Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Vanguard Beta wouldn't run on my computer since it requires a higher shader model then is supported by my graphics card. My card is a Radeon 9200 Series which is kind of old so I'm not surprised two years after I bought my computer its now out of date. Sure I could go out and purchase a new graphics card which would only be around 400$. But my male nerd logic tells me what I require is a new computer. I've had my eye on Alienware for a long time so I am finally going to buckle down and hit my savings account for one of their machines. I'm looking forward to seeing how well both World of Warcraft and its expansion runs on a higher end machine. Most of the time my current machine handles WoW just fine but if I'm near more then one AoE spell then I get the stutter effect.

Its weird but a few hours after I placed my order with Alienware I got a call from my apartment office. It seems that an apartment I've had my eye on for awhile just opened up and I can transfer my lease to it free of charge. Oh yeah but I have to move this weekend! This apartment is huge and only a few more gp a month so I am currently in a mad dash getting my stuff ready for the move. Its been crazy but it should be worth all the chaos once I am settled in. However, my play time is severely cut down since its taking forever to get my stuff into boxes. I somehow managed to cram over 4,000 books and 500 dvds into a small 600 sq ft apartment. I blame World of Warcraft since I am sure it taught me how to deal with limited bag space.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Raid Positioning: Its all about the way you move

Recently my guild was running into problems properly placing people in the Razorgore fight and it got me to thinking about how many raid encounters depended on coordinated movement to succeed. Even in the lowest level raid zone of Zulgurub there exist several fights where placement and coordinated movement is the key to victor. Trying to organize them in my head I came up with several different placements that my guild used for different fights. Oftentimes the different classes would be using different placements depending on their role in the fight.

Max Range Placement:
Think of the Bat Boss in Zulgurub and any other mob that will charge people in proximity. This placement is also used in fights like Shazzarah where the boss has an AoE spell that is centered around them. The main strategy for this placement is always to be ready to react to any movement your target makes. You will need to know the max range for your spells and range attacks and be sure that you are always within a couple yards of max range. This way as long as you don't steal aggro from the main tank you will be able to cause damage without taking any.

The Group-Up Placement:
This placement isn't used that often since its vulnerable to AoE attacks but its needed in several cases. Usually the raid leader will call out a physical feature or spot for everyone to gather on. The rune for the Baron Geddon fight is a good example of where this placement becomes handy. Since everyone is close together dispellers can cleanse everyone in the raid which causes debuffs to be gotten rid of very quickly. When the debuffs are especially dangerous like a magic drain then this becomes one of the few ways to quickly cleanse a 40 man raid.

The Semi-Circle Placement:
This placement can be use in combination with the max range placement but makes cross group healing difficult. The main purpose of using this placement is to minimize the danger of an AoE spell that is not centered on a boss mob. One example where I usually see this is the Kurinaxx fight where the boss causes silencing sand traps to spawn around him. By being spread out around in circle everyone is in range to cause damage but only a few people are damaged by the exploding sand traps. The key to maintaining this placement is to watch the boss mob's movement and not pull aggro to the outside of the circle.

The In and Out Movement:
This movement is for all you melee fighters out there. Basically some boss's have a powerful AoE spell which they can only be maintained for short periods of time. Usually the main tank or secondary tank will call out when the AoE spell has been temporarily depleted and that is your cue. Run in quickly and do some sweet melee dps damage, then just like the hooky poky get yourself out. Baron Geddon has a fire damage AoE spell and Ragnaros has a knockback spell that are both are commonly defeated with the In and Out strategy.

The Hide and Seek Placement:
This placement is a healer's nightmare but is needed for some of the more difficult fights in the game. Basically the idea is for healers to use the terrain placement to hide themselves from the boss mob's line of sight. However, while they are doing this the tanks and melees have to keep themselves within sight of the healers so they can be kept up. I personally don't have that much experience with this strategy but I hear its commonly used to defeat the second boss of BWL, Vael the Red.

The Anti Social Movement:
Also know as the "No Touch, No Touch" strategy. Basically certain effects can be cast on a player which actually hurt all the people around them. The big trash mobs before Ossirian are notoriously for casting a disease which does this and several other boss mobs are know for casting devastating attacks if people are grouped close to one another. The ones off the top of my head are Onyxia during her phase 2 flying and Ragnaros with his targeting of clumps of any people with mana. If more then three people are close together for too long then in both cases they will cause the boss to throw a good chunk of range damage their way.

If anyone else can think of any that I missed go ahead and throw them into a comment.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

RMT's Relationship with World of Warcraft

I've written my thoughts on real money transfers several times in forums but never on my blog. Its a very polarized subject matter and several online personalities I respect disagree with my views on the matter. If you read my post about keyloggers then you know that I've watched a professional gold thief loot a friend's account then advertise the site he was going to be selling the gold at. Nothing sends a chill down your spine like having a real life friend's game character speak broken english and advertise gold. You know that the next day he'll log in naked in the gutters of Stormwind with all his money gone.

Besides having a couple friends fall victim to keyloggers and being looted, I've also noticed a constant stream of gold selling advertising in game. They love to send messages in your mailbox, in your chat channels and sometimes just randomly send tells to you. Last night I actually had three messages in my mailbox advertising gold, a new personal record! Well the recent spat of gold advertising has made me put aside my reservations about such a polarized subject and get down to the nitty gritty of RMT. Most of the points I'm making are from inside the point of view of World of Warcraft but they can be applied to most MMORPGs.

RMT's effect on the WoW economy
One of the most argued about points in the RMT debate is whether it hurts virtual world economies. In World of Warcraft the effect of RMT can be seen in the auction house. Prices of items that are commonly dropped at level sixty are greatly reduced as farmers keep a constant supply of them in the auction house. This effectively lowers the value of these items much more then if just players were putting the items up for sale.
There is a inversely proportional relationship between supply and demand and if you increase the supply side much faster then the demand you get a lowering of value for the item. RMT effectively reduces the ability of players to make money themselves. What you end up getting is a system that encourages the buying of gold from farmers since earning it yourself becomes much harder then it should. Thus the cost of expensive items (like epic mounts) at level sixty become much more time intensive to get without buying gold.

RMT effectively creates chokepoints in content
Farmer accounts are usually in use 24/7 with multiple people working on the account in round robin fashion. Thus the account's characters are always in the game tying up content. While this isn't too hard to deal with if you are of the opposing faction it can be a real pain to those on the same side. Trying to complete a Kill Ten Rats (sorry Oz and Ethic couldn't resist) quest on mobs being farmed by professionals is almost impossible.

RMT encourages shady behavior
The only real penalty for breaking a company's EULA is the lost of your account. Thus any act that earns you more real world money then the cost of a new account becomes a good investment. This is why you get scams, keyloggers, and bots in World of Warcraft even though GMs suspend accounts that engage in such behavior. The amount of players is so huge in WoW that by the time a GM has started to investigate an accusation of shady behavior a profit has already been made on the activity.

RMT probably violates digital copyright law.
Virtual game items have not been specifically identified in any legislation regarding digital copyrights. The reason for this is that the last couple of laws on the matter happened before MMO games became popular. However, the laws that cover other digital mediums such as movies, music, and software can easily be applied to virtual game property. Basically the act of purchasing digital information doesn't give you the right to resell it since it is someone else's intellectual property.

RMT breaks the EULA
The EULA is a contract and is thus enforceable only as a civil matter and not a legal one. You won’t go to jail for breaking a EULA. The main purpose in having one is so that the company can avoid lawsuits when they cancel accounts that engage in behavior they disagree with. It will also probably be used the first time a virtual property ownership case goes to court. Mainly if you agree to a contract which clearly states you don't own anything in game then your position to argue ownership is greatly decreased.

RMT advertising is annoying
It appears everywhere in game and manages to get into any advertising space remotely related to a game. Half the time the ads that appear on my blog are probably for gold buying services. It breaks the immersion of the game and kind of breaks the fairness of it.

RMT spawns bad players
Its true and don’t you deny it. The amount of people who appear in World of Warcraft with Tier-2 armor and no idea of their class abilities is astounding. Now not everyone of them is using a bought account, I am sure some are just regular idiots. Yet the number remains high enough to convince me that a lot of account selling goes on. Normally I wouldn’t care but I love doing instances and pvp which means I occasionally have to make Pick-Up-Groups. If you’ve been in more then one PUG group then you know that there is a large amount of people who apparently made it to sixty without learning anything about the game. And not all of them are hunters and rogues either!

I have a decent job with good pay and I have a fair amount of free time since I am not married (hint hint ladies). So the reason I disapprove of RMT isn't because I can't afford to buy gold. Instead the reason is more of RMT's effect on the fun factor of any MMORPG. It introduces a lot of negative elements to the game and really does detract from the overall enjoyment you can pull from the game. People need to realize that you don't really need a lot of time to make money in a MMORPG and that every time you buy gold you are sucking away the ability of players to earn items w. I think my next post will probably be about some of the arguments people use to support RMT. If I get linked to a lot on this post I know there will be some in my comments.

Vanguard Vs. World of Warcraft

I recently got accepted into the third phase of Vanguard's beta and I am looking forward to exploring the world of Talon to see if all the rumors are true. I had heard a lot of reports about the graphics of Vanguard being subpar and the gameplay being tedious in the previous phases of their beta. It would be refreshing if this new phase introduced some changes that fixed those problems. After playing World of Warcraft I am not sure if I could go back to playing a time consuming and hardcore MMORPG. Its not that I am a carebear its just that I have much less time now that I am working. Back in college I could play 5 or 6 hours in row which was required for some of the longer raid targets. Now with WoW I find myself being able to play for a maximum of 4 hours in a row. I just have too many other things that gang up to steal my attention away from gaming.

There are a couple of things that I do miss about the older MMORPGs that World of Warcraft is missing. The major one being a larger selection of classes and races. World of Warcraft is very limited in classes since they found it easier to balance for pvp fighting. While pvp is very fun I'm not sure its worth keeping the class choices so low. Also World of Warcraft can get annoying at times because of its high number of immature players. The ease of the gameplay encourages gamers of all types and ages to try out the game. Thus the amount of questions, random invites, and begging for gold is much higher in WoW then the older generation games.

Vanguard has a few other things going for it besides the small perks of being hardcore. They're exploring new systems for crafting, questing, and handling player death. Now while some of their choices for these new systems might have a hardcore edge to them they are at least trying new ideas. Ideas like putting the death penalty on a sliding scale based on what action killed your character. It's worth at least trying the game out to see how these ideas are panning out. If the gameplay is too hardcore I will probably not be too interested but if I see they are trying to be challenging without being time intensive I might stick around.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Benefits to Delaying the Burning Crusade

Blizzard just recently announced the delay of the Burning Crusade expansion to a definite January release date. The decision wasn't unexpected since rumors and beta testers have been commenting on the unfinished look of the game. The delay also fits in well with Blizzard's devotion to releasing quality games and the Duke Nukem Forever development cycle. The added time to the BC development makes World of Warcraft one of the few MMORPGs to go over two years without an expansion. Numerous content has been patched in but as some have commented most of it was partially created during the initial development of the game.

The expansion is one hundred percent brand new content with several features and changes that will have a major impact on the World of Warcraft. Blizzard remains confident that perfecting these changes is worth the delay and that gamers will be kept interested in World of Warcraft. And why shouldn't they? Most of the competition has moved their new releases out of the Q4 2006 time frame in hopes of avoiding the expansion to Blizzard's blockbuster. The truth is that Blizzard loses almost no buzz by delaying the release by two months and actually gains a couple of things.

Benefits of a January Release Date:
-Avoid the buzz and newness of the Wii and PS3 systems.

-Avoid the holiday season which actually might impact MMORPG sales differently then standard video games.

-Guarantee that subscribers will still be experiencing new content when new MMORPGs come out later this year.

-Give the beta testers extended time to catch all the bugs and errors in the expansion.

-Allows them time to incrementally work on and patch in the new features of the expansion. I fully expect the LFG system, the upgraded meeting stones and parts of the new PvP system to be patched in before the expansion hits.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

What’s the Hardest boss in each raid Instance?

My guild is trying to get as far as we can in the classic raid progression before the expansion comes out. Sure we know most of our items will be replaced by level 65 but at the moment its still a challenge. We just recently started killing Ossirian the Scarred in AQ20 and we’re working on the first boss of Blackwing Lair. In every dungeon we come across though we almost always seem to run into one boss who hands our ass to us. Most of the time this is the end boss but sometimes is just one who requires a really challenging strategy to defeat.

Jindo the Hexxar

I’ve written about Jindo before and my undying hatred for the Totem Lord. This is a very involved fight where Jindo constantly lays down healing totems and mind control totems. He also teleports people into a skeleton pit that constantly respawns and summons shadow copies of himself. Because Jindo has so many different unique attacks it hard to focus on what needs to be done. We find that if the we have at least 3 rogues to kill totems and 2 warriors with mortal strike we can usually keep Jindo from regaining health and kill him. Still if we’re unlucky enough to get our main tank constantly sheeped and aggro wiped then we lose quite fast.

Onyxia’s Lair

Onyxia is a pretty easy fight we found if you can meet two conditions. One is having people who can constantly keep dots on her in phase two where she flies around her cave. The second condition is having some way to handle her fear in phase three. Alliance get it easy if they have a dwarf priest to fear ward but just having a couple warriors who know how to stance dance makes all the difference. Still sometimes this boss gets a bug up her butt and constantly uses deep breath during phase two. This usually makes things interesting since most of our newer members never get to the safe spots in time.

Molten Core
Ragnaros the Firelord

Ragnaros used to cause our guild a huge amount of trouble every time we fought him. It took awhile for most of our dps classes to get epic weapons which make all the difference with this fight. It’s a simple burn him down fight where he needs to be down to 30% by the time he submerges and releases his Sons of Flame. The Sons used to wipe us every time until we started coordinating low level warlock banish and mage frost nova. The main problem we have with this fight is his knock back attack which is chaotic and can cause the main tank to go flying way out of healing range. The best strategy for this is just to equip your main tank with as most fire resistance gear as possible.

Ossirian the Scarred

The Big Bird was starting to get on our guild’s nerve since we’ve been clearing every boss in AQ20 but him for a while now. Finally we devoted a full day to just fighting him and we got good at finding the obelisks which weaken him. This fight reminds me a lot of the Jindo fight where you can’t just let loose on the main boss. You have to be aware of where the next obelisk is and how long before Ossirian goes into god mode. We’ve had luck having one hunter with aspect of the cheetah run around on the outside and click on obelisks that spawn. This forces them to spawn on the inside which makes it easier to move from one to another. Still its always a close race with this guy.


Razorgore (only the hardest cause that’s the only one we fought)

If my guild thought the coordination for Jindo and Ossirian was hard this fight takes the cake. For a game that put all world mobs on a leash to prevent kiting its seems kind of unfair to require it as a strategy in a fight. But still that’s what Razorgore requires, lots and lots of kiting. Usually we can get down to between 3-9 eggs before we lose control of the massive train of mobs and the wipe all our healers. The funny thing about this fight is where healers have to use low ranks of heal to keep aggro off themselves. Also the train of orcs gets big very quickly and its easy for it splinter apart if the main aggro holder dies. We still have some work on this fight but I could see us pulling a win in a few weeks.


I don’t know much about AQ40 bosses except that some of them require massive amounts of nature resist gear and that Cthun is a laser beam using bastard.

Way beyond my guild’s skill level though from what I hear once we got enough people attuned it might be worth while killing trash mobs for drops. I hear the four horse are a pain in the butt but I don’t think they are the hardest boss in there. Any Naxx guilds out there have one they really hate? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

EA, the A stands for Advertising

I've found a couple links about EA's new game Battlefield 2142 having adware built into it and my initial response was "Shrug, its EA". The company's reputation for turning out lackluster sequels to make money off their franchises is almost legendary. Not to say that EA doesn't make good games just that most of them are crap. They have a lot in common with college textbook publishers who ask their authors to make minor changes every year so that they can force students to buy only new editions. Combined with major allegations of not paying overtime and forcing 70hr work weeks and you get a picture of not the most honest of companies.

Thus when one of their new games comes out with adware built into it you have to begin to wonder why anyone buys games from them. As if paying 50$ for a game wasn't bad enough but somehow the company thought they could make an extra buck by having adware. In game advertising isn't so bad if done right and incorporated into a game, think product placement. But with adware you basically have a 3rd party company snooping around your browser history and selling targeted advertising. This stuff cause more problems then most viruses and is harder to get rid of then a free edition of AOL. And somehow the company came to the decision that this was an acceptable way to recoup money on the game development.

We need to be very careful as video game consumers that we don't support games that try to make revenue this way. Some people theorize that this will become a common way to offset the rising cost of game development but they need to realize that its a consumer choice. We need to nip this in the bud before it becomes common practice. Could you picture having 3 or 4 games with adware installed on your computer? How good would performance be with all that background processing? Plus how trustworthy are the 3rd party companies that advertise this way?

These are troubling questions and I believe we will be entering into troubling times for the video game market. Advertisers know that the magic age group of 18-34 is disappearing from television and playing more games. It can only be suspected that they are trying to follow us not realizing that their aggressive advertising is probably one of the reasons television is losing popularity. The ratio of advertising to actual entertainment is around 11 minutes to 19 minutes for every half hour show. Perhaps that’s why so many young adults have turned to video games where the ratio of entertainment is 30 minutes to 0 minutes for every half hour of game time.



Time to Tone Down on the Raiding

Initial reports from the Burning Crusade Beta has itemization starting off more powerful then the tier-1 armor from Molten Core. Basic blues items from the first five man dungeon Hellfire Citadel are being reported as being on par with the tier-2 armor that drops from Blackwing Lair. When you throw in the fact that most of the new gear has slots for jewels then you could say that the gear is even better then tier-2. Plus at the moment no one is reporting the bosses as being extraordinarily difficult in the first instance.

For an example of what you can expect, Tobold recently did a run into the first wing of Hellfire Citadel called Hellfire Rampart. Its designed for level 60 players so you could head straight into the dungeon the second you make it into the Outlands. The first boss he fought in there dropped the Wasteland Stitched Leggings(Mail): +22 Agi, +24 Sta, +15 Int, +32 attack power and 3 slots for jewels. The rest of the bosses in the wing dropped similarly impressive gear with one item being specifically for feral druids and granting 160 attack power in animal forms. Those of you who play feral druids know how bad the itemization was in the old world for your class.

While raiding isn't all about gaining more powerful loot it certainly played an important part in recruiting people into guilds. Guilds that could regularly clear MC and BWL never seemed to have any problems getting new recruits. While social guilds that had to join others to attempt the first boss in Zulgurub always seemed on the verge of breaking up. It seems obvious that loot is the glue that holds large raiding guilds together. Yet is there any purpose in continuing doing 40 man raids when the loot in the expansion is so much better?

Well you can be assured that raiding will always be part of World of Warcraft. During this expansion the size will drop down to 25 people and most guilds will have to downsize as a result. However, this doesn't mean that Blizzard won't put more 40 man raid zones into the game at a later date. In fact we don't really know what the future of World of Warcraft holds and the raid size might eventually go up to classical Everquest sizes. Thus if you like raiding, continue to raid, since your only increasing your ability to coordinate and play your class with others. The further ahead you get in BWL and Naxx the better prepared you will be to jump straight into the raid content in the Burning Crusade.

However, if you are bored with the current raid instances and only raid to get upgrades then I do suggest you stop attending 40 man raids. Instead show up and try to organize ZG and AQ20 raids since they are more in line with what the raids in the expansion are going to be like. You may be able to do instances and quests on your way to level 70 but eventually your going to be in the same position as before and have to raid to get better gear. Thus you don't want to get too out of practice in raiding.

Even if you do get out of practice as luck would have it the 10 man instance in Kharazhan is supposed to be a nice mix between raiding and grouping. The dungeon is on an instance timer and from Tigole's mouth supposed to be 20x the size of Shadowfang Keep. It will be for those who wish to push their skills and get better gear at level 70 without jumping straight into the time commitment of joining a raiding guild. This dungeon should give players not in huge guilds a challenge and a fair way to keep up in gear with raiders.

-Tone Down on the Raiding if you don't enjoy it

-Level 60's in the expansion will quickly be able to catch up to Tier-2 gear

-By level 66 they should have better gear then Tier-3 just by instances and quests

-The best of the best gear will still be gotten from Raids

-The current 40 man raids are quite different from the future 25 man raids

-Kharzhan will allow casual players to keep up with raiders.

-Decent gear can be earned in other ways besides raiding

Sunday, October 15, 2006

World of Warcraft Machinima

I hear the argument all the time about whether video games have reached the same level of art as movies and music. The argument is usually won on the specifics of which game is being discussed. Does Grand Theft Auto constitute art? Well most people think not but what about a game like Myst? Both sides can throw around different game titles in an attempt to prove of disprove the new age question.

One point they can’t argue about is that a video game world can be used as a stage to create art. Thousands of fans throughout the world use cut scenes and media capture tools to turn video game footage into short films. Known as machinima, the process has started to become immensely popular in several different MMORPG communities. The films range from short comedy skits to long and dramatic epics. Blizzard and Xfire have encouraged the budding machinima community by sponsoring several different contests and providing cash rewards and recognition.

Just recently World of Warcraft machinima made an appearance in South Park where over half the show was done with in-game footage. Even more interesting was that Blizzard and Comedy Central used a machinima studio to do most of the footage for the show. Its nice to see what is basically an indie industry getting probably its first network exposure. For some of the studio’s other work go to http://www.rufuscubed.com/ and check out some of their contest submissions.

Recently while out sick with a toothache I had time to find some of my favorite pieces of machinima using Google Video and YouTube. Most of my favorites are based in World of Warcraft but I hear several other virtual worlds are also popular stages. A word of warning I mostly enjoy comedies and my taste in machinima reflects that.

Big Blue Dress
This piece of machinima is set perfectly to a song written about mages in World of Warcraft. It seems as if the band Destromath was a big fan of the game and decided to write a song about one of their favorite pastimes. The song really synchronizes well with the in game footage which is mostly provided by a well known PvP persona named Cranius.


The Hardware Store
This is a fan made machinima music video to the Weird Al song “The Hardware Store” I was surprised at the amount of editing and special effects used in this song which goes way beyond most non studio machinima films. It’s very humorous and fits the lyrics of the song


Zinwraith the Movie
This is a well thought out and humorous machinima film produced by the myndflame studio. The plot follows members of a guild called Illegal Danish and uses many in-game references. Still its hilarious to most players and even has several songs produced just for the film. There is a decent amount of editing used in the film and the plot is in the style of an Adult Swim cartoon.


Super Snacks – the Sequel

The Internet is for Pron

Another hilarious example of machinima with several in-game characters having a singing battle over the purpose of the internet. This is a very basic machinima with little editing but contains good use of in-game emotes to create a sort of over the top Broadway style. Contains some vulgarity but nothing above PG-13.


If anyone else has favorites fell free to list them in the comments.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Good Arena Practice

I'm doing the tier 0.5 armor set quest at the moment as kind of an impulse to get some unique looking armor. When the quest was first released I saw a couple people wearing partial sets but the number of people who had the full set seemed rare. I am sure there are a couple people that have every piece stored in the bank but I am betting their numbers are low. Anyways while on the third part of the quest to upgrade my boots, shoulders, and legs I ran across an interesting fight. Its the fight that takes place when you trigger the Ring of Law event with the Banner of Provocation.

Normally the Ring of Law event is a short gladiator pit like fight in Blackrock Depths where you have to fight a single boss mob at the end. But while upgrading your dungeon set armor you eventually get a banner which you can set up in the middle of the arena to change the final boss that comes out. Instead of a single mob you get a small group of NPC characters who all have real class abilities. It's completely random which classes you will have to fight except for the warrior Theldrin who shows up every time to give the quest item.

This group of NPCs act just like a real PvP team. The rogue will stunlock any casters and use vanish if you get him down too low in health. The priest will dispel and heal everyone on his side while fearing anyone that tries to damage him. If your unlucky enough to get the shaman NPC then watch out for constant earthbind totems. The most annoying thing about the group is they target your own healers and ignore standard threat causing techniques. Don't expect Blessing of Salvation or Taunt to save any of your casters.

Probably the most interesting NPC that can spawn with Theldrin though is a small weaponless gnome named Lefty. Lefty hits like a truck and seems to use weird rogue like attacks. During one fight our warrior was hit for 7,000 dmg with a combo attack called "Five Fingered Exploding Heart Technique". Paying attention to our combat log we noticed most of his attacks were punches and kicks. This combined with his high hitpoints made me think that this NPC is actually a monk. Perhaps he was just put into the encounter as a joke but it's very interesting to see what Blizzard thinks a monk might play like.

Anyways I definitely recommend doing this encounter for the experience at 5v5 pvp. It seems as if Blizzard payed special attention to program all the dirty PvP tricks into these NPCs. Out of the five fights we did we lost to them twice. One time simply because the hunter mob feigned death and ice trapped our druid healer. My group was wearing mostly tier 1 epics from Molten Core and we still had some challenge with this fight which just seems to prove to me that PvP coordination is much more challenging then PvE raid coordination. I would recommend this encounter for anyone that wanted to practice for the upcoming arena system in the Burning Crusade.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Decursive gets the Boot

A bombshell was dropped in the UI and Macro Forums over this last weekend when it was announced that in the expansion the scripting language would be changed so that it could not target or cast spells. This means that all intelligent targeting macros would be out of the game as of the next major patch. While you might think at first this isn't that big of a deal I can think of several addons used by most raiding guilds that will be affected. Decursive will be the major one but also Emergency Health Monitor and CastParty might be caught in the crackdown. Basically any intelligent addon that automatically targets something based on preset criteria will be banned in the expansion.

My first thought on this is one of outrage. Current raids will become much harder with the way that most boss mobs cast area of effect debuffs every 20 seconds. Without decursive I can see a lot of raiding guilds having problems on zones they previously had on farm status. True once the expansion is out most raiding guilds will trim down their memberships and focus on the new raid zones. But what about when people want to go back and revisit the old raid zones. At the moment MC mobs make massive use of debuffs. Basically the amount of time it takes for someone to call out they got hit with a debuff then have someone target them is probably 5x the time it would take for someone to just use decursive.

Plus even if the new dungeons are designed around players not having decursive I just don't quite trust the developers when it comes to boss behavior. Just look at the Baron Geddon fight in Molten Core, which I believe was originally designed before the decursive mod was widely used. Trying to do this fight without decursive would be very hard and most likely Geddon's debuff would be reapplied before it could be dispelled from every caster. Maybe that was the original intention of the developers but either way the fight would have had to been adjusted if decursive hadn't become popular.

In fact the major problem I see with the scheduled changes to the scripting language is that its going to raise the skill level requirement for most raid encounters. Healers and Dispellers are going to have to get much more skilled at picking targets out of a raid. A lot of raiding guilds aren't going to have enough members with fast reaction times to do any encounters that make use of debuffs and other tricks. Most intelligent targeting addons were originally used much like a set of training wheels. Guilds slapped these addons onto new recruits so that they could keep up with the rest of the guild instead of having to slow down for them to learn how to raid heal or dispel.

However, over time the recruits have mostly replaced everyone and now you have an entire guild on training wheels. With this new change Blizzard is basically issuing a recall and now we're all going to have to learn to ride the bike like big boys and girls. I for one expect a lot of falling flat on our face on these new raid encounters and perhaps Blizzard might have to tweak them more often. We will just have to wait and see if this make us all better players or just seriously freaking annoyed at how fast Blizzard expects us to be at targeting.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Over 12,000 Hits

I just wanted to announce that I hit over 12,000 hits with this blog just recently. Having only been around since the summer I was surprised that it built up that fast. I suspect its mostly because I write about World of Warcraft which is one of the more popular MMORPGs out nowadays. Anyways I hope to get some more time to write about other MMOs in the future especially with the huge amount scheduled to be released next year. I deffinitely plan on trying out Tabula Rasa, Age of Conan and maybe even Vanguard. However, the Burning Crusade continues to be the one I am the most excited about.

Also on a side note I would like to mention that Battlestar Galactica is having its season premiere tonight on the Scifi channel. I suggest all gamer nerds at least mark it on their Tivos. Especially you EVE Online fans out there!

WoW Scams to Avoid

After the string of account thievery that has gone around World of Warcraft over the last month I started to become interested in some of the other under handed techniques used to steal gold from players. Most work like real world scams where the con artist encourages the greed of a player by offering a really good deal. The really good scammers offer deals that are only a little bit of a bargain but they use items that are used often and have a high demand. This seems to fool people more effectively then offering a outrageously low price on something that is rare.

I am going to quickly go through some of the scams I've actually seen first hand or had a friend fall victim too. I am already in hot water since someone recognized themselves in the key logger article so I have to keep names out of this one.

The Quick Switch Scam
The scammer will offer to sell you an item for a very good price. He will come to you and open the trade window and actually put the item into it. Then as you are gathering the agreed upon low price he will switch the item out with another junk item that has the same icon. The scammer is hoping in your hurry to get the item for the low price that you will quickly hit trade and not notice the switch.

My experience:
I've only ever had this happen once to me back when I was a new to the game and I recognized the switch. The seller claimed he was just fooling around and had changed his mind on selling the item. I think this scam is widely recognized now and only those new to the game are being targeted. On most servers this scam is out of practice but may still be used by the occasional asshat trying to get an extra buck.

How to Avoid:
-Don't doing any trading when your tired. Scammers depend on either greed or lack of attention to make money
-Avoid responding to private tells trying to sell you an item. Most scammers are recognized in trade channel so they tend not to advertise there.
-Be careful of buying items from low level alts.

The Runaway Crafter Scam
Someone offers to make an item for you if you can provide the materials. After you give them the materials they either sell them or send them to their main character using the mailbox. In either case they probably put you on their ignore list as soon as the trade was done and plan on quickly logging off. This is the base scam in World of Warcraft and is comparably to grabbing the money from a cash register and running. But just like in the real world such obvious thievery has strict consequences. Usually people who engage in a crafter scam will gain a reputation so bad that whenever they log on people will make a comment in the general chat channel.

My Experience:
This one actually got me once when I was a playing a young hunter and wanted a pair of barbaric bracers made. The person faked a disconnect and when I caught back up to him claimed he would send it in the mail when he could be bothered to make it. Usually crafter scammers rely on a strategy like faking a disconnect so that their reputation decays more slowly. At least once every two weeks I hear about someone getting ripped off by people in this manner.

How to Avoid:
-Only have level 60 characters in real guilds make items for you. They have too much work in their character to risk being kicked out of a guild because of running scams.

The Auction House Price Hike Scam
These scammers have patience and rely on their victims making a simple mistake when purchasing items from the auction house. The scam usually involves putting a commonly used up item in the AH for a decent bid price but with a outrageous gold buyout price. The scammer usually makes sure the auction appears either at the top of the item list or in the middle of a group of properly priced items. Then they sit back and hope that someone buying a large amount of the commonly used items won't be paying attention and accidentally buy their outrageously priced item.

My Experience:
This scam is always in existence. Just look up the commonly used potions, cloth, and crafting materials in the auction house.

How to Avoid:
-Don't buy things from the Auction House late at night when you're tired.

The C.O.D Scam
The scammer will mail an item to a player and make sure its wrapped up so it can't be identified and request that the player pay for it. There are some variations of the scam which can be more tempting then others.

One method is when they pretend that they mistakenly sent an item to you instead of a fellow guildmember. Usually in the email they claimed the wrapped package is a crafted epic item and they are just requesting the COD as a tip. If the COD price is low enough like 5gp you be suprised how many people would take the item.

Another method I've heard of is including a small amount of gold in the mail message so one might accidentally accept the COD amount in the rush to get the gold.

My Experience:
Never actually had it happened to me but I've seen both screenshots and know of several friends who have received unexpected packages in the mail with COD attached to them.

How to Avoid:
-Don't accept items unless you know the person who sent them.
-If its too good to be true then it probably is. Don't be stupid

The WTB Scam
This scam is more involved then others but seems to trick a lot of people especially when the scammer is making disposable alt characters to do the advertising. Basically the scammer puts a rare but cheap to make item that might be used in a quest up in the auction for a high buyout. Then they log onto an alt and start advertising they want to buy the item for double the price listed in the auction house. The idea is that someone will get greedy and buy their item from the auction house and attempt to sell it to the disposable alt character. Of course the scammer has no attention of buying the item and will refuse to accept any real offers.

My Experience:
Seen it being done a couple of times. The last time was a blacksmith who had listed a moonsteel broadsword for 25gp in the auction house. He then had a series of alts advertise to buy a moonsteel broadsword for 50gp. Eventually one idiot bought the sword then spent the rest of the day trying to track the person down who wanted to buy it.

How to Avoid:
-Never pay more then something is worth in hopes you can sell it at a higher price.
-If its too good to be true then it probably is. Don't be stupid

These scams are sort of old and I believe the majority of them only happen rarely now. However, new ones are developed daily as a lot of people get off on the anonymous nature of the internet. Remember the main advice to avoid being scammed is to be cautious and avoid being tricked by greed. Most won't be sympathetic if you fall for a scam and there are very few punishments for scammers besides reputation loss. As far as I know most GMs will do nothing to retrieve lost property from scams which depend on human error. In fact the only time I've heard of them banning a scammer was when someone was mass mailing people with the COD scam. Apparently it was mainly because they use a bot to do it with and not that they were actually sending out the packages.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

March of the Keyloggers

Recently a couple of my friends became the victims of having their World of Warcraft accounts hijacked. Neither had recently used a power leveling service or let anyone else use their account. However, they both did some things that were kind of careless from a security standpoint. I am going to tell both their stories and give you an idea how easy it is to get your account stolen from you if you're not careful. Its not really a pain in the ass to safeguard your account and if you take a couple of easy steps you're practically immune to key logging programs.

Friend number one who we'll call Richard signed onto his account from a friend's computer. Richard was over at this friend's house one night and wanted to show his character off when he found out the friend also played WoW. This is a special danger to World of Warcraft players since the game has become so popular that it is probably installed on most gamers’ computers. However, just because its installed doesn't mean you should use it.

In the case of Richard the computer he used was infected with a key logging program. So even though Richard kept his own machine clean as a whistle by signing onto his friend's unsecured computer he gave his password and account name away to a gold seller. The next day Richard logged onto his account to find all his characters as naked as level one mules. Even their hearthstones had been deleted, those bastards! An hour later his friend called him to complain about getting hacked.

Friend number two who we'll call Michael found out he was missing the updated version of ctraid right before a Molten Core run. Quickly needing to update to get an invite he typed "ctraid" into Google and used the first mirror site that came up. This mirror site just happened to have a copy of ctraid with a key logger program piggy-backing on the popular addon. Thus as soon as some enterprising gold seller could be bothered all of Michael's characters also magically lost their clothes just like Richard.

Unlike Richard's case though this heist was done during the weekend thus most of Michael's friends were on when it was happening. After watching his characters pop on and off like flickering Christmas lights we recognized the pattern. Speaking in our general chat channel we made several comments to the thief trying to get him to respond. Finally getting annoyed we made a bet to see who could get him to respond. We had a limited timeframe to work in since the thief was quickly moving through all of Michael's alts. This guy was a professional.

One friend remarked that he hoped the thief was happy supporting terrorists. No response. Another released a string of obscenities at the thief which would have made Snoop Dogg blush. Still Ignored. Finally I asked jokingly if the thief knew a good place to buy gold. "cheap wow gold prices@ www.buywowgoldone.com" appeared 8 times in our chat window then the thief logged off. Well at least we knew Michael's gold wasn't going to be sold at expensive prices. I claimed my winnings of 10gp from the losers of the bet and did what passes for the dwarven victory dance. In all the commotion I don't think any of us remembered to report the robbery. Oh well its not like a GM could have done anything and at least Michael had 10gp waiting for him when he logged back on.

Steps to take to make sure your account does not get hacked.

1) Use the WoW launcher program instead of the WoW.exe file. This catches most key logger programs.

2) Avoid downloading addons from mirror sites and stick to the main site that actually makes the addon.

3) Use the checkbox on the logon screen which remembers your account name.

4) Type your password into a text file then when you want to logon just copy and paste the password into the logon screen

Your password is not stored anywhere on your computer so its impossible for someone to hack into your machine and steal your account information. The most a virus writer can do is trick you into loading a key logger program onto your computer. Now if you aren't protected by a firewall then its theoretically possible that someone could get into your machine but once again they're not going to magically find your WoW account information there. The only real way for your stuff to get stolen is if a key logger records you typing in your account name and password.

Advanced Anti Keylogger Advice