Nov 272009

I’d thought a time or two about it, and even read about it here and there on occasion, but I was reluctant to try it. Have you? Have you ever tried mapping attacks to your mouse wheel? No, I don’t mean middle-click. I mean the wheel’s scroller thingamajigger. I’ve been frustrated lately at just how left-hand heavy my general layout is. Two attacks go to my extra mouse buttons, but most end up on the V, B, 1, 2, and 3 keys in various Shift/Ctrl/Alt varieties. This is well and fine for casters, where most of my attacks require a stationary point of view, but I’m just not a stationary person. I like to stay on the move.

So I scrapped my design of many years and mapped two bar slots to my wheel. My initial motivation was frustration at the design of Maul. I’m tired of hammering away at the Maul button, just to make sure it’s up for every attack. By mapping Maul to “scroll wheel down”, casually scrolling the wheel down is the equivalent to hammering the button several times a second. I haven’t really worked out Bear’s new setup beyond that. I have something functional, but it’ll take time to feel elegant. It’s already a vast improvement, though.

Critty Kitty, an after thought initially, has blossomed. I mapped Mangle and Shred to scroll up and down, respectively, and it just felt so graceful. They used to live on my mouse buttons, which freed them up for other attacks. I decided to take it to WSG for a test drive and the improved mobility was staggering. Rarely did I have to lift a finger off of my circle running to use an ability. Mix in a liberal dose of Infected Wounds and nothing escapes my wrath! I ruled the defense game with 3 flag saves, and netted myself Not In My House and Not So Fast while I was there. Yeah, it feels good to run down a flag runner with a speed buff and still win. Defense! Hoo hoo!

So, boasting aside, has anyone else gone free wheely before? Are you afraid to lose your zoom? (My zoom is now Alt + Wheel.) Is your class or style just one that wouldn’t benefit from it? Is the thought of scrolling you opponent into submission awkward? Me, I’m converted. I’m not using it to the same degree on all of my characters. For example, my Elemental Shaman only has Wind Shear on there, so that it’s quickly available, and for those moments when my cooldown is racing the enemy’s casting bar and I just want to spam the button to try and get mine in first. Hmm. The rest of my characters are going to be so confused when I get back to them.

Today’s Fortune Cookie:

You have no chance to survive make your time.

Nov 242009

example-talcalc-1I got a nudge or two about the talent calculator image I made back in the Battleground Kitty Mark Beta 1 Bleeder Roger talent discussion post some ways back. Mostly, they jabbed me and pointed out that I somehow keep accidentally disabling comments. Not sure how that came to be. Maybe the powers that be deemed you weren’t worthy of talking. Nah, just kiddin’, I love you guys.

OMG Skip, we love you too, you sexy beast of an Internet you. But no, seriously, like what’s up with that image and how do you do it?

A valid and stunningly accurate question/observation. My primary reason for cooking up the above was size. When I screen shottied the talent tree as I liked it, the image was obscenely large. 100s of KB, and I don’t mean Killing Blows. When I shrank it down and killed the quality, the numbers (see also: the important part) were unreadable. I could go back and type over it, but that would be taking the easy way out. No, I have to be different.

Enter a little tool called Grease Monkey. Grease Monkey is a heady little Firefox Add-On that lets you inject scripts into live pages to alter their appearance or functionality. We (yes, both you and I) are going to use this to alter how WoWHead’s Talent Calculator looks.

Start by getting Firefox. Done? That didn’t take long. I bet you already had it.

Now, Install Grease Monkey into Firefox. It installs like any other Firefox Add-On, so if you have trouble, there’s docs out there somewhere. I’m not a help desk (at least not on off hours), so if I’m moving a bit fast, I do apologize.

All done? You should have a little monkey head in the bottom right of your screen. He smiles when he’s on and frowns when he’s off. Right-click him and choose “New User Script…”.

This is where we create our script. Name is the name of the script. Call it “Fandangly Weasel” for all I care. Namespace is “http://morebarsthanyou.skipcocoa.net/”, cuz I wrote it! Description is self-explanatory too. “Fandangly Weasel chews threw the cables on the Internetz for me.” Or you can write something useful. Includes are just one line: “http://www.wowhead.com/?talent*”. The * means it’ll alter any and all WoWHead talent pages. There are no Excludes.

If this is your first time using Grease Monkey, it’ll want to know where your preferred text editor is. If you don’t have a preference, you can just find Notepad.exe in your Windows directory, if Windows is your poison. Anything that can edit .TXT files will work fine too. When it comes time to actually write your intimidating script, you’re just going to copy and paste my work:

function addGlobalStyle(css) {
    var head, style;
    head = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0];
    if (!head) { return; }
    style = document.createElement('style');
    style.type = 'text/css';
    style.innerHTML = css;
    head.appendChild(style);
}

addGlobalStyle('.iconmedium div.icon-bubble {background:black;font-family:Impact;font-size:24px;left:26px;line-height:14px;width:16px;}');
addGlobalStyle('.talentcalc-main div div {background:black;}');

All we’re essentially doing is saying “change the styling to be like this”. No actual talent calc functionality is altered. It just turns the backgrounds to black and makes the numbers big with the Impact font. You can change the word Impact to another font, though you may have to toy with the font size and positioning.

Now, with the script saved… You didn’t? Well, I didn’t think I had to tell you. Save it, please. Good. Now, with the script saved, head on over to the WoWHead Talent Calc and punch in a class and some numbers. You should already see your massive numbers and black backgrounds. If not, well, I guess go over it again. It could be any number of things, and I can’t say what for sure. Once you have your tree all prettified, press the Lock link to solidify it, then take a screenshot of it.

From here, it’s your usual image editing magic. I use GIMP, so I’ll continue from that point of view. Feel free to leave at this stage or stick around and snicker quietly at me if you’re a self-important Photoshop user.

I paste the screenshot in as a new image, use the Rectangle tool (the very top left button) to draw around the area of importance, then crop the image (Image Menu > Crop to selection). I then resize it to about 300 pixels wide (Image Menu > Scale Image), and save it as a .PNG file.

This gets me about a 100KB image, but I can do way better. Close it out and reopen the new file in GIMP again. Don’t ask my why I have to do this, GIMP just gives me better quality if I apply the next step to the finished image and not the working file. PNG images work with color palettes, and so can be shrunk way down by decreasing the number of colors. Go to the Image Menu > Mode > Indexed… For the talent trees, I choose “Use web-optimized palette” with “Remove unused colors from colormap” checked and Dithering set to “None”. Some of the colors strip out, but the general look is retained and the image size ends up around 20KB when saved. It’s a solid improvement for modern, image-saturated blogs.

And your fortune cookie for the evening:

WATCH FOR FALLING ROCKS – NEXT 5 MILES

Addendum: Since I figure I covered this about as haphazardly as humanly possible, I went and started a thread on Blog Azeroth on the topic with for to discuss details I didn’t cover well enough. If you’re not a member of Blog Azeroth, and you’re a WoW blogger, I suggest you memberify yourself before you dismemberify yourself (made that up all by myself, hot dog). Topic discussion be heres: http://blogazeroth.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2001&p=9681

Nov 232009

Shared topic => Hizzere <=. Yes, I just said “Hizzere”. Accept it and move on with your life.

Many things have changed and improved within the game between Vanilla, BC & Wrath. Which change that Blizzard released, made a fundamental difference to your gaming experience?

scynna-bowI can answer that question in two words: Battleground Experience. Don’t ask me which patch that was, because I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy drooling over the fact that my Hunter would actually gain levels again. Around level 29, she became hopelessly lost to the confines of Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch. Try as I might to actually go out and level, doing so was largely a means to pass the time in queue.

Once I hit 30 and went from chart-topper to cannon fodder, I was still enough of an annoyance to wall off a WSG flag from all who thought they could just grab the flag and ignore me. Joke’s on you. Hyper Survival Crowd Control Giga-Cannon X Go! That’ll teach you to not kill me. I wiggle my under-leveled squishy tooshie at you!

*cough*

As I was saying, I was really enjoying Hunter PvP, and spending many many hours accomplishing absolutely nothing. If you’ve read any of my other posts, I’m sure you know that’s something at which I’m very good, so it wasn’t going to stop me. It would’ve been nice to have some forward momentum, though. And then they announced it. BG XP! The BGs were suddenly twice as full, many players of whom had next to zero PvP playtime. It was just people out having fun, gaining XP, and moving on with their day. Many BG regulars and twinks absolutely hated it. Their twink status was no more, and their team was suddenly comprised of n00bs who get on their mounts when they cap a flag (because I’ve never done that… on multiple occasions… <_<;). And they made their frustration known (as they always do).

I, meanwhile, was in heaven. My Hunter started leveling and quickly. I was nearing the 50s before I realized I was still geared from my 30s. I even lead and organized a few wins, which is totally out of character for me (and out of character for most BG players to listen). For a month, my other characters atrophied, and I couldn’t have been happier.

It’s not a perfect system. I still think a 10 level bracket is too big of a gap not to offer some sort of balancing buff. Attempting to contribute from the bottom half of the bracket in any meaningful way is mostly an effort in futility, though I’m finding it slightly easier to hunt and peck for similar-leveled opponents than it used to be. Still, I love the BGs and now my time spent in them on the road to 80 isn’t a complete waste of progress.

And your shared topic fortune cookie:

I’ve thought of a charity event. For every losing AV I am part of in which no one spams /bg with insults, blame or assorted QQ, I will make a charitable donation. I’m calling it STFU4Tots. So far, the donation total is $0, and it’s not looking good for the starving orphens.

Nov 192009

Hardly an achievement for you master pet collectors out there, but it’s special for me none the less. I’ve spent long days fishing. I started fishing as a little Resto Druid, if you could call me that, way back in Auberdine, where I worked ever so hard to get me my very first +3 fishing pole. Now, I know anyone can get a +5 fishing pole from any fishing vendor just for the asking, but it was a big deal to me at the time.

And fish I did. I hit the skill cap, and was forced to level all the way to 20. Soon, using my newly acquired Aquatic Form and a single gold I’d pain painstakingly begged together off a friend, I ventured through the seas and past level ?? sea beasties to reach Booty Bay. There, I bought the skill book necessary to keep going, and then I fished more and more until the next cap, and fished on for absolutely no gain. Things have changed these days. There are no more skill books. You can buy the next rank at any level with no fuss, items, or quests. You get skill rank ups, even for failing, now that you can fish up junk. The adventure of it, however eccentric it may have been, can’t be repeated. It lives now only in the memories of that quest.

I won’t say I “love” fishing, but it has had a place in my heart here in this game. When the flawed mechanics and stupid people of the game would get to me, I’d put on some relaxing music and watch a little bobber for an hour or so. I spent a lot of time at cap, so the fact that I just made 450 today belittles just how many fish have seen my inventory bag. None the less, fate saw to stop me a moment and say “don’t look at the other characters, yours is special right now”. Shortly after, around my 630ish cast in the sewers of Dalaran sewers, he tugged on my line and greeted me. This is my Giant Sewer Rat. I’m going to call him “Four-Fifty”.

gsrpet-walrusI caught Four-Fifty under the effect of an Underbelly Elixer. Just as I was ready to call it an evening, the potion spawned next to my feet. I playfully scooped it up and drank it, which turned me into a Tuskarr (my favorite new race of whom I would have much rather been the new Alliance race over Worgen). It gives +50 fishing, which puts me at 525 with my Nat’s Lucky Fishing Pole and newly acquired 450 skill level. That’s just enough to reach the “you can’t fail” point for the sewers, so I decided to lazily fish out the 10 minute buff. It was only a few more casts before the faithful moment. So, of course I had to get a picture with tusky.

gsrpet-kisses

Here's Four-Fifty giving Calhi kisses. Aww, sewer rat kisses! Wait, druids are the only healers without remove disease. Eek!

gsrpet-dinner

Mmm, yum. Critty Kitty gets a really big snack!

It’s sometimes hard to push on in this game, when you’re aiming for pure achievement. Your character looks like everyone else, or at strives to be in end game. It makes it so easy to look around at everyone who has achieved so much more than you, dismissing the hours you’ve spent getting to where you are as nothing more than a weak attempt to keep your head above water. When I play with my friends, I have nothing to offer them but my company, because anything I’ve worked to offer, they have or can get easier and faster. But this is my adventure. It did not start at 80 or 70 or 60. It began at level 1 with a very difficult decision over hairstyle, and continued with learning, exploration, friends and little worthless pets of which I now have 42. They all make up my little experiences. No matter what anyone else has, they can’t experience for me. That’s just something you can’t sell on ebay.

Oh, wow…um… heady. Hey! I got a rat!

On the matter of philosophy, I realize slipped up and forgot your last fortune cookie. Don’t worry, the next meal is on us.

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Nov 172009

Having finally crested the 70 mark a few weeks back, my “on” time has mainly been dedicated to the likes of fishing and cooking dailies. As you can imagine, that leaves a lot of free time, as I don’t think either were invented with any intention other than a mild distraction. “Aww, what the Hellfire,” I thought, trying in futility to say something witty to myself. “Why not hit up the BGs. You used to do it all the time with your hunter. You’re level 70, so you won’t get slapped around in Alterac Valley, and you’ll make a little XP and honor too.”

It has been pointed out that I don't use enough pictures in my posts.  Here is an artistic rendition of my heroic WSG flag cap.

It has been pointed out that I don't use enough pictures in my posts. Here is an artistic rendition of my heroic WSG flag cap.

Of course, if you’re in the know, I was very wrong on two points. It turned out the AV bracket is 70 to 79, and I did, in fact, get slapped around. I didn’t expect us to win. I can count the number of times the Alliance has won AV in the evenings on Shadowburn on one hand. Yes, I earned my Hunter’s Black Battlestrider through almost 30 grueling losses. I was only hoping to be of some use, which I was not. I think my greatest contribution was passing out Mark of the Wild as people left the graveyard. I did manage to down someone with a 5k crit, though I have no idea how.

More depressing was the realization that I’d almost never PvP’d my Druid. 70 levels, and I’d never even seen the far side of Warsong Gulch (which I quickly reconciled with a flag cap) or killed a boss in AV or done anything to put my Honor Kills up over 1000. So enamored was I by the nostalgia of my Hunter’s merits and successes and chart-topping, kill-soaked brilliance, that I hadn’t paused to consider that I might PvP my Druid like a fat-thumbed gorilla who has had his mouse carefully replaced with a rabid badger. And I’d say that’s just how well I did, except I’d be insulting the badger. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I was doing. I know my Druid abilities and when to use them, but knowledge alone does not keep one from acting the fool.

For example, I had a priest two levels my senior (it was all I could do just to find people near my level) on the ropes and ready for the 5-point killing blow when she slapped me with a fear.

  • Professional Solution: Quickly slap Berserk to break out. Feral Charge right back to her location. Strike the killing blow. Be ready to react if she survives.
  • My Solution: Panic and fumble for the Berserk button. Realize that I never put it on the quick bar. Throw hands up in frustration. Get killed by a 78 Blood Elf Paladin while running in circles.
Don't blame me because you suck.

Don't blame me because you suck.

It all comes with practice, I suppose. My failure rides in the back of my mind, though. Once I get my affairs in order, my bags packed and the extra stuff auctioned, I’m leaving my alts behind and headed for the PvP server of Ner’zhul. Oh, I’ve leveled on PvP servers before, but I’ve never reached a level where I might actually stand a chance against the people I came across. No, it was pretty much just my level 30s getting repeatedly trounced by 80s a few times an hour. Having my 70ish getting trounced by 80s, or eventually my 80 trounced by 80s in far superior gear and numbers probably won’t be any different, but the very idea that if I gain some handle on my PvPness I could potentially challenge equal-powered foes in honorable combat has me tingling. It’ll probably never happen. The equal-powered part, that is. From what I’m told, PvP will forever be about finding that unfair advantage and wielding it against anyone weaker than you. I can dream, though. I can dream.