Friday, 30 March 2012

Instructions are for people who don't know what they doing.

My daughter when she was a very young child, was a big fan of Bob the Builder. In the episode "One Shot Wendy" the gang are busy making a crazy golf course. In the process of making a windmill, Bob utters the immortal lines "Instructions are for people who don't know what they doing." Bob of course comes a cropper and ends up inside the windmill unable to get out.

I have often been heard muttering the same line, and more often than not end up in a similar pickle. It would appear that I have installed the WoW Client 64 bit version wrong. The official instructions as per Wowwiki states:

  • Make sure your 32-bit World of Warcraft run directory is up-to-date (build # matches 64-bit client).
  • Unzip (approx. 7.6 MB) into the run directory where WoW.exe resides. It should create a WoWLive-64-Win-15211\ directory.
  • Copy the following files from WoWLive-64-Win-15211\ into your World of Warcraft run directory:
    • MovieProxy.exe
    • WoW-64.exe
  • Run the Launcher, go to Options\Game Preferences and make sure "Launch 32-bit Client:" is unchecked.
  • Click Play.

It would appear I have 2 distinct versions of WoW installed on my machine. This way if the 64 bit client goes pear shaped I have a backup plan. Opening the game without the launcher is just so fast anyway. I guess for now that I will just leave it as it is. There is no shortage of HDD space on my PC. Due to the number of times I rebuild my PC I keep my data separate from the Operating system. The disks are labelled as:

C:\ System
D:\ Music
E:\ Video

Both WoW installs are sat on the E:\ drive exempt from the regular use of Format C:

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Is There Anybody Out There?

The last post was several days in the writing. I am still playing but not very much. To fill the gap I have recently rebuilt my PC.

My current PC originally came with Windows Vista, I tried to love this operating system as much as XP but it just didn't work between us. On the rebound I went back to my first love Windows XP. We had some lovely times together but I became obsessed with something new, it was shiny and I wanted it. The object of my affections was of course Windows 7, but it was still in beta. I had heard such good things about Windows 7 and I had to have. It was everything that Vista wasn't but oddly it shares so much with this unloved predecessor.

In the end Windows 7 Beta was a complete washout for me, I tried 32 and 64 bit version and none of them would get past the introduction page. As you can imagine, I was not in rush to buy a product that had a good chance of not working. I returned once more to Windows XP and thought no more about it.

A few months later I got involved in a Computer rollout of Windows 7, with server implementation of Server 2008. Windows 7 proved to be a joy to work with it, once you worked out were all the menus had disappeared to. Whilst on the rollout I took the opportunity to see if my computer would actually support Windows 7 now it was a proper operating system with its very own service pack.  Sure enough it worked like a dream for several months until one day it fell out of love with me. The messages it sent me got worse and worse with every passing day, and then one day the screen stopped showing the lovely scenes of the United Kingdom and everything went black.

Oddly enough the PC still worked and the updates kept rolling in. I eventually got depressed by the blackness of it all, and went off to consult the Underworld Oracle. The font of all knowledge told me I could have my Windows 7 all shiny and new again. This happened again about 6 weeks later and the process just rolled on for 4 or 5 resets then Windows 7 stopped loving me and the world went black forever. Over the black background a little message in white font was teasing me.

"Windows 7 Build 7601 This copy of windows not genuine".

Now the dilema was what to do? The install had only been a test to see if Windows 7 would install, but could I go back to Windows XP? The answer of course is no way. Then it struck me that my wife has a new laptop, and that all the new laptops are rolling out with 64 bit as you would expect. The version of Office 2010 in the house supports 3 licenses, WoW also now as a 64 bit client, so would my aging PC support Windows 7 64 bit.

The answer is a resounding Yes. Currently installed is Office 2010 and early stage 64 bit WoW client.
I do still have the 32 bit copy to hand if needed. The 64 bit WoW client is a strange beast. The installer is a very tiny 7.2MB in size and this grows to an enormous size very quickly. Currently it occupies about 27 GB but you can play almost immediately, with the proviso of a very poor framerate. I am unable to give my full impressions until it has stopped updating but the early signs are very encouraging.

Now I have Windows 7 64 bit on test for a few weeks, but what happens when it goes black again. Well there is something shiny and new just round the corner, I just need to get hold of that Windows 8 Beta software.

I am definitely not sitting Comfortably Numb.

Rust Never Sleeps

World of Warcraft has been a huge part of my life for the last 7 years, but for the last few weeks I have been asking myself why do I logon most nights?

With the plethora of information coming from Blizzard about the upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion, shouldn't we all be very excited and the new and wonderful challenges that lie ahead. To be honest I have only skimmed through the available info and whilst I am interested in the plans, there is a general lack of excitement.

So what has changed in WoW that would make me so lethargic and disinterested? The answer lies in 7 years of playing, I have probably clocked up in the region of 1 year played, approximately 3 hours a night every night on average. I started playing before my son was born. In those early months of his life I was able to be near him as he slept and I could complete a few quests on the long slog up to Level 60.

7 Years is a long time in anybody's book, but what concerns me is the alternatives. For somebody who goes to work 10 hours including the commute 3 hours spent with the kids, 7 hours sleep. That  leaves the magical 4 hours personal time. The average person as traditionally filled this space with light entertainment, normally the television. Wikianswers give the figure 26-28 hours per week, the average American according to watches a staggering 34 hours per week. I have condensed my TV schedule down to about 4-5 hours depending on the seasons. Using TIVO I setup the series links watch all the programmes in 2 nights and I am then free to play WoW 5 nights a weeks.

So the question I ask myself is, "What do I fill my time with if I stop playing WoW?". The answer is obviously not television, I could fill a month or two watching some of the box sets that I never got round to watching, but then what? I have always been a computer gamer,

I can trace my gamer roots back to the home console in the mid 70's when many a happy hour was spent playing pong. From such humble beginnings I wasted my early teens and many a 10p filling the Taito machines to get my fix of Space Invaders. The 80's was a lull for me not having access to a computer, but all my friends did. The Atari console, the ZX Spectrum, and the Commodore 64 became my greatest desires, with terrible envy of all the people who could play as much as they wanted on these wonderful machines.

I obtained my first PC in 1992, a 2nd hand Amstrad x286 IBM clone, The operating system was DOS and was loaded via floppy disk. I didn't mind this inconvenience because I could now waste many hours playing Tetris. For such a simple game the addiction levels were phenomenal. Many nights I would sleep Tetris dreams with shapes dropping down and a trance like Bob making the moves. Even in my dreams I could still lose.

When I first started earning regular money, I invested in a DX4-100. If memory serves me right it came with 4MB Ram and a 40MB HDD. My game of choice was Civilisation. Many hours spent conquering the Zulus, Aztecs and the Russians. I remember a period off work with perforated eardrum were I could play solidly for 10-12 hours a day only stopping for the occasional bite to eat.

Other games came and went, Baldur's Gate, Medal of Honour, Football Manager and Age of Empires. Then 7 years ago I discovered there was no need to ever buy another computer game. I had previously played Warcraft I - III, and assumed that World of Warcraft was a continuation of the same game, little did I know. It was like Baldur's Gate but 50,000 times larger and it was full of people chattering away. I was even afraid to go to Stormwind and level 6 fearing that the city denizens would rip me to shreds and steal my 5 Silver pieces that I had carefully managed to acquire.

So if I stop playing WoW then what else is there? Would I really want to play another MMO? SWTOR is not my genre, Star Wars past me by as a child, and RIFT is just too damn similar to WoW. The answer is I don't honestly know what to do, so I keep logging into WoW because that is just a habit now. LFR is now the new LFG, with noobs and alts streaming through. The good people have all moved on and the LFR gets more difficult with every passing week. Nobody kills the adds any more, nobody stands huddled together to make it easy for the healers. AOE and blaming everybody else is the new norm. Most bloggers have already commented on the farce that is loot distribution, even Blizzard has said enough is enough and have redesigned the system for Mist of Pandaria, which involves individual looting options.

Do I find something else to do in game? or do I step back through the wardrobe into real life. I have never taken a break from the game so I might find it easier to take refuge in PvP, Achievements and Pet collection.

One thing is for sure "Its better to burn out than fade away".

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Blizzard Hero

I am not a Blizzard fanboy, and most of posts have been very much in a negative vein, but Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street, WoW's lead systems designer is my Blizzard Hero. As the front for a company he is very articulate and incredibly knowledgeable about the game and the playing population. One can only imagine the number of blogs and forum posts he reads, on top of holding down a daytime and probably playing the game of an evening. His postings on forums was a joy to read and it was much sadness when the trolls forced him to take a less direct approach. The Dev Watercooler series as been utterly brilliant, the only criticism would be that there are not enough of them.

The recent 3 part Cataclysm post-mortem blog series has been very interesting with the possible exception of Scott “Daelo” Mercer who wrote about how wonderful the expansion has been. This is somebody who needs to take his head out of his arse and conduct a full scale SWOT analysis on the Cataclysm expansion. Ghostcrawler and Dave “Fargo” Kosak are both capable of seeing a funny side of some of the expansions failings. The following example from Kosak is a prime example,

"Overwhelmingly, players have told us that they want more quests where you have to flap a giant bird around a cave while targeting creatures in a 3D space."

The interviewer either didn't grasp Kosak's sarcasm, or has never attempted the achievement, The 'Unbeatable?' Pterodactyl: BEATEN. My wife nearly bashed me over the head with keyboard\monitor when I told how to fly the bird, without sinking like a gold brick. She never did work out the ability to change direction in midflight.

Cataclysm Successes

Ghostcrawler rightfully slaps himself and the team on the back for the work they did with the 1-60 revamp. I think everybody can agree that the game was old and tired and no longer held any interest for people leveling up. It is the main reason everybody has a Death Knight, do a short quest chain and then hop through the portal to the Outlands. Since the update it is the Outlands that is the main graveyard of alts, most of them suffering trenchfoot in Zangarmarsh.

The next item that Ghostcrawler highlights is the success of Looking For Raid. I know most of the raiding community likes to look down rather unfavourably on the ease of LFR, but in my opinion this was one of the great features introduced by Blizzard. This is likely to become de facto in all MMO's from this point onwards. My game time does not allow for set raid nights with strict start and finish times. With an army of Alts and in particular 3 healers I can queue and be in a raid in less than a minute most times of the night. Besides the limited amount of dancing they really are good training exercises for the normal modes. After doing the normal raid I now fully understand the fights that previously I was just able to wander through in LFR.

The other item highlighted by Ghostcrawler in a single paragraph was Transmogrification. Now this is not something I have made a great deal of use of, but I can certainly see its attraction. My Ret Pally is the only winner so far with this feature, and she now sports a tremendous 2 Hander which looks suspiciously like Sul'thraze the Lasher and this alone makes me very happy. Now if anyone can remember the clown suits we used to wear leveling through the Outlands, this feature makes perfect sense. Pit Helmet and Peach wellies on a Death Knight not any more. Now I just need to find something sensible to transmog my Spiritwalker's Mantle so my Shaman can stop walking around with two T-Rex skulls attached to his shoulders.

Cataclysm Failures

First up Ghostcrawler identifies that the new zones were disjointed feeling and existed mostly at the other end of a portal provided by your major city. Whilst being different than all the other expansions, I didn't see this as a huge problem. What is more of a problem is the death of the other Cities in the game. I never had any feelings towards Darnassus or Exodar, but it saddens my heart to see Ironforge empty of any players.

The following quote is worth a blog post on it's own.

"The difficulty at which we pegged our heroic dungeons and raids was controversial. They were designed to be about as tough as the dungeons were back in Burning Crusade, but the game has changed since then. Coming out of Lich King, we'd gotten the message loud and clear from players that they wanted tougher challenges. They liked the convenience of Dungeon Finder, but they missed using their crowd control and survival abilities and having to strategize about how to beat a given encounter. We designed the Cataclysm heroics with that in mind, and the players who wanted challenging content were thrilled."

"The problem was that we had this whole group of players who felt like they couldn't make any progress on their characters. Even if they wanted to end up raiding with their friends, they couldn't earn the gear they needed to get into those raids (especially in the absence of Raid Finder). I don't believe that the instances were too hard; it's obvious there are players who enjoy that content. I believe the problem was that there were no alternatives. "

The Burning Crusade Heroics came in two distinct varieties, the reasonably difficult, but very doable, and the very bloody hard. The level 70 Dungeons with an heroic version were absolute stinkers. The mojority of people stuck to doing heroic Underbog and heroic Ramparts. Nobody enjoyed Heroic Shattered Halls, it was just too damn long and too difficult. There is no way you would do more than one heroic a night, there was no LFG in those days and most people would only venture in with a handpick team of guildies. So open up the need for CC with a random group of strangers and introduce a method requiring carefully crafted heals designed to keep the team just above dying. This was a recipe for disaster, and disaster is exactly what we got. The hate coming from the DPS to the healers was enough to stop me and probably some others from healing 5 mans until the ethos changed and epics became the norm. Is it any wonder why the LFR's are desperately short of healers.

Maybe there is a problem with distribution of roles:

5 Man Heroic - 1 Tank, 1 Healer, 3 DPS

10 Man - 2 Tanks, 2-3 Healers, 5-6 DPS

25 Man - 2 Tanks, 5-6 Healers, 17-18 DPS

So a shortage of Tanks at 5 Man LFG and a shortage of Healers at 25 Man LFR. Let's hope for some more slots per server and loads of new baby healing Monks for the next expansion.

Another major issue with the Heroic 5 Mans, was the duration to complete. I did Heroic Deadmines on only one occasion, which was an instance I was looking forward to. After battling our way to the ship for 60 minutes, you then get ported back halfway through the dungeon to do it again. Thanks for the memory Blizz, the next time I see the early Cataclysm Heroics will be when I can solo them midway through the next expansion.

Even worse than that was the Troll Heroics. The Zul' Gurub abomination says it all, and Zul' Amman was half decent but I am afraid that if I had not discovered PvP or else I would have stopped subscribing during Patches 4.1 and 4.2.

As always Blizzard know when something is wrong and they normally go full tilt in the other direction and eventually get the right course by zig zagging a course through an expansion. Quick heroics, LFR are the future for the majority of players. The elite can bang their heads against heroic Raids, and the rest of the playing population, with more stable playing time can do normal mode raiding. Of course the Rogues, Death Knights and Frost Mages can continue to pwn each other in the BG's and Arenas.

Ghostcrawler's personal loss at the absence of Abyssal Maw, is probably a huge sigh of relief from the playing population. Anybody who had the misfortune to quest through the 130+ quests under the sea in Vashj'ir will be more than happy. The zone was was probably the most beautiful created by Blizzard, but 3D swimming, fighting and trying to find bloody cave entrances is just way too much.

The new Cataclysm profession Archeology gets a special mention.

"Archaeology had too much travel time. It could be punishingly random, especially for players who imagined that it would be a guaranteed delivery mechanism for Zin'rokh (which was never the intention). Players missed a lot of the lore, which was delivered in the Archaeology journal and not as part of the survey or digging experience. We think the Mists of Pandaria expansion will be really good for Archaeology. "

Archeology was long and very boring, in my experience the only sensible way to do it was when you had other things to do and could spare 5 minutes every 20 minutes or so. Fly to digsite, find three items, fly to nearest flight point, go and clean bathroom. Repeat and peel potatoes. I would suggest browsing the internet as an alternative but my version crashes out if I am not 100% loyal to WoW especially if I am flying, I am sure it sense my flirtation with over things social like e-mail or Facebook.

The only other useful aspect about archeology was the huge amount of xp available, especially if you had a character with Herbing and Mining. Why skinners got such a rough ride in cata I am not sure, especially with the terrible droprate of Pristine Hide. Why no xp for skinners?

Mists of Pandaria and beyond

The general gist for the expansion is progression by doing what you want to do. It’s your game, play solo, play in a random group, play with your guild, kill monsters, kill other players. Get rewards your way and have fun whilst doing it. If Blizzard gets this right, we are in for a treat and maybe just maybe those subscriber numbers might  go creeping back up again

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Scroll of Resurrection

Blizzard announced the new service Scroll of Resurrection which is a short term teaser to get your friends back into Azeroth before the Pandas create a deluge of returning players.

I have a shortlist of three to pester to come back to the game. Unfortunately I don't think my luck will be in. Maybe I can activate my wifes account for a month, to get the Spectral Gryphon.

Epic Fail Blizz

Darkmoon Faire is in town again. Time to hand in those objects accrued from running instances, raids and PvP and maybe even some Grisly Ears (yuck). On my travels this month I was fortunate enough to come across the rare and very expensive A Treatise on Strategy, I handed it in and then went to check my achievement status. It was empty again! Blizz had failed me.

I scoured the Internet and was surprised to see nobody had picked up on it. A couple days later it appeared in Wow Insider. So Blizz failed in January, February and probably March. Looks like I might have to shell out for a complete set this week or risk the loss of the Treatise on Strategy and need to payout 1000 G next month. Seems like I might just play this one safe.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Just Another Reset Day

In the 2 Months or so since patch 4.3 dropped, I have made numerous Deathwing kills in LFR. The items I covet most are the weapons. Every week I see them either not appear on the right character or simply lose badly on the roll.

Hunters have double the chance with the much sort after Polearm and less sort after but much more important Vishanka, Jaws of the Earth bow, which as a Dwarf I would of course prefer it to be a bow. The bow would provide much needed DPS and would stop me using my beloved PvP gun.

My LFR adventure started with a straightforward Ultraxion kill and a wipe on Warmaster Blackhorn. A wipe on Blackhorn, ok lets find another group. The next group is 3/8. My favourite I get a chance of a weapon and 250 Valor points for killing one dragon, that is my kind of deal. The raid goes swimmingly my personal DPS is well up on previous attempts, now for the shinnies.

Waiting anxiously for someone to loot the chest, the items popup on the screen. No Polearm but look there is the object of my affection sat at the bottom underneath the usual Rogue dagger. I quickly click Need, and cancel all the other objects. Time rolls by ever so slowly waiting for the clock to tick down. The raid is down to about 12 people. The results flash in, I slowly scroll up the list and find the bow. The first thing I notice is there are only 2 people needing the bow, I am in with a chance.

Underneath is the result but my brain is not computing, its a 50:50 chance is all I can think of. Finally I read the text properly and my heart sinks, this was my best chance ever and it still was not to be.

Uttering curses and damning my infamous bad luck, A trade window opens, and sat in the trade box is Vishanka. Is this person tormenting me? I cautiously click trade and the window disappeared. No message appears. I check the bags and there is no item. Did he want money? was he just tormenting me? Suffering from lag, the message appears that I have indeed received the bow. I quickly look through the list of people to thank him for this most gracious offer. "Cheers Mate" was the best I could come up with under the circumstances. The reply "Sorry mate I misclicked need, LOL"

A frantic emotional roller coaster had occurred in front of me lasting no more than 15-20 seconds. I went to whisper further thanks only to find he was no longer in the Raid. Thank you stranger I look forward to slaying many more Internet Dragons with my new bow.

On a side note and with much less drama my Shammy Healer came out with Maw of the Dragonlord.

A good night all round.