Monday, August 24, 2009

PowerAuras, the Best AddOn You've Never Used!

Some time back I was doing research for the boss Prime has been stuck on (and is still stuck on) for the past couple months: Yogg-Saron. Now that the new raid is out we've been getting even less time with this old God and our attempts lately have been... well... see for yourself.

To be fair though, that was a wipe and we were running around purposefully tapping the clouds to see how many we could spawn at once! We are actually finally making solid progress on the boss, which makes me happy.

But I digress. In the video I watched, there was an AddOn that periodically flashed on screen that caught my eye. Here is the video in question, and the flash I'm talking about is the red swath that periodically frames the person filming at around 1:55.

Meghan helped me identify what was going on, since she also plays a mage named Fawynd. It turns out the mage in the video was proccing free pyroblasts and the indicator was meant to warn her so she could react without having to watch a buff list like a hawk.

The AddOn(mod) providing these warnings was called PowerAuras, and it can be found here.

So I went about setting these up on a couple of my characters. The menus weren't exactly user friendly but with a little exploration I was quickly able to figure them out. The end result is that I can focus more of my attention on what is going on in the game and less on my interface.

For my shaman, I set up a blue indicator midscreen to warn me when my mana regeneration buff, Water Shield, was inactive and a smaller fiery indicator on top of my screen when my weapon was no longer buffed with Flametongue weapon. I got even better results with my death knight tank, setting up a large indicator for when Rune Strike was usable, when a free Howling Blast procced and another to warn me about when Horn of Winter wasn't active much like the Flametongue warning for my shaman.

The uses are endless, really. You can configure them to warn you about anything from being stunned or silenced to when valuable procs are active like Clearcasting or a trinket buff. The most creative of uses I've seen was posted in the UI section of the official World of Warcraft forums.

If you've ever played Gears of War you'll recognize what he did with PowerAuras in the following image links:

Light Damage
Moderate Damage
Heavy Damage

The different indicators were displays of how much damage the player had taken. This would be an excellent means of tracking health without having to constantly glance back down at your unit frames. Odds are slim that a player would miss that giant red splotch midscreen on low health, but it can be quite a surprise when you get your face planted in the dirt after neglecting to check a player frame tucked away in a far corner of the screen.

I feel that the only real drawback to this mod is the configuration. It has an amazing number of options packed into a small space and it can be offputting in the beginning, but once you get it set up properly it can be one of the most unintrusive and informative mods at your fingertips. To that end, I've set up a short tutorial below.

Tracking a Buff With PowerAuras

Once PowerAuras is installed and you've loaded up the game, type in the slash command /powa to open the list of effects. You'll see that I've already set up a couple for my shaman but I'll be setting up another here to display when my Water Shield buff is not active. This is a simple and easy use for PowerAuras as Water Shield is a buff I like to have on myself as much as possible. The spell itself does have a visual cue in game in the form of an orb of water orbiting my character, but in the heat of combat when the spells are flyin' it's much easier to see a PowerAuras indicator than the in game orbs.

To create a new effect click the new button.

The options can be confusing at first, but I promise there isn't much here that isn't some other AddOn's configuration menu. Whenever you are at this window it will only affect a single effect, so you'll need to edit each one individually to your tastes.

Effects are also saved on a per-character basis so you won't see a warning you set up on your mage clogging your screen on your rogue.

Focusing on only the top half of the menu first, I'll pick a texture. You can adjust the highlighted slider to scroll through the available textures or, for more advanced users, set your own textures for use. The textures have the .tga extension and can be edited in GIMP.

For this example I'm going to use a shield texture, since it will be the Water Shield Buff. I'll also adjust the color to blue to represent water.

On the bottom half of the options menu is where you link the texture to the correct conditions. For this example I'll set it to display when the buff called Water Shield is not active.

And the end result is that when the Water Shield buff is active nothing is displayed. But when the buff needs to be re-applied a blue shield centered on the screen will display. This will be an easy visual cue during a heated battle that my mana regeneration buff has faded and should be recast when I have a free second to do so.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thank you, Microsoft. No really, thanks.

Humans are interesting animals. We lift ourselves above the animal kingdom like we're better than them. I recently saw an episode of That 70's Show where Eric got caught masturbating in Donna's bathroom. In a dazzling display of how completely unaware of our own nature people are, Red shouted out against this atrocity, asking Eric: "What are you, an animal?!"

As if human beings have climbed to such a high pedestal that our primal nature doesn't affect us. I disagree.

Have you ever seen a rat run through a maze to find the cheese? He (or she) was taught to do so. Because of the promise of reward he was able to learn which way he needed to go to reach the feeder bar for a reward. Humans work the same exact way, and Microsoft has perhaps unwittingly begun the destruction of common sense online.

If you run Windows Vista you probably know what this is. The prompt that rears it's ugly head on average every 3.7 seconds while you're tooling around on your computer. The point of it is to make sure the user intended to initiate some change to the computer that could affect the system in any significant way. It's a measure of security to make sure important system settings cannot be initiated without direct input from the user. And it's good on paper.

Unfortunately, the frequency with which these pop-ups occur causes the user to become complacent. We expect the window to pop up and we know that 'Continue' button is the feeder bar. We don't care what the window says, it could say 'Click continue to install a virus on your computer and send your social security number to a disreputable individual so he can buy a boat!' and hundreds of thousands of people would click continue.

One of the less disastrous examples of this behavior is in, you guessed it, World of Warcraft.

One of the best ways to get some small group play in is to run heroics. They are designed for only a small group and the loot is better than anywhere else you could go with only 5 people. The drawback is that you can only do each heroic once every 24 hours. When you kill a boss that yields loot you get 'saved' to the instance. If, however, you go into a heroic where the bosses have already been killed you will have the option of whether or not you want to get saved to the instance.

This helps because previously people would join a group not realizing that someone in the group was already saved and upon zoning in become saved themselves. And with the bosses killed there is nothing to be had other than a piddly few gold's worth of trash to clear. So Blizzard in their infinite wisdom came up with this!

  • Players first entering any dungeon that will result in a lock-out timer will be warned if they are going to be saved to the instance. This warning will include an option to port to the nearest graveyard before being saved.

It is a warning of sorts. If you enter an instance that has already been saved to a player (P.S. this always means a boss is dead) you are prompted with this window. You can then click accept to accept the save, zone out, or click the other button to be taken to the nearest graveyard outside the instance.

This morning I had decided to resume my emblem farming with my Death Knight Tank. I got an invite to the daily dungeon almost immediately, so I knew something was up. There's no way it could be that easy.

It turned out that one of the DPSers in the group had done that dungeon the night before, and as it was still before noon the instances had not reset yet. Of course, he didn't realize it until myself and another group member were zoning back out screaming 'WTF who's saved to HoL?!?!". He admitted he had forgotten about the save readily enough and offered to drop so we could pick up another. It happens, it's no big deal. In fact, that's the exact reason for the dialog. We, as animals, are not perfect and forget things.

Unfortunately the healer was apparently part of Microsoft's new culture of lemmings. So now that the healer was saved the rest of the group evaporated in a matter of seconds. This, also, is normal. It's not at all uncommon that the loss of one of the major roles will disband a group. People aren't interested in taking the role of leader or even taking over the role of leader so when things look like they might slow to a crawl most players will abandon the group and go in search of another when that group is 3-4 other strangers.

So now I sit and type, and wait for noon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

As Superman goes around the world to reverse time, so goes Oobie! spoken by my guild's leader Keltos, known to the guild as Pete.

So for one reason or another we had decided to work on Flame Leviathan hard mode that night once we were relegated to 10s due to poor attendance. Since we'd already killed Yogg-Saron I personally had no problem with this so i was in good spirits at the time. With no immediate normal mode progression left, why not start with Flame Leviathan(FL)?

Now, in regards to FL I have a very specific role, one that I take on every week as I have the most practice with it. During the encounter one player is launched out of a catapult, landing on top of FL. Once there that person knocks out the turrets mounted on FL causing an overload and allowing the rest of the raid to do significantly more damage for a short time.

During this fight the entire raid is riding various types of vehicles and it's the vehicles that take all the damage for this particular encounter. Because of this mechanic it's not necessary to buff the raid as the vehicles are the workhorses. In my role, however, it is still my character doing the damage while riding FL, so I am usually buffed before I get in a vehicle.

One of our Paladins didn't get his buff on me before I got into the vehicle and loaded myself into the catapult, and the only way to get out of the catapult is to be launched out of it. Of course, if I don't have FL to land on I would die from fall damage after being launched out; this presented us with something of a conundrum and I was willing to just go without the buff, but Pete had an idea... what would happen if he drove up to a pillar and launched me into the side of it? As long as the initial launch didn't kill me I'd just clip on the pillar and fall a reasonable distance to the ground and survive, right?

I can only blame myself for what happened next. Pete asked the question and I enthusiastically answered, "Do it!"

He did. And I didn't clip on the pillar.

He launched me straight through the pillar, but I didn't die! I flew through the air directly at FL, who had been minding his own business waiting for us to engage, landing on his back in prime turret killing position starting the encounter!

Luckily for us, the rest of the raid had been milling around outside the encounter area, so when I engaged the walls around FL's area went up, locking out most of the raid. It was a wipe, called and executed fairly quickly. One of the great things about my guild though is that we were all able to laugh it off as we flew back into the instance, but wait....

We zoned in and the blue bubble over the entrance area was back up... that shuts off when you start clearing trash! WTF! It turns out that Pete had launched me so hard it tore a wormhole through the fabric of WoW, causing the entire raid to make a quantum leap into the past before we had cleared trash!

We ended up coming back and clearing hard mode after a few more attempts, ratcheting up Glory of the Ulduar raider one more achievement closer to a Rusted Proto-Drake, but I'll always remember being launched so hard it reset the instance!

Welcome to my own personal brand of insanity....

Welcome to my new blog. Please allow myself to introduce... myself.

Many who know me call me by the name of Oobie. It's a title I've held for near of a decade now, through 3 separate MMOs. I did a 4 year stint of Everquest in it's hayday, spent a good half year on EQ2 and have been cruisin around the World of Warcraft more or less since it's been out.

My main focus here will be the trials and tribulations experienced vicariously through my main character - a PvE focused Elemental Shaman. I do, however, paint a bit broader pallet as a gamer in general so it's much more than likely that I'll touch on other game both video and non. I'm a fan of RPGs, Magic: The Gathering, all kinds of PC and console games and movies. You know, the kickass ones.

Stay tuned!