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Broke a plat

Posted by Chris Jones
On July 31st, 2008 at 19:45

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I’ve been trying to level a Hunter quickly so that I can help my wife with her alts and repay her for all the two-boxing I’ve done with her 70s on some of my characters in WoW. Yesterday, I’m pleased to announce, I finally earned over a plat on a character in Warcraft. After nearly four years, I’ve earned enough for an epic mount (under the old costs).

I made a plat!

The trick is to gather, sell your greens, and be consistent in your pricing. Weekends will knock down commodity prices, and you might end up relisting stacks of Iron, Mithril, or even Gold several times, but you’ll eventually get what you ask (depending on the server’s market, of course).

I also have bought very little, relying mostly on quest gear and the occasional low-priced green.

Warhammer Online street date

Posted by Chris Jones
On July 31st, 2008 at 17:51

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Warhammer has a street date: September 16, 2008.

I guess dropping four cities and four classes let them ship early. I hope they put them back as part of the normal patch process instead of in an expansion. Stay true to your roots, Mythic; don’t let EA corrupt you!

Gearing up a Priest

Posted by Chris Jones
On April 3rd, 2008 at 15:57

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I spent the better part of eight levels running instances and gearing up Chantre for the 29 Warsong Gulch battleground. Below is my plan for Waffle:

Slot Item Stats
Head Electromagnetic Gigaflux Reactivator
Str 0
Agi 0
Sta 33
Int 68
Spi 48
Armor 265
Spell Crit 12
Spell Dmg 41
Shadow Dmg +7
Heal Bonus 48
MP5 5
Nature Res 5
Shadow Res 5
Neck Tundra Necklace…?
Shoulder Berylline Pads
Cloak Glowing Thresher Cape
Chest Death Speaker Robes
Wrist Spidertank Oilrag
Gloves Serpent Gloves
Waist Ghamoo-ra's Bind
Legs Gaze Dreamer Pants
Feet Acidic Walkers
Ring 1 Advisor's Ring – +2 Sta, +5 spell damage/heal, 2 MP5
Deadman's Hand – I’ll probably never get this to drop
Ring 2 Nogg's Gold Ring (preferred)
Seal of Sylvanas
Trinket 1
Trinket 2
Right Hand Death Speaker Scepter (preferred)
Wind Spirit Staff
Left Hand Witch's Finger
Ranged Gravestone Scepter

Waffle’s Warcrafter Sandbox

Chantre kicks ass

Posted by Chris Jones
On April 2nd, 2008 at 15:58

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Despite my prior protestations to the contrary, my old PvP skills are slowly coming back. Back in the early 90s, I used to play Doom over the modem (with a Novell network bound to the modem connection) and did pretty well. In the late 90s, I developed motion sickness when playing FPS games such that I basically had to give up the genre. Even EverQuest could give me problems.

WoW doesn’t make me motion sick, thankfully. I’ve been playing Chantre in the 20-29 Warsong Gulch battleground and have earned a reasonable chunk of honor and enough marks to get a trinket. I wouldn’t say that she’s overly twinked, she has nothing that a dedicated (and well-connected) player couldn’t achieve on his own, and she paid for everything herself through harvesting and the auction house. There are a few more things I want to get (like a +3 damage scope for the gun) yet. Once she levels out of the battleground (through daily quests or housekeeping, like picking herbs between fights) I’ll push her to get 70 before returning to Waffle and gearing her up for the 29 BG.

My lessons learned:

  • Slow guns like the Chesterfall Musket are more effective than quick bows like the Nightstalker Bow, despite the likelihood of getting more shots off if it’s quick. Most of the shots I take in the battleground are on the run, so a gun with a slower speed (even if only 0.10 more DPS) will hit for a hell of a lot more.
  • Likewise, my daggers, Thornspike and the Tail Spike, while great for Agility aren’t as useful in close combat: Corpsemaker has high DPS and a very slow speed. I treat melee like my ranged shots, where auto attack is nice but my most telling blows are from skills. Corpsemaker can take out Rogues that are more twinked than I am, especially if I land Wing Clip.
  • When on defense, where Chantre usually does very well, placing a Frost Trap at the flag or in the junction between the long entry corridor and side passage “upstairs” near the boots can help tremendously in slowing down an attack or flag capture.
  • Freezing Traps, while utterly useful, require discipline not to spam the Rogue or Warrior trapped in it.

Draenei Shamans and Hunters can be tough, along with a twinked Mage. Twinked Rogues and Warriors are still killing machines. Twinked Priests can be nearly unstoppable, while a Hunter carrying the flag is just asking to lost it (leave it to the Shamans and Druids to carry it). Paladins are annoying, especially before mana drain becomes a part of the battleground.

Done with Warsong until 29

Posted by Chris Jones
On March 10th, 2008 at 14:10

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I’m done running Warsong Gulch until 29. There were two dailies that I was lucky enough to get to run. What I’ve learned:

  • Stamina is king
  • it doesn’t matter how many people you put on defense if the opposing side sends in a group of twinks
  • premade guild groups guarantee fast wins
  • healers are primary targets: they go down fast, can’t do sustained DPS, and can turn the tide of an encounter
  • you can’t have enough Stamina or Spirit
  • it’s faster to die than to wait for your mana to come back
  • put your buffs up to give the enemy priest something to dispel
  • a good priest dispels Shadow Word: Pain, Corruption, and Hunter’s Mark from himself and his groupmates
  • it’s tempting to run in and rack up lots of honor from DOTs, but that tends to make you a bigger target. Hang back, keep a finger poised over Psychic Scream for the inevitable Rogue or Hunter pet, keep your Power Word: Shield up, and pick a Rogue, Warrior, or Hunter to keep alive. You’ll get just as much honor (albeit fewer killing blows) from keeping your teammates alive, so throw Renews around like Mardi Gras beads and keep the PW:S in reserve for yourself and teammates who are about to go down. Do use Shadow Word: Pain, but not to the exclusion of healing.
  • Untwinked Warlocks and Paladins (especially after Mana Burn) are the Priest’s natural targets
  • Long casts aren’t going to have a chance to complete in a mobile battle, but at 19, you don’t have Flash Heal. Be ready to have lots of spellcasts fail.

I still haven’t decided how to best spec. Blackout was annoying but not tide-turning when I was hit with it, while Shadow talents like Improved Psychic Scream and Silence are as useful as Improved Mana Burn. Based on my experiences in the 19 WSG BG, heals are sorely needed, and that precludes Shadowform and, arguably, Improved Divine Spirit provides a bigger return per talent point for both BG and instance grouping (before Vampiric Touch is available). I can see spending a few points in the Holy tree as well.

Is a heavy Discipline spec appropriate for all PvP, or more appropriate for Arenas rather than BGs? Is the style of play sufficiently different in later, higher level BGs that strong Shadow or Discipline builds are more useful than builds that incorporate some healing?

Bad luck charm

Posted by Chris Jones
On March 6th, 2008 at 13:31

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I’ve hinted that I bring bad luck before, but Becky absolutely believes it. There are times when she’ll actually order me out of the room, sometimes the house, because my presence is causing bad things to happen. For instance, she’ll have been pulling mobs as singles or pairs for an hour with no problems. I’ll walk into the room, start to talk to her, and the next pull will be three or four or more. It’s not that she’s paying less attention to the game, it just happens. I’ll come into the house after work, which she won’t consciously know (because of the layout of the house, the sound won’t travel and vibration of the front door closing is minimized) and she’ll immediately have her first character death of the day. When she’s soloing, she’ll regularly get purple drops in WoW, but if I’m in the house or the room, they won’t drop. Last night, she needed to kill a quest mob in EQ and had trouble getting it (other groups would pull it even though they didn’t need it; she’d clear to get to the mob only to have another player grab it). As long as I was in the room with her, for an hour, this quest mob that had been respawning on a regular five minute schedule didn’t respawn.

Likewise, my bad luck extends to myself. One of my Draenei Hunters, Foulhoof, was grouping in a PUG with a Mage to get some quests done in Arathi Highlands. I saw an incredible number of greens drop, plus a quite nice blue melee staff. I’m not kidding when I state that I lost 23 of the 25 rolls we did over 60 minutes. If I need a particular piece of gear out of an instance, I’ll make my wife take me rather than trust that I’ll win the roll in a group. We had to clear Wailing Caverns over fifteen times to get a particular weapon that drops off a boss more than 25% of the time.

Not content

Posted by Chris Jones
On March 3rd, 2008 at 12:23

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Not content with having a bunch of low alts on multiple servers, I rerolled my 15 Blood Elf Mage to reuse the name Waffle. Becky started EverQuest again on Friday (we got the last copy of EverQuest: Secrets of Faydwer from the nearby White Center GameStop),
so I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time . . . as long as I could be on Ventrilo. She reactivated all three EQ accounts, installed the expansion to the account that had most of the characters she wanted to play on it, and hasn’t really come up for air since.

I used the new Station launcher to patch my PC (it didn’t cause any lag while she was playing EQ) since my DVD+RW drive is essentially dead. After patching, I spent a little time in EQ on Sunday, logging in some of my higher level characters to help her through some rough patches and discovering exactly what and how much plat was lost in the server merge (I’m down about 50,000 plat, plus what, at the time, would have been about 75,000 plat in items), and also spent some time sitting around and answering questions about the changes in EQ while we waited for the game to patch. Otherwise, I spent almost all my gaming time working on Waffle.


Posted by Chris Jones
On January 14th, 2008 at 15:59

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We’ve picked up and moved around WoW servers a lot over the past month. I got Pine to 60 and kind of retired him and most of my characters on Lothar (with banks so stuffed with greens that I “might use on an alt or in a few levels” that they tended to be useless), and while I like Kirin Tor, my wife stopped playing a lot on it. She had enough hunters. 🙂

We tried Farstriders, where she’d had luck getting Blood Elf Bandit masks to drop and sell for good cash, but the server itself was one of those that was mostly populated by split, with an incredible number of 70s and a very odd market or economy. Things that should sell well didn’t, and things that shouldn’t have sold well sold very, very well. Becky was frustrated when her Engineer couldn’t turn a profit and I recommended we try another server, Moon Guard, which was low population and might be a better choice. It wasn’t, being another split server (aren’t they all now?) and with another market she didn’t like.

We landed on Drenden, or at least I did. She quickly got an engineer to a decent skill rating, got some decent sales at times (copper bars are very price sensitive, while greens tend to be overpriced at any level) and even found some recipes on vendors or for cheap on the AH. Then Becky lost interest in repeating low-to-mid level content and went back to Lothar to finish leveling her Blood Elf Hunter through the 60s and to 70. “Please tell me they’re not adding 10 more levels in the next expansion…”

On Drenden, for fun and because we thought it would be a neat “inside” joke, we created a vanity guild Rawgrlgrlgrlgrlgrrgle. I sat around in Northshire Valley for a few hours on Saturday on Neogi, my then level 20 Warlock, chatting it up, acting nice, letting newbies ogle my Succubus, and giving away Linen Bags for people who would sign my guild charter. In a short time, Rawgrlgrlgrlgrlgrrgle was born. I’ve already had over half the signatories quit, which is just fine with Becky as she didn’t want a real guild, just the tag and a way to keep people from randomly inviting her to their guilds. (I think posting the guild MOTD and information in Nerglish, and renaming all the titles to Murloc titles like Tadpole, Murloc, Cruelfin, Gluggle, and Chieftain may have alienated people.) I’d turn it over to Becky, of course, if I had a character of raiding level or was regularly doing instances with a formal guild.

Finally, I’m playing another Hunter on Drenden named Foulhoof, as is my Hunter on Kirin Tor and on Farstriders (but not Moon Guard). She’s only level eight so far, and I’m really missing the pet, but I expect she’ll overtake the Warlock in no-time as the Hunter has much, much better survivability even if the DPS over time isn’t quite as high. (I guesstimated that my Warlock was averaging something like 13 DPS from DOTs at level 19, not counting pet 7.5 DPS or 12.,8 DPS wand damage.)

I’m playing a Warlock better than I was at release (with Waffle on Lothar, eventually deleted and rerolled to Horde): I couldn’t solo her Heartswood quest at Ordil’Aran, while a couple years later I could do it easily with Neogi over the weekend. However, I still had a Warlock reality check when I learned that many mobs after 15 (or so) survive after the DOTs have worn off.

Mobile HTTP clients

Posted by Chris Jones
On December 30th, 2007 at 11:59

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Posted in Design Journal

Mobile clients have several limitations:

  • small screen size
  • network latency
  • poor, limited, and unreliable connectivity
  • severe memory and script execution speed or time restrictions
  • input restricted to (slow) text entry and click-only (no drag, no mouseover)

…in addition to browser limitations. The best browser for mobile web applications at the time of this writing is Safari on the iPhone.

Some of these can be addressed through careful design of the user interface.

Band aids? Upfront process and design are better

Posted by Chris Jones
On December 29th, 2007 at 10:37

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Posted in Design Journal, Tech

From Zubon of Kill Ten Rats:

Fixing the fundamental only gets worse once you already have a dozen band-aids on the wound. You must tear them all off and throw them away. But at least you get to do all those things you wanted to do if you had it to do over again.

And this is why we Unit Test.

Games that ship and have few bugs have well developed and scrupulously followed development processes. Games with bugs just get shoved out the door because scope creep and featuritis are given more importance than good project management. And for one-off, traditional single-player games, it wasn’t so bad, especially when the game developers were also designers and a four person development team was big. Check out High Moon Studios’ “Day in the Life” seminal article on SCRUM and Unit Testing a modern console game.

An MMO is more like a corporate ERP system than a Pac-Man or Tetris clone, and cutting corners to hit deadlines or out of sheer laziness (and believe me, programmers are lazy–it’s a virtue) helps create emergent behavior or bugs. Strong, comprehensive Unit Testing at the cost of adding dubious features to still meet the development schedule is the best defense against this. The Unit Test becomes a kind of document, an artifact that demonstrates how the developer believed the code was to be invoked and what it should return, and future changes against the code can be verified with execution against the entire suite of Unit Tests. The designer, developer, and producer will sleep well at night knowing that the vision has been translated to code or scripts accurately.