Sunday, August 30, 2009

Incentive Schemes

Being the uber-nerdy creature that I am, I ask many questions about WoW that are similar to many of the approaches an investigator might take when faced with a new experiment. What are the demographics of the game overall? What about per faction? What about per race or per class? Do more Republicans play Alliance or Horde? Do more mothers play healing classes? How many hours does the average person play, and what do they do during that time? How many play in order to rule the economy, simply role-play, PvP, or push raid content? And if they do all four, what is the greatest factor that keeps them playing? How much do game visuals factor into player happiness? The players that claim to have no interest in the lore or realism of the game, would they react positively, negatively, or not at all to a decrease in game animation and skins quality?

I'm sure all of this information and more exists somewhere (deep in Blizzard's vault, no doubt), and like true monopolizers of information, they use it to their advantage and profit, hence the homogenization of the game over the years. But beyond the money-making strategies, there is also a wealth of data regarding socioeconomic concepts, namely incentives. (There is also a dash of disease dynamic research as well.) What keeps players doing what they do? What is the greatest drive for raiders to down that boss? Glory? Fortune? Satisfaction in a job well done? And what can be done to keep raiders motivated after 100, 150, 200 wipes?

I've dabbled in incentives before, as have all raid leaders. A common theme I've found is the promise of either some well-known Vent voice or a non-existent Vent voice to sing as a reward for getting the act together and downing the boss. I've also witnessed a lot of "I will buy you all something" incentive schemes. However, the problem with these tactics is that they are essentially empty. No one will buy 24 other people scattered across the country ice cream. I've heard many offers of song, but only once have they come through (and it was, indeed, hilarious). The "I'll post a picture of something" tactic has positive results, but I'd like to see more data to many any conclusions. Those are all positive incentives - the raiders get something extra if they do well. But what about negative incentives? Does the fear of losing something extra if they do poorly inspire them to do better?

Tonight will be our fourth night of serious work on Firefighter. On Tuesday (the night I was out due to latency), the raid hit the enrage again with a kill only lost due to lack of DPS (and no, I do not delude myself). On Wednesday, we went back and were terrible - we actually called the raid early because of pure frustration. There was no doubt there were many stupid mistakes (myself included: Hmm can I sneak between those two mines? Nope!), so the officers are inacting a negative incentive for raiders: For every death due to avoidable mistake - mines, spinning up, standing in fire, etc. - you must pay a fee of 500g, 1000g, 2000g.

Will this work? The officers claim it did when they were working towards the Immortal in the final weeks before 3.1. This is a step-below a certain /gkick in price, but still, how much does the average raider cherish his cache of make-believe money? I have about 9000g scattered among my toons, and while I already get angry at myself for stupid mistakes, then promptly correct them next attempt, the thought of loosing some of my gold towards this endevor does inspire me to keep focused. I'm also sure my focus will be doubled when the first person messes up and forced to pay the fine. But will it work all night, and for every range of bankroll?

I guess we'll see.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Character Work

I've been a bit rusty on my RP stories lately. I have the ideas in mind, but the jumble of thoughts on raiding, DPS, and the daily grind has them scattered and aimless. So, while I only read one RP-blog dutifully (Lady Tauren FTW), I do enjoy going through other's links to find more inspiration for my character's back story, particularly since I think I need more work thinking about aspects that are not directly seen through the game interface. This is from Warpriestess as a character building exercise; Steps 1-4 are listed here, Steps 5-8 will come later.

Step 1
Write five sentences about your character. Each sentence should be about a different part of your character’s life.

1. Neg dislikes trivial items and actions when there is work to be done.
2. At five years old, she watched her mother's family be slaughtered by harpies.
3. Her relationships with her pets are mostly unspoken.
4. If she has the option, she will refuse to work with the Forsaken or the Blood Elves out of principle.
5. While Neg is relatively young, she looks far older since she rarely exhibits emotions.

Step 2
Add two more sentences to each of the above on the same topics.

1. When there is a goal in mind, she will work tirelessly until it is completed. To waste a second to distractions infuriates her.
2. All young Tauren would go to her mother's clan to begin their rites of strength. She only survived the harpy raid by hiding behind a bag of ore.
3. Neg's mute relationship with her pets is not the result of lack of communication, but perfect observation. They do not need to speak in order to convey intent and information.
4. To defy the will of the Earth Mother is the greatest sacrilege Neg could imagine, so to upset the balance of nature is nothing short of disgusting to her. The Forsaken's existence alone is repulsive, and the Blood Elves' greed for power is too reminiscent of the Alliance for her taste.
5. She believes it is her memories of the days before the Horde formed that make her appear older than she really is. However, it doesn't help that she is one of the few non-healing female Tauren still active.

Step 3
Write a single sentence in opposition to the above sentences.

1. She has a small collection of memorabilia that she doesn't like to admit.
2. Her only surviving elder is her paternal grandmother.
3. Neg has only tamed one creature in opposition to its will.
4. She has only ever trusted one Forsaken with her life, and when he did not betray her trust, she became more open minded towards him.
5. She can outrun most of her peers.

Step 4
Add two more sentences to each of the above on the same topics.

1. While she finds self-decoration uninteresting, Neg does have a small cache of beautiful feathers, leaves, and other items that caught her eye over her travels. She considers it her small window of natural beauty when she is confined to more unsavory locals.
2. She wonders how life would be different raised in a stationary clan. The thought of so many families in one place overwhelms her.
3. While she was instantly attracted to the dark blue Soulflayer, its will was rebellious, and it defied their supposedly-mutual understandings many times. It was the only pet Neg ever released out of frustration.
4. As her understanding of the Forsaken increased, she felt increasingly more pity for them. However, she determined she could never fully be able to empathize with their existence, and would sooner take her own life than be reduced to such a state.
5. Growing up in the Barrens gifted her with the love of racing across the savanna. It was a skill that parent Tauren encouraged due to the rampaging centaur.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Which Neg Rages At Her Computer

Typically, I'm a very calm (if not boring) WoW player. I stare at my screen, move the keys and mouse, maybe adjust my legs around to keep circulation up. To disengage from a constant four-hour view of raid, I have a 30-gallon freshwater fish tank directly to my right that I can watch to keep me alert. I mutter expletives to myself for a myriad of reasons, but I'm mostly silent if I'm not provoked into speaking over Vent. So in a room full of gamers, I should think I wouldn't be remarkable in the slightest.

Unless I rage.

I must have been channeling a certain blueberry last night, as honestly, I can't recall a time I was more frustrated at what was happening at my screen. I lagged out, twice, in Trial of the Crusador; once during the one-shot of the Twin Valkyrs. And I couldn't figure out how to fix it.

I restarted my computer, turned off some of my heavy-memory addons. No luck. Behind me, the Boy commented that even Diablo was lagging a bit. We've had both games running at the same time without issues before, so we knew our bandwidth wasn't the problem. I prodded him further about any background apps he had running. He told me to stay calm -_-

The fact of the matter is I hate sitting out because of an outstanding issue I have no control over. I've mentioned before about my impatience on such matters. Even worse, I hate sitting out on nights I have every desire to raid. I had no interest in the loot - I had motivation to see the new encounter, sure - but I needed scant in Ulduar. But, like most Tuesdays, I'm in the raiding mood, I need my hit of fresh instance, just to keep me going for the week! Yes, my name is Neg, and I am addicted to raiding.

So, once I confessed to the issue and consequently sat, I left raid and played in some battlegrounds for awhile (lagged), then jumped over to my baby shaman to finish up some quests (and lagged). I was in a foul mood - the Boy even suggested we go watch some TV while he rubbed my feet. So, we did. There was an hour and a half left for raid, 28 guildees were on, I told the GM to text me if needed, I went off to spend some quality time with the Boy. And not even the footrubs eased my mood.

I take this game too seriously, methinks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another straw

It's a silly matter really. When I first heard of the new legendary coming from Icecrown, my first reaction was "Legendary Stat-Stick, wooooo -_-" Yes, I was happy a Legendary would specifically be limited to the Hunters and DKs (unlike that bow), but at the same time I disliked the further depreciation of the orange gear that started with Sunwell. Two Legendaries, back-to-back again? This one, nothing more than a showpiece on a Hunter's back? Hunters were deserving, there was no opposing thought in my mind, since Kil'Jaeden essentially went the way of Kel'Thuzud 1.0 (and let's not even touch the first time a rogue picked up that beauty to "match" his glaives). But, really, a legendary stat-stick?

Then, it turned out to be a joke. An old-school joke, prominent in the day, but calcified and forgotten now: "It's a Hunter weapon." "But, sir, it's a shield-" "HUNTER WEAPON."

We've experienced Ghostcrawler's attempts at jokes before. Recall Yogg's speed-kill achievement of 22 minutes? The 31 bosses in Icecrown? Those were broad jokes, not aimed at any specific player base. But this one called out the Hunters, something I didn't think they had the balls to do considering the homogenation they've enforced. They poked fun at one of the most emotionally-charged classes of this game (which, leads me to wonder, the perecentage of women players per class...), and then shrugged it off. I'm less angry about the lack of a new Hunter legendary than I am about Blizzard's attempt at comedy. Because that was just stupid.


Pruning the blogroll

Miscellaneous subtractions and additions:

You other two-month'ers, well, I've said it before, I enjoy your blogs considerably, so shape up, eh? I'm making an exception, but I make no promises come that three-month mark.

  • Mania's Arcania - How foolish of me not to link this wonderful hunter resource long ago! I've used Petopia for ages :3
  • OutDPS - Because a clean source of theorycrafting is always welcome

Sunday, August 23, 2009

How to be a Good Raiding Grunt (as told by a former Raid Leader)

In tribute to hitting the enrage with 30% left on Firefighter's Phase 4 (abet post-nerf, but alas, what can ya do), I've decided to outline how I've noticed I've changed in the transition from Raid Leader to Raid Grunt, and also what Raid Officers are looking for in their raiders, such that others might improve their raid demeanor. It's a difficult personality to assume if some of the traits are not innate, but I assure you, some of the simplest ways of impressing your raid leaders come easily. You just need to learn how to control yourself.
This is a no-brainer. Have your reagents, your mats, your consumables, your awareness. If this means doing dailies for an hour before raid in order to buy what you need of the AH, farming for the mats for food and flasks during the day, or simply retrieving the materials from the guild bank, so be it. Always have it done before invites go out. It may be simple enough to ask a fellow raider for a spare flask, a while it may seem like an innocent offense, officers do note it, and those instances tally up.

Additionally, know the fights and what you will be working on. Watch the movies, know the encounter. While each progressive night is a learning experience, it will always be to your benefit to not go in blind. If you are unaware of certain nuances of a fight that may be particular to your guild, ask questions from a more experienced person. Do it in class/role channels, do it in tells, even in Vent if necessary, but ask questions so you are not called out for something you should already know. Which leads me to...
For the love of the Earth Mother, so much pain and frustration can be prevented if only people were to communicate more. Make sure you know your role, and that your colleagues know theirs. Discuss in channels and tells who will be Marking what for a multiple target encounter. If there is any shadow of a doubt about which way you are running, ask a raid leader. If you die, make sure somebody else can take care of any important function you were slated to do.

But I stress that good communication does not cease with the encounter. The number one offense no raider can get away with is AFKing without informing an officer. By doing so, you not only potentially waste your own time by any ill-consequence of your ninja'd AFK, but the time of 24 other players. If it is an non-life threatening emergency, make a brief announcement, and tend to it; if it is a true emergency, hearth out while informing an officer. And there is no excuse for the lack of hearthing - it is ONE click. Before an encounter, everything is better communicated in chat as opposed to vent, as the officers have record of such things as AFKs and questions asked. During an encounter, Vent is best to make sure points get across, since your hands should be too busy dealing with your spells to type. But that said....
One of the most frustrating aspects of trying to lead a raid is dealing with a multitude of Vent chatter when people are trying to communicate vital information to completing an encounter. I know I've had to bite my tongue many a time when I felt it necessary to cry out in Vent some bit of information. Once upon a time, that was what I had to do, and now I'm trying to get used to not doing it. If you are used to it, there is no doubt that it is a difficult habit to break. However, you have to recognize that the vast majority of what people want to say during an encounter is trivial.

If you are not leading the raid, you have no reason to talk casually in Vent during the encounter. When you die, people will notice it - you do not have to say "Oh, shit" or "Fuck me" to make it known. You died, probably stupidly, okay, that's fine. And guess what? Instead of making unnecessary noise over Vent, potentially disrupting the communications of the DR rotation, you could have typed that in raid chat instead. Now that you are dead, you have plenty of time to type! Unnecessary sound bites are one of the greatest culprits of Vent clutter. Nothing useful comes from random expletives shouted over Vent. You can curse all you want in the comfort of your own home - why do you feel it necessary to push down your PTT key at the same time? As a raiding grunt, you should speak over Vent only if asked to, and that brings me to...
So a healer didn't get a heal off in time, so lag prevented you from getting off that spell, so you forgot they changed the rotation this attempt. Oops. Of course it is frustrating to have some stupid mistake cause another wipe, but you losing your head over it will solve nothing. When an officer asks you what happened, they don't want a long winded answer. In fact, that is the last thing they want. Simply state what happened, then shut up. In fact, for the vast majority of the times, all you need to say (and what they want to hear) is: "I was stupid. It won't happen again." I don't care how good your are at this game, I don't care how good you think you are at this game, you will fuck up, and you can't blame it on somebody else. Accept it, fix it, and move on. Trying to cast the fault on somebody else will get the raid nowhere, and only piss off the people who are working hard to make this a successful raid.
Raid awareness is an exhausting task, there is no doubt about it. You are expected to know what is going on around you, who is around you, the status of your pets and/or abilities, and maintain a spell rotation. Rinse and repeat that about 30 times on the same encounter, and you pretty much just want to weep from the sheer amount of concentration you have exerted over the past several hours. However, it cannot be argued that tunnel vision is one of the worst habits you can get into as a raider.

My biggest form of advice to prevent that is to set some tasks on 'automatic': Be able to do your spell rotation in your sleep, such that you don't have to maintain an eye on your cooldowns. Get used to a scanning rotation of certain aspects so you can maintain them. Debuffs still up? Good. Anybody near me that shouldn't be? Nope. Is the boss about to do an ability that I need to be aware of? In 10 seconds! How's my pet health? I would say I look at my shots and abilities about 30% of my encounter time, whereas another 15% is concerned with my pet, 20% with the boss itself, and then 35% with my immediate vicinity. Of course these attention-percentages shift depending on the encounter, but any time you notice you are focusing 100% on solely one aspect of your play, then you are doing something wrong, and it needs to be remedied. If you screw up because of it, fess up and fix it.
Some things in this game you cannot help, but as long as you are doing what you should be doing, and doing such with the maximum amount of effort, then no one can say that you were in the wrong. Know your class' restrictions and abilities, and don't skirt duty when it is asked of you, even when you are uncertain of your performance. If you are told to kite the mob, then pew pew and move! As long as the encounter is a success, and you have no guilt as to your own performance, then you should be proud of your boss kill.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Kalimdor of My Heart (SS heavy)

All the changes they announced with Cataclysm and that disgustingly cheap trailer have put me in a foul mood with regard to the Azeroth I know and love. It appears that every zone will be revamped and redone, and while that's all well and nice, I dislike not being able to go back to my "childhood", so to speak. So I've decided to make a compilation of my favorite places in Azeroth, so I will always have them.

First, Thousand Needles. This zone is particularly dear to my heart because it is nearly a tauren-exclusive zone and rich in lore.

Additionally, I do love to watch the wyvern nest.

I've always been left wanting a bit for the motivation behind the Grimtotem, but some part of me always wondered a bit if they were recruiting.

Oh, Arikara, the spirit of Vengeance incarnate. Several patches ago they removed the animation unique to her (when summoned as a hunter pet, she appears in a puff of smoke and thunder), so now she is nothing so special as any other windserpent. Still, her story was a fun one: She was seeking to kill Cairne in retribution for the changes to tauren culture his governmanship brought. I'd sooner have Cairne die to Arikara than his current fate...

My favorite place in the Needles. I found this lore-filled cave when I was working on Loremaster of Kalimdor, and instantly fell in love.

I always wondered who camped here, and where they were now...

Oh, the Shimmering Flats, aka the Bermuda Triangle of Azeroth. Unicorn power?

Gravity in Azeroth has never failed to amaze me. That racing harness has been swinging for some time now.

What happened in this tauren settlement, besides the obvious basilisk take over? It looked like such a promising place, at least at one time.

Feralas, by far my favorite zone in Azeroth. Recall when you had to fish in the Veridant River in order to train fishing?

The ruins were a source of perpetual fascination for me. A history of tauren and night elf cohabitation is somewhere lost in these woods.

Who didn't love the hippogryphs and the hidden pool to the south?

I recall escorting a mechanical chicken through these caves. Feralas loves these wonderful moon beams...

Oh, the perils of the high mountain pass leading to the Twin Colossi. A sharp turn left you toppling!

The Rockbiter must love the taste of these crystal-infused rocks!

I remember grinding the harpies in north Feralas as I leveled and retaining an appreciation for the beauty of the ruins they inhabited.

To the top of the Colossus! Chat with strange night elves that sell you parachutes to go down with!

The portals to the Emerald Dream existed long before Wyrmrest was even programed.

I don't have much for Felwood, but I can't deny it has been one of my favorite corrupted zones. It didn't have the same doom-and-gloom as the Plaguelands, since it wasn't concerned with the destruction of human settlements, but the inversion of the natural world. Recall when this path to the Horde flight point was non-existant, and you had to go around the fallen tree to find it?

Of course, no hunter's memory of Felwood is complete without the Ancients. Destroyed 10,000 years ago when the Burning Legion first marched on Hyjal, they send out young hunters to cleanse the world of the demons that still walk among the unsuspecting denizens of Azeroth. I remember well my excitement of finishing the quest, and receiving the bow that I still hold above many others. There can be no doubt that questline helped make me the hunter I am today.

And finally, my heart of hearts, the Barrens. Every toon I have ever rolled leveled through the Barrens. I know the questlines by memory. I have seen every NPC, every nook and cranny of the serengeti. Neg was born and raised in the Barrens; it is her lifeblood.

The oases were the flash of green and fertility, and who didn't sneak past the centaur from time to time to indulge in their lush waters?

Above all, I think, I will miss my Barrens. If there was anything so constant in the game, it was that zone.

Friday, August 21, 2009


These things really should scale... So yeah, if you keep up with that awesome blog known as Mend Pet, you saw I won a prize in the Need More Stable Slots campaign (because while PETA is stupid, SPCA is actually good). Thanks Brajana and Pixelated Executioner for the Sandbox Tiger!

I support the above conversation! The faction would be called the Fur- er.... the um, Independents! Yeah! <_<;

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Faction Champions: Hunter How-To

This week we get our introduction to the Faction Champions in the Coliseum. This 25 vs. 10 fight was not as simple as it first appeared on the PTR. Like PvP, all CC and ability impairments have shorter durations and increased diminishing returns, so this is not a simple CC and burn one down at a time fight.

While it would be nice to assign each individual with a mob to CC, in reality, it is considerably more hectic than that, what with the 10 Champions also CCing you. For this fight, I strongly recommend having Silencing Shot (despite the ArPen spec saying otherwise) to interrupt heals and making some macros to help you out. The ones I made:

/tar Cat
/cast Scare Beast
(or a simple one liner of /cast [target=Cat] Scare Beast)

/tar Alyssia Moonstalker
/cast Viper Sting
(/cast [target=Alyssia Moonstalker] Viper Sting)

While we decided the hunters in the raid would be responsible for the hunter and her pet, she still makes a nice mana battery since she was one of the last to be killed. We kept her chain trapped as well as possible (I saw her resist many of mine) and her pet chain feared. We burned down the healers first (priest -> shaman -> druid) before working on the high DPS.

Watch that your Hunter's Mark and Serpent Sting are not dispelled (soooo annoying), and pew pew!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Luck comes in threes

And I get new shoulders tonight! Wooo! Yay, welfare epics!

I am not single...

... but Neg is. She likes smooth tribal music, long walks in the woods, and poking living things with a stick.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Thorim Hard Mode Vid (Hunter POV)

Watch more videos of WoW

We downed the big handsome hulk hard mode three weeks ago, and I think this is our second kill. It shows some the basic movement strategies for range, though the guy has some of his graphics down, so it makes seeing the Blizzard a bit difficult. Also, he's a clicker, and yes, he deserves all the grief we give him :P His UI is not as good as the last guy's, but all considered, it is a much improvement from his old one.

I recommend turning on some nice music - no audio here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thoughts on Cataclysm

As MMOChamp posted and most of the world now knows, a lot of new twists and turns are planned for the next expansion, and I'm not sure what to think...

First of all, they are revamping a lot of old Azeroth, and while part of me cheers at the thought of revisiting all the places I loved, another part of me fears what those places will become. Yes, while flying through Kalimdor and searching all the nooks and crannies, recalling all the forgotten lore lost over the years to the passage of time sounds wonderful, I fear what the onslaught of money-eager Blizzard will do to these places. Thousand Needles, flooded? Orgimmar, torn in two like a repeat of Silvermoon? The Barrens, the heart of the Horde, split asunder? Of course world events always bring about devastation, but do I really want my heart of go along with that?

And while it looks like the races have been finalized, I'm not so sure I like the thought of the new race/class combinations. Great, Tauren get paladins and priests... Prepare for the onslaught of many a Holy Cow joke. Human/undead hunters? I suppose it was seen coming with the South Park episode, but neither race has shown any affinity for nature...

Then of course, there is the lore. While I'm all for Thrall coming back in a big way, I just can't imagine him being the Guardian of Tirisfal. I mean, really? Where the FUCK did that come from? And while I'm sure there were some internal pressures that could lead to Garrosh being the new leader of the Horde, Thrall couldn't have been THAT desperate, could he?! I mean, obviously there is no Tauren love here, if the hot-tempered Orc has some conspiracy theory going against Cairne, I know there has to be some massive contingency of Tauren out there that want to defect to indepenency. (I know the remainder of the Highmountain clan do...)

And all encompassing this, is this feeling of being rushed. The expansion hasn't even been out for a year, and we already have a clear idea about what will happen in the next segment of the game. The speed of everything is exhausting - what happened to relaxing into content, building up the anticipation of a a massive endboss kill? Patch 3.2 brought many a change I didn't want to see, and I can't say I am very happy. The only motivation I have to keep playing is to see Arthas, but I have a bad feeling it won't live up to my expectations. I want another Illidan, another Kil'Jaeden, another big boss at the end that we have to struggle to see, to build up the anticipation and gratification as we approach. And so far, nothing about this expansion suggests I will get that again.

I think I can say for certain now that Wrath of the Lich King will be my last World of Warcraft expansion. As much as I love this game, I don't think I can move on to see it changed so. I'm tired of being hurdled foward to end game content without feeling like I've earned it. Hard Modes are fun an all, but they take away all the joy of the final boss. Algalon was great to finally see, but a only one-hour window drains away motivation to actually work on him.

I just don't feel like I'm working towards anything any more but frivilous toys, and that's not what I play this game for.

The Boy's New Job

My fiance and I were discussing his new position:

Him: It's totally unlike my last job.

Me: How so?

Him: The only person that does any actual work is my boss. Everyone under him just tends to him.

Me: So you're like an assistant?

Him: Sorta, except I'm the only one that is a government employee - the rest are all contractors. I'm being trained to take care of smaller projects so my boss doesn't have to.

Me: So, you're sorta like a Mini-boss?

Him: Pretty much.

At this point, I started erupting into giggles.

Me: So your boss is Kael...

Him: And I'm Master Engineer Telonicus, obviously!

We're nerds.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Raiding Hunter Loot in 3.2

My original idea for this was such a considerable success that I figure I had better repeat it (and the requests helped, as well). I admit this coming late due to my extreme reluctance for 3.2 to come at all.

Fortunately, the Trial of the Crusader patch has considerably less loot than Ulduar, however, it is rather confusing with the new "hard mode" levels of the instances and two names for the same item. Hopefully, I can help sort this all out.

All new items will be listed here (except for the unremarkable 5-man loot), but only the third level of the tier piece will be listed. Tier gear is weird this time. To get the base level (232) tier can be brought with either 30 (shoulders, gloves) or 50 (helm, chest, pants) Emblems of Triumph. Triumph only drops from the new 10 and 25 mans, and are the reward for the heroic daily. The second level of tier gear (245) requires both 45 (shoulders, gloves) or 75 (helm, chest, pants) Triumph plus a Trophy of the Crusade. The Trophy drops in both 10 Heroic (?) and 25 man, but, just like a tier piece, there is only one per raid, not one per individual like a badge. The highest level of tier gear (258) can be acquired from turning in five Regalia of the Grand Protector, which only drops in heroic 25 man. Unlike all the other tier systems we have been used to, this one tier token will buy any tier piece, not just the chest like the icon might suggest.

Another complication is that there are multiple item levels of the same piece of gear. They have the same name, same base stats, and drop off the same boss, but they differ in the range of those stats based on what level of difficulty you kill the boss. For example, there is a gun that drops from the Twin Valkyrs 10 that has 35 agility, and the same gun drops from the Twin Valkyrs Hard that has 40 agility. There will be duplicates of this sort for nearly every item that drops from the normal bosses except for the loot from the Tribute Chest, which is available only on Heroic mode.

And finally, there is the issue of differing faction names for the same item. This makes listing the gear particularly annoying for me because I have to find both the Horde and Alliance equivalent. But I'll grit my teeth and bear it, just because I love (killing) you squishy Alliance so much :). I will also try my best not to rant about the differences in names between Horde and Alliance...

At the time of this posting, many of these items are not on Wowhead yet, so they are linked using the MMOChamp system. I will change the links once Wowhead updates their Hard Mode loots.

Coif/Helm of the Brooding Dragon - 75 Emblems of Triumph
Helm of the Silver Ranger/Sunreaver's Ranger Helm (232/245) - Faction Champions 10 (Heroic)
Windrunner's Headpiece of Triumph/Triumph (258)

Neg's Notes: The tier piece is the clear winner, though the off set isn't bad if the hit is needed. The badge one.. eh, I'm not a fan of haste, even when seductively paired with ArPen.

Ancient Pendant of Arathor - Crusador/Confessor Cache 5 Heroic
Collar of Unending Torment/Ceaseless Torment (232/245)- Northrend Beasts 10 (Heroic)
Charge of the Eredar/ Demon Lord (245/258) - Jaraxxus 25 (Heroic)

Neg's Notes: The 5-man drop is just a little bit below Broach of Wailing Night, whereas the NB10 drop trades a bit more crit and AP for the ArPen - it will be nice to snag on Heroic, certainly. While the Jaraxxus drop is tempting for the socket, once again, icky haste.

Pauldrons/Epaulets of the Devourer - 45 Emblems of Triumph
Pauldrons of Concealed Loathing - Confessor's Cache 5 Heroic
Pauldrons of the Shadow Hunter/Timeless Hunter (232/245) - Anub'arak 10 (Heroic)
Windrunner's Spaulders of Triumph/Triumph (258)

Neg's Notes: The irony of a potential BiS being purchased for a mere 45 badges is not lost on me.. While the tier piece is considerably better this time around, it's not particularly great if you don't need the hit. I'm saving up my badges for the Pauldrons first.

Cloak of Serrated Blades/the Silver Covenant - Tribute Chest 10
Cloak/Drape of the Untamed Predator (245/258) - Northrend Beasts 25 (Heroic)
Sylvanas' Cunning/Vereesa's Dexterity - Tribute Chest 25

Neg's Notes: The cloaks are a tricksy thing. For one, some of these cloaks are only available if you are very good at the Tribute Run (i.e. one shot). Obviously the named cloak is where it's at, but the Tribute10 is a close comparison. The Beast25? Eh, haste....

Chestguard of the Ravenous Fiend - Champions Cache 5 Heroic
Cuirass/Breastplate of Cruel Intent (245/258) - Northrend Beasts 25 (Heroic)
Crusader's Dragonscale Breastplate - Leatherworking made
Windrunner's Tunic of Triumph/Triumph (258)

Neg's Notes: Once again, the tier chest and helm will make up your certain 2-piece... which also looks like maintaining the T8 set bonus will prove rather annoying...

Crusader's Dragonscale Bracers - Leatherworking made
Bracers/Armbands of the Northern Stalker (232/245) - Northrend Beasts 10 (Heroic)
Bracers of the Silent Massacre/Untold Massacre (245/258) - Faction Champions 25 (Heroic)

Neg's Notes: LW-made for the hit, Faction champions otherwise.

Gloves of the Dark Exile - Black Knight 5 Heroic
Windrunner's Handguards of Triumph/Triumph (258)

Neg's Notes: I snagged the 5-man gloves as soon as they dropped. Sadly, it doesn't look like we have many other options (unless there are some surprises yet), since, once again, the tier gloves are particularly weak when compared to the other tier pieces.

Waistguard/Belt of Deathly Dominion (245/258) - Anub'arak 25 (Heroic)

Neg's Notes: Talk about swimming in options. Fortunately, this is not a bad item in the slightest.

Leggings/Legguards of the Lurking Threat (245/258) - Anub'arak 25 (Heroic)
Windrunner's Legguards of Triumph/Triumph (258)

Neg's Notes: Whatever you can get, both are good. Tier would be a better priority to get that 4-piece, but the offset would make an acceptable filler piece until that time.

Warsong Poacher's/Sentinel Scouting Greaves (232/245) - Jaraxxus 10 (Heroic)
Greaves/Sabatons of Ruthless Judgment (245/258) - Twin Valkyrs 25 (Heroic)

Neg's Notes: As much as I appreciate memoralizing my favorite battleground on my ankles, that haste stands out. They have a lot of crit, but I'm going to go with the Valkyrs25 piece.

Band/Ring of Callous Aggression (245/258) - Faction Champions 25 (Heroic)
Planestalker Band/Signet - (232/245) - Jaraxxus 10 (Heroic)
Dexterous Brightstone Ring - 35 Emblems of Triumph

Neg's Notes: One of our other hunter is going for the badge ring for his first purchase. Eh, I suppose it's alright (*cough* haste *cough*), but the real gem here is the Planestalker.

Banner of Victory - Confessor's Cache 5 Normal
Death's Choice/Verdict (245/258) - Twin Valkyrs 25 (Heroic)
Shard of the Crystal Heart - 35 Emblems of Triumph
Mark of Supremacy - 35 Emblems of Triumph

Neg's Notes: Being stuck with the Mirror of Truth since time untold, I quickly snagged the 5-man trinket. The two badge trinkets are hit/haste, so I don't recommend them, but I do find it amusing that it took them this long to come out with a comparable trinket to Greatness. Yes, it is better (yay!) so you will no longer be stuck with a permanent i200 piece.

Stat Sticks
Marrowstrike - Confessor's Cache 5 Heroic
Attrition/Paragon's Breadth - Tribute Chest 10
Edge of Agony/Reckoning (232/245) - Twin Valkyrs 10 (Heroic)
Anguish/Fordragon Blades (232/245) - Anub'arak 10 (Heroic)
Fleshrender/Decimation - Tribute Chest 25
Twin's Pact/Lupine Longstaff (245/258) - Twin Valkyrs 25 (Heroic)
Hellion Glaive/Archon Glaive (245/258) - Anub'arak 25 (Heroic)

Neg's Notes: Like all stat sticks in my life, I can never get the one I need that doesn't have hit. Marrowstrike simply refuses to drop for me. Anyway, all the 10-man ones are out unless you are particularly desperate (like one of our other hunters, who is eyeing Freya's Hard Mode cache hungerly). The TC 25 for the the hit-stick, and the Glaive for the OMG GIMME. Everything else has haste.

True-aim Long Rifle - Black Knight 5 Heroic
Frenzystrike Longbow/Rhok'shalla, the Shadow's Bane - Tribute Chest 10
Widebarrel Flintlock/The Diplomat (232/245) - Twin Valkyrs 10 (Heroic)
Darkmaw Crossbow/Baelgun's Heavy Crossbow (232/245) - Anub'arak 10 (Heroic)
Death's Head Crossbow/Talonstrike (245/258) - Jaraxxus 25 (Heroic)
Fezzik's Autocannon/BRK-1000 - Tribute Chest 25

Neg's Notes: OMFG they give the god forsaken Alliance the second RHOK?! What did they do to deserve that?! *twitch*
The Tribute Chest gun is your best bet, being both slow and high DPS. Else, the Jaraxxus crossbow is a perfectly acceptable substitute.

Horde tier set (258): Totally Triumphant Windrunner's Pursuit
Alliance tier set (258): Totally Triumphant Windunner's Battlegear

WTF is up with these sockets? So few red-gem slots out there, it's like they don't want us to socket one stack any more. Not that the socket bonuses are all that great, but they do provide wiggle room at times.

As for the tier, it's kind rough, as the gloves are lack-luster and the shoulder has a better alternative that isn't covered in hit. I think I would suck it up and go with the gloves for the four-piece.

Once again, any glaring mistakes, please tell me!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What a mess

Last night was not a clean and pretty raid. In fact, it was fairly embarrassing for the second ranked guild on server. Sure there were lag issues, but for the most part, it was simply poor play.

We knocked out the Coliseum first. Very few of us had seen the fight on the PTR, so we were going in blind. We poked and prodded the three beasts for awhile before getting them down, and then moving on to Ulduar.

Oh, XT still isn't fixed. No, he doesn't spawn Bomb Bots throughout the Heartbroken phase; instead he just spawns all the adds at once, regardless of where you tank him. I counted a solid nine Bomb Bots up at once. The good news was that we managed to get the Nerf Scrapbots achievement. The bad news was we didn't kill him Hard, or even Super-Mega-Hard, and so no new gloves for the hunters.

Kologarn was buggy (or laggy) for me, and my DPS was curled up in the gutter, sobbing. Auriaya somehow found an additional 7M HP and Vezax somehow lost 9M. Hmm.. I wonder what those two were up to during the downtime.... o_O

After finishing the night on Hodir Hard (wipe after wipe, oh, Neg dies from being hit with back-to-back cave-ins as she tries to run out, I guess that means a kill! -_-), I decided to leave the equally messy Vent channel and hide in the designated PvP channel as I vent my frustration through the new battleground.

As I'm sitting there, waiting for the queue to pop, one of the officers came down to chat. And eventually all my annoyances just came streaming out. After making sure I was clear that I don't feel it is my place to lecture the officers on how to run their guild (after all, that's no longer my privilege), I told him what I saw wrong with the management of the raids and my own frustrations about my DPS. Admittedly, some things I just need to get over: How loot is done, the fact that I no longer have the choice of spec specifics and first-picks at gear to figure out my DPS. Things like that I just need to grit my teeth and bear it (which is none-too-easy with my patience for such things). But the vent chatter, the demeaning of people, the lack of help, the overall STUPIDITY needs to change if this guild wants to maintain an aspect of professionalism I know they are capable of. I even got to use my "if you just belittle people with out helping them, you are equally as responsible for their badness" line.

The summer season is always a difficult time, and I empathize with the guild's dissatisfaction for attendance. They have to put the bad players in because they are the only ones around. I've been there - I know exactly what it's like. But it doesn't change the fact that a guild that got their Black Protodrake was wiping on Hodir Hard. What happened to that professionalism, that leadership that spurred on 20-some other raiders to do their best?

This patch brought frustration all around.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Screenshots of Love

I told ya it was awesome!

Working on raising myself a new Venomhide Raptor mount. You have to admit, he's awful adorable. Just loot at those eyes, imprinting me as its mother!

Taking the new zeppelin from Thunder Bluff to Org, I noticed it passed right over Red Rocks, the sacred tauren ancestral site. I noticed a long time ago there were some Easter Eggs up there, so I couldn't resist jumping down midflight to inspect. Look! Some tribal art:

I wonder where this cave goes...

Whoever lives here is away for the day, I suppose...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Patch day mania

So, yes, 3.2 hit yesterday. The lag was that of nightmares, and while I managed to get in the new heroic, we couldn't raid beyond VoA and Orbituary. Better luck today.

While I'm a bit peeved that I lost over 100 Epeen points, we all did feel a bit silly after raging for a good several hours at the disappearance of dozens of titles only to discover that there is a nice, new scroll bar to the side. Oops?

Hopefully the lag will have cleared up today so I can try out the new dailies. Oh, and Sunreaver Dragonhawk looks AWESOME with a lady tauren.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Meet the Clan

It's a slow posting week as I welcome my Boy home from his two week out-of-state training session, and we work to make the new apartment livable, so I figure it is overdue to have a bit of an RP introduction to my characters:

You have already met Neg, of course. The eldest of three sisters born to Jonli Highmountain the shaman and Racleum Stonehoof the warrior, Negathle was born in the Barrens eight years before Thrall landed in Kalimdor. From infancy she knew life was not easy, and had already seen enough hardship to enforce this, motivating her to begin the hunter rites at an early age. Disliking the Bloodhoof clan's decision to join with the bloodthirsty orcs and the voodoo-inclined trolls, her parents disavowed their clan status and remained nomadic despite the collective tauren interest in founding a permanent city. The family wandered down to Feralas, where Neg finished her training. During her 16th year, her parents were slaughtered by a wandering band of Gordunni ogres in western Feralas. Aware that she could not take care of her two younger sisters, she traveled to Thunder Bluff to leave them with her paternal grandmother, their only surviving relation. Neg, old enough to retain her families nomadic spirit, remained ungrounded, seeking only to assist in maintaining the balance of the Earth Mother, a tauren value she holds above all.

Intelligent and stubborn, Neg's ways come from experience instead of study. She prefers to act instead of debate and observe instead of interact. A proud tauren, she dislikes strangers, particularly Undead and Blood Elves, the former she sees as being abominations to the will of the Earth Mother, the latter she detests for their greed of Her resources; most of the Alliance races she despises for the same reason, though she is willing to give the Night Elves benefit of the doubt. She wanders now as a mercenary, taking what jobs come by her way, though she is frequently in demand by loreseekers, and has been conscripted more than once by the Horde's army to battle greater enemies.

Ranrele, the middle child of the three sisters, was also born in the Barrens, but was only an infant when Cairne joined the tauren clans with the Horde. She was well underway in her druidic rites when their parents were killed, but was not yet old enough to join her elder sister in independence. Instead she aided her grandmother in raising her younger sister in Thunder Bluff, while devoting all her available time towards study. She loves books, and frequently wanders over to the Undercity in order to take advantage of their libraries.

While a bit antisocial, she is far from racist, willing to interact with any being in pursuit of further knowledge. Ranrele is very comfortable in any situation and has an almost painfully cheerful disposition. She would like to see her sisters be a family again, but acknowledges the unlikeliness of such an occurrence.

Zinaida, born in Feralas as Tadrole, never recognized the tauren pride that existed for her parents and eldest sister. Instead, she was raised under the most ardent of enthusiasm for the Horde, and grew up eager to join their forces. Like her mother, she choose the way of the warrior, and, despite her youth and inexperience, signed up for the first available mission outside of Kalimdor. Assigned to the Eastern Plaguelands, her convoy was attacked by the Scourge, leaving no survivors.

Tadrole's next awareness was of intense hatred throughout her being as her soul was ripped from the embrace of the Earth Mother and raised again as a death knight. She was renamed as an agent of the Lich King, and her hatred for life was allowed to flow freely as she aided in the decimation of New Avalon. With the release of her will from the Lich King's grasp, her hate dimmed as she realized what she became. Though she returned home to Thunder Bluff, her grandmother shows nothing but shame for her and Neg ignores her completely, disgusted by her youngest sister's new existance. Only Ranrele treats her with any kindness, but Zina recognizes it to be only in sympathy. Realizing she is unwanted, she stays with her Horde regiment, content that her skills as a death knight are welcomed by the army.

The matriarch of the clan, Chasle Highmountain lives with the other shaman elders in Thunder Bluff. Old enough to see her only son die and the rest of her clansmen scattered to the winds, she mourns the passage of time to show her such strange, changing ways of her people. While she is proud of her grandchildren, she wonders if their clan will survive into the next generation.