade chat (or /lfm) evoked images of ninjas, large repair bills, wasted hours, and spoiled little foul mouthed children. Why would I want to deal with that? As a tank (with a pocket healer) it was trivially easy to find a few dps – in fact, I often had to remind myself to ‘share’ the invites so that everyone got a few runs with us. The world of instances, heroics, and raids had opened up, but I was still completely closed off to the majority of the actual people playing the game around me.

This past summer, I got hit by burnout and eventually left the guild that had been my home for 18 months. I came back to WoW not through the live servers, but through the Wrath Beta. My wife and I got in the beta early, long before any of our friends made it in, so if we wanted to run instances we PUG’d. Most beta players were experienced raiders, and the runs were generally smooth.

When we got back to the live servers and we wanted to hit the heroics one final time, it seemed only natural that we’d use /lfm to grab a few more. We weren’t guilded at the time, so it’s not like we had a ton of options, but by that point I didn’t even think about it being a problem. Somewhere along the way I’d misplaced my stigma over PUGs.

Truth told, I’m not sure that I have even ever been in the type of pick up group that I’d long feared. In dozens of runs over the last few months – Beta and Live, Outland and Northrend – I’ve come across one single player that earned a kick from the group and a place on my /ignore list (normally reserved for the most severe trade channel morons.) Sure, we came across some unskilled players, several with shocking low dps, or those lacking even basic grouping skills – but with that one exception – no one that ruined the run. Even the least skilled of the players were consistently willing to listen to suggestions, and were typically the most grateful for a run that had gone so well.

This brings us to Heroics at level 80. These days I am checking people on the Armory before I invite, but that is because the gear requirements a still very real. In our heroic runs, we’ve not had any troublemakers, and I’ve been blessed by meeting some great people.

A Retadin, who had the gear and skills to show he’d been in more than a few heroic runs, recently started started asking questions about our guild. His guild, a group of formerly hardcore raiders, were looking to start 10-mans but are a couple short. Could we see about setting up a joint run sometime?

We’ve talked a few times over the past week and went in Thursday night. It went great. Bosses died, loot was distributed, and -best of all- both groups got along great.

The details of future runs are still being worked out (by the respective guild leaders, so I’m just advising) – but things look promising. I don’t expect that this arrangement will last very long, they have several more on their way to 80 and won’t long need our help – but this does get all of us into raids earlier than we could manage separately.

I expect that in a few weeks we will find ourselves looking to raid on our own, and will probably still need to fill a few spots from outside the guild. We are actively working towards being able to make that happen, but for now, I’m enjoying the idea that we can get back into raiding without having to force our guild to grow to quickly.

After the Long Weekend

December 1, 2008

Not much playtime over the long weekend, but Saturday evening we did manage to squeeze in a few runs.  Knocked out the Heroic versions Gun’drak and Violet Hold, and ran a quick CoT: Strat on normal.

The heroics are starting to feel easier too.  The first trip into Violet Hold was rough, but the more recent ones – even with horrible luck on which bosses we get – have gone much better.  The Tanking/Healing still requires coordination, but we are now consistently one-shotting the place.  Our first trip into Utgarde Keep was extremely easy (though, have a mage and two retadins provided a crazy amount of CC), and Gun’Drak was completed with only a single wipe on the first boss.

A few days back we tried Heroic CoT, and decided to reset it back to normal mode after a few trash wipes.  We were able to get the first boss down with no problems, but I was just taking a bit too much damage on some of the large trash packs.  Just a few days later I’ve grabbed a few upgrades, and am looking forward to trying the place again.

Otherwise, the guild is growing, albeit very slowly.  That is not a bad thing though, at least not yet.  A friend from our former guild who had been going it alone for while has decided to join us, he’ll have his first 80 within a few days.

I am starting to look towards Naxx though.  As things stand we certainly aren’t going to field a guild-only run, so we are now trying to decide how to proceed.  We could start spamming out recruiting notices, and could certainly bring in bodies that way – but I’m not enthusiastic about that method.  My preference is to continue to slowly expand, only bringing in really solid people, and to rely on friends lists to fill out our runs. The benefit of pugging a few spots in most of our runs is that I’m building up a good list of people that I know and trust.  In fact, lately, I’ve had to force myself to bring the occasional stranger, just to meet new people.

Finally, Andrea from the Tank Like a Girl Blog was kind enough to link to my blog over the long weekend.  I tend to presume that anyone who has managed to stumble across my little site already reads ‘The Warrior/Tanking Blogs’ – those that best cover the role – but if you don’t regularly check out Andrea’s site, you certainly should.

WotLK: Gun’Drak

November 29, 2008

This is one in a series of posts covering a WotLK 5-mans – from a Tank’s Point of View

Gun’Drak is perhaps my favorite leveling instance. The zone design, the bosses, variety and the pacing all come together to make me very happy.

There are two quests nearby (just to the north, on a ledge) that anyone can pick up before going in, and another two that come from Zul’Drak quest lines. All have very nice rewards, so be sure to pick them up!

This instance sits in the northeastern part of Zul’Drak, but the map can be a bit confusing. The instance is not in the large temple – even though that map labels that as Zul’Drak. Out front of the temple, on either side the large ‘road’ are small buildings that house the instance portals. Yes – portals. You can choose to start with either Slad’ran or Moorabi, depending on which portal you take. The summoning stone in on the northern side, so thats the portal I’ll presume you will use. For bonus points, after having cleared the zone a few times, do it backwards – the vague feeling of wrongness adds a nice twist to the run.

From the instance portal, head down the ramp – or jump carefully into the pool – and you’ll have the first boss in sight. Behind that boss is an altar. Not just any altar through – this one shoots lasers! See, I told you this place was cool.

After each boss, you need to remember to fire off the laser beam, or else you won’t be able to access the final boss.

Sladran

Visible from the entrance, just knock out a few simple trash pulls and you are ready.

The Slad’ran fight can get pretty hectic, so everyone needs to be on their toes. From the start he fires off the occasional Poison Nova, and can hit someone with a Snake Wrap. The Nova needs to be healed though, and the Wrap needs to be burst down by dps. As the fight progresses, he will call in an increasing number of snake adds, to the point that some groups may be overwhelmed near the end. The adds don’t have much health, and don’t hit too hard, so you can choose to tank them or AoE them down – whichever works best for your setup.

Witch Doctor’s Wildstaff may drop, and is a nice staff for any Ferals.

Drakkari Colossus

From Slad’ran there the clear to the Colossus is pretty simple. The first room does have some patrolls, so take care if you aren’t up to tanking several groups at once – however, if you can mass tank, this room can be cleared very quickly.

Once in his room, and when initially engaged, the water elementals surrounding the Colossus will group up and join with it. At that point, you can pull the Colussus and start the fight. While in Colossus form, this is a simple tank and spank. However, twice throughout this fight the Elemental will ‘Emerge’ from the Colossus, and need to be picked up. The Elemental will randomly charge, and starts with an aggro wipe – so the tank needs to be paying attention. After taking a bit of a beating, the elemental will hop back into the Colossus, and you repeat the cycle.

You may see the Shoulderguards of the Ice Troll, continuing the good drops for Bears.

Moorabi

The trip to Moorabi is potentially a bit more interesting. There are several more patrols to watch out for, and quite a few mobs that have a knockback. This is worthy of note, because you are fighting along side a small lake – a lake with hostile fish. Get knocked into the lake and not only are you out of the fight for quite some time, but you may not make it out at all.

Once in Moorabi’s room you don’t need to clear the group on the far side – unless you intentionally approach them, they shouldn’t get involved in this fight.

Moorabi is a Troll that will change into a Mammoth part way through the fight. He has a knockdown stomp, and is capable of laying down quite a bit of pain onto the tank, but this fight generally goes very quickly – the simplest of the bosses in Gun’Drak.

Gal’darah

After the first three bosses are down, and you hit the final laser, the bridge in the middle of the zone will swivel around and give you access to Gal’Darah. You can jump down from Moorabi’s area and swim to the shore, or run back around to the Colossus’ area and just walk across.

Before fighting Gal’darah you will have four pulls, all involving Rhinos. These can all start with a charge/knockback, so consider pulling with your back to a wall or pillar.

Gal’Darah himself is a fun fight. He starts off in Troll form, and as a troll the main ability to watch for is his Whirlwind – it can put out a lot of damage quick, so melee needs to move out. He can also call a spectral Rhino to do off target charge/knockbacks, but these aren’t a major issue.

Eventually Gal’Darah will transform into a Rhino form. At this point he can Impale players – never the tank though. To do this he charges them, and then treats them to a burst of damage and several seconds flying around with his horn through their chest. Good times.

Drops Gal’darah’s Signet which should make any tank very happy.

And that is it. For such a varied instance, most groups can be out in 30 minutes or so. As this zone fills the level 76 instance gap, you are at the point where even geared TBC Raiders are going to start taking a good hard look at the drops, so it is not unreasonable to see most people walking away with upgrades.

At the Midnight Wrath Launch

November 13, 2008

Coming off a horrible 48 hours for the servers, on a cool and damp night, I just returned home from a local Gamestop. The week’s mail problems, server downtime and PvP vendor bugs certainly didn’t seem to bother anyone there. The strip mall store had a line of a few dozen people when we arrived at 11pm.

At 11:15, they started letting people in, and even with a credit card system that eventually forced every order to be called in, we had our games by 11:40. Then, it was simply a matter of hanging around for 20 minutes until they’d let us leave with our shiny new (and heavy) CEs.

I came home from work this afternoon and managed to get a bit of sleep, in preparation for tonight. The game installing at the moment, and I’m hoping to get a few hours a playtime, before heading into work. Thursday will be a short day at the office – I’ll likely cut out around lunch, unless the servers appear to be down – but I do need to get a few hours in. If everything goes according to plan, we’ll be able to play much of the evening before passing out and getting back to as normal a Friday schedule as possible.

That is the plan.

Back in college, this would have been no problem. Now, in my early 30s, well.. we’ll just have to see.