Oct 28, 2010

Because eight isn't enough

Likely much to my WoW mentor's dismay, I've once again made the trek through the stagnant 50s, plowed through the Outland 60s, and boosted through Northrend to have my nineth level 80. Jarramond the Warrior now joins my ranks of level 80 Jarrheads.  DING! GRATS! WOOT?

Some might ask why, especially given that the expansion is right around the corner. A few reasons jump to mind. First, why not? There was little else to do in the game. Our guild's raiding has been effectively halted as most are burned out on it. It’s disappointing because we had a great and fun Friday night group assembled, but it's certainly understandable.

Second, I realize that leveling is something I really enjoy. It’s tedious at times, but I like the challenge of seeing if I can do it better, faster, more efficiently. 

And to that end, the new LFG tool is SERIOUSLY overpowered. My old manner of leveling in Northrend would have me do the two starter zones (Fjord and Tundra) first. I just like the quests there. Skip the Grizzly Hills and move on to Dragonblight. Finally wrap up in the Basin and usually will ding 80 there. With the LFG tool and a toon in all possible heirlooms (sans ring) and it’s a different story all together. By way of comparison, I had hit 77 before even completing the Tundra.

So now it’s a self-imposed fun race against the expansion. Can I get yet another Crusader title before the sundering? Can I get a full tier 9 DPS set for him before the Earth Warder tears his entity apart? Can I get him all the Northrend reps to Exalted before we all burn?  It’s not so much a question of needing to do these things, but rather a wondrous sense of what might be possible.

Then again, I do have a lonely  level 23 priest sitting in Ashenvale. Pehaps...LFG anyone?

Update:  Crusader -- check!  Full Tier 9 and decent weapon -- check!  Northrend exalted -- check!  It was fun getting it all done within a tight window.  On the other hand with 1 main and 8 alts all pretty much geared how I want them (I love full sets) now I sit here wondering "Now what?"  Fun run nonetheless.

Sep 13, 2010

Interview time... /Gulp!

Time to buckle down and dust off those interview skills! I've landed an an assessment interview for a new position within our company. New realm of responsibility, completely new department, entirely new works away from the contact center focused career I've had so far. Plus a promotion and pay bump to boot: bonus!

It's both exciting and nerve wracking. But interviews are all about preparation.  I know how to get ready.  Nonetheless, wish me luck all.

"Can you tell me about a time when you..."

Update 9/16:  Took the initial assessment which was basically a spelling and proofreading test today.  No interview scheduled yet but hopefully we'll have that all set within the next few days.  Step one:  complete.

Update 9/21:  An excerpt from an e-mail from our HR department...
"Thank you for posting for the position of ...

At this time the hiring department has decided to move forward with other applicants and will no longer be pursuing your candidacy. We do appreciate your interest in the position and your desire to further your career objectives."

Guess I'll keep looking.  Kind of disappointing because I really thought the department's work was truly interesting and could renew my interest and enjoyment of my job.  But for now it seems, back to the grind.

Jul 27, 2010

Heroes, to Arms! Defend the Skybreaker!

This is just way too cool.

Oh and...

We stand with you, Brann Bronzebeard!
For the Child King! Long live Anduin!

Jul 9, 2010

Take a look over there...

Regardless of where you stand on the RealID debate, I strongly suggest you read the article below.  It's an excellent read and I think it captures the feelings that most of us have on the subject.

Shades of Grey: An Open Letter to Blizzard (Internet Dragons)

"Someone save that tree before the internet dragon kills it"

Jun 24, 2010

LFG: Frost Lord Ahune

Curse you Lord Ahune! Why are you being so stingy with your capes? Casters get all the love as do the Agility wearing crew, but have you no love or loathing for the big shinny folks with the big swords 'n boards?

I guess I really can't complain though. I got the rogue an easy upgrade. Pugging it is fantastically easy with the LFG/LFD tool, with queues averaging about 4 minutes for DPS and even faster for healers and tanks.

Still no pet though and no tanking cape for my Tankadin-wannabe. Oh well. Guess I have a bit more farming to do.

If you have a new toon or with a sub-par cape (ie below ilvl 232) jump in and grab free a free upgrade from Frosty here. Though don't you dare roll on my tanker cape. I called it. Dibs! See it's mine. I called dibs. If you can call "dibs on a spaceship," I can call dibs on a loot drop. Dibs!

Jun 8, 2010

That's what it's all about

It’s amazing how easily we become creatures of habit. In doing so, we sometimes forget the basic tenets of that which we hold dear.

So last night I was a bit tired of tooling around on the Ret Pally, so I jumped over to my rogue for a few random dungeon runs. He’d been a subtlety spec since his inception, minutely tweaked from expansion to expansion. With the coming of dual specs and a bit of coin in the purse I went dual spec: keeping subtlety and adding an assassination/mutilate spec.

I’d typically run Shadowstep/Subtlety for questing and pick pocketing, using Assassination/Mutilate for instancing or (Elune forbid) raiding. Last night I was having a rough go at it as mutilate. I just couldn’t get my openers down and my DPS was really rather lackluster. I couldn’t even discount my gear really. I’d done better in the past. It just wasn’t clicking. So mid run I swapped over to Sub.

Best thing I could have ever done! It finally clicked why I was doing so poorly before. Yeah I can do well with Mutilate. I just don’t like it. Why? Because it’s not fun. Despite being the flavor of the month and one of the preferred DPS specs, I just don’t like it. I’ve been tolerating it to do some decent numbers. In doing so I surrendered one of my longest lived Warcraft beliefs…

Fun is greater than all!

Simply because I was enjoying it more I was actually doing better. I picked up roughly 800-1000 DPS just by swapping. Is this because of a superior spec? No. Most would probably argue that I moved to a poorer (worst?) spec. But I did better because I was having more fun. Faster stealth movement? Hell ya! Shadowstep poofs? Bring it! Tricks of the Trade + Shadowstep + Shadow Dance + Ambush, Ambush, Ambush!?! Ooh yeah!

I kicked myself later for not realizing it. I’d given up what was fun for what was “expected.” Fun is indeed better than all. It’s largely why my specs are rarely cookie-cutter. I play how I want and enjoy it. I don’t need to top the meters. I don’t need to have top of the line, progression level raid gear. I want to play a game and have fun doing so. And I want to do so on my terms.

So when it comes down to it dear friends, play your way and the rest be damned. Spec how you wish.  Play what ever content makes you happy.  You will fare far better if you like what you’re doing rather than simply doing what some Jerk (©?) recommends. If your desire matches their gospel, so be it. Just don’t lose sight as I did.

It’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. Never let anyone tell you how to do so. Fun is subjective. There is no wrong way to have fun. Well, except maybe to roll Boomkin. Other than that you’re golden. :D

May 20, 2010

Rest in peace, video card

I jump on yesterday and have no problems. I come back from my son's testing (Grats on the blue belt, Son!) and my PC crashes...a lot.  I think it's the video card.  So it looks like it will be out of commission for a while.

Now I just have to decide if I want to just try another video card or bite the bullet and see if the Geek Squad at Best Buy can fix it.

It's kind of a shame. I used to be so much more computer savy.  Now I have to pay someone to fix it.  Probably for the best though. Even in my tech savy best, I still only knew enough to be really dangerous tinkering around in there.

Oh well.  Wish me luck.

May 14, 2010

So you wanna be a Crusader?

I’ve got a little project I’m working on that hopefully I’ll have completed soon. I’m trying to create a calculator that will tell you what it’s going to take to go from your current state and reputation levels to earn the Crusader title and all of the glory that comes with it.

My vision is that it will tell you:

  • Which quest lines you need to complete
  • Which dailies you need to complete
  • How many days will you have to spend doing dailies
  • How many Champion Writs you will need to earn and spend
  • How much gold you would earn in working toward crusader.
Right now I’m working in Excel, but if I could figure out a way to get it online that would be even better. The “pie in the sky” vision would be to have it pull in data from the armory somehow, but that’s much beyond my expertise.

It's something I would have loved to have had before working on my five Crusaders and I realize it may be a bit dated.  Nonetheless it's a been an interesting excerise.

More to come. Let me know if you are interested or have any input.

May 6, 2010

Wipes happen

Bad is never good until worse happens. ~Danish Proverb

Inevitably it’s going to happen. At some point down the road you are going to wipe on a five-man instance that you’ve run multitudes of times before sans incident. It could happen due to a number of factors: some controllable, some not. As in most things in life, it’s how you react to such adversity that often determines the outcome.

Last night I ran into a situation that I’m sure we’ll all find familiar. PuG run and the tank pulls a big group, gets spotty heals, and dies. The substantial remaining mobs then run rampant over the group and full wipe ensues. Again, I think we’ll all find familiarity in this sequence.

The Example:

Trollgore room in DTK.  Mass pull leads to wipe.
• Tank: “So heals just stopped.”
• Healer:"I lagged."

So far so good. What happened + explanation = solved? Time to move on? Not so much.

• Healer: “ I also wasn’t in the room before you pulled. It’s called situational awareness.”
• (Insert simultaneous DPS "uh-ohs" here)
• Tank : (insert derogatory, accusatory “fail” comment here)
• Healer: (insert derogatory, accusatory “no-u-fail” comment here)
• Jarr: “Let’s just regroup and move on.”
• Tank has left the group.
• Healer: “What a fail tank baby.”
• Requeued to find a Tank

Let’s pick this apart and get into the Jarr zen mentality. Let’s avoid the FPB and do the right thing.

Keep your mouth shut!
In most wipe cases it’s evident what caused it. Tank pulls too much. Healer didn’t keep up. DPS pulled agro. Disconnects. Lag. You name it. There is no need to point it out. Sit quietly take your rez or walk-back and move on.

However if you’re one of those folks that must open your pie hole (though I’d strongly advise against it), then …

Consider how you say what you need to say
In our example, Mr. Tank set the completely negative tone with the opening salvo. Automatically the healer is in a defensive position. Keep your comments positive or at least neutral. Here are some examples.

“Why didn’t you heal me?” vs “Ouch! What happened?”

“Didn’t know you were pulling the whole damn room!” vs “Sorry, I wasn’t prepared for that. If you’re going to pull big, just let me know.”

Suck it up and fess up
We’re human (despite someone’s accusations of cyborg infiltration). We make mistakes sometimes. If you mess up, then say so. Apologize if something went awry, even if it wasn’t entirely your fault. Again some examples for roles:

• Tank: “Sorry guys. I lost that dude somehow.”
• Healer: “Whoops! Sorry ‘bout that. Rez incoming.”
• DPS: “You guys suck! Scrape me up!”
Whoa! Get outta here you dime a dozen deeps! /kick

• DPS: “Ouchie! That hurt. Sorry ‘bout that. Can I get a rez please.”
Much better.

Intent & Tone
Again, before you open your mouth. Think!  Then perhaps think again.  What are you trying to accomplish or gain by speaking? Are you after knowledge to prevent or remedy problems going forward or simply trying to assign blame? If it’s the later then follow my advice and just STFU. If it’s the former, then move on to your tone.

Consider what you say and perhaps even to whom (party vs. whisper) before you say it. Think about how you would react if your question/statement/accusation were tossed at you.

I’m again focusing on five-man content here (because it’s largely all I do currently), but these same attitudes, mentalities, and approaches can be applied to larger raids or even (GASP!) real life.

Seewhutididthere? Sensei Jarr has just taken you down the path of enlightment without you realizing it. You’re welcome, Grasshopper. /bow

May 4, 2010

The tank said what?!?!?

"I picked Tank for the faster queues." 

* Cue the FPB *

Keys you should not be tanking:
  • You don't know what Defense is
  • You don't know what your defense cap for heroics is (535)
  • You have less health than your healer
  • You think that PvP gear is tanking gear
Gotta love the LFG tool. It truly brings out the tools.  It's great that it's pushing interest in tanking.  It just sucks when it brings tanks that don't know how to tank and only selected that role in order to insta-queue.

Apr 19, 2010

Tanking: Do the right thing

Yeah, Facepalm Bear is back again. This time it’s the tanks’ turns in the barrel. I’ve been rolling healbot for frosties more so than tanking, simply because I find it frankly easier and less stressful. If I’m not healing I’ve been on the mage shooting fire around. From either perspective I’ve seen some doozies of fails when it comes to tanking. Granted most times things go smoothly. But when they screw up, it’s usually big time.

So let see what the FPB has to say today.

Don’t Be a Hero: Even if you’re pushing 50k health, there is no need to try to pull the entire instance in one shot. Pull two groups, no problem. Going larger than that rarely goes without someone pulling agro. The best example of this was a bright and shiny T-10 pally tank over 50k health that decided to pull the entire first hall of Utgarde Keep. Things went well…right up to the point he got stunned and his avoidance went all to crap. No matter how big your life pool is, you are not invulnerable. If you still feel the need to pull big than at least…

Speak the F^~% Up!: If you insist on pulling big, open your damn mouth and let the party know. This is important for two reasons. First it let’s you round them up and the DPS can hold off until you’ve got them where you want them. Secondly (and more importantly) it puts your healer in the right mindset. Your healer can be preventatively healing for the expected damage rather than getting taken by surprise by the fact that your tank just ran out of range. It is so much easier to heal big when you start ahead of it than to scramble and catch up. And if the healer draws agro due to your “heroic antics” then you are nine kinds of fail.

Control the Locale: Pop quiz. By show of hands, who wants a fast heroic run? OK good. Who wants to move along briskly with few snags? Good, good. Ok so where are you fighting the following?

• The Commander boss in Heroic Nexus
• The statue & mojo mobs before the Collossus/Elemental boss in Gun’drak
• The all-caster groups in Hellfire Citadel Ramparts

If you answered any of these “Where they stand” then you need to go back to basic tank training (or at least not queue tank for a while). More often than not, where you fight is going to dictate if you’re going to have surprises. Fears will happen. Melee DPS needs to be behind their targets to be most effective.  Too close and they could pull additional groups.

By bringing the mobs to you rather than you running to them, you control these factors.  You lessen the risk of pulling more that you wanted. Remember, as the tank if you have to scramble because of positioning, you failed. Even if you save it, you still failed.

The Key to Smooth:The key to a smooth run is simple. It’s not what you pull or how many. It’s all in how you do it. A little communication and a little bit of forethought goes a long way. They definitely go further than having to scramble. Don’t get complacent because the higher gear on most folks these days grants them higher survivability. Do it right. Do it smooth. Be the example. Be the tank. Make the Bear happy will ya?

Apr 14, 2010

Let it all BURN!

I’ve been setting the World on fire lately! I’ve recently started playing my mage again to trying to rid him of his few remaining blues and outdated trinkets. I’d forgotten how truly fun a fire spec can be. There are just so many things that make them fun.
  • The satisfying FWOOSH! of ignite after a crit that would make Richard so proud.
  • The fireworks of explosions after tagging four mobs with Living Bomb, making it look like the Fourth of July. Enough internal combustion to make Vael and Geddon smile.
  • Instant cast Pyroblasts and that big ball of goodness is always cool. Hot streak rules!
Fire mages are just too much fun. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Arcane may be still king of the meters. Frost may be the PvP defending champ. But fire is just way cooler…er hotter.  Come on! You’re hurling frickin’ fire around for Elune’s sake!

It took a while for me to figure out how to get decent DPS numbers out of my spec, but now that I’ve got it down ALL WILL BURN! Muhahaha!

“I’M CASTING FLAMESTRIKE!!!! Ooooooo, you're on fire!!!!” 

Caster DPS LFG, baby.

Apr 8, 2010

Black Belt Test - PASSED!

Nearly four years of hard work. Three months of study, preparation, and practice. More study. More practice. It all came to a head on what would be the most challenging day of my life.

April 3, 2010 – my black belt test.

It was brutally hard. I thought I had mentally prepared myself for just how hard it would be. I was wrong. The workout was tougher than anything I’d ever done before. Once the instructors had pushed us to and beyond our limits, we then had to concentrate and execute our katas (forms) and defense techniques. Ninety self-defense techniques, six open-hand katas, and four weapon katas.

Think about that for a moment. Think of the hardest test you’ve ever had to take, either in school or professionally. Now think about having to do that after having run a marathon. My body was screaming for recovery, for a time-out (not happening). I couldn’t focus because I was so tired, so sweaty, so thirsty. I made mistakes simply because it was so hard to focus.

After the exhausting workout and the tension filled practical test, the real fun begins. Three minutes of full contact sparring with the instructors and their assisting black belts. Three minutes straight - no stops - with a new instructor swapping in every 30 seconds. Remember all that exhaustion from earlier? Yeah it’s still there.

Before the testing, I originally thought to myself “Once we get to sparring, it’s almost over. Just three more minutes and you’re home, Ant.” A silver lining of sorts. Yeah…not so much.

When it was my time to spar, the silver lining mentality went out the window. My only thoughts were “Just survive.” I thought I could keep track of how many I had sparred with and how many to go. Yeah…no again. It was all a blur. I got a good beat down. I may have had a good shot or two in there, but for the most part I got pounded. I got one decent (though weak) shot to the head on one of the instructors. Part of me cheered inside. The other parts went “What the heck did you do that for!?!? Now he’s gonna tear us up!”

I didn’t give up though. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. My helmet came off. Keep going. Goggles came down…tore ‘em off. It ended in much the same way it went: with me defensively on my back just trying to survive. When time was called I was still tensed waiting for the next opponent. It took a few seconds to realize no more were coming.

As I stood up, it still didn’t click. It wasn’t until one of the instructors (the same one I got that headshot on) said something that that it made it settle in. "Welcome to the black belt club."  It was done.

I've passed my black belt test. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It had to be. Otherwise it wouldn’t mean as much. I truly feel different now. I have a renewed sense of confidence. I have a tremendous feeling of pride. There are few things in my life that I’d consider as much as an achievement as this. So if you notice a bit of a swagger in my step or my chin a bit higher, understand that I’ve earned it. And it’s something that will stay with me forever. It’s something that no one can take away. And I’m really looking forward to my boys (and hopefully the girl some day) walking this same path and feeling that same pain, pride, and accomplishment.

Now if I could just get the soreness out of my legs, I’d be all set. Five days later and I’m still feeling it. Then again, it is another proud reminder of it all. Advil? Nah, I’m good. Let me relish this for a just bit longer.

Mar 26, 2010

Jace Hall rules

Jace is one of those guys in the media that just makes you proud to be a gamer. Here are two of his tunes that I now regularly listen to while playing.

I Play WoW


Jan 11, 2010

We should have seen it coming

X-Com Directors Log – 19 April 1999
We should have seen it coming.

It started with a typical detection. A small UFO was heading in to the US over the Atlantic. Then a larger blip appeared from the Gulf. Then the Canadian skies parted with two more large craft. Then another biggie from the Pacific. They were pinging all over the sky. Hell, even Moses didn’t see that much red when he parted the sea.

Interceptors scrambled. I ordered the small downed over the Atlantic. Down she went, lost to the sea floor. We have bigger fish to fry. I ordered the flight groups split to the larger craft with strict standoff orders. Pursuit and report, only. They tracked the first two to their landings.

Ranger One was deployed to the first landing. Breach and recon teams worked to perfection. Liberal use of the aliens' grenades made sure of that.

Flight crews turned the Ranger around in record time. The wrenches need to be recognized for that. Second landing was bigger. Probably a warship en route to terrorize another city. Not on my watch. More intense fire fights, but zero casualties. Thank God for the new personal armor the tech boys created.  A round for them as well.

During the two recoveries, one of the Interceptors had tracked what we believe to be a supply vessel to its landing the Florida panhandle. Int-One was ordered to CAP over the landing zone until the Ranger could be turned around. Again, I’ve gotta buy those wrenches a round on me.

Then it happened. I can still hear it in my head. “Interceptor 1-1 to Command. Sir! They’re heading underground! They’re heading underground!” Murmurs quickly spread through the Command & Ops Center. I ordered our satellites into position. Well I’ll be damned if the thermal scans didn’t confirm our worst fears. Those damned aliens built a forward post right under our bloody noses.

Global RTB ordered and base lockdown status initiated. No one is getting in here. The Ranger One team was given two days R&R. No need to rush this. Following that, one full day of prep and briefings. One more day to get the operatives rested and focused.

Then we launched. Surface penetration went perfectly. Breach and recon teams swept the base with tactical precision and efficiency. The aliens were scattered through the base, but quickly dispatched. They picked their way in to the central command center. Breach teams lined up, smokes and chokes at the ready.

Then it happened.

A blast of purple light shot down the lift shaft and turned – I mean 90 f*#&ing degreest turned – and hit the squad leader square in the chest. The blast decimated the room and instantly incinerated the three operatives inside. Then a second blast right behind it streaked through the now sundered door and hit the back wall, killing the other three operatives holding position outside. Before the recon teams could even move to support their fallen comrades, a third blast came from behind. Three blasts, 9 kills, 3 seconds.

We should have seen it coming. It was all a trap. We’d been too successful, too over-confident and fell victim to our own successes.

The skies filled with UFOs were the first lure and we bit down hard. They allowed us to take their larger craft - a larger bait which we swallowed whole. They let us pick off their base’s interior sentries and fodder. Hell, even their base was a throw away by the way they nuked the crap out of it. They leveled the damn place and all of our men in one fell swoop.

They didn’t need to come to us. They knew we’d come to them. And we blindly accommodated them.

We should have seen it coming. Now I sit approving personnel requisition forms, scheduling training regiments, and writing letters home to the families of the fallen.  And my bottle of scotch is far too low to accomodate all of this.
Yeah. I should have seen it coming.

If you've never played X-Com UFO Defense, I highly recommend it. It is one of the deepest and most rewarding strategy games and still one of my all time favorites.  Plus you can nab the first (and best) off of Steam for just $5.  You have no excuse.