Should Auld Aquaintance Be Forgot? Plus Landscape Gardening and other things…

Today we’ve got a great balance of links to round out the day – two controversial standpoints, one example of fantastic craftsmanship, and one call to a cause I think a lot of people will want to rally around…

  • Syl of Raging Monkeys is seeing many MMO communities fall apart as people leave for various other games, and in a stirring editorial, she exhorts us all to not let our friendships go so easily“Today, take heart and reach out to some old online friend or guildmate. Today, choose to be the one who takes initiative, never mind how long it’s been quiet. “
  • Moxie of the Wild Boar Inn has been designing a new deed in Wurm Online – based on the historic Medway Plantation in South Carolina. Impressive landscape gardening lies within“I typically like to start my deed designs from the token in the middle and work to the outside. In Wurm, your deed token looks like a sundial, so when I saw this picture of a sundial in the middle of a formal garden area, I knew I had my perfect starting point. “
  • Beruthiel of Falling Leaves And Wings would like to stop seeing players use lack of gear as an excuse for poor play“For me, I look at having lower gear as a challenge. It’s the true “hard mode”. When you don’t have the same resources as someone else, it forces you to think outside of the box and be more creative.”
  • And in contrast to Anafielle’s impassioned post last week, Lono of Screaming Monkeys explains just why he doesn’t want to see a combat log in SWTOR“If you give me a choice between performance and building community I will always chose the latter because I believe it will give us a better game in the long run. “

Enjoyed these posts? Want to share the call to reach out to old guildies? Share them!

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No SWTOR addons, please!

I’m an addon junkie, I admit it. I’m not as bad as Johnnie, who has to sync any machine he plays WoW on up to his online addon repository in order to actually be able to operate the game (true story), but I’m pretty enthusiastic about the things. I’ve got a highly optimised setup, I read articles on user interface design to improve my WoW UI, and I’ve even dabbled in writing addons myself.

Which is why I found Tobold’s unusually impassioned post today, in which he fervently wishes that SWTOR never, ever gains addon capability , so interesting –

“if there is one thing I’ve learned from 7 years of WoW addons is that the overall effect of the addons tends to be negative for the community and the game.

The most anti-social addons are things like Gearscore or various damage and performance meter addons. I wouldn’t mind if SWTOR had a built-in functionality which would somehow show my performance, but only to myself, with the goal to improve myself. But in WoW these addons were primarily used to point a finger at people who for some reason had a slightly lower level of gear or damage output. They were exclusion devices, with people organizing raids asking for “minimum Gearscore 6785”, which happened to be exactly their GS, so they could be carried by people with better gear. These ePeen measuring devices in my opinion did more harm than good to the community of World of Warcraft.

Another type of addon commonly seen is the performance-enhancing addon. A healing addon like Healbot makes group/raid healing a lot easier than the standard interface. And addons like Deadly Boss Mods give advance warning of incoming special abilities from boss mobs, which make the “dance” a lot easier. So what could be wrong with that? What is wrong is that by making these functionalities dependent on a third party addon, you can’t be sure that everybody is at exactly the same level. Performance-enhancing addons are like performance-enhancing drugs in sports: You might consider them “fair” if you assume that everybody uses them, but as soon as you consider that some people for some reasons don’t use them, it becomes obvious how distorting they are. “

Tobold really has an interesting point here, and after reading it, I can’t decide what to think. Personally, I’ll play WoW without addons when you pry them from my etc etc etc – can you imagine trying to play a rogue without buff/debuff timers, squinting at the tiny boss unit frame to determine if my Rupture’s running? Or playing a tank without any indication of which mobs are currently attacking whom other than where they’re running? I can’t. It’d be horrible.

But on the other hand, is Tobold right? Are all those addons that I love actually destroying my game?

I’m not sure what to think.

Are addons a blight on MMOs? Should WoW go addon-free?

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And in not-Panda news…

There have, believe it or not, been a number of awesome non-Panda related posts over the last day or so too on the blogosphere.

I know, I know, we’ve been all about the Pandas. Well, it’s time to get back to our regular schedule of great writing and thinking, whether or not it involves a black-and-white bear with a species-endangeringly low libido.

Here’s some of the great posts that haven’t featured pandas:

  • Shintar of Priest with a Cause has some interesting ideas on how the original Dungeon Finder could have been fixed“The problem with the dungeon finder is mainly that it takes away the player’s choice. You have no say in who you get grouped with, and if you do take matters into your own hands by leaving or initiating a vote-kick, there are systematic punishments involved. “
  • Windsoar of Jaded Alt has a supremely detailed post on what looks like a fantastic replacement for Power Auras“I had someone ask why I’d made the switch from PowerAuras to WeakAuras. Mostly it’s because I like to check out the new kid on the block, but it’s also because I like the interface better! “
  • Klepsacovic of Troll Racials are Overpowered pours some well-thought-out cold water on the idea of a WoW pay-for-content model“It’s not an easy thing to decide. WoW changed within vanilla. You can find people who are, or at least were, furious at how BGs destroyed world PvP. Ditto for guards, and the various ways they’ve been buffed over the years. Maybe we should have beta WoW. Or post-release but before all the class-fix patches. I wonder if any paladins are still mad about 1.9… “
  • And Just My Two Copper has a specific and useful piece for the AH’ers amongst us on how best to profit from Bind-on-Equip trading“If there is no really good item that drops in heroics or t11 raids, a player would be prompted to buy one off the AH, and thats when the time is right for you to be the one selling that item. Know what classes you’re aiming your sales at, and make sure the itemization is right.”

Got any other suggestions for great posts that might have been overlooked in the weekend of Panda-monium? (Yes, I went there.)

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Share your Power Auras configurations

Not every game supports addons, and not every player uses addons even when they are supported. There are some players who prefer the pure, unfiltered game interface. Then there are others, such as your humble author, who have dozens of addons and who gleefully install new addons every week. Some addons, though, make their way into almost every player’s arsenal. The addons that it’s almost impossible to play without. For WoW, that’s always been things like Deadly Boss Mods and Omen, but for some players the list of ‘must-have’ addons has also expanded to include Power Auras.

Even though Blizzard have now incorporated some of the functionality of Power Auras into the base WoW interface (a sure sign of a useful addon), installing the addon and configuring your own system of alerts is still a good thing to do if you want absolute customization.

I’ve recently been reconfiguring the power aura alerts for some of my characters (and let me tell you, that’s a good way to lose hours of your life), so it’s nice to see other bloggers sharing their Power Auras configurations. One of the great things about the addon is the ability to import other people’s configurations very simply.

Angelya at Revive and Rejuvenate is as enthusiastic about Power Auras as I am:

“Do you have an addon that you would feel lost without? That you would feel like one of your senses was missing, like you had the sound effects turned off or something? Power Auras Classic [is] such an addon for me.”

She’s recently updated her list of Power Auras for Healing, which is an excellent and detailed post. You can use the codes she provides to set up the very same auras yourself, or take them as a starting point and customize them.

Over at Cannot Be Tamed, Jasyla has got in on the act too, with illustrated lists of the Power Auras setup for her priest and resto druid.

It’s enough to make me contemplate sharing some of my Power Auras setup, including my dodgy home-made graphics. I might write a guide to setting it up, too – it’s a complicated beast.

What do you think? Would you like to see a guide to setting up Power Auras? Would you like to see my ugly Powa setup? Do you have a favorite config you’d like to share?

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How To Make Your Healers Love You, Auctioneers Hate You, Your Pockets Become Lined With Gold, And LFD Actually Work – The Addon Version

My woes, worries and wibbling about World of Warcraft aside, one of the things I’ve really been enjoying recently is trying out new addons. I know, I’m weird. By ‘new’ I don’t necessarily mean addons that are hot off the press and fresh from the keyboard the developer’s been slaving over – I just mean new to me. And I want to share some of the gems I’ve found with you because now that I can’t (simply can’t, I tell you!) play WoW without them, I want to pass on the same joy. Or same agony of having to think “no, I need that one, that one, that one…” next time you’re trying to cull your addon folder.

My Sales

This is the addon that inspired this post. MySales does exactly what it says on the label: it tracks my sales. Or your sales, if you use it. It’s quite simple; typing /ms window into WoW chat will bring up a window with 3 tabs. The tabs, in order, show your sales, your buyers, and how often each item has been bought. Useful for anyone with any profession who likes toying with AH and wants to know what sells for the highest prices, most often, and so on. Go. Download. Nao.

Broker- LFD

I’ve found this addon so useful I can no longer remember what the standard Blizzard Looking for Dungeon UI looks like. It adds a little icon to your FuBar/Titan Panel/Chocolate Bar which does all the LFD features. Mouse over it to see your queue times. Left click to bring the dungeon finder panel up. Right click it to leave the dungeon queue or teleport out of dungeon (this. This is why I got it in the first place. No more buggy Blizzard teleport-out-of-dungeon button disappearing!) _I mentioned FuBar/Titan Panel/Chocolate Bar – you will need to download and use one of these for the LFD broker to work and show. It also plugs in to Bagnon – an awesome bag addon – (as do all brokers), which is shiny._

ItemNotes

adds a couple of useful types of note to your item tooltips. You can get it to tell you what items will disenchant into and what you’ll get from milling herbs. You’ll need to download both itemnotes and the disenchants / inks extensions to get it to work (hence why the link goes to a search result showing all three), but it’s useful information if you’ve got a scribe or an enchanter – or just if you want to know what that dungeon drop is likely to turn into if you click the disenchant button instead of the greed button!

OptiTaunt

As a tank I like to let my healers know when I’m using cooldowns or when something’s resisted my taunt so they know when to heal less, or spam heal some DPS who’s forgotten what threat is. Before patch 4.2 I could only find addons that did a half-arsed job of this, then they completely broke in 4.2. Then I found OptiTaunt. It works flawlessly, spamming my raid and party chat with tank cooldown announcements and taunt info. I love it. I like to think my healers do too!

Market Watcher

Hugh wanted to add this addon and I’m about to test it given how much he raves about it. It’s an addon that, surprisingly, watches the AH markets over time. It records the data and gives you graphs reflecting item values so you can jump on them at the right time. Great if you want to up your arbitrage auctioneering.

I’ve used Curse.com to link all of these and they’re also all available via the curse client. Happy addon’eering (it’s a word now)!

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Stuff Wot Waz Cool – roundup

There’s been a lot of great stuff in the blogosphere this week, and we haven’t had time to feature it all. So here’s a quick roundup of some of the other cool stuff that I wanted to feature, but didn’t quite have space for:

  • Zelmaru at Murloc Parliament used to hate cliques. Now she’s in one – the healing clique. And she can’t bring herself to care.
  • Killed In A Smiling Accident has a great point about the fire, and the standing therin – it’s because most of the game isn’t played in the actual gameworld, but played in the interface.
  • Monocles! Yep, EVE has added hot, expensive monocle action – and Nils is pointing out that if you think a $60 monocle is too expensive, CCP aren’t selling it to you.
  • And finally… Rank 4 Healing Touch has unearthed an oldie but a goodie. Yep, it’s the Evil Overlord Checklist, which many people will have seen on the web before – but if you haven’t, take a look. It’s great.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Leaning on your ears

_We’re mostly awol this week visiting family but we’re leaving you in very capable hands with some guest posts! Today’s is from Saif of Raiding After Dark, where he covers everything from fan fiction to tanking notes to commentary on PUGing on an RP server -and more. Over to Saif – thanks for doing this Saif!_

Warcraft is a profoundly visual game. As players, we depend on various bars, meters, flashing signs and ticking numbers to give us data to react to, along with environmental effects and the memory of a particular mechanic. Sometimes, in very cluttered interfaces, that visual information can be difficult to parse. Things get lost in a flood of information and while you’re tracking one thing something important might slip by and suddenly half the raid is dead.

For example, during the Omnitron fight in Blackwing Descent, when Toxitron summons his adds – if you’re focused on some other element of the fight, it’s easy to miss and if you’re the one focused, or the one responsible for slowing the adds, it can cause a big problem. But usually, important, significant stuff like that is prominently tracked – whether through a boss add-on or when the raid-lead is calling things out over Vent to keep everyone on their toes.

It’s the small stuff that can get lost in the mix.

Many of us are constantly tracking things that can occupy a significant portion of concentration. Keeping track of resources that increases and diminishes very frequently (like combo points) or short term buffs (like Inquisition) can be difficult and purely visual information can make your eyes dart over the screen. If you’re not using something like Power Auras to track them right in the middle of the screen, it can be impossible to find something in a long list of buffs at the top of your screen.

At least it is for me – I can track the mechanics of a fight well enough, thanks to preparation and memorization, but tracking very short-term events is difficult for me. So when I found Hear Kitty – I became very excited.

This add-on does one thing, and it does it very simply and elegantly. For classes with rapidly building and expending points (Rogues, Feral Druids, Paladins) it plays a series of ascending notes as the combo points are accumulated and then plays a very short concluding chime when the points are expended. It doesn’t replace your default combo-point display or anything – that is still there. The sounds are a supplement to the visual information.

As a paladin, I have Holy Power that increments when I use certain abilities, and rather than look at the bar filling or diminishing I can look instead at the mechanics of the fight and use abilities as necessary to either build or expend points with a purely audio guide to my current status.

For example, when I’m in Retribution spec, it’s very important for me to know when I’ve got a 3 Holy Power bar so I can hit Templar’s Verdict (using TP at less than 3 HP is a significant DPS loss – this really helps me clean up my rotation), or when I’m in PvP, and about to use a Word of Glory, I want to hit it with all 3 points, so I get the most healing possible – and I don’t have to look away from the fight. I can use my mouse-over macros to cleanse, or I can cast a CC instead – far more important to do that than to track how much Holy Power I have.

The last thing I should mention, is the the conclusion – when you hit an ability that uses your combo points and there is a chance it might fail (as in Shield of the Righteous failing to land) – the notes will not play. That lack of sound is also a bit clue that I need to hit that button again right away and hopefully it’ll land this time. Otherwise, if I don’t notice the miss, I might just continue with my rotation without realizing it.

It might all sound like a very small thing, but it is an incredible amount of data that I no longer have to track visually and it opens up my interface and gives my eyes the room to focus on more important things.

Can this grow to envelop other things? I’m sure at some point overlapping audio information will get confusing just as too many bars and charts and meters will confuse any visual setup, but what if only track the short-term buffs that last for 30 seconds to a minute?

For example, I can use Power Auras to set up something for Inquisition as Retribution or Holy Shield as Protection – short term buffs that are necessary to be maintained. Anytime the buff falls off, or maybe anytime it’s within a few seconds of expiring, in addition to the usual visual information that Power Auras does so well, I can get a certain warning chime, reminding me that I need to rebuff.

Now I’m tracking two things – the notes remind me of current amount of stored Holy Power, one chime warns me of expiring buffs, the other lets me know I’ve depleted my resource.

I think two things might be okay, but more than that, and I might start running into trouble trying to recognize what sounds mean what, especially as they overlap or sound together (this might also run into audio system issues in terms of how many channels your sound card can play simultaneously, etc.)

Going too far has its own problems – I actually had a bit of trouble with this when I was running with the boss add-on Deus Vox Encounters. The add-on would play different sounds and chimes constantly as a fight was progressing and with no clue as to what those sounds meant, I had a very difficult time trying to keep tack of what was going. That one feature – an excess of sounds with no context – turned me off on an add-on that I thought I would like because of its detailed sound-support.

I’m sure Power Auras is also capable of doing this kind of thing quite well with enough work but Power Auras can be intimidating for people who aren’t used to the level of complexity that add-on can bring.

If you haven’t tried this add-on and you play a class with combo-points, I recommend running with it to see how you like it – it might eliminate one thing that you have to keep track of visually letting your eyes work a little less and give you more time to focus on other thing. Hear Kitty is the only add-on I’m aware of that supplements visual information with audial clues but if you’re aware of any others that specifically cater to this, please link them in the comments below, I would love to give them a try!

You can find Hear Kitty at Curse, updated for 4.1: http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/hear-kitty.aspx

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Super-short, super-useful – What can Warlocks CC and what quests haven’t you done?

Good evening, afternoon, or morning as appropriate!

We’re starting off today with a couple of super-snippets – not huge great Tamarind-style epic blog posts, but tiny little hits of the Useful.

First up, Girls Don’t Play WoW has a guide to all forms of Warlock CC. Doesn’t sound that useful? “But I’m not a Warlock”? Think again, I’d say. It’s a quick blast of info that tells you a lot of capabilities you probably didn’t know your raid’s locks had.

Did you know that locks have 6, yes, 6, forms of more-than-2-sec CC? Did you know that with the right glyphs they’re nearly as good at CC as a Mage? I’m damn sure I didn’t.

Well, you do now. Awesome.

Second up, a quick recommendation for an addon that soothes away one of the biggest pains in Cataclysm: lost quests. You know that point where you just can’t find the next damn questgiver? They’re around somewhere, but you’re buggered if you know where?

Windsoar’s been there, and she’s got a recommendation. I’ve wanted an addon like that for years, and I’m very glad that API changes in WoW mean it’s now possible.

So there you go. Short, sweet, simple, and hopefully, handy as hell.

Whilst we’re on the subject – do you have any quick tips for Cata or otherwise you’d like to share with your fellow Melting Potters?

You can find Girls Don’t Play WoW at http://spellbound.nu/gdpw/, and Jaded Alt at http://www.jadedalt.com.

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Addon recommendations for Death Knight runes

I play a Death Knight on World Of Warcraft, and I have something to confess: I wish death runes didn’t exist. Now, before you throw up your hands in despair and head to the Contact Us page with your proforma death threats, hear me out. Let me explain.

I know death runes are the thing that gives our rune system so much flexibility. I know most DPS builds are focussed on enabling as many death rune procs as possible. I know it means less time spent staring at a global cooldown or an empty rune bar. Nonetheless, I repeat: I wish they didn’t exist. Back in the heady days of pre-4.0.1 raiding, I knew exactly what the rune cost of each of my abilities was, and how the use of each ability would affect my rotation. I got to the stage where I could pretty much store the cooldown states for all six of my runes in my head, which meant I didn’t have to look at my rune meter all the time … except for the damn death runes. They throw everything into disarray. It means I have to put a big rune monitor right in the middle of the screen so I know what’s going on.

With the changes in 4.0.1, of course, I’m back to being utterly lost, so I’ve once again been investigating the best way to display my rune status. Lucky for me, then, that two of the best Death Knight bloggers on the internets have both been doing the same thing, and have blogged their experiences. The legendary Skeleton Jack (who I’m so pleased is blogging again) recommends DK Monitor in combination with Tell Me When. Hinenuitepo at DK Death Goddess, on the other hand, is sticking with DKI Runes.

Both posts give an excellent detailed discussion of what each author is trying to achieve and what benefits each addon brings. Personally, I’m currently running DKI Runes concurrently with DK Monitor. Multiple redundancy for the win.

Do you have any addon recommendations for Death Knights? At the moment, I’m trying to find a way to display how many buff stacks my ghoul needs before I can hit the Dark Transformation button. Any clever suggestions?

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Fresh Brew: Addons That Help You Inspect People, Run Guild Raffles And Set Fire To Things

It’s about time we delved back into the realms of new addons, and I thought this time we might mix things up a bit. Ooh err. So this time, instead of only wandering over to WoW Interface’s new addon page I mosied over to Curse.com’s new addons page as well to compare. And it’s been a useful exercise, as both sites are completely different varmint: the new and updated addons listed on them vary widely. Not too much of a surprise – all it shows is some developers prefer one site to another – but does present some variety to spice up our UIs.

And what variety. Here’s what I’ve dug up:

  • LibInspectLess-1.0 – Have you noticed that when you try to inspect people it doesn’t work half the time? Anyone fancy saying ‘bug’? The guys on this addon have been researching the causes behind the inspect bug and have found four so far. Their addon provides a fix for two of the causes, meaning that you’ll be able to inspect away more often. The addon also has a few shiny features meaning its longevity will carry on past whenever Blizzard implement an ingame inspect fix.
  • Elune Power Raffle – now this sounds kind of fun. Officers and guild masters can set up an in game raffle for money or items – every guild member gets a ticket for a shot at the prize, and can earn more. Haven’t had time to test this one but it sounds like a great tool for an occasional morale boost and a laugh.
  • Smoker – nope, this has nothing to do with imbibing substances. This is a neat little addon which provides a more flexible frame for the new ingame feature of placing smoke flares when in a group. The whole idea is great for tactics discussions and Smoker looks like it just makes the concept work more smoothly, especially when in combat.
  • IxsTradeChannelLFMPoller – quite a title, but it has a neat trick up its long, droopy sleeves. It monitors trade chat for raid groups so you don’t have to sit there trawling through dirge. It comes with preset phrases to catch but you can change and add to them. It reports its findings straight to you via detailed whisper, including what raid it is and who’s recruiting.
  • HoPo – there are a slew of holy power tracker addons out there for paladins. This one caught my eye as visually pleasing. Quite honestly without a paladin myself to test it on I don’t know whether it’s practical, but the pictures look shiny and the developer’s already getting feedback for extra prettification, though with HUD addons like IceHUD it might look cluttered.
  • GOATS – ok, I’m sneaking in one from WoWinterface because it’s such a cool idea for warlocks. GOATS tracks demons you enslave, anywhere, everywhere, and keeps their details in a nifty bestiary including optional fully textured models. There’s also a comments/notes functionality, and future versions will improve sorting.

That’s it for now – have you been developing a new addon, or have you found one that you want to share with the rest of the world? Let me know, I’m happy to update the post!

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