Fall 09: Things That I Will Post

Keiya-Tier-9I have a couple of things that I want to post about within reasonable time when I’m not so real life busy. So, this is my late October and Early November tentative post schedule: Keiya’s New Raiding UI Version 3.2, Dabbling withAion and Borderlands for the PS3. I might do a CD review in mid to late November because Them Crooked Vultures is releasing an album on the 17th of November and well, I’m a pretty big fan of Dave Grohl.

I impulse bought Aion a couple of weeks ago. I was actually going to do a thorough review and state of the MMO industry post once I had a chance to properly delve into it more, but I have kind of already lost all interest in it. It’s a fun game, but I just kind of got…busy/distracted and set it down. If I’m really bored and game deprived at some point in the future, I’ll go poke at it when I’m not on WoW or doing other things. Borderlands is an interesting game that was just released for the consoles. Think Fallout 3 + Team Fortress 2 + Left 4 Dead. Having fun with it so far.

So I redid my user interface yet again, mostly to switch over from Fubar to ChocolateBar, from Pitbull 3 to Pitbull 4 and from Bartender 4 to Dominos. I also wanted to consolidate the functionality of a few of my addons. My previous setup had a quite a bit of redundancy. Aside from some window shuffling, it really doesn’t look that different I guess. I’m liking it so far though. I don’t know why I do things like this to myself. Redoing your UI is a giant pain in the ass. I spent all of yesterday evening half-assed running battlegrounds and poking shit mobs to make sure that every little element was exactly where it should be.

I was in 25-man Trial of the Crusader last week (well and tonight I guess) when my computer started dropping below 10 frames per second during most of the counters. The resolution increase on my new monitor in addition to the fact that this machine is getting ass old probably doesn’t help. I’m thinking that it’s probably time to start building a new computer. I made the mistake of goingel cheapo on a CPU with a low upgrade path. I think this time I’m going to budget more towards building a nicer machine.

New Monitor and UI Rambling

KeiyaUI-WideRegarding my posts on PuG raid leading: On second thought, disregard any of the strategy explaining advice and just tell people to heed Mortigan the Lock’s rules on how to raid anything. WoW blog post of the week, I lol’d. But seriously, is it really that difficult for people to not stand in a fire?

I think I’ll make more of an effort to blog regularly; Regularly being defined as once a week-ish. So without further adieu. rambling time! AKA non-cohesive bits typed past midnight. All of my daily computer and WoW playing is done in a dual screen setup. It’s great for multitasking; I can raid and watch stupid YouTube videos at the same time! But lately my right monitor, which is a 4 or 5 year old 19″ LCD, has been slowly taking longer and longer to warm-up. It took 5 minutes at the beginning of last week, which was annoying but tolerable because I could just go make a cup of coffee and read something in the mean time. 15 minutes was pushing it and 1 hour meant a trip to the nerd goody store.

So anyway, I replaced it with a 24″. It’s not really that much bigger, but I’ve noticed a reasonable increase in environmental visibility, which helps with the aforementioned task of avoiding circles of fire and keeping an eye on where everyone else is positioned duringcertain encounters. I remember raiding on a setup like this, viewing the game through a small box in the center of the screen. That’s the cleaned up UI too, I ran with a few more items on my screen during our Molten Core phase.

Both monitors are in widescreen format, but for some reason the new monitor has a slightly different ratio. Just different enough to force me to reposition half of my user interface elements. I think it’s about time to redo some of my UI anyway; Primarily upgrading to Pitbull4 and finding a replacement forFubar since the project went perma -dead (I think No Stock UI has an article on that). I guess I’ll make another Keiya’s UI post at some point. I’m pretty happy with my general layout though, so I doubt I will change much.

Guide: PuG Herding Part 2

Continued from PuG Herding Part 1, as posted on Monday. Okay, most of this is probably pretty overkill unless you truly have a group of people who have no clue what to do and are deprived of all common sense. Most of the time, just outlining your general fight strategy so that people know which one you are using and telling the newbies not to stand in fires is good enough. I’m a fairly verbal person when I lead raids, but that’s just me and my love of gabbing over vent. Find a style that works for you. 

Getting Started
Unless you are doing something easy like Onyxia or VoA, use Ventrilo, Teamspeak or some other form of VOIP communication; It really does help. Someone will always need the long explanation and dictating an entire boss fight with your fingers gets old really fast. Besides, it’s fun placing a voice behind an avatar. I used to be pretty obstinate about Vent not being a hard requirement for guild raids way back in the day, but in retrospect, it’s a great tool and has brought people closer together.

If you do use a voice server, enforce general etiquette guidelines for the sake of raid sanity. Mainly, make sure that everyone shuts the hell up when fights are being explained, both in Ventrilo and in raid chat. Back seat drivers are a no-no. If someone is wasted, they probably shouldn’t have a microphone…

Always ask if someone needs an explanation before you pull. Don’t cry and ragequit when the raid wipes because you didn’t ask if anyone needed an explanation. And yes, you do have to ask most of the time. Many people won’t volunteer that information out of fear of being replaced, particularly in a 25-man raid where they can just follow people and generally do okay most of the time.

Even if everyone supposedly knows the encounter, always give a quick strategy rundown because every guild has their own way of doing things. It is better to spent a minute explaining something than to wipe. When you assign specific tasks to people, make sure that you get personal confirmation from them to make sure that they understand and were paying attention. It also helps to make sure everyone knows who the tanks are, who the CCers are and stuff like that.

Effectively Explaining Encounters
Don’t read off a wall of text when you are explaining strategies. It’s boring and hard to comprehend. I guarantee that people will zone out and not know what the hell to do. There are two important factors to learning: Repetition and Chunking. Generally, the average human brain is able to store 7 chunks of information into short-term memory. You can successfully explain long and complicated fights to new people within reason, if you break up the encounter by role and stage, repeatedly emphasizing important points.

Explain the encounter as well as you need to give the raid’s experience level (if you need to at all), but be concise. A 10 minute dissertation is beyond too long. Most people are either visual or tactile learners anyway, who just need to experience the fight before it clicks. I like giving top down explanations. That is, explaining the general picture and then drilling down to more specific bits. Everyone has their own way of explaining things, but this is typically what I usually do:

  1. Give a very general rundown of each step of the fight. I am mainly explaining positioning, what to watch out for and what abilities the boss will be using.
  2. Break the fight up by player roles. Let the healers know what they need to do, let the tanks know what they need to do, let the DPS know what they need to do. In a guild raid, this is where role channels and role leaders come in handy.
  3. I will usually close the explanation with a brief bullet point style summary of what I just covered as well as a reminder of the three most important points of the fight for emphasis (ie, DONT STAND IN THE FIRE, CLEANSE THE DEBUFFS, etc).

Use the raid icons to mark targets and important players. Skull is usually the universal symbol for “kill this first,” X usually means “kill this second” and the yellow star is usually primary CC or any other important role, since it is the easiest symbol to see (it doesn’t blend in with the background or spell effects). Everyone has their own marking system, just make sure that everyone knows the kill order and what each of the symbols mean. Make sure to be consistent about marking. It also helps to mark the tanks in movement heavy encounters.

Once the encounter is underway, dictate the fight and direct people to do things. Communication is key. Make sure that you have Deadly Boss Mods or Big Wigs working so that you can keep an eye on the timers and verbally warn the raid when an important event will occur a couple of seconds ahead of time.

It’s your job to gauge to and not to direct people. Experienced raiders will know how things go, but newbies won’t. Some people need you to tell them where to go next, what boss we’re doing next, when is okay to proceed to a new area and when it is okay to pull.

Other Tips
Provide enough structure for your raid to function smoothly, but be open to new options. Sometimes things don’t always go your way and sometimes PuGs have some pretty damn good ideas. The ability to listen to other people and remain open to advice is an important leadership skill. It always shows that you have confidence and respect for your raid members.

Balanced Personalities Make Good Raid Leaders. Be assertive about your role as raid leader without being a cock. People need to know that you’re the boss, but they don’t need an ego trip or verbal abuse. Be humble, respect is mutual. If someone is clearly not working out, don’t be afraid to boot them. It’s better to brave LFG for a replacement than to have one person drag the entire run down the crapper.

Handle consistent under performers privately before deciding to give them the boot. Making a public example of someone serves little purpose other than to cause drama. If you chastise someone over Vent, they will get defensive. Besides, if someone is bad to the point where they need a raid kick, it’s likely that most people have already noticed.

Learn to pace instances appropriately. Keep the raid rolling by minimizing downtime between trash pulls. It’s irritating when the raid constantly pauses for no good reason. Don’t rush the instance though: Your guild healers might be used to insane lolzerg pulls, but the PuGs might freak out. If it’s a long run, give people a small bio break every once in a while whenever there’s a natural break to reduce random AFK’s at odd moments.

Be patient about wiping, but know when it’s time to call it. No one likes a quitter, but no one likes spending two hours at a boss with little progress.

Guide: PuG Herding Part 1

I don’t really know why, but I have been in the mood to PuG raid lately. Could it be the realization that PuGs aren’t all that bad? Antsyness in lieu of much anticipated Fall game releases just around the corner? Elevated boredom? Who knows. It’s hard to find a group unless you are a healer. Sometimes the best way to find a PuG is to just start one.

If you are going to lead a PuG raid, know the encounters. Know what each of the boss abilities does in practical terms, know where everyone needs to stand, know what the tanks healers and DPS need to do, if there are any special roles and when key events occur. If you’re forming a raid for new content, just wing it and let people know that. Who knows, someone in the raid might have PTR experience. You should also be familiar with the other classes and specs and what sort of utility they bring to the raid.  

Anyway, it’s probably more constructive for me to offer friendly advice to new PuG leaders than to be an ass and talk about them in the pseudo-privacy of guild chat. Leading a raid seems like a daunting task, but it’s pretty routine once you get the hang of it. If you are generally unfamiliar with how a raid operates, join a few more PuGs and observe. I’ll break this article up into two parts, it got kind of long.

LFM: Finding People

There are two general options for finding PuGs: The LFG tool and the Trade/LookingForGroup channels. The LFG tool isn’t too hard to figure out if you have never used it before. Before you start the raid, you might want to check to see if there are any other raids for your instance before forming a new one. If you aren’t familiar with recruiting via the global channels, hang out in them to get a feel for how raid advertising is done. It’s not really that hard…

If you are going for a speed run or hard mode, ask for stats and achievement links. Know what is considered minimally acceptable for each role, but be reasonable about expectations. The pickier you are about people, the smaller your invite pool is going to be. If you take too long to recruit, people will start to leave.

Oh also, people do lie about their character, so check them out online if you are unfamiliar with them or their guild. Armory sniffers will let you know how geared or experienced a player is, but it says little about actual skill. Don’t automatically discount people just because they are a little under-geared. Here are a few tools that I use: The WoW Armory, Be Imba!, WoW Heroes and PuG Checker.

    It helps immensely to track who the healers and tanks are upon raid invite by either moving all people of a certain role to a specific group or jotting their names down somewhere. It’s hard to recruit for a balanced raid when you yourself don’t know how many healers and tanks you currently have. The whole, “press 1 if ur healz” bit is kind of dumb anyways (pet peeve).

    Oh also: Everyone if course knows that people of your same class and spec instantly go to the bottom of the invite list, unless the raid really does need them. After all, one of the most important benefits to being raid leader is making sure that there aren’t 5 other ret paladins drooling over your tier drops 😛  

    Loot: Fighting the Purple Haze!

    USE MASTERLOOT! If you have a buddy in the raid whom you can trust with ML duty, that’s great. It takes a fair bit of pressure off of your shoulders. If not, raid leading and masterlooting is totally doable. Most people set loot to ML Rare so that green drops don’t incur a pop-up window. Make sure that everyone in the raid knows the loot rules before the run begins. Raid leaders who reserve drops for themselves in a full on PuG can go burn in hell. But, if for whatever reason you do reserve an item, make especially sure that everyone is aware of it before the run begins.

    Be somewhat knowledgeable about general stat distribution and what is good for who. For example: A cloth piece with spell power and spell hit has DPS caster priority over any healers because of the hit (healers don’t really miss). It’s mostly common sense, but people will role on just about anything that they can use. These are the PuG looting rules that folks generally expect:

    • Need /roll 100. 1 item per person until everyone in that loot pool has received an item.
    • Anyone in raid who can benefit from the drop has the right to roll for it.
    • Priority goes to primary specs over off-specs, the exception being people who were forced to off-spec for raid viability. Whatever role you were invited into the raid as is generally considered to be your main spec for all intents and purposes.
    • BoP patterns are rolled off to people who are able to craft and benefit from the item. Ask them for a profession link before distributing the loot.
    • Shards, BoE patterns and stuff like that get rolled out at the end of the raid to people who have not received any loot for the run.

    Last but not least: STICK TO YOUR LOOT RULES. Be consistent! If there is one thing that will cause drama and resentment, it’s loot. Continued in Part 2….

    Horde Raids and Silly Hats

    WoWScrnShot_101209_201351I joined a For the Alliance! achievement raid last night for kicks. I’ve been meaning to do this one for quite a while now, but just never got around to it. I even got a chance to hook up with an old WoW buddy from way back in vanilla. Despite a slow start, it went surprisingly smooth for a PuG; Not a single hitch, save for the perpetually broke and lost level 65 nub hunter. Seriously, holy bananas people. How hard is it to repair and buy ammo before a raid then move your ass over to a spot on the map? Go go [item]Reins of the Black War Bear[/item]!

    I’ve been in the mood to play a lot lately. I finally did the Caverns of Time quest and got [item]Don Carlos’ Famous Hat[/item] of awesomeness (just need to decide on a pretty dress to idle in Dalaran with :P). Oh: This one is kind of lame, but I also finally obtained the Bronze Drake from the timed Culling of Stratholme event. I don’t remember the last time I bothered doing that heroic. Actually, I’m not sure why I usually skip it seeing that there is a portal leading right to it from Dalaran.

    My hunter is an alchemist but not a herbalist, so leveling this profession has been a giant gold sink with little to no benefit as of yet (I don’t really put a whole lot of effort into any of his professions). He has been a sub-par alchemist for several years and I can’t really think of a single instance where it’s been all that useful to have in respect to my main. I’m wondering if it is worthwhile to switch his profession over toJewelcrafting since it is complementary to his mining gathering skill (and for the easy moneys).

    WoWScrnShot_101109_211844I have one and only one wish for WoW at the moment: Secondary vanity head slots. It’s not an unreasonable wish to be able to wear a pimp at or sombrero during a raid encounter (without being yelled at) all the while reaping the benefits from helm. It’s not as if too many people actually have the helm graphics enabled anyways.

    So here’s my idea: There should two head slots. Not real original but I’ve wanted it for ages >_< Slot one, the Practical Use Slot, would function exactly how the head slots currently function. Slot two, the Vanity Slot on the other hand, would only affect the visual appearance of your character. So any stat or armor bonuses on an item equipped into the Vanity Slot would be non-functional (it can even be reflected on the slot item tooltip). The Vanity slot overrides the appearance of the Practical Use Slot if an item is equipped. Make sense? probably not…

    WoW Update: 8/7/2009

    WoWScrnShot_100309_215809I really feel like updating this site at the moment, but for the life of me cannot think of anything interesting to write about. There’s absolutely nothing to review since I’m not currently playing or planning on playing anything new until some of the games on my Fall 09 want list are spotted in the wild.

    I am actually pretty tempted to get Aion for the sake of indulging in the MMO flavor of the month for once. I don’t really feel like spending $50 for a game that I only plan on playing through the 1-month free trial. Though in retrospect, I’ve easily payed that amount or more for games that offered much less game time. I don’t know; it might be fun doing comparative blog posts? I am almost certain that topic has been already done to death though. We’ll see.

    After a huge summer raiding lull, we’re finally back into actual raid progression. We cleared Trial of the Crusader and are currently onYogg-Saron in Ulduar 10. Aside from the pain in the ass Faction Champions encounter, most of normal ToC wasn’t that difficult, particularly the last two bosses. We are still too short on people to do any of the 25-man flavored instances, but now that I’m not too incredibly “busy” I suppose I should be more active about recruiting new folks and seeking alliances with other guilds on the server. Note to self: Update the guild page with a news post now that it isn’t broken.

    Keiya is now at 566/700 Kalimdor towards the Loremaster achievement. I spent a not insignificant portion of the past week and a half madly questing while marathon viewing House (my new favorite television show by the way). I know exactly which zones I need to focus on and where any missing quests are but I think that I am going to take an achievement break for a little while. Too much running back and forth is making my head explode. Noseriously, how many times do I need to go between Shimmering Flats and Booty Bay? FFFFUUUUU.

    You know what makes me kind of sad? I am missing most of my pre-Burning Crusade WoW screenshots. I found a couple of raiding screenshots from the Molten Core, Blackwing Lair and any that I have posted on my site, but I can’t find any others from when I was leveling to 60. I am pretty sure that I backed them up off of my old decrepit computer, but that might have been to the backup drive that later failed. I did find this screenshot though from the upper level of Vael’s room. There was another paladin, but she fell off of the ledge.