Friday, December 25, 2009

The 4 (5?) Healers.

All spells have a cast time unless otherwise noted.

The priest is the archetypal healer.  A jack-of-all-trades.  The Priest actually has two raid viable healing specs.  Here is a rundown of the basic priest abilities.
  • Flash Heal - A high throughput, low efficiency heal with a low cast time.
  • Greater Heal - A low throughput, high efficiency heal with a high cast time.
  • Renew - A heal-over-time (HOT) spell.  Ticks every 3 seconds over 15 seconds. (every 3 over 15).  Instant.
  • Power Word: Shield - Places an absorption shield that will absorb a fixed amount of damage.  Instant. Cooldown.
  • Prayer of Healing - AOE healing spell that hits party members of the target within 30 yards.
  • Binding Heal - Heals the target and the priest.  Good for when the priest gets aggro on a mob.
  • Prayer of Mending - A buff that heals the target when the target is struck.  It then travels to a nearby ally.  Has 5 charges.  Has a cooldown.  Instant.
  • Dispel Magic:  Dispels a magic effect from the target.
  • Abolish Disease:  Removes a disease from the target and removes over time.  (every 5 over 20)
  • Mass Dispel:  An AOE Magic Dispel ability.  
  • Divine Hymn:  A channeled heal (2 over 8).  That heals the 3 lowest targets for a massive amount.  Cooldown.
  • Power Word: Fortitude - Increases the Stamina of the target.
  • Divine Spirit - Increases the Spirit of the target.
  • Shadow Protection - Increases the Shadow Resistance of the target.
Holy Priest
This is THE classic healer.  Often considered to be the jack-of-all-trades healer.  It has recently gotten a bad rap for not being good enough at any one role.  But I always feel better when I have at least one in my raid, because I know they can adapt to any situation, letting us heal any fight.  The Priest has the most healing spells of any healer:
  • Desperate Prayer - Instantly heals the priest.  Cooldown.
  • Circle of Healing - AOE heal centered around the target.  Instant.  More Mana efficient than Prayer of Healing, but has a cooldown.
  • Lightwell - places a Lightwell on the ground which players can click to receive healing.  Very efficient, but hard to get players to use.  Cooldown.
  • Spirit of Redemption - when the priest dies, it will stay around as a spirit for a while that can still cast healing spells for 15 seconds.
  • Guardian Spirit - Buffs the target that increases healing done to the target by 40% for 10 seconds.  If they die, they will be instantly resurrected with 50% health.  Cooldown.
Circle of Healing is the iconic Holy Priest spell.  When you get a Holy Priest, you are getting a great AOE healer.  Circle of Healing will take care of most of your AOE healing, while Prayer of Healing and Prayer of Mending will take care of the rest of your AOE healing needs.  Holy Priests aren't the best tank healers, but can still manage if needed.

Discipline Priest
Discipline Priest only became raid viable in Wrath of the Lich King.  Previously, it was the Priest's PVP helaing spec.  The hallmark of Discipline healing is its vastly improved ability to shield targets.  A Discipline Priest's Power Word: Shield reflects damage back at the attacker, restores mana/rage, has no cooldown, and is stronger.  Also, a Discipline Priest's crits will place a shield on the target.  They also have many support abilities.
  • Inner Focus - Makes your next spell instant and has an increased chance to crit.  Cooldown.
  • Power Infusion - grants the target with 20% extra haste and mana efficiency for 15 seconds. Cooldown.
  • Pain Suppression - Reduces damage taken by the target by 40% for 8 seconds.  Cooldown.
  • Penance - Launches 3 healing volleys at the target in 2 seconds.  Channeled.  Cooldown.
The Discipline Priest is often considered a very capable single-target healer, because of it's buffed shields and Penance.  However, the Discipline Priest is still a capable raid healer, and shouldn't be ignored in that capacity.

Restoration Druid
The Restoration Druid is classified by its vast array of HOT spells.  They come in all shapes, sizes and uses.  It is also identified by Tree of Life form, which buffs the Druid's ability to heal significantly.  This is a common trend with Druids.  Each tree has forms which make its ability to heal comparable to other healing classes.  Without further ado, here are the core spells:

  • Mark of the Wild:  Buffs the target with extra armor, abilities, and resistances.
  • Thorns:  Buffs the target with a shield that does damage to any target that strikes them.
  • Healing Touch:  A basic long-cast direct healing spell.  
  • Rejuvenation:  A basic HOT spell. (3 over 15).  Instant
  • Regrowth:  A combination direct healing and HOT spell.  (3 over 21).
  • Tranquility:  A massive AOE healing spell to all nearby allies.  (2 over 8)  Long Cooldown.  Channeled.
  • Lifebloom:  A (1 over 7) HOT spell.  Stacks up to 3 times.  When the HOT completes, it does a large direct heal and refunds half of the mana cost.  Instant.
  • Nourish:  A Direct Healing spell that heals an extra 20% if the target has a HOT on them.  
  • Rebirth:  The only in-combat resurrection spell.  Cooldown.
  • Abolish Poison:  Like Abolish Disease, but for poisons.
  • Remove Curse:  Removes a Curse.
The talented abilities are:
  • Nature's Swiftness:  Makes your next healing spell w/ a cast time of <10secs is instant cast.  Best used with Healing Touch
  • Swiftmend:  Consumes a Rejuvenation or Regrowth effect on the target to heal for the full amount of the spell.  Direct Heal.  Instant.  Cooldown.  No mana cost.
  • Tree of Life Form:  Increases healing received by 6% to all nearby allies.  Other talents increase the amount of healing the Druid does while in Form.
  • Wild Growth:  A HOT form of Circle of Healing.  (1 over 7).  The healing is stronger at the beginning than the end.  Cooldown.
Druids are often used for tank healing, because the HOTs will automatically heal the tank after they take damage.  They are effective raid healers too.  Rejuvenation is good for spot healing a raid member who takes a little damage.  Lifebloom can be used in many ways.  A single or double stack of lifebloom can be used to spot heal small damage.  Stacking lifebloom can be used for tank healing where you don't let it fall off, since the HOT heals a large amount.  Also, you can stack lifebloom 3 times, but let the tanks health dip so the bloom at the end will bring them back to full.  It's a complicated spell that needs to be learned.  Swiftmend is useful for burst healing that won't interrupt your mana regeneration.

Restoration Shaman
Restoration Shamans are well known as a very capable AOE healer.  This is because of Chain Heal and Ancestral Awakening.   Earth Shield makes a great addition to a raid when placed on a tank.  The basic Shaman Healing abilities are:

  • Lesser Healing Wave:  Fast Healing Spell.
  • Healing Wave:  Slower Healing Spell.  More mana efficient, but less time efficient than LHW.
  • Chain Heal:  A direct healing spell that chains to two other targets.
  • Earthliving Weapon:  Weapon enchant that increases healing and gives the Shaman's healing spells a chance to place a modest HOT on the target.  (3 over 12).
  • Healing Stream Totem:  Passively heals all allies for a small amount for 5 minutes.  Can be very powerful in certain fights.  
Talented Abilities are:
  • Cleanse Spirit:  Removes a disease, poison, and curse from the target.
  • Riptide:  A direct heal/HOT effect (3 over 15).  The next chain heal on that target is boosted by 20%.  Cooldown.
  • Earth Shield:  A shield with charges that will heal the recipient when they take damage.  
  • Ancestral Awakening:  Causes your LHW & HW crits to also heal the lowest health party member for 30% of the original heal.  Passive.
  • Tidal Waves:  Causes Chain Heal and Riptide to buff your next 2 LHWs or HWs.  Healing Wave gets a 30% cast time reduction.  LHW gets a 25% crit boost.  Buff lasts 15 seconds or until used.
  • Nature's Swiftness:  Exactly like the Druid spell.  Your next Restoration spell w/ a <10 cast time is instant.  Cooldown
  • Tidal Force:  Your next 3 LHW, HW, or CH have an increased crit chance.  The first has +60%, the second +40%, the third +20%.
So the Shaman is very capable at raid healing because Chain Heal and Ancestral Awakening will automatically heal the targets who need the healing. Riptide will boost your chain heals and make your LHW and HW more effective (getting more Ancestral Awakening procs).  Along with keeping Earth Shield on the tank, you have a great healing strategy.  Note the passive/proc'd healing effects that contrast with the Priest's and Paladin's wider variety of spells.
Holy Paladin
Paladins are the highest armored healers, which makes them great for PVP.  Holy Paladins specialize in direct heals and are fantastic tank healers.

  • Holy Light:  Long Cast, Time Efficient.  Referred to as a bomb.
  • Flash of Light:  Short Cast, Mana Efficient.  Not as much throughput as Holy Light.
  • Lay on Hands:  Heals the target for equal to the Paladin's max health.  Cooldown.
  • Judgement of Light:  Debuff on an enemy that grants allied attackers healing.
  • Cleanse:  Removes a poison, disease, and magic effect.
  • Sacred Shield:  Buff that absorbs damage from every attack.  One target at a time.  If Flash of Light is cast on the Shield target, it will place a HOT equal to the FOL's value.  3 over 12
  • Divine Protection:  Reduces damage taken by the target by 50% for 12 seconds.  
  • Auras:  Various resistance auras and defensive auras.
  • Blessing:  Various buffs that can be picked depending on class and situation.
Talented Abilities Highlights:
  • Light's Grace: Holy Light reduces the cast time of your next Holy Light by .5 seconds.
  • Holy Shock: Instant Cast heal with a cooldown.  Good for moving.  
  • Judgements of the Pure: Your judgements will grant you spell haste.
  • Infusion of Light:  Your Holy Shock will reduce the cast time of your next Flash of Light by 1.5 seconds and increase the crit chance of your next Holy Light by 20%
  • Beacon of Light:  Buff.  All healing spells the Paladin casts will also heal the Beacon of Light.  Allows the Paladin to heal a target of than the tank w/o the tank dying.
Also noteworthy
  • Glyph of Holy Light:  Holy Light will also heal 5 allies around the target for 10% of the Holy Light's value.
The Holy Paladin is the quintessential tank healer.  But with Beacon of Light, is allowed to heal other targets w/o sacrificing tank healing.  Many of the Paladin's healing effects are passive, procced, like the Shaman.

If you made a Holy to Natural spectrum for the lore/design perspective, it would go Paladin->Priest->Shaman->Druid.  You'll notice that the Paladin is mostly Direct Heals, and as you go the healers gain more HOTs, with the Druid being mainly HOT based.  You'll also notice that the Priest and Druid, who have less armor, have more healing spells, and fewer passive healing effects.  The Shaman and the Paladin have more armor, less healing spells, but more healing effects.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Technology and Wealth

Average wealth  = (Sum of all goods that people have)/(People).  Fortunately, the number of goods produced increases linearly with the number of people there are (with an upper bound on resources).  So the only way to increase the average wealth is to allow the average person to produce more.  Technology is the key way to do this.  Technology allows people to get more work done, faster, and more efficiently.  So overall, and you'll find that history backs up this proposition, you'll find that the only way to increase the quality of life of people is to increase their access to technology.

Recycling, too, will allow the increase of quality of life.  It will increase the supply of materials.  Reducing and reusing items will lower the demand for products.  All in all, this will reduce the cost of goods, allowing more people access to them.

So technology and recycling are the keys to a better future for impoverished countries.  It will allow those people to not have to struggle to satisfy their basic needs for food, water and shelter.  If they don't have to worry about those needs, they can focus on developing their culture, they won't fight as much because survival isn't an unknown quantity, they will be able to develop advanced skill-sets and join the rest of the world in science and technological development.  They will thrive.

This is the key to a better future.

The Genetic Imperative and why sex feels good.

Sex feels good, right?  If you haven't experienced it firsthand, I'd wager that your expectation is that it will (or would, if you're abstinent) feel good.  Think about the natural things that occur to people: eating, sleeping, pain, starvation, etc.  Apart from drugs, things that feel good are often good for the body.  Things that are bad for the body feel bad.  Eating and sleeping keep us alive.  Starvation, pain (through heat, bludgeoning, stabbing, etc) are bad to us and are likely to end our life.  The reason that these things have their sensation is because it is our body's way of programming our conscious behavior.  It's reinforcing survival, and punishing what is harmful.  Fear keeps us away from unknown dangers.  Pride reinforces our success.  Shame punishes our failures.  Our body is telling us what will kill us, and what will keep us alive.  Therefore, our body wants us to have sex.  And since our body doesn't know about the idea of recreational sex, it wants us to reproduce.

Beyond the general good feeling, we feel the need to reproduce.  We have this base impulse to create more of ourselves.  In women, it can be referred to as being baby crazy, or the maternal clock ticking.  However, many people would argue that we human are doing nothing good for this world or this universe.  Seriously, how are we making the world better for the organisms around us?  It would seem that our world doesn't need any more of us, that it would be better off without us.

So why does sex feel good?  Why do we want to reproduce?  What good will reproducing make?  Why does this world need 1 more person?  Honestly, I'd say the world doesn't need another person.  This world doesn't need more people.  We don't arrive at some logical conclusion that we need to have kids.  We simply want to have kids.  The reason that we reproduce is because we can, and our genes program us with the desire to do so.  If we weren't programmed to have the desire to procreate, we wouldn't procreate, and we would die out.  Any species that didn't have that desire died out, and what lives are the ones that did have that desire.  

So should we repress this impulse?  Should we do the world a favor and stop the spread of the human race?

No.  If this planet dies, if it can't support our life anymore, what's the loss?  If the Earth can't support humans anymore, we will die, and therefore suffer the weight of our actions.  Without humans, the Earth will slowly fix itself, burying our poisons within the crust, sinking to the core to be broken down.  Some plants and animals will survive what we have done, and those plants and animals will slowly clean up the mess, making a new world.

Of course, not all humans will die.  We are nothing if not plucky and resilient.  Our numbers will dwindle, to a level that Earth can handle.  We will reform our ways.  We will help restore the Earth to its former glory.  We will either learn from our mistake and keep the earth clean, or the process will repeat itself.

So reproduce, but remember to do the Earth good.  Clean up your act.  Teach your children the proper way to care for our home, our planet.  It's the only Earth that we will have, terraforming and traveling to another planet isn't going to happen.  They're too far out, and there aren't many (if any) places that can support us.

We don't need to take care of the Earth for the Earth's sake.  We need to take care of the Earth for our children's sake.

Game Review - L4D

Because of Steam's sales that have been going on this weekend, I was able to pick up the original L4D on the cheap.  And let me tell you, it is AWESOME!

Basic Gameplay
Left 4 Dead is a cooperative based shooter with a competent AI (or they get better guns, it's hard to tell).   

It's refreshing to play a co-op shooter, especially one where the enemies don't have guns.  The choices that you have to make between weapons are all interesting, coming down to personal preference as opposed to min-maxing.  The zombies are not only capable of doing damage, but they are also capable of locking down the survivors, which creates a more interesting and frightening game-play.  This encourages you to never stray far from your teammates, because only they can save you if you become locked down by a zombie.

Narrow passageways and wipe open spaces are both comforting and dangerous.  Narrow passageways allow you to funnel the zombies, making them easier to kill, but they leave you with fewer escapes.  Wide open spaces allow the zombies to come from anywhere, but give you freedom of movement.  Fear never leaves you.

The versus multiplayer is intense, with the zombies working together to kill the survivors.  You're weak by yourself, and powerful when you work together.  And fewer things can compare to the rush of finding a survivor who has been separated from the rest of the group.  One thing can though, playing as the Tank.  Smashing the survivors around with your massive power and health pool is so fun, it's worth sloshing through the jerks who play online.  Here are some multiplayer tips:
  • Use boomers to distract the survivors
  • Use smokers to separate the survivors
  • Use hunters to finish them off.
  • Use the tank to destroy and distract the survivors.  A tank attack combined w/ effecting smoker and hunter use will ruin the survivors.
I have not played survival mode, but I suspect it to be awesome.

I recently ordered Left 4 Dead 2 from Amazon.  It came in the mail the day that I left for Mountain Home and would be away from the computer that can actually run it.  When I get back I'm going to play the hell out of that game.

Catch ya later!

The Huntering Hunter Hunt

I've taken up playing my hunter again.  He's level 27 now and very close to level 28.  I am playing him with the express purpose of being a great damn hunter when I reach level 80.  Right now, I'm training myself in the use of Frost Trap and Distracting Shot.  So far, I've been doing very well with soloing quests that I might not have been able to had I not decided to train myself in the use of these abilities.  Some experiences that I have had.

The new LFG tool works well even at low levels.  It used to be impossible to find a group for a low level dungeon.  Now it's easy.  Even if you can't get into a dungeon, it requires minimal effort, so you won't waste your time.  Just queue up and continue questing while you wait for a group.  This brings us to...

Blackfathom Deeps
I got into a pug for Blackfathom Deeps just by queuing in the Dungeon Finder.  The healer never joined us in the group.  Instead preferring to quest in Redridge Mountains, possible going to jump into our group at the last minute to grab the extra loot.  The tank AFK'd and didn't rejoin us in LFG so we couldn't get a new healer.  So a DPS warrior was in a prot spec and tanked for myself and a warlock through 3/4 of the instance.  At which point we were able to vote kick the AFK tank (there is a limit to how often you can vote to kick), take bake control of the group, and invite a healer to finish the instance.  Between my bear offtanking and the actual tank, we did incredibly well throughout the instance.

Quest Tracking
The new quest tracking features make questing require much less effort than before.  It allows you to see all of the quest objectives that you have in the zone so you can effectively plan your path around the zone to complete them.  No more will you get back to town and hit yourself for forgetting about a quest.

Heirloom items are still going strong.  At some point, Blizzard introduced an heirloom chest that also offers an XP boost (10%).  I just need to get my hunter a bow, and non-pvp heirloom shoulders and he'll be decked out for quite some time.

Low-level mounts
Basic mounts are now trained at level 20, for 4g.  Epic mounts are trained at level 40 for 50g.  Flying mounts are first trained at level 60 for 250g, and epic flying mounts are trained at 70 for 5000g.  Cold weather flying is now available at level 68 if you have a level 80 character to buy the Tome to learn it.

All of this has made leveling alts much easier and faster.  Does leveling need to be hard?  I don't think so.  Leveling should be about learning your class' mechanics and learning the lore of the world, not spent running around zones that you have trouble in, dying to creatures that aggro you.

PixelJunk Shooter

Yesterday, PixelJunk Shooter came out.  And since I've bought every PixelJunk Game since Racers, I bought this one as well.  (Note to self: Beat PixelJunk Eden, and Monsters: Encore)  I had been eagerly anticipating this next release from Dylan Cuthbert's Q-games (not to be confused with Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Q Entertainment) for quite some time.  In it, you control a little spaceship who's task is to rescue miners from the caves beneath a planet's surface.  They had been searching for resources and had become trapped by rock, lava, water, and various other hazards.

The game plays more like a puzzle game than a Geometry Wars-like shooter, with enemies being infrequent and more of an obstacle, as opposed to being a threat to your health.  One analogue stick makes you move, the other points your ship.  The L Buttons use the grappling hook, which picks up miners, gems, and other objects.  The R Buttons fire shots, and if held will shoot missiles.

The principle method of survival is not overheating.  Being close to Lava and being hit will heat up your ship.  Touching the lava will generally result in death.  Heat will naturally dissipate w/ time, but dunking the ship in water will rapidly cool you.  There is soft rock, which can be destroyed and hard rock than cannot be.  Much of the gameplay revolves around destroying the soft rock so that water or lava will flow somewhere else.  When lava and water meet, soft rock is formed.  So a typical level will likely involve making water or lava flow together, then destroying the resulting soft rock to progress.

Other fluids are introduced as the game progresses, including an explosive gas and a magnetic liquid.  There are also special 'suits' that change your ships abilities.  One suit makes you able to survive in lava but not in water.

The goal of the game is to rescue the lost miners/researchers that have become trapped in the levels.  You have to pick them up with your grappling arm before the levels hazards, or you, kill them.

The visual style of the game is great.  All of the fluids look and move wonderfully.  The music is strange but very good.  It's low-key, but it kinda fosters the spelunking feel of the game. Overall, very good to look at and listen to.

Overall, PixelJunk Shooter is a great game, that just doesn't last long enough.  Perhaps it's short because making it longer would require reusing level ideas.

Things I hate about you.

Things that I have come to hate about the puggers that I seem to get stuck with.

1)When I mark, follow it.
There are 2 reasons that I mark targets.  I will mark for tactical reasons, such as healing targets or caster mobs.  I will mark targets to help my threat generation.

I play a Bear tank, and we don't have the best AOE threat generation, it's slow to generate and requires constant Swipe spam.  So I tend to mark a first kill target so that I can generate some AOE threat before the DPS start to unload their massive AOE damage.  This way, I won't lose control of the targets.  I can handle their single target threat easily.  So when I mark a skull target, KILL IT FIRST.  It seems like every Ret Paladin seems to have a complete and utter disregard for my marking.  If I mark a Skull target, they will run up and deliberately attack some other target.  Please, just kill skull first, things will go much more smoothly.

2)Don't ever pull for me.
If you deliberately pull a set of mobs, I will let them beat on you, and I will pray for your death.  If the healer decides to keep you alive and heal you, I will pull them off of you for the healer's sake.  I am an incredible asshole in this regard.  After the pack is dead, I will call you out on this.

I know that tanks aren't some amazing gift from the cosmos to save you, but just as healers are expected to heal, and I am expected to keep all of the mobs attacking me, you are expected to kill them w/o aggroing them.  This brings me to number 3.

3)Keep in mind of where you are, and where the patrols are.
If you are a caster, you can't just stop moving once you get in range of the mobs.  There are patrols that will move by us and latch onto you.  If you are melee, keep in mind that running behind a mob might aggro another pack.  I have to pick up this new pack, because if I don't, the healer will get distracted, and I might die.

Doing this is a bad thing.  Yes, I can often pick up this new pack and with the use of cooldowns and some sweat from the healer, we'll make it.  However, I don't want to do this, it stresses me out.

4)Know your class
My best friend was the Paladin who used Repentance on the appropriate mob without me asking.  My worst nightmare was when I was on my 77 priest healing a PUG Gundrak and the DeathKnight tank didn't know what a 'defensive cooldown' was.  Actually, this happened twice.  I asked them to use their defensive cooldowns so I wouldn't go OOM on trash pulls and that was how they replied.  Granted, I believe it later turned out that he was 11.

A basic understanding of all of your abilities and what they are useful for is a must.  Next time you are leveling a character, and you obtain a new ability, ask yourself, ""What is this good for?  When should it be used?"  You'll find that you will be a much better player.

So please, please understand what you're supposed to do, and where you're supposed to be.  It's not that hard, I promise.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Semester in Review

One more semester over, one more semester closer to getting a real.

I've been on the statistics track at UALR for the past year and a half.  I started as math but decided to change to statistics at the end of last summer.  I've really been enjoying the different subject material.  I particularly enjoy the way that it seems more applicable and useful in getting a job.  I enjoy how it empower me to be able to analyze information and be able to draw conclusions from data. 

This last semester I took Advanced Statistical Methods 1 (I'll be taking part 2 next semester), which taught me many of the various tests that statisticians use to hep make decisions.  In Introduction to SAS, I learned how to program in SAS, which will enable me to perform calculations rapidly and easily, as well as transform data.  In Financial Mathematics, I learned about many of the tools that financial people use to make money and insure against losses. 

I had to teach 2 sections of Intermediate Algebra, which was a very eye-opening experience.  Learning how to explain the concepts that I know so well is challenging.  I don't even really know what to say. 

Blig Blog Blergh.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bear Tanking the Frozen Halls

(All descriptions refer to Heroic Mode unless specified otherwise)
The Frozen Halls are the new 5-man dungeons in Icecrown Citadel.  They are the highest tuned 5-mans to date and are also more difficult from a logistical position.  Some of the pulls are difficult to execute, and a frequent use of spellcaster mobs makes it hard to tank.  So I'm going to give some tips here on how to tank these new dungeons.

The Forge of Souls

This is the first and easiest of all of the dungeons.  In this dungeon, Soulguard Adepts and Animators are the casters that you might have to pull everyone to.  The Adepts are also healers.  There are some mob packs which will be difficult to tank if you don't have anybody to silence/interrupt for you.  At times, there will be a group of 4/5 mobs arranged in a square, where you can't effectively tank it because there are too many casters.  You should find out who can interrupt/silence (shadow priests, mages, felhunter, rogues, shamans, warriors, deathknights, possibly others) and ask them to help you by using their ability and then you can taunt off of them.  If you are so inclined, CC can be used to lock down those mobs until you can lower the mob count to lower healer stress.

Bronjahm - Godfather of Souls
There isn't really much to speak of here.  He's a pretty easy tanking battle, just remember to kite him away from the souls or else they will heal him.  Stay in the middle when he Soulstorms.  You can Barkskin if you get feared into the Soulstorm, or use Berserk to regain control of yourself. 

Devourer of Souls
You can use Bash do interrupt a Phantom Blast.  Other than that, not much specific.  It's recommended to keep everyone else in the party behind him, and to stop DPS while he's using Mirrored Soul. Watch out for the purple ray of death, which is preceded by a female voice.  The ghost adds cannot be damaged, and therefore are untankable.

The Pit of Saron

The trash in the first part of the instance is pretty easy, there's nothing out of the ordinary.  Right before Ick & Krick there are some Plagueborn Horrors that require you to watch out for poison patches on the ground and move around them.

Forgemaster Garfrost
This guy is pretty simple.  First, AOE kill the adds.  He pulses out a debuff that increases Frost damage taken.    This is fixed by hiding behind the boulder when he runs to his anvil, since the debuff duration is 3 seconds, it will easily clear.  Smash, hide, repeat.

Ick & Krick
Ick & Krick is the ultimate 'don't stand in stuff' battle.  He puts poison patches on the ground, don't stand in those.  Krick will put bombs on the ground, stay out of their radius.  Run away when he channels Poison Nova, it's pretty dangerous.  If he pursues you (and you're not the tank) run away.  Run, smash, repeat.

After Ick & Krick, there are 4 difficult pulls.  The first 2 are composed of 5 Vrykul each: 2 Flamebearers, 2 Wrathbringers, and 1 Deathbringer.  The Flamebearers and the Deathbringer are casters, w/ the Deathbringer in the middle and the Flamebearers opposite each other.  I would recommend Feral Charging the Deathbringer, positioning yourself so your swipe will hit one Flamebearer and have somebody silence/interrupt the other Flamebearer so you can pull the group together.  Be ready to taunt the one that is silenced, because that causes a good amount of aggro.  Kill the casters first.  When the Flamebearers start using Hellfire, you should interrupt them, because it deals serious damage.

The next 2 pulls are done similarly, there are several melee in the front, and 2 casters in the back.  Charge on caster, silence/interrupt the other, and be ready to taunt it.

Then comes the gauntlet event where you must dodge the ice while going through the cave.  Keep moving and picking up adds, because enemies will spawn and run to you.  If you don't run, you're going to end up fighting more mobs than if you didn't run.  Go as fast as you and your group can handle.

Scourgelord Tyrannus
The Scourgelord isn't as bad as he seems.  He has an ability that will mark a player with a debuff that makes their damage also hurt the tank, so they should stop DPSing when he puts that on them.  He'll use an ability that knocks you back, and then he will grow and enrage.  Position yourself at all times so that if you are knocked back, you will put an ice patch between you and him.  This will slow down his pursuit of you, preventing him from destroying you (it is survivable, it's just better this way).  Stay out of frost patches.  If Rimefang marks a DPS, they need to distance themselves from all of the other players, or they'll freeze them in place.

The Halls of Reflection

This is the hardest of all the instances.  The beginning works this way:  5 waves of trash, boss, 5 waves of trash, 2nd boss.  I believe I've seen the trash packs range from 2 to 6 of :

  • Priests:  AOE, Fear, and Healing.  Attacks in melee range.
  • Mages: Flamestrike (like the mage spell), Chains of Ice, the ability to duplicate.  Attacks at range.
  • Hunters:  Ranged attack, Frost Trap (frost block).  Attacks at range.
  • Rogues:  Deadly Poison, Shadowstep (teleport w/ aggro drop), Stun.  Attacks in melee range.
  • Warriors: Interrupt, Enrage.  Attacks in melee range.
Because of this, I recommend killing the killing priority in the order I laid them out.  Priests firsts, then Mages, Hunters, Rogues, and then Warriors.  They all have colorful names, but that's the best way to refer to them.  The real issue is that if you get a mage and a hunter, it can be hard to pull the group together.  Being a bear, you can't silence/interrupt to get the group together.  Unfortunately, interrupting the mages won't work, because they cast from more than 1 school, if you have a silencer they can help you bring all of the mobs together.  Bring the mage and all others to where the hunter is.  If you have another Druid, Shaman, Ret Paladin or Priest in your party (maybe other classes) they can root/CC a mob for you.  Remember using Entangling Roots doesn't stop ability use. So using it on a ranged mob or the Rogue isn't going to help much.  Also, Death Grip can be used to bring the mage or hunter into the group.

IMPORTANT NOTES: The mobs come from all corners of the room.  You'll notice 2 alcoves on opposite sides of the room.  Ask the DPS and healer to stand there while you gather them up, and then they can come out to DPS.  This will also give you time to build initial aggro.  Your silencer can come out earlier to help you gather.  The use of stuns and CC that works on Undead (Hex, Repentance, Roots and Shackle)  is very useful to make this a more manageable encounter to heal.  Make sure and use Survivability cooldowns to make it easier on your healer

You'll do 5 waves of this and then you'll encounter...

This boss has 2 things you need to worry about.  A fear ability that lasts for 4 seconds and deals 4000 dps (magical) on Heroic. The damage is shadow damage, so if you have a priest or paladin, ask them to use shadow resistance abilities.  He also has an aura that reduces damage and healing done by 20/40/60% as the battle progresses.  Barkskin and Berserk can be used to mitigate the effects of the fear, but your best defense is if you have a shaman, for them to use Tremor Totem.

5 more waves, and then you fight...

This boss has 1 goal, deal TONS of damage.  The aspects of this fight are more suited for the healer to know about but there are always things to know.  He has an ability called Corrupted Flesh which will reduce the health of all people in 28 yards by 50%.  He also does and Obliterate which does 30,000 physical damage.  He will put zones on the ground which you shouldn't stand in unless you want to take 75% extra shadow damage.  He will put a DOT on someone called Shared Suffering that deals 40,000 damage as 10,000 every 3 seconds for 12 seconds.  If it is dispelled, it will distribute the rest of the damage among the party evenly.  This damage is Shadow damage, so remind your priests and paladins to buff/aura appropriately.

There is 1 'trash' mob after Malwyn who will summon a shadow copy of each of your party members.  Have everyone stack up so you can easily grab these adds.  Overall, this is easy.  Then you fight the Lich King.

You don't actually fight the Lich King, he is slowed and you have to run from him w/ Jaina or Sylvanas.  They will break through barriers he puts up while you kill adds he throws at you.  There are 4 barriers and 4 groups of adds, with each being harder and more time-consuming that the last.  There are ghouls, abominations, and vrykul.  The vrykul have an AOE shadow bolt, so they need to be killed first.  If you aren't fast enough, the Lich King will wipe your party.  Go fast, go hard, go home.  You're done.

That's all that there is to the Frozen Halls.  Good Luck, Have Fun!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Educational Games

Games which are directly educational are notoriously crappy.  I'd have to say that a large part of this is probably due to a lack of inspiration and passion by the developers.  Furthermore, kids are naturally averse to blatant attempts at education, because the stereotype is that school is lame.

But you see, games don't need to teach math, science, grammar, or history.  The things that games can teach are far more important, they can teach people how to think.  Even in my limited teaching career, I've come across several people who don't seem to know how to recognize patterns.  I'm not talking about seeing a list of numbers and knowing which one come next.  Many of my students don't seem to realize that they already have the tools to solve a problem, they don't realize that they've done a problem before, or that a new problem is a simple combination of two or more old problems.

Games teach you how to learn and think in a natural way.  Failure is discouraged and success is rewarded, new problems are often combinations of old problems and can often be easily recognized as such,  and trying new things is encouraged.  They also help teach you how to react to stressful situations, and how to react to change.  Video games may not offer much in the way of knowledge, or skills, but they mold your brain into something that is more functional.  We need to end this bias that video games are bad for you.  Video games are good for you, but like all things, must be taken in moderation.

The new Information

Information is being disbursed in entirely new ways now.  With twitter, RSS, and sharing capabilities, things have changed drastically.

It used to be the case that top-heavy news organizations would collect the information, and distribute what they deemed interesting.    Newspapers have a delayed distribution effect but allow you to skip stories you aren't interested in.  News television allows you constant news (or at least several times a day), but you don't get to filter out what you aren't interested in.

With the advent of the internet, news websites allow you to pick what you want to read about, when you want to read it, and as soon as they have compiled the story (as opposed to the next day).  However, this creates the problem of having to go out of your way to check the news sites for what is new, and searching for what is new on the site.  A person who is very interested in a particular topic (say, videogames) is likely to visit up to 10 (I did at one point) websites to get their news/review/preview fix, which is very time consuming (again).

Enter RSS
RSS, when accompanied with RSS readers, gave the spontaneity and full time of news websites the ability to be delivered like a newspaper.  When a news provider publishes an article, it will show up in your RSS reader, waiting to be read.  This eliminates you having to search for news.  Now, news is brought to you when it happens and only if it's something you're interested in.

Twitter and Sharing
With the advent of Twitter and its Trending topics, news has become social.  Now you can be fed news by people who you follow, having them act like filters for interesting news.  They decide what is interesting and pass it on.  And, if something is of great interest, it will likely become a trending topic, hopefully piquing your curiousity and spurring you into looking into it.

This new means of news sharing is unlike all that have come before it.  Now, the world decides what is interesting and relevant.  Your friends act as filters for other content, sharing news with you.  If you enjoy it, you share it with your friends.  This turns news sharing from a very structured top-to-bottom method, to a literal web, with side-to-side distribution.  It becomes an organism, where its actions aren't determined by some master control, but by the collaborative actions of its parts.  It's freaky and fascinating at the same time. It's predictable in the large scale, but unpredictable in the small scale.  It's great.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Characters who take your stuff

I hate it in RPGs when one of your well equipped, awesome characters who you put most of your time into leaves the party.  Even if it's only temporary, they still could have given you the stuff before they left.  This is one of the benefits of having already played they game, you can unequip the character before they can leave you.

Think you're going away to train and take all of my stuff with you, I think not!

I ran into a similar situation in Breath of Fire II.  A character wanted me to loan him all of my money to buy something, and then later he would give me 200 gold (or whatever).  Fortunately, Breath of Fire II lets you deposit your money at the bank.  So I deposited my money, gave him all 0 gold that I had, and then I got 200 free gold later.  It was awesome. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Printing is broken

What is the most frustrating part of your home office setup?  If you answered 'my printer' then you and I think alike.  Printers are given away at every step, with many computers coming with free ones.  Buying ink is confusing and expensive, when it needn't be either. Printer compatibility and setup is unnecessarily difficult.  And god help you if you're printer also scans, because it's going to try to install ALL SORTS of unnecessary bloatware and crap to your computer that is nigh impossible to turn off/remove.  What follows is my personal critique and analysis of home printing.

Personal Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is believed by many to be the future of the computing model.  Many people think that our programs and data will live on the internet, allowing them to be portable and universally compatible.   For businesses, the decision to use a cloud computing model is one of money, effectiveness, and security.  However, for individuals it's even more ambiguous which to use.  Current cloud based models are those like Google Docs, where your documents are hosted and edited online.

Many people aren't comfortable with this model for their personal data.  They'd rather be in control, and know that their data can't be accessed over the internet.  Furthermore, what about if your data holder collapsed, or suffered a temporary unavailability of service.  These things aren't good.

So this idea occurred to me.  Many homes already have routers in them, and there is a growing trend in people having networked storage available on their network, so that if you're on the local network, you can access the files.  Why not combine the two, place the storage inside the router, and allow it to be accessible via a password.  You could connect to the router by directly typing in the IP address (or via a URL, but that would require buying a domain name), and use a password to access our files.  Better yet, if you place a Google Docs type editor on it, you can edit the files w/o downloading them.  This would help assuage issues that many would have with some other organization holding their files.

But what if you locked your data behind a special URL, invisible to the public.  Then the main URL could be saved for webpage serving.  So if anyone accesses it, they will see something that represents you, as opposed to a login.  This would be a simple addition to the device, since it already has storage, you just store the necessary html in a file, and set it to load when the router is accessed.

So in conclusion we have a combination router/network storage/cloud storage/webpage server device.  It wouldn't be difficult to manufacture, it's just adding storage some extra processing power to a router, and adding the software to make it work.  It seems like a great idea to me.  I'd certainly buy one once it was financially feasible.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cluster Analysis and the announcement of Chrome OS

In statistics, there is this thing that we call cluster analysis.  It's where we try to find different groups among the data that we are working with.  Currently, when it comes to computer use, there is more than 1 basic group of use cases.  There is heavyweight application use, but much (if not most) of computer time is spent solely in the browser, possible with some music playing.  It's good that Google has decided to create an OS that is designed to specifically cater to this new use case.

No, Chrome OS isn't going to be your new desktop OS, it's going to be your netbook OS.  Netbooks are designed to be portable internet portals, and a super-lightweight OS that's specifically designed for them is just what they need.  And when a device debuts with it next year, I'll likely get one.

Furthermore, this shows Google's dedication to making the internet a better place.  Between Go, SPDY, Chrome, Chrome OS, it's pushing toward HTML5, and it's various web-apps, it is becoming a better place.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lo, and Google Chrome was good.

I'm very impressed with Google Chrome, and I must say, Google's venture into the browser world has been very interesting, to say the least.  However, Chrome's release wasn't about profit.  Is Google profiting from it?  Probably, but that's not why they made it.

Prior to the release of Chrome, there were 4 browsers really worth talking about: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Safari.  Each of these browsers has its issues, but Internet Explorer had (and has) the most; unfortunately, it's the most popular.  Google saw that most common internet browser being used was Internet Explorer 6, and this was problematic, since Internet Explorer 6 is very old, and has little to no modern features (like tabs), and is ridiculously sluggish.  This was keeping Google and other websites from pushing their site design forward.  So, for the greater good of the internet developer, and the internet user, Google made Chrome.  That alone, however wasn't enough, they also started putting notices on their websites for users that aren't using Chrome suggesting that users upgrade to Google Chrome.

Now, Chrome has a very small market share, the last I heard was 3%.  However, Google made Chrome open source (much like Firefox), so any improvement that's made in Chrome, any revolutionary feature, can be inspected and understood by other browser makers, and incorporated into their browsers.  Google doesn't want to win, they want the world to win, by making every browser better, and to provide a better browser themselves.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Should we teach programming in schools?

When I went to Catholic High, there was a computer course.  But in this course, all we did, all year, was learn how to use Microsoft Office, and I felt like it was a big waste of time.  It's true, there is some merit to learning Word, Excel and Powerpoint, but I don't feel that they are something that you should need to take a class for.  I don't feel that they would take that long to teach either.  So, I was wondering what it would be like to teach common programming to all high school students.

To begin with, I'll admit that learning how to program is not a skill that any large part of society needs to know.  It's a very niche skill.  However, there are several programs out there, where, if the users has some idea of how to program, they can enhance their use of the program.  Excel and Word themselves support the use of macros, userscripts for the nicer Web Browsers can greatly enhance a person's use of the internet, and MMO players greatly benefit from the ability to use macros and addons.  Programming is moving from being a niche skill, that is mainly used in very large projects, to something that everyone can use in small ways to improve/make more efficient their life.

Furthermore, programming uses a type of thinking that many people don't exercise enough.  When you program, you have to first come up with a general solution to a problem.  This often involves identifying different parts of the problem, that when solved separately, can be stitched together to form a complete solution.  Then, once you have figured out how to solve it yourself, the programmer must translate the instructions to the computer.  Hopefully this would help foster growth in the problem solving area of their brain.  Of course, by the time they would be taught programming, it will be too late for many of them.  This, I feel, is a shame.

So, you may be wondering, what would be the best way to teach kids problem solving skills?  Personally, I think it's games.  Games, games, games.  Board games.  Card games.  Video games.  All games.  Shamefully, too many kids don't play games.  TV is easier.

It's been a while

It's been a while since I posted anything on the blag, so I figure I'll give you a look into what's going on with me recently.

First of all, I have tons of homework that I need to get done within the next two weeks.  It's ridiculous.  I have to do a great amount of statistics work, and that's going to be a PAIN.

Recently, I can't get the idea of being a High School Mathematics teacher out of my head.  When I was writing this down in my personal diary yesterday, the word that flowed from my pencil was 'calling'.  This almost disturbed me, since a discussion of one's 'calling' is a very powerful statement.  But I still can't stop thinking about it.  I think that I might like to teach at Catholic High for a period of time following my graduation from UALR and before I pursue more graduate studies.  I even think of lectures that I would give if I were teaching a religion class, this obsession is ridiculous.  I plan on writing a lengthier blag post about this at some point in the future.

I'm also trying to get back into my programming groove.  I recently put a small amount of effort back into the accounting program that I was working on.  It's still not at a 1.0 release, and I really need to fix that.  I don't have the file writing part of it worked out, or the file reading, or the graphical portion fixed, which is pretty much everything.

I also came up with the idea again for my networked board game suite.  This would ideally use the idea of reflection to allow users to easily patch in new games that they could play (provided they had been programmed).  I intend for their to be a dedicated server, a lobby area, inter- and intragame chat.  I have some of the design down, but zero implementation.  But I'm really excited about the idea, since it would actually allow me to make board games of my own and test them w/o a physical prototype, as well as implementing old/forgotten board games.

Lastly I decided that I'm tired of not having access to a geometric sketching program.  I want a straight edge tool and a compass tool so that I can have fun with geometric constructions.

Staying on the theme of computers, I plan on digging up old computer that I have and changing it into a Linux-based computer so that I can toy around in a Unix environment AND start programming in Google's new 'Go'   programming language.  I want to use that so much, it's ridiculous.  I had forgotten just how much I enjoy programming and such.  Also, I really wish that Google would get around to releasing some usable form of the Chrome OS that they've been working on.  I would gladly try that out on my laptop, and then I could program in Go on my laptop and I wouldn't even need that computer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Number of Cards:
Size of Subdeck:
Xth instance of subdeck:


Touchscreen eBook for Math

I believe that a touchscreen eBook for Mathematics would be of great benefit to Mathematics education, and a great tool for mathematics students.  I can think of several advantages.  This could all also apply to physics books and other texts, although some more than others.
  • Size/weight - ability to store multiple books.
  • In the actual text, figures, example problems, and other on-screen clutter can be minimized and only shown when the students selects it to be shown to reduce visual distractions.
  • Since figures would be more efficiently stored using programming code and parameters as opposed to storing them as images, it would be easy to make each figure interactive, allowing the student to see the effect that changing different parameters has on the figure.
  • Since example problems start as minimized, it would allow the student to try and work the problem on their own, and if they get stuck, slowly reveal the solution, and allow them to check their procedure AND answer.
  • The student would be allowed to write minimizable notes in the 'margins' of the book, allowing them to summarize the text w/o the fear of visual clutter or of damaging the book.  
  • Homework could be done in the book itself.  Imagine this scenario:  A student goes to do the homework, selects the problem they are to do and the problem moves to the top of the page, becoming the sole element on the page other than the student's work area.  Then, the student can make the solution area smaller to allow them to browse the text if they need help solving the problem.  Furthermore, graphing and other solution utilities can be available to the student, removing the need for a separate calculator.  
  • Homework could be transmitted wirelessly to the teacher and the final answers could be checked automatically by the teacher's 'reader', allowing the teacher to focus on checking the solution process.  Furthermore, the teacher's 'reader' could easily provide statistics regarding the class' work (mean, median, mode, standard deviation, histogram of scores, etc) and serve as a grade book.
  • Updates and corrections to book material can be made easily.
There are however problems with the idea.  It seems to me that if this product actually came from a textbook publisher, it would be terrible, restrictive, and have depressing licensing issues.  Also:
  • Reader would have to cost something, and there is often no explicit cost to young students w/ traditional textbooks.
  • Batteries suck, but should be manageable
  • Licensing of book material - permanent? temporary?  Should students license it, or should schools license it and rent it to the students?
All in all though, I think that the idea is amazing and is definitely worth pursuing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

High School Math

Nothing could be a bigger waste of time, right?

I know we all though it was a huge waste of time then, and I wouldn't disagree.  Most of Geometry and Trigonometry I never used again.  There have been some things which I use regularly and enjoyably, but a good chunk of it I haven't touched since, and I'm a 'Mathematician' of sorts.  It seems odd to me that I learned more useless stuff in High School Math than I did in College.

If we took out most of the crap that's currently in the courses, time could be spent much more productively.  One thing that I most enjoyed in college was that Moore Method of teaching.  Basically, lecture, instruction, and text are kept to a minimum, and the bulk of the course actually comes from the students working problems, proving theorems, doing the work themselves.  The teacher assigns theorems and problems, and the students have to prove them.  This places the students so deeply in the material that they can't forget it, making you learn much better, and forming a closer community in the classroom.

I had several classes that were all taught in this method to some degree, all advanced classes, and I loved each and every one of them. 

Furthermore, applying this type of teaching to High School Mathematics classes would more successfully accomplish what the courses are trying to do anyway:  Make the students think.  Geometry, in particular, is about fostering and improving a student's ability to think rationally and deductively; promoting analysis of problems instead of just hazarding guesses at everything, and it's about time it started to do that.

Someday I hope to teach Geometry just to get to do this.

-Henry out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sad Bear is Sad

I love my bear, it's my favorite character, and although I'm away from the game right now, I miss him terribly. But it's been said that bears have problems. From reading an article on, the problems seemed to boil down to 2 things:
  • It's hard to gear a bear
  • And bears have trouble with AOE aggro.
The unfortunate situation is that with the changes to how bears gear in Wrath there are now lots of people who want the same gear that a Bear would want. Bear gear is loaded with agility, crit, haste, and attack power. Guess who else wants those things? That's right: Cats, Rogues, Enhancement Shamans, and Hunters. Now, consider the Plate tanks. They have their own special category of gear, which only they get to use. They have a considerably easier time gearing up.

My hope was that in Cataclysm, with the removal of defense rating and the addition of the mastery stat, that plate tanks would have to share their gear with plate DPS. Unfortunately, in the twitter chat that Blizzard held, they addressed this question and said that plate tanks would retain their special gear niche. This bothers me, since it seems that the issue is simply being ignored. It doesn't seem likely that the developers will reopen with Tanking Leather gear niche, so I have no idea how this problem is going to be fixed. Hopefully, in Cataclysm, Hunters and Enhancement Shamans will be further dissuaded from using Leather, lessening the issue.

The problem with Bear AOE threat is that it relies completely on Swipe spam. This makes it very difficult for us to react to new problems without interrupting the Swiping, possibly losing control. Also, since we can't use other special abilities while Swiping (aside from Maul), we lose single target aggro, which makes it difficult to maintain aggro control over classes who AOE and Single Target DPS at the same time (Rogues, Hunters, etc). Now, it's time to compare.
  • Warriors: Thunder Clap - Cooldown, big threat
  • Warriors: Shockwave - Cooldown, big threat, however, it's directional
  • Paladins: Consecrate - 100% uptime, Paladin can't move out of it.
  • Death Knights: Death and Decay - Larger than Consecrate, not 100% uptime, Cooldown
  • Death Knights: AOE diseases - 100% uptime, easy to spread.
  • Druid: Swipe - As discussed above.
 I can think of a few fixes to this problem.
  • Give a proc off of Mangle that buffs your next Swipe.  So we get periodic AOE burst, and allows us to use a single target ability without worry.
  • A new ability that uses the Bear's currently unused mana to activate, allowing for an early fight threat burst, than can be activated periodically throughout the battle.  This could add to the Bear's druidness.  After all, a Bear druid is not just a Bear, it has mana, it should be able to use it, but can't now because it can't shift out of form.
That's all of my current ideas for helping improve the Bear.  Although, I do have a tip:  Thorns scales with Spellpower, so either get a resto or boomkin to keep it up on you, or switch to spellpower gear when you need to recast it.  You will see a dramatic increase in Thorns' damage, which will help with threat.

EDIT: Proofreading fail.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dungeon Design: The Dragon's Lair

I said that I would talk about a dungeon idea that I had, so I'm going to do it. The general setup is that there is dragon who lives in a volcano that has been terrorizing the local area and needs to be stopped.

You enter the mountain through a cave on the side, a long holdover from before Lavodormu took hold there. You go down and down, and eventually the cave opens up and you enter the main chamber. An old iron bridge that was used to cross through the mountain spans a magma lake and the dragon sleeps in the middle of the bridge. The bridge inclines to a higher platform on the other side. When you approach the dragon, the battle begins.

Lavodormu fights you on the bridge, posing as a barrier to prevent you from getting to the other side. The dragon swipes with his claws, bites with his jaws, and breathes fire upon your party, forcing you to move away from the recently heated iron.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On WoW 5-man design

This is a response to

Blizzard has updated it's 5-man design philosophies every expansion so far, to try and correct the weaknesses and failures of past philosophies. So here is my analysis of the Wrath 5-man design and where I'd like to see it go.

What is good?

a) Dungeons serve dual purposes, not only do they provide gear and the culmination of storylines for those who are leveling, but they also serve as a launching board into the endgame for max-level players.

b) Their short duration makes them accessible, and with a good group, take only as long as a few quests might.

c) Varied boss design and encounter mechanics makes each dungeon feel different.

d) Dungeon quests increase the incentive for going, and provide good loot and money.

e) Daily quests increase the reward:effort ratio further boosting Dungeon participation by max-level players

f) Badges let everyone profit.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This is just the tip of the Icecrown (pun intended).

Here is the summary of the complaints.

"I can't believe you get to kill the Lich King in the 5-man (note: likely not true), you should only get to kill him in the 25-man raid. 5-mans and 10-mans are for pussies, RAWR EPEEN RAWR, Arthas is too cool."

"I can't believe people doing normal dungeons can get raid level gear, you should make people have to do raid progression to get epixxxxxxx. How dare you decide that the elitist structure of raiding that has persisted in WoW before is a bad thing, and allow more people to access this cool content that you spend so much time on. I don't like change! If other people have good gear, how else will people know that I'm the 'coolest guy ever'. You should have to spend copious amounts of time w/ assholes like me to get the good stuff. RAWR EPEEN RAWR" I would just like to note the armory profile of the complainer . Looks like emblem and 5-man stuff to me.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reward Structure in WoW and other games.

The reward structure of video games can be the key to their success, or spell their doom. A reward is something that the game gives you for your work, this can be a new item, ability, story progression, or whatever.

In World of Warcraft the reward structure breaks down like this:
At Levels 20,40,60, and 70 you get new modes of transportation.
Every 10 levels, you tend to get an ability that changes the way you play, either through talents, or trained.
Every 5 levels, you gain access to a new tier of talents.
Every 2 levels, you get to train abilities.
Every so often, you go to a new zone.
Every level, you get a talent point.
Every quest, you get a reward.

Notice the spread here. You're constantly getting reward via quests. Every so often, though, you get a 'bonus' of sorts. There's always something in the horizon for you to pursue. Big rewards are few and far between, like the mounts and the play-changing talents, they don't come often, but they make the game feel so different and new.

Not only do rewards make the player feel good about what they have accomplished, but it gives them something to look forward to. When I'm playing, I always find myself saying something resembling 'I'm so close to X, just 2 more levels!'

But how does this system work once the levels stop coming? One issue with the original World of Warcraft endgame was that there never was any guaranteed reward. The only reward/progression of character came in the form of gear drops. Since gear drops were random, and multiple people vying for the same loot, it can take a long time before the player obtains the item they desire, possibly never. However, in the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King expansions, every boss drops Badges or Emblems for every player. These can be exchanged for items. This gives the player a timeline on their item acquisition. They can say 'Only 2 more emblems and then I can get X.' This gives each player a reward for their effort, independent of the random number generator.

Furthermore, the raids themselves are subdivided. Naxxramas has it's wings. Ulduar has its sections. So although you may not have cleared the entire raid, you can say 'Yes, we just cleared the Antechamber!.'

In Cataclysm, World of Warcraft will be introducing a level of progression that will only be available once you reach the maximum level, offering upgrades and rewards for players who can no longer level.

Another game that I like that has a similarly styled reward structure is Star Fox Command. Each playthrough for the game is broken up by planet. Each planet is broken up by turns. And each turn is broken up into skirmishes. Furthermore, playing through the game in certain ways will unlock new characters who have different styles of play. No matter how long you have to play, there is something that you can achieve. Combined with exciting yet varied gameplay, it makes for a wonderful game.

These 2 games offer a reward structure that is, in a way, jagged. If you were to graph it, they would look like mountain ranges: rough, with towering peaks.

Your 'typical' action game, such as Devil May Cry, God of War, Halo, etc. Have different sorts of reward structure. It's more flat, the peaks are smaller, but more frequent. Each level has an ends in a boss battle. Arsenal upgrades come every few levels, with new abilities and weapons. Each level is broken up into different skirmishes. The gameplay isn't varied, with each level being like a different skin on the same creature. In order to enjoy an action game, you have to really love the gameplay, and enjoy challenge. Fortunately, that's what the designers spend all of their time on.

Puzzle games, too, have this sort of reward structure. It's fairly constant, and you must enjoy the challenge and the gameplay in order to enjoy the game.

What's to be learned from this? I'm not really sure, but it is interesting to consider how different things in your life reward you. You could consider a television show that you watch, and how they dish out reward. When do the 'big' moments happen?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Things that don't pertain to WoW,

well, not all of them pertain to WoW.

Recently, I've been trying to find out what my schedule will be at UALR for this upcoming semester. I've so far determined that I will be taking 2 classes, Advanced Statistical Methods and Introduction to SAS, which is worth a good paying job in and of itself. I only have one problem with this arrangement, the hours of these classes will prevent my from teaching at Sylvan any more than 8 hours a week. I probably shouldn't be teaching there more than 8 hours a week, but I want the money.

My mom has been completely on my ass lately and it's pissing me off, but no matter how many times I tell her to stop, she never will. I may as well just change my phone. She's not being mean at all, but she's giving out unwanted advice. It's as if she thinks that I will fail without her help. I just don't know how to handle the situation.

As sphye mentioned, we watched Second Skin today, which is a documentary about people who play MMORPGs. The funny thing about it is that I know so many of those type of people. They seemed just like people that I know. Around 2/3 of the way in, I was starting to get mad at the documentary because it was beginning to portray things in a negative light. But it picked back up at the end, so I was happy about that.

I started keeping a personal journal. I'm not sure yet what I'm doing with it, whether I'm writing things down for future generations or what, but I'm keeping it. I'm open to the idea of my children someday reading in hopes that they will gain some valuable insight from it. I don't know what I have to say that would be of value, but maybe I'll become wiser and have something worthwile to say. As a side not, I decided recently to write it in cursive, so that I can practice some handwriting that actually looks good.

I guess the journal is an attempt to make sure that I don't forget things, and that I practice the art of written communication. Writing isn't something that I've done in the past very much. I think that I'm going to encourage my children to keep journals too, once they get to those teenage years.

I said I might talk about WoW, I'll keep it short. We reactivated our WoW accounts today and ran several dungeons with Kassium and Beartank, who is a healer. We haven't played with them forever, but they're still as awesome now as they were then. It was good times.

That's all that I have to say for tonight.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fail group is fail

Last night I was bored so I jumped on my priest and put myself in LFG for the Nexus and Utgarde Keep. I got a group for the Nexus and went in. The tank was a level 80 druid, there was a 71 Hunter and a74 Death Knight, and I made 4.

Overall the run wasn't so bad. The incoming damage on the tank was pretty weak, however, no one knew how to do the fights. Did the druid attack the rifts on Anomalus? No, he wasn't even particularly concerned with picking up adds either. Did people get out of the way of the spikes on Ormorok? No. Did the hunter let Keristrasza stack Intense Cold up to 9 stacks? Yes. Did the hunter go AFK so long that his character sat down and the game set his status to AFK? Yes.

Despite how stupid the group was, there were no wipes, due to the level of the tank and my panicking. I got 3 pieces of loot from the run. The off-hand book from Anomalus, a BOE Blue Robe from a trash drop, and the Caster Ring from Keristrasza. The Hunter, who was mad that he hadn't won anything in the run, tried to ninja the ring out from me, but failed.

Fail group is fail, but at least I got some good stuff out of it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Further notes my standard UI.

Bar Mods, HAH!

For awesomeness purposes I have my entire bottom left extra action bar mapped to keys

It goes like this

Shift+1->6 for the first 6 buttons, 'f', 'g', Shift+'f', Shift+'g', The F6 and F7, which covers all of the 12 buttons on that action bar. I additionally, my mouse is set up so it's side buttons send in F6 and F7 commands. So all of the buttons are easily reachable.

Pressing shift and a number is easy enough for me. I have long been a fan of keyboard shortcuts for use in regular computer and browser use, so I'm very used to using my keyboard for things other than typing words. I use this across all of my characters, and it works phenomenally well for me. I keep my major actions on 1->6 and Shift+1->6. Mostly using the 2->4 and Shift+2->4. This leaves my ring finger left free for any movement I need to do. I keyboard turn only in situations where it doesn't matter how fast I move, like in town.

The other buttons are usually emergency buttons.

This monster is out.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


It's funny, when I tried tanking on my death knight, I never really got the hang of it. I even outleveled an instance and just couldn't hack it. On my druid however, it just comes naturally. Granted, I have been doing it since level 40 or so. Anyway, I've had people add me to their friends list as a competent tank and it feels good. I want to push to 80 and tank some raids, yo. Anyway, I'm 74 now, I recently tanked Azjol Nerub and Ahn'kahet. It was pretty cake.

I hope I get as good at Healing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Character Update

It's been a long time since I've said how my characters are doing, mostly because nobody knows about this so why bother to say.

My Warrior, Weslocke, is no 59 and is in Outland, ready to kick ass. He's still specced Prot, and his levelling partner is a Demonology Warlock.

Spear, the DK, has been respecced to plain old DPS since I had a failed tanking experience. He's level 76 now.

Tauf has cleared Naxxramas and has beaten Flame Leviathan, but then the guild has kinda fallen apart and real life stuff and other characters have kept me from getting him further. He's still specced Elemental, and has a resto offspec.

Jainne, my 72 priest, is mainly shadow, but also Holy. She's also stagnated. Sometimes I just log her in and offer to heal things, but that's it.

The lowbie druid, Gryllz, is now a highbie druid. He's 73 and has a Feral Tanking spec and a Resto Healing spec. He's teamed with a mage and is leveling through Northrend and runs every instance. He tanked Azjol-Nerub earlier today and performed amazingly.

I'm hoping to get all of these to 80, probably Gryllz and Jainne first.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Shadow of the Colossus

This is a response to this.

There are a couple opinions bounced around in the article and in the comments.  I have a slightly different view that I didn't find in either.

I believe that Dormin is an ancient evil that was sealed by members of the village that Wander belonged to.  They split up Dormin and placed parts of him, or his spirit, in the varying colossi to act as guardians of this ancient evil.  They then sealed off the land, and kept the one thing that could release Dormin from the Colossi, the sword.  

Now, I believe that the elders kept details about this land secret, so that noone would get curious and possible upset what they had achieved.  But, Wander hears that some powerful ancient being resides there, possibly a rumor, or someone just knew part of the truth, and he believes that this spirit can bring the girl back.  He then somehow finds out that the sword is the key to getting in there, steals the sword, gets in, and the rest is history.

I think it's entirely possible that Wander believed the colossi to be evil.  After all, the only person who can talk to him is the one thing that can bring his loved one back, and the colossi can't verbally defend themselves and explain.  The best they can do is try to kill him.  I do, however, believe that the colossi are good, just protective.  After all, they should be protective.  

So that's what I believe.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This blog was originally going to be a Shaman blog, but then I realized that was a dumb idea because there would be MUCH better sources for good Shaman information, so I'm making this more personal, all the posts below this one are technical Shaman shizzle.  They're still there for kicks though.

Beginning though, I have some favorite characters of mine:

My 80 Shaman, Tauf, who has shit for luck in getting a new caster weapon.  Thanks to 3.1, I'll be getting a Titansteel Spellblade though.  Starting off as Ele/Resto, but wants to transition to Enh/Rest.

My 76 Death Knight, Spear who I'm going to respec for tanking @ 80 and then work through all of the Normal Dungeons before getting into heroics (what any responsible tank should do).

My 70 Priest, Jainne who will be dual-speccing Shadow/Holy as soon as I can log in.

My 55 Warrior Weslocke, who had the Mallet of Zul'Farrak before it was cool, and now uses it as a weapon.  It looks awesome.  I've enjoyed PVPing on this fellow, but I don't know if that will continue, fortunately he's on a PVP server and my leveling partner is a Warlock (it's sick).
and last but not least, My 34 Druid, Gryllz, who is named after Bear Grylls, host of Man vs Wild.  This character is my newest love, whose interface I obsess over (IT MUST BE PERFECT!!!!).  He will be dual-specced Feral and Resto as soon as I have the money and requisite level.

More about me, I don't use THAT many addons, mostly ones that let me do things I can't do without them.  Auctioneer, Omen, Recount, DBM, Atlas & Atlasloot, BankItems, Failbot, and Livestock.  I love to make macros to solve my issues, and will probably put up a post of macros I use.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Totems of Note: VH, DTK, GD, COS

Violet Hold
This instance:
Trash, nothing special. On the trash, when the groups come out, there is some sort Sorcerer, who will cast a channeled beam at random targets. I think they need to be killed first, and you, as a shaman, need to be interrupting the beam.
Erekem, nothing special
Xevozz, nothing special
Moragg, nothing special
Ichoron, nothing special
Lavanthor, Fire Resist can help some.
Zuramat the Obliterator, Magma Totem in case you get the debuff that lets you kill the adds.
Cyanigosa, Frost Resist if you're having trouble with Blizzard, but that's not very important.

Drak'Tharon Keep

Now the instances are starting to get more complicated.  In the beginning....there's not much to talk about.  The last part of the instance is where you begin to need a special totem.  You are going to need to use Tremor Totem on King Dred, because he uses an AOE fear.  After King Dred, you'll go up a set of stairs and fight on a Rampart for a while, and then go up another set of stairs.  The death knights there will use a single target fear which will risk someone running into more death knights.  Tremor that sucker.


Poison creeps is ugly head up again in this instance.  There are snakes that will use a poison, as well as Sladran.  You can use poison cleanse totem or just cleanse it, it's not AOE.

Drakkari Colossus?  Nothing

Moorabi, you can Earth Shock his transformation, the fight will take longer, but everything will be more controlled, which is good.

Eck?  Nothing.

Gal'darah?  No special totem use.

Culling of Stratholme

On Malganis, use Tremor Totem.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oh so elemental...

Here is the raiding elemental spec that I'm running with right now. There's not really much that's up for change in it, the points in Eye of the Storm could be moved for something like the decreased shock cooldown, but there's not much else.

The play style is very simple too. Recast flame shock to keep it up all the time, try to refresh it right after it falls off, but if that would mean delaying a Lava Burst, recast it earlier. If there are multiple enemies and you have the mana, cast Chain Lightning when it's off cooldown, otherwise, spam Lightning Bolt.


There's only 1 type of mail caster gear out there, and you share it with Resto Shaman. This does mean that you won't find any mail caster drops with hit rating on them. So you'll have to get your hit rating from tier pieces, gems, enchants, and non-armor equipment. Crit is an important stat for Elemental Shaman, but only up to a certain point, I've found 33% to be a decent amount to have while raiding (buffs included).

Other than satisfying that and your hit cap, you're going to want haste and raw spellpower. Elemental Shaman scale very well with spellpower because our crit multiplier for spells is 2.5. Haste won't have very tangible benefits for a while, because your spell casting is based around casting Lava Burst whenever it is ready, so you'll find yourself waiting and not casting spells while the last .5 seconds or so tick off of Lava Burst. But, if you stack enough haste, you'll find that you can cast 5 Lightning Bolts in between Lava Burst, and that's when it will really start to pay off.

As far as mana regen goes, Elemental Shamans have it pretty easy because we get 12% (approximately 1/8th) of our Intellect as MP5. When you're undergeared, make sure and have enough MP5 to last a battle, but as you're gearing up, you'll be replacing MP5 with Intellect, so you don't have to worry about MP5, and let those itemization point go towards MORE SPELLPOWER!

I honestly don't know what else to say. I had so much to say about Enhancement, this feels like so little. Oh...wait, AHA!

More on playing

It's definitely worth noting that stunned creatures will not be moved by Thunderstorm. This is a good thing. If you decide to take Improved Fire Nova Totem, you can get 1 big burst of damage, stun them, Thunderstorm, drop Magma Totem, and then step back to do Chain Lightnings. I chose to Glyph away the knockback from Thunderstorm for more mana. So I run in and drop Magma Totem, Thunderstorm, and run back out.

Don't forget Elemental Mastery, it's one of the only cooldown abilities that increases DPS and saves you Mana. Note that the increased crit chance will give you more clearcasting procs.

Ok, I'm pretty sure that this is all that I have to say.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

3.0.8 PVE Enhnacement

Here is my raiding Enhancement spec of choice.

Basic Play

It's played by using Stormstrike, Lava Lash, and Earth Shock when the cooldowns are up and Lightning Bolt whenever Maelstrom Weapon is stacked to 5. In AOE situations use Chain Lightning but watch your mana, because it drinks it up.


Should you use a slow Main Hand weapon w/ Windfury and a fast offhand weapon with Flametongue, or use 2 slow weapons both with Windfury? I've read that both playstyle do comparable damage (somewhere on Elitist Jerks). So you should use the best slow weapon available for your main hand and the best offhand you can get your hands on, fast or slow (not medium speed), and enchant it appropriately.


You should be wearing "hunter" mail that has AGI, INT, AP, HIT, CRIT, HASTE, and MP5. Armor Pen isn't very useful because of all of the spell damage Enhancement Shamans do. Don't stack spellpower because you will get spellpower from your attack power. Haste is also less useful for enhancement shamans because it will only help with your Autoattack and Maelstrom Weapon damage, because your other damage is limited by your cooldowns. In 3.1, Shamans (among others) will see increased benefit to their melee attack speed from haste, so this could change.

Hit Rating

Because Enhancement Shamans are a dual wield and spell caster class, hit rating is VERY important. The consensus is that you should get enough hit rating to negate the chance for your spells to miss, this will also make Stormstrike and Lava Lash never miss. At that point, your autoattacks will still miss, but it's believed that you will gain more by stacking other stats at that point. Spells normally have a 17% chance to miss against a level 83 (i.e. raid boss) target. Remember that Draenei provide a +1% chance to hit, and that Shadow Priests and Boomkins provide +3% chance to hit to the raid. So you might only need 16%, or 14%, or 13%.

Remember that your attack power formula is STR+AGI+INT, and that AP*.3 = Spellpower. These provide the core of your damage.

Having Mana Issues? Stack more Int, MP5, and Crit. MP5 will help the most. Int will help you last longer but won't do much more help in the long term. Crit will boost damage and efficiency through clearcasting. Remember an OOM Shaman is a lame shaman.

Advanced Play

About Maelstrom Weapon. You should use a 5 stack of Maelstrom before you use Stormstrike or Lava Lash, because SS and LL can get you more Maelstrom Weapon procs. If Maelstrom is at 5 stacks and you use SS or LL, you may get a MW proc that is wasted.

I would begin each boss fight by going crazy, wearing Lightning Shield and casting all of the spells that you can, to run your mana low, and then use Shamanistic Rage to fill it back up, then run yourself back down low (not OOM) and switch to Water Shield, and try to hover at a good value until Shamanistic Rage is back, so it will fill you back up. This, of course, varies from battle to battle. On Maexxna, I would make sure that I have full mana and the Wolves are off cooldown before she goes into a frenzy so that I can maximize my DPS during that particularly trying time.

It should also be noted that enhancement mana regen will be greatly aided in 3.1, since Improved Stormstrike is going to be rolled into normal Stormstrike, and Improved SS will give a 50%/100% chance to regen 20% of your base mana when you use Stormstrike. It's worth nothing that SS costs 8% of your base mana , Lava Lash is 4%, Earth Shock is 23%, and Lightning Bolt is 17% (all numbers before applicable cost reductions). There seems to be some consensus on Elitist Jerks that the regen provided by Improved Stormstrike isn't needed by raiding Enhancement Shamans. I say that the regen provided by it allows the shaman to stack fewer mana stats on their gear and focus more on damage stats.

As your gear improves you can swap points out of mana conservation talents to more damage talents if your mana regen can handle it.

That's all I have for now.