WoW – Healing Spec

Secondary Spec

I finally set up the secondary spec on Suldrun and went with Mistweaver, the monk healing spec. I then entered the Proving Grounds instance several times (and continue to visit just for the additional practice) and was able to earn the bronze achievement fairly quickly.

One thing interesting is the Proving Grounds offers scenarios for dps, tank, and heal, and this is key: in order to queue for tougher random dungeons you need to earn the respective achievement. My plan with switching to the healing spec is to queue for instances and get in some playtime, but as I was looking over the queueing tool, I saw the “heroic” was locked for me. I read the tooltip and it basically said “must earn healing silver achievement to unlock”.

Aha! So I went back in and worked on that, but kept falling short, so I took a break and looked over my gear. I realized that I was healing with my DPS one-handed weapons (one of which was disabled; apparently Mistweaver monks don’t dual wield) so I visited the auction hall to look for a cheap, decent healing staff (or healing pole-arm, if those exist). Basically a weapon with +intellect which would make my healing more effective.

To my pleasant surprise, I found a decent staff with +intellect, ilevel 590ish (lower than my other gear but it buffed my healing stat) for about 120 gold. So I bought it, and for good measure, drank an intellect potion that I made.

This time, I was able to complete the silver achievement, so I can now queue for heroic dungeons as a healer!

Silver Healer
Silver Healer

I like this mechanism, since it means you have to have some baseline of ability/gear in order to queue for more challenging setups.

Gear Upgrades

I didn’t write down the exact numbers, but the staff plus the potion buffed my intellect by about 20%. That’s pretty significant, so I was needlessly gimping myself beforehand. Well it’s all good practice anyhow.

A day or two after I bought that staff, an iLevel 630 weapon appeared as a reward for a follower mission. I spent a day or two doing other follower missions to get more armor/weapon upgrades in order to have a better chance, but ultimately I could only manage a ~70% chance of success. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best… and when the mission completed, I was indeed fortunate and won that 630 staff: specifically a Turbulent Spire of the Deft.

After that I spent some time researching more optimizations using the awesome guides at Icy Veins. They recommended +multristrike for enchantments, so I bought 3 of them: 2 for my rings, and one for my cloak. The neck enchantment wasn’t available but I’ll check again. And unfortunately, the recommended enchantment for my weapon (Mark of Shadowmoon) was way too expensive, so I’ll wait a bit. However, my weapon did have a prismatic crystal slot so I bought a cheap multistrike taladite to slot.

Now I’m as ready as I’ll be so I’m going to try randomly queueing for normal and heroic dungeons. Time for some more group play!

LoTRO – Boerning start

With the approaching holidays and other busyness, I haven’t been able to play much. Plus, WoW currently has its claws into me. However, I do miss me some LoTRO so when I had a little bit of time to spare, I decided to start a Beorning.

The starter instance for Boernings is very short, just a handful of quests to introduce basic combat and shape-shifting.

Beorning Start
Beorning Start

After playing WoW quite a bit over the past few weeks, I’ve forgotten how absolutely beautiful LoTRO is. Not an insult to WoW – Blizzard is consistent with their art directions and I do like the “obvious” fantasy environments, but Turbine succeeds in making a beautiful game with scenery that makes me believe I’m in Middle Earth.

My new Beorning, Lekdrifa (I wound up taking a random name and modifying it slightly) advanced to Archet and has picked up some quests from the Vol 1 Prologue. The starter instance leaves you with some armor and weapon upgrades, a boost to level 5, and instructions to look for Aragorn. Nice!

I feel bad I’ve been neglecting my main char in LoTRO, Naerys. I left off at level 94 and need to continue to Gondor. I think what I’ll do is set aside one day a week to play LoTRO. I’m also going to change up my gaming rotation in 2015, since I tend to binge and I think I would have more fun balancing gameplay and different games more equitably.

LoTR – real world pics

I meant to post this a few weeks ago, 10 years after I took a trip to New Zealand and managed to visit a few movie locations. I forgot until today and was reminded because some friends posted other pics on Facebook as a #TBT.

A little over 10 years ago, in Nov 2004, I had the chance to travel to New Zealand with two friends. It was a great trip overall, with tons of great memories.

We started planning the trip months in advance, and being an enormous Lord of the Rings fan, I bought the Lord of the Rings Guidebook with the hope I’d get a chance to get a tour in somewhere. I definitely wanted to do it, but I was also touring with my friends and knew that we might not have full agreement or even have time to squeeze it in.

To sum it up, I got a chance to spend an afternoon in Wellington looking for various locations, and later in Queenstown, got to take a “Lord of the Rings” tour. At the time, I wasn’t even playing any MMOs; I had stopped Asheron’s Call nearly 2 years earlier, and had yet to start Guild Wars (I think its release was still a few months away). WoW hadn’t even been released, but that was just days away – in fact it released while I was touring. I visited some friends in New Zealand who showed me the game during the first week it was out, but I didn’t wind up trying it until summer 2007, when I also picked up LoTRO.

Anyway, here are some Lord of the Rings related pics I took while I was there 10 years ago.

Reaching for the Ring
Reaching for the Ring
Nazgûl path
Nazgûl path

This spot on path in a park in Wellington, as far as I could determine given my GPS accuracy, etc. is where the hobbits hid from the Nazgûl. Basically just off the path served as the location. I had a tough time navigating to the “exact” location due to bouncy GPS readings, and unfortunately is was getting late so I had to hurry to beat sundown.

Tour Vehicles
Tour Vehicles

Later outside Queenstown, I took a guided tour to various shooting locations. I rode in the Arwen jeep and this was a tour where I knew more than the guide about the lore of the movies. 🙂

Ford of Bruinen
Ford of Bruinen

This unassuming river (stream…) served as the Ford of Bruinen for the movies. One thing to keep in mind is the amount of post-processing done in a modern movie. According to the guide and the book, principal shooting was done here, and later various digital effects added (foreground, background, etc) so it doesn’t resemble the final product in the movie. Which is good because I didn’t want to be swept away by Elrond invoking the power of Vilya.

Gladden Fields
Gladden Fields

Here is where Isildur was ambushed by Orcs and lost the Ring into a river.

We also saw some mountains that appeared as various background shots, as well as the formation that was used for the Argonath. That one was interesting in that much like the Ford of Bruinen, the filming location was digitally edited to add in the Pillars of the Kings monuments.

Anyway, it was a great vacation in general, and for me in particular the Lord of the Rings tour was a highlight. If I return to New Zealand, I’d like to take other ones. Queenstown alone had ~3 location tours (of which I only had time to take one). The North island had some filming locations too: Lake Taupo and surroundings (Mount Doom and Mordor) as well as Matamata (Hobbiton set); I was fortunate to have some time in Wellington to see some of the film locations in that area but didn’t get to tour Weta Studios. Now there might be a few newer things to see because of the Hobbit trilogy – I see there is a new Hobbit Guidebook!

Maybe I’ll get a chance to return and if so, I will definitely make a point to take more LoTR/Hobbit tours. 😉

Hope you enjoyed the pics!

WoW – Best and Worst

Best

WoW continues to be mostly fun – the good/great part is grouping with friends and doing some dungeons/instances – the 5 man variety. One night 3 of us level 100s were on, a rogue, monk (me), and warrior, so we grouped up and queued for random instances. Since we had a tank, our queues pop really quick (within a minute or two) which is awesome. Later, my rogue friend and I queued and it took about ~30 mins to get in as 2 DPS, which also isn’t too bad really. Still, having a healer or tank to queue with is a major advantage.

We ended up in Skyreach (and later, Skyreach again):

Skyreach
Skyreach

I know it’s just executing a rotation against AI but I think Blizzard does a good job with the artwork/design and boss fights. They are fun and most bosses have some quirky mechanic you have to deal with. So far the typical “don’t stand in the fire” applies, but there are some other ones that involve hiding being objects, fighting various adds, blocking a light beam while fighting, enraging and stampeding in some random direction, etc. These mechanics add some variety and contribute a bit more complexity than just wailing away at a mob with high health… but overall the feeling of teamwork to defeat the boss is plain fun. Watching the boss wind up their big attack is also entertaining, as long as you also remember to react.

The 2nd time we went into Skyreach, our healer was a Mistweaver monk – the first one I’ve seen in Draenor. I’ve had Paladin, Druid, and Priest healers, but no Shaman or Monk until now. Well, still no Shaman because we got a monk. It went well, which is encouraging since that means I can be a decent/ok and hopefully good healer and provide some flexibility when it comes to doing instances.

And heck, a lot of the reason my decision to play a monk, paladin, or druid came down to the flexibility of multiple roles – those 3 classes are able to serve all the roles. So perhaps this weekend I’ll look into Mistweaving on Suldrun, and practice in the Proving Grounds instance. Eventually I’ll try healing for a guild group which should be less demanding than an average random group.

Worst

WoW also continues to be just terrible, as far as open world PvP. This about sums it up:

Ganked
Ganked

Earlier while questing on my level 33 druid, a level 42 or maybe 44 warrior attacked me. They used their root/charge skill but I was able to hit escape via Displacer Beast and Prowl (teleport/speed buff plus stealth, for those not familiar with druids in WoW). I found a safe spot and watched while stealthed; after a few minutes the enemy mounted up and rode away. Gankers are bullies that seek easy fights, they are lazy and don’t want a challenge.

However, having stealth and situational awareness is not a guarantee. Around 15 mins later the gank occurred, from a stealthed level 100 rogue. I can’t really do much when an attack that I never saw coming kills me in one hit. I can understand wanting some variety away from dungeons and questing, but I personally cannot imagine being so bored that killing other players with zero risk is in any way entertaining. I suppose that’s why I don’t skulk around ganking lowbies because if I’m ever at that point, I’d just log off and do something else. I think I’ll keep track of ganks or good escapes just to highlight what passes as gameplay for some folks.

The ganking further cements my opinion that open world PvP – in a themepark as Eri pointed out – is pretty much the worst design in MMOs.

To be clear, what I find absolutely awful about open world PvP: ganking. The one-shot-kills are horrifically poor game mechanics. At a lesser level of terrible is all the other stuff: the non-balance between classes, the gear and level differences, etc.

Somewhere in between

I’ve noticed a stratification among my various friends the play, already, mere weeks into the expansion. That stratification is all gear based. I’m not used to playing a game with such obvious gear discrepancies so what probably isn’t a big deal to the long-term players is very noticeable to me.

Basically, due to days off and/or other commitments, one group of friends has been able to play more. As it happens, one friend is behind leveling (and gear), I’m in the middle, and two friends are way ahead. One of the ones ahead is a tank, so he’s got an easy time with the instance finder (short queue times), and another was just able to get a lot of hours in so as a result she’s essentially maxed out until raiding starts.

On the one hand this is cool, part of the fun is the loot-upgrade design. One the other, we can’t group anymore for instances as there is a low/high limit on gear/level before entering an instance. Oof!

It makes sense – somebody overpowered would destroy all the mobs while somebody underpowered would get destroyed (or not effectively heal or tank for the group). But the side effect is that my friends are split and we can’t group for instances/dungeons at the moment.

What would be really cool is if everything scaled – mobs and player level/gear – so that a group could enter and tackle the content at the intended level of difficulty. This would mean boosting the gear/level of lower/under leveled players (temporary boost that only exists in the instance) and nerfing the gear/level of higher/over leveled players (again, just while in the instance).

LoTRO provides something along those lines for solo players trying to catch up in the storyline – the Heroic Inspiration buff you can get if you enter (some?) storyline groups quests as a soloer. As I recall, the quest giver has two options – regular group option, or solo with buff option. So it isn’t quite what I mean since the buff applies to make a soloer stronger (like a small fellowship I suppose!) rather than even out a group that enters.

Anyway, such a system does not exist in WoW and we’ll be separated for a while, especially with holidays and vacations coming up.

GW2 – Quick Session

I hadn’t logged into GW2 in a bit so I decided to adventure on my ranger a bit.

I didn’t have much time so the original plan was to work my way into Timberline Falls towards the next step in my Living Story. Glyneth is level 74 and the quest lists at level 70 so I figured it was about time.

But while examining the map, I noticed that I had “lost” map completion on two zones: Lions Arch and Plains of Ashford. I was missing two quests in the Plains of Ashford, and one point of interest in Lions Arch. I’m sure this was because they were added in some update since I finished off the zones.

So that became my new goal. I wandered in the Plains of Ashford for a while, participated in a dynamic event or two – – actually I jumped in the initial portion, defending a base. The next step was escort some engineers, and the final part was defend the mortars.

It’s fun in that somebody else probably decided to do it, knowing it could be tough with one human player and NPC defenders. But then I showed up and helped out; by the time we were at the mortar defense we were 3 or 4 players strong and had a much easier time.

After that I had a tough time locating the new quests. I visited “blank” areas on the map, but as it turned out the two I missed were tucked into the upper left corner, where I didn’t think there was enough room. From the position these 2 new quests were in, they must have been added for new players since they would come across them almost immediately after stepping out of the city as a new Charr.

The point of interest in LA was easy to find as it was on my map in the middle of the water. After a quick dive, I got it.

I had already received the cartographer awards for these two zones, so I didn’t re-get them. I just got back to 100% so my mapping OCD can relax. 😉

Running out of time, I map traveled close to Timberline Falls and closed out viewing a vista. GW2 is pretty fun and relaxing and is a great fit when I just have ~30-45 mins to play.

Timberline Falls Vista
Timberline Falls Vista