Friday, December 25, 2009

The 4 (5?) Healers.

All spells have a cast time unless otherwise noted.

The priest is the archetypal healer.  A jack-of-all-trades.  The Priest actually has two raid viable healing specs.  Here is a rundown of the basic priest abilities.
  • Flash Heal - A high throughput, low efficiency heal with a low cast time.
  • Greater Heal - A low throughput, high efficiency heal with a high cast time.
  • Renew - A heal-over-time (HOT) spell.  Ticks every 3 seconds over 15 seconds. (every 3 over 15).  Instant.
  • Power Word: Shield - Places an absorption shield that will absorb a fixed amount of damage.  Instant. Cooldown.
  • Prayer of Healing - AOE healing spell that hits party members of the target within 30 yards.
  • Binding Heal - Heals the target and the priest.  Good for when the priest gets aggro on a mob.
  • Prayer of Mending - A buff that heals the target when the target is struck.  It then travels to a nearby ally.  Has 5 charges.  Has a cooldown.  Instant.
  • Dispel Magic:  Dispels a magic effect from the target.
  • Abolish Disease:  Removes a disease from the target and removes over time.  (every 5 over 20)
  • Mass Dispel:  An AOE Magic Dispel ability.  
  • Divine Hymn:  A channeled heal (2 over 8).  That heals the 3 lowest targets for a massive amount.  Cooldown.
  • Power Word: Fortitude - Increases the Stamina of the target.
  • Divine Spirit - Increases the Spirit of the target.
  • Shadow Protection - Increases the Shadow Resistance of the target.
Holy Priest
This is THE classic healer.  Often considered to be the jack-of-all-trades healer.  It has recently gotten a bad rap for not being good enough at any one role.  But I always feel better when I have at least one in my raid, because I know they can adapt to any situation, letting us heal any fight.  The Priest has the most healing spells of any healer:
  • Desperate Prayer - Instantly heals the priest.  Cooldown.
  • Circle of Healing - AOE heal centered around the target.  Instant.  More Mana efficient than Prayer of Healing, but has a cooldown.
  • Lightwell - places a Lightwell on the ground which players can click to receive healing.  Very efficient, but hard to get players to use.  Cooldown.
  • Spirit of Redemption - when the priest dies, it will stay around as a spirit for a while that can still cast healing spells for 15 seconds.
  • Guardian Spirit - Buffs the target that increases healing done to the target by 40% for 10 seconds.  If they die, they will be instantly resurrected with 50% health.  Cooldown.
Circle of Healing is the iconic Holy Priest spell.  When you get a Holy Priest, you are getting a great AOE healer.  Circle of Healing will take care of most of your AOE healing, while Prayer of Healing and Prayer of Mending will take care of the rest of your AOE healing needs.  Holy Priests aren't the best tank healers, but can still manage if needed.

Discipline Priest
Discipline Priest only became raid viable in Wrath of the Lich King.  Previously, it was the Priest's PVP helaing spec.  The hallmark of Discipline healing is its vastly improved ability to shield targets.  A Discipline Priest's Power Word: Shield reflects damage back at the attacker, restores mana/rage, has no cooldown, and is stronger.  Also, a Discipline Priest's crits will place a shield on the target.  They also have many support abilities.
  • Inner Focus - Makes your next spell instant and has an increased chance to crit.  Cooldown.
  • Power Infusion - grants the target with 20% extra haste and mana efficiency for 15 seconds. Cooldown.
  • Pain Suppression - Reduces damage taken by the target by 40% for 8 seconds.  Cooldown.
  • Penance - Launches 3 healing volleys at the target in 2 seconds.  Channeled.  Cooldown.
The Discipline Priest is often considered a very capable single-target healer, because of it's buffed shields and Penance.  However, the Discipline Priest is still a capable raid healer, and shouldn't be ignored in that capacity.

Restoration Druid
The Restoration Druid is classified by its vast array of HOT spells.  They come in all shapes, sizes and uses.  It is also identified by Tree of Life form, which buffs the Druid's ability to heal significantly.  This is a common trend with Druids.  Each tree has forms which make its ability to heal comparable to other healing classes.  Without further ado, here are the core spells:

  • Mark of the Wild:  Buffs the target with extra armor, abilities, and resistances.
  • Thorns:  Buffs the target with a shield that does damage to any target that strikes them.
  • Healing Touch:  A basic long-cast direct healing spell.  
  • Rejuvenation:  A basic HOT spell. (3 over 15).  Instant
  • Regrowth:  A combination direct healing and HOT spell.  (3 over 21).
  • Tranquility:  A massive AOE healing spell to all nearby allies.  (2 over 8)  Long Cooldown.  Channeled.
  • Lifebloom:  A (1 over 7) HOT spell.  Stacks up to 3 times.  When the HOT completes, it does a large direct heal and refunds half of the mana cost.  Instant.
  • Nourish:  A Direct Healing spell that heals an extra 20% if the target has a HOT on them.  
  • Rebirth:  The only in-combat resurrection spell.  Cooldown.
  • Abolish Poison:  Like Abolish Disease, but for poisons.
  • Remove Curse:  Removes a Curse.
The talented abilities are:
  • Nature's Swiftness:  Makes your next healing spell w/ a cast time of <10secs is instant cast.  Best used with Healing Touch
  • Swiftmend:  Consumes a Rejuvenation or Regrowth effect on the target to heal for the full amount of the spell.  Direct Heal.  Instant.  Cooldown.  No mana cost.
  • Tree of Life Form:  Increases healing received by 6% to all nearby allies.  Other talents increase the amount of healing the Druid does while in Form.
  • Wild Growth:  A HOT form of Circle of Healing.  (1 over 7).  The healing is stronger at the beginning than the end.  Cooldown.
Druids are often used for tank healing, because the HOTs will automatically heal the tank after they take damage.  They are effective raid healers too.  Rejuvenation is good for spot healing a raid member who takes a little damage.  Lifebloom can be used in many ways.  A single or double stack of lifebloom can be used to spot heal small damage.  Stacking lifebloom can be used for tank healing where you don't let it fall off, since the HOT heals a large amount.  Also, you can stack lifebloom 3 times, but let the tanks health dip so the bloom at the end will bring them back to full.  It's a complicated spell that needs to be learned.  Swiftmend is useful for burst healing that won't interrupt your mana regeneration.

Restoration Shaman
Restoration Shamans are well known as a very capable AOE healer.  This is because of Chain Heal and Ancestral Awakening.   Earth Shield makes a great addition to a raid when placed on a tank.  The basic Shaman Healing abilities are:

  • Lesser Healing Wave:  Fast Healing Spell.
  • Healing Wave:  Slower Healing Spell.  More mana efficient, but less time efficient than LHW.
  • Chain Heal:  A direct healing spell that chains to two other targets.
  • Earthliving Weapon:  Weapon enchant that increases healing and gives the Shaman's healing spells a chance to place a modest HOT on the target.  (3 over 12).
  • Healing Stream Totem:  Passively heals all allies for a small amount for 5 minutes.  Can be very powerful in certain fights.  
Talented Abilities are:
  • Cleanse Spirit:  Removes a disease, poison, and curse from the target.
  • Riptide:  A direct heal/HOT effect (3 over 15).  The next chain heal on that target is boosted by 20%.  Cooldown.
  • Earth Shield:  A shield with charges that will heal the recipient when they take damage.  
  • Ancestral Awakening:  Causes your LHW & HW crits to also heal the lowest health party member for 30% of the original heal.  Passive.
  • Tidal Waves:  Causes Chain Heal and Riptide to buff your next 2 LHWs or HWs.  Healing Wave gets a 30% cast time reduction.  LHW gets a 25% crit boost.  Buff lasts 15 seconds or until used.
  • Nature's Swiftness:  Exactly like the Druid spell.  Your next Restoration spell w/ a <10 cast time is instant.  Cooldown
  • Tidal Force:  Your next 3 LHW, HW, or CH have an increased crit chance.  The first has +60%, the second +40%, the third +20%.
So the Shaman is very capable at raid healing because Chain Heal and Ancestral Awakening will automatically heal the targets who need the healing. Riptide will boost your chain heals and make your LHW and HW more effective (getting more Ancestral Awakening procs).  Along with keeping Earth Shield on the tank, you have a great healing strategy.  Note the passive/proc'd healing effects that contrast with the Priest's and Paladin's wider variety of spells.
Holy Paladin
Paladins are the highest armored healers, which makes them great for PVP.  Holy Paladins specialize in direct heals and are fantastic tank healers.

  • Holy Light:  Long Cast, Time Efficient.  Referred to as a bomb.
  • Flash of Light:  Short Cast, Mana Efficient.  Not as much throughput as Holy Light.
  • Lay on Hands:  Heals the target for equal to the Paladin's max health.  Cooldown.
  • Judgement of Light:  Debuff on an enemy that grants allied attackers healing.
  • Cleanse:  Removes a poison, disease, and magic effect.
  • Sacred Shield:  Buff that absorbs damage from every attack.  One target at a time.  If Flash of Light is cast on the Shield target, it will place a HOT equal to the FOL's value.  3 over 12
  • Divine Protection:  Reduces damage taken by the target by 50% for 12 seconds.  
  • Auras:  Various resistance auras and defensive auras.
  • Blessing:  Various buffs that can be picked depending on class and situation.
Talented Abilities Highlights:
  • Light's Grace: Holy Light reduces the cast time of your next Holy Light by .5 seconds.
  • Holy Shock: Instant Cast heal with a cooldown.  Good for moving.  
  • Judgements of the Pure: Your judgements will grant you spell haste.
  • Infusion of Light:  Your Holy Shock will reduce the cast time of your next Flash of Light by 1.5 seconds and increase the crit chance of your next Holy Light by 20%
  • Beacon of Light:  Buff.  All healing spells the Paladin casts will also heal the Beacon of Light.  Allows the Paladin to heal a target of than the tank w/o the tank dying.
Also noteworthy
  • Glyph of Holy Light:  Holy Light will also heal 5 allies around the target for 10% of the Holy Light's value.
The Holy Paladin is the quintessential tank healer.  But with Beacon of Light, is allowed to heal other targets w/o sacrificing tank healing.  Many of the Paladin's healing effects are passive, procced, like the Shaman.

If you made a Holy to Natural spectrum for the lore/design perspective, it would go Paladin->Priest->Shaman->Druid.  You'll notice that the Paladin is mostly Direct Heals, and as you go the healers gain more HOTs, with the Druid being mainly HOT based.  You'll also notice that the Priest and Druid, who have less armor, have more healing spells, and fewer passive healing effects.  The Shaman and the Paladin have more armor, less healing spells, but more healing effects.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Technology and Wealth

Average wealth  = (Sum of all goods that people have)/(People).  Fortunately, the number of goods produced increases linearly with the number of people there are (with an upper bound on resources).  So the only way to increase the average wealth is to allow the average person to produce more.  Technology is the key way to do this.  Technology allows people to get more work done, faster, and more efficiently.  So overall, and you'll find that history backs up this proposition, you'll find that the only way to increase the quality of life of people is to increase their access to technology.

Recycling, too, will allow the increase of quality of life.  It will increase the supply of materials.  Reducing and reusing items will lower the demand for products.  All in all, this will reduce the cost of goods, allowing more people access to them.

So technology and recycling are the keys to a better future for impoverished countries.  It will allow those people to not have to struggle to satisfy their basic needs for food, water and shelter.  If they don't have to worry about those needs, they can focus on developing their culture, they won't fight as much because survival isn't an unknown quantity, they will be able to develop advanced skill-sets and join the rest of the world in science and technological development.  They will thrive.

This is the key to a better future.

The Genetic Imperative and why sex feels good.

Sex feels good, right?  If you haven't experienced it firsthand, I'd wager that your expectation is that it will (or would, if you're abstinent) feel good.  Think about the natural things that occur to people: eating, sleeping, pain, starvation, etc.  Apart from drugs, things that feel good are often good for the body.  Things that are bad for the body feel bad.  Eating and sleeping keep us alive.  Starvation, pain (through heat, bludgeoning, stabbing, etc) are bad to us and are likely to end our life.  The reason that these things have their sensation is because it is our body's way of programming our conscious behavior.  It's reinforcing survival, and punishing what is harmful.  Fear keeps us away from unknown dangers.  Pride reinforces our success.  Shame punishes our failures.  Our body is telling us what will kill us, and what will keep us alive.  Therefore, our body wants us to have sex.  And since our body doesn't know about the idea of recreational sex, it wants us to reproduce.

Beyond the general good feeling, we feel the need to reproduce.  We have this base impulse to create more of ourselves.  In women, it can be referred to as being baby crazy, or the maternal clock ticking.  However, many people would argue that we human are doing nothing good for this world or this universe.  Seriously, how are we making the world better for the organisms around us?  It would seem that our world doesn't need any more of us, that it would be better off without us.

So why does sex feel good?  Why do we want to reproduce?  What good will reproducing make?  Why does this world need 1 more person?  Honestly, I'd say the world doesn't need another person.  This world doesn't need more people.  We don't arrive at some logical conclusion that we need to have kids.  We simply want to have kids.  The reason that we reproduce is because we can, and our genes program us with the desire to do so.  If we weren't programmed to have the desire to procreate, we wouldn't procreate, and we would die out.  Any species that didn't have that desire died out, and what lives are the ones that did have that desire.  

So should we repress this impulse?  Should we do the world a favor and stop the spread of the human race?

No.  If this planet dies, if it can't support our life anymore, what's the loss?  If the Earth can't support humans anymore, we will die, and therefore suffer the weight of our actions.  Without humans, the Earth will slowly fix itself, burying our poisons within the crust, sinking to the core to be broken down.  Some plants and animals will survive what we have done, and those plants and animals will slowly clean up the mess, making a new world.

Of course, not all humans will die.  We are nothing if not plucky and resilient.  Our numbers will dwindle, to a level that Earth can handle.  We will reform our ways.  We will help restore the Earth to its former glory.  We will either learn from our mistake and keep the earth clean, or the process will repeat itself.

So reproduce, but remember to do the Earth good.  Clean up your act.  Teach your children the proper way to care for our home, our planet.  It's the only Earth that we will have, terraforming and traveling to another planet isn't going to happen.  They're too far out, and there aren't many (if any) places that can support us.

We don't need to take care of the Earth for the Earth's sake.  We need to take care of the Earth for our children's sake.

Game Review - L4D

Because of Steam's sales that have been going on this weekend, I was able to pick up the original L4D on the cheap.  And let me tell you, it is AWESOME!

Basic Gameplay
Left 4 Dead is a cooperative based shooter with a competent AI (or they get better guns, it's hard to tell).   

It's refreshing to play a co-op shooter, especially one where the enemies don't have guns.  The choices that you have to make between weapons are all interesting, coming down to personal preference as opposed to min-maxing.  The zombies are not only capable of doing damage, but they are also capable of locking down the survivors, which creates a more interesting and frightening game-play.  This encourages you to never stray far from your teammates, because only they can save you if you become locked down by a zombie.

Narrow passageways and wipe open spaces are both comforting and dangerous.  Narrow passageways allow you to funnel the zombies, making them easier to kill, but they leave you with fewer escapes.  Wide open spaces allow the zombies to come from anywhere, but give you freedom of movement.  Fear never leaves you.

The versus multiplayer is intense, with the zombies working together to kill the survivors.  You're weak by yourself, and powerful when you work together.  And fewer things can compare to the rush of finding a survivor who has been separated from the rest of the group.  One thing can though, playing as the Tank.  Smashing the survivors around with your massive power and health pool is so fun, it's worth sloshing through the jerks who play online.  Here are some multiplayer tips:
  • Use boomers to distract the survivors
  • Use smokers to separate the survivors
  • Use hunters to finish them off.
  • Use the tank to destroy and distract the survivors.  A tank attack combined w/ effecting smoker and hunter use will ruin the survivors.
I have not played survival mode, but I suspect it to be awesome.

I recently ordered Left 4 Dead 2 from Amazon.  It came in the mail the day that I left for Mountain Home and would be away from the computer that can actually run it.  When I get back I'm going to play the hell out of that game.

Catch ya later!

The Huntering Hunter Hunt

I've taken up playing my hunter again.  He's level 27 now and very close to level 28.  I am playing him with the express purpose of being a great damn hunter when I reach level 80.  Right now, I'm training myself in the use of Frost Trap and Distracting Shot.  So far, I've been doing very well with soloing quests that I might not have been able to had I not decided to train myself in the use of these abilities.  Some experiences that I have had.

The new LFG tool works well even at low levels.  It used to be impossible to find a group for a low level dungeon.  Now it's easy.  Even if you can't get into a dungeon, it requires minimal effort, so you won't waste your time.  Just queue up and continue questing while you wait for a group.  This brings us to...

Blackfathom Deeps
I got into a pug for Blackfathom Deeps just by queuing in the Dungeon Finder.  The healer never joined us in the group.  Instead preferring to quest in Redridge Mountains, possible going to jump into our group at the last minute to grab the extra loot.  The tank AFK'd and didn't rejoin us in LFG so we couldn't get a new healer.  So a DPS warrior was in a prot spec and tanked for myself and a warlock through 3/4 of the instance.  At which point we were able to vote kick the AFK tank (there is a limit to how often you can vote to kick), take bake control of the group, and invite a healer to finish the instance.  Between my bear offtanking and the actual tank, we did incredibly well throughout the instance.

Quest Tracking
The new quest tracking features make questing require much less effort than before.  It allows you to see all of the quest objectives that you have in the zone so you can effectively plan your path around the zone to complete them.  No more will you get back to town and hit yourself for forgetting about a quest.

Heirloom items are still going strong.  At some point, Blizzard introduced an heirloom chest that also offers an XP boost (10%).  I just need to get my hunter a bow, and non-pvp heirloom shoulders and he'll be decked out for quite some time.

Low-level mounts
Basic mounts are now trained at level 20, for 4g.  Epic mounts are trained at level 40 for 50g.  Flying mounts are first trained at level 60 for 250g, and epic flying mounts are trained at 70 for 5000g.  Cold weather flying is now available at level 68 if you have a level 80 character to buy the Tome to learn it.

All of this has made leveling alts much easier and faster.  Does leveling need to be hard?  I don't think so.  Leveling should be about learning your class' mechanics and learning the lore of the world, not spent running around zones that you have trouble in, dying to creatures that aggro you.

PixelJunk Shooter

Yesterday, PixelJunk Shooter came out.  And since I've bought every PixelJunk Game since Racers, I bought this one as well.  (Note to self: Beat PixelJunk Eden, and Monsters: Encore)  I had been eagerly anticipating this next release from Dylan Cuthbert's Q-games (not to be confused with Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Q Entertainment) for quite some time.  In it, you control a little spaceship who's task is to rescue miners from the caves beneath a planet's surface.  They had been searching for resources and had become trapped by rock, lava, water, and various other hazards.

The game plays more like a puzzle game than a Geometry Wars-like shooter, with enemies being infrequent and more of an obstacle, as opposed to being a threat to your health.  One analogue stick makes you move, the other points your ship.  The L Buttons use the grappling hook, which picks up miners, gems, and other objects.  The R Buttons fire shots, and if held will shoot missiles.

The principle method of survival is not overheating.  Being close to Lava and being hit will heat up your ship.  Touching the lava will generally result in death.  Heat will naturally dissipate w/ time, but dunking the ship in water will rapidly cool you.  There is soft rock, which can be destroyed and hard rock than cannot be.  Much of the gameplay revolves around destroying the soft rock so that water or lava will flow somewhere else.  When lava and water meet, soft rock is formed.  So a typical level will likely involve making water or lava flow together, then destroying the resulting soft rock to progress.

Other fluids are introduced as the game progresses, including an explosive gas and a magnetic liquid.  There are also special 'suits' that change your ships abilities.  One suit makes you able to survive in lava but not in water.

The goal of the game is to rescue the lost miners/researchers that have become trapped in the levels.  You have to pick them up with your grappling arm before the levels hazards, or you, kill them.

The visual style of the game is great.  All of the fluids look and move wonderfully.  The music is strange but very good.  It's low-key, but it kinda fosters the spelunking feel of the game. Overall, very good to look at and listen to.

Overall, PixelJunk Shooter is a great game, that just doesn't last long enough.  Perhaps it's short because making it longer would require reusing level ideas.

Things I hate about you.

Things that I have come to hate about the puggers that I seem to get stuck with.

1)When I mark, follow it.
There are 2 reasons that I mark targets.  I will mark for tactical reasons, such as healing targets or caster mobs.  I will mark targets to help my threat generation.

I play a Bear tank, and we don't have the best AOE threat generation, it's slow to generate and requires constant Swipe spam.  So I tend to mark a first kill target so that I can generate some AOE threat before the DPS start to unload their massive AOE damage.  This way, I won't lose control of the targets.  I can handle their single target threat easily.  So when I mark a skull target, KILL IT FIRST.  It seems like every Ret Paladin seems to have a complete and utter disregard for my marking.  If I mark a Skull target, they will run up and deliberately attack some other target.  Please, just kill skull first, things will go much more smoothly.

2)Don't ever pull for me.
If you deliberately pull a set of mobs, I will let them beat on you, and I will pray for your death.  If the healer decides to keep you alive and heal you, I will pull them off of you for the healer's sake.  I am an incredible asshole in this regard.  After the pack is dead, I will call you out on this.

I know that tanks aren't some amazing gift from the cosmos to save you, but just as healers are expected to heal, and I am expected to keep all of the mobs attacking me, you are expected to kill them w/o aggroing them.  This brings me to number 3.

3)Keep in mind of where you are, and where the patrols are.
If you are a caster, you can't just stop moving once you get in range of the mobs.  There are patrols that will move by us and latch onto you.  If you are melee, keep in mind that running behind a mob might aggro another pack.  I have to pick up this new pack, because if I don't, the healer will get distracted, and I might die.

Doing this is a bad thing.  Yes, I can often pick up this new pack and with the use of cooldowns and some sweat from the healer, we'll make it.  However, I don't want to do this, it stresses me out.

4)Know your class
My best friend was the Paladin who used Repentance on the appropriate mob without me asking.  My worst nightmare was when I was on my 77 priest healing a PUG Gundrak and the DeathKnight tank didn't know what a 'defensive cooldown' was.  Actually, this happened twice.  I asked them to use their defensive cooldowns so I wouldn't go OOM on trash pulls and that was how they replied.  Granted, I believe it later turned out that he was 11.

A basic understanding of all of your abilities and what they are useful for is a must.  Next time you are leveling a character, and you obtain a new ability, ask yourself, ""What is this good for?  When should it be used?"  You'll find that you will be a much better player.

So please, please understand what you're supposed to do, and where you're supposed to be.  It's not that hard, I promise.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Semester in Review

One more semester over, one more semester closer to getting a real.

I've been on the statistics track at UALR for the past year and a half.  I started as math but decided to change to statistics at the end of last summer.  I've really been enjoying the different subject material.  I particularly enjoy the way that it seems more applicable and useful in getting a job.  I enjoy how it empower me to be able to analyze information and be able to draw conclusions from data. 

This last semester I took Advanced Statistical Methods 1 (I'll be taking part 2 next semester), which taught me many of the various tests that statisticians use to hep make decisions.  In Introduction to SAS, I learned how to program in SAS, which will enable me to perform calculations rapidly and easily, as well as transform data.  In Financial Mathematics, I learned about many of the tools that financial people use to make money and insure against losses. 

I had to teach 2 sections of Intermediate Algebra, which was a very eye-opening experience.  Learning how to explain the concepts that I know so well is challenging.  I don't even really know what to say. 

Blig Blog Blergh.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bear Tanking the Frozen Halls

(All descriptions refer to Heroic Mode unless specified otherwise)
The Frozen Halls are the new 5-man dungeons in Icecrown Citadel.  They are the highest tuned 5-mans to date and are also more difficult from a logistical position.  Some of the pulls are difficult to execute, and a frequent use of spellcaster mobs makes it hard to tank.  So I'm going to give some tips here on how to tank these new dungeons.

The Forge of Souls

This is the first and easiest of all of the dungeons.  In this dungeon, Soulguard Adepts and Animators are the casters that you might have to pull everyone to.  The Adepts are also healers.  There are some mob packs which will be difficult to tank if you don't have anybody to silence/interrupt for you.  At times, there will be a group of 4/5 mobs arranged in a square, where you can't effectively tank it because there are too many casters.  You should find out who can interrupt/silence (shadow priests, mages, felhunter, rogues, shamans, warriors, deathknights, possibly others) and ask them to help you by using their ability and then you can taunt off of them.  If you are so inclined, CC can be used to lock down those mobs until you can lower the mob count to lower healer stress.

Bronjahm - Godfather of Souls
There isn't really much to speak of here.  He's a pretty easy tanking battle, just remember to kite him away from the souls or else they will heal him.  Stay in the middle when he Soulstorms.  You can Barkskin if you get feared into the Soulstorm, or use Berserk to regain control of yourself. 

Devourer of Souls
You can use Bash do interrupt a Phantom Blast.  Other than that, not much specific.  It's recommended to keep everyone else in the party behind him, and to stop DPS while he's using Mirrored Soul. Watch out for the purple ray of death, which is preceded by a female voice.  The ghost adds cannot be damaged, and therefore are untankable.

The Pit of Saron

The trash in the first part of the instance is pretty easy, there's nothing out of the ordinary.  Right before Ick & Krick there are some Plagueborn Horrors that require you to watch out for poison patches on the ground and move around them.

Forgemaster Garfrost
This guy is pretty simple.  First, AOE kill the adds.  He pulses out a debuff that increases Frost damage taken.    This is fixed by hiding behind the boulder when he runs to his anvil, since the debuff duration is 3 seconds, it will easily clear.  Smash, hide, repeat.

Ick & Krick
Ick & Krick is the ultimate 'don't stand in stuff' battle.  He puts poison patches on the ground, don't stand in those.  Krick will put bombs on the ground, stay out of their radius.  Run away when he channels Poison Nova, it's pretty dangerous.  If he pursues you (and you're not the tank) run away.  Run, smash, repeat.

After Ick & Krick, there are 4 difficult pulls.  The first 2 are composed of 5 Vrykul each: 2 Flamebearers, 2 Wrathbringers, and 1 Deathbringer.  The Flamebearers and the Deathbringer are casters, w/ the Deathbringer in the middle and the Flamebearers opposite each other.  I would recommend Feral Charging the Deathbringer, positioning yourself so your swipe will hit one Flamebearer and have somebody silence/interrupt the other Flamebearer so you can pull the group together.  Be ready to taunt the one that is silenced, because that causes a good amount of aggro.  Kill the casters first.  When the Flamebearers start using Hellfire, you should interrupt them, because it deals serious damage.

The next 2 pulls are done similarly, there are several melee in the front, and 2 casters in the back.  Charge on caster, silence/interrupt the other, and be ready to taunt it.

Then comes the gauntlet event where you must dodge the ice while going through the cave.  Keep moving and picking up adds, because enemies will spawn and run to you.  If you don't run, you're going to end up fighting more mobs than if you didn't run.  Go as fast as you and your group can handle.

Scourgelord Tyrannus
The Scourgelord isn't as bad as he seems.  He has an ability that will mark a player with a debuff that makes their damage also hurt the tank, so they should stop DPSing when he puts that on them.  He'll use an ability that knocks you back, and then he will grow and enrage.  Position yourself at all times so that if you are knocked back, you will put an ice patch between you and him.  This will slow down his pursuit of you, preventing him from destroying you (it is survivable, it's just better this way).  Stay out of frost patches.  If Rimefang marks a DPS, they need to distance themselves from all of the other players, or they'll freeze them in place.

The Halls of Reflection

This is the hardest of all the instances.  The beginning works this way:  5 waves of trash, boss, 5 waves of trash, 2nd boss.  I believe I've seen the trash packs range from 2 to 6 of :

  • Priests:  AOE, Fear, and Healing.  Attacks in melee range.
  • Mages: Flamestrike (like the mage spell), Chains of Ice, the ability to duplicate.  Attacks at range.
  • Hunters:  Ranged attack, Frost Trap (frost block).  Attacks at range.
  • Rogues:  Deadly Poison, Shadowstep (teleport w/ aggro drop), Stun.  Attacks in melee range.
  • Warriors: Interrupt, Enrage.  Attacks in melee range.
Because of this, I recommend killing the killing priority in the order I laid them out.  Priests firsts, then Mages, Hunters, Rogues, and then Warriors.  They all have colorful names, but that's the best way to refer to them.  The real issue is that if you get a mage and a hunter, it can be hard to pull the group together.  Being a bear, you can't silence/interrupt to get the group together.  Unfortunately, interrupting the mages won't work, because they cast from more than 1 school, if you have a silencer they can help you bring all of the mobs together.  Bring the mage and all others to where the hunter is.  If you have another Druid, Shaman, Ret Paladin or Priest in your party (maybe other classes) they can root/CC a mob for you.  Remember using Entangling Roots doesn't stop ability use. So using it on a ranged mob or the Rogue isn't going to help much.  Also, Death Grip can be used to bring the mage or hunter into the group.

IMPORTANT NOTES: The mobs come from all corners of the room.  You'll notice 2 alcoves on opposite sides of the room.  Ask the DPS and healer to stand there while you gather them up, and then they can come out to DPS.  This will also give you time to build initial aggro.  Your silencer can come out earlier to help you gather.  The use of stuns and CC that works on Undead (Hex, Repentance, Roots and Shackle)  is very useful to make this a more manageable encounter to heal.  Make sure and use Survivability cooldowns to make it easier on your healer

You'll do 5 waves of this and then you'll encounter...

This boss has 2 things you need to worry about.  A fear ability that lasts for 4 seconds and deals 4000 dps (magical) on Heroic. The damage is shadow damage, so if you have a priest or paladin, ask them to use shadow resistance abilities.  He also has an aura that reduces damage and healing done by 20/40/60% as the battle progresses.  Barkskin and Berserk can be used to mitigate the effects of the fear, but your best defense is if you have a shaman, for them to use Tremor Totem.

5 more waves, and then you fight...

This boss has 1 goal, deal TONS of damage.  The aspects of this fight are more suited for the healer to know about but there are always things to know.  He has an ability called Corrupted Flesh which will reduce the health of all people in 28 yards by 50%.  He also does and Obliterate which does 30,000 physical damage.  He will put zones on the ground which you shouldn't stand in unless you want to take 75% extra shadow damage.  He will put a DOT on someone called Shared Suffering that deals 40,000 damage as 10,000 every 3 seconds for 12 seconds.  If it is dispelled, it will distribute the rest of the damage among the party evenly.  This damage is Shadow damage, so remind your priests and paladins to buff/aura appropriately.

There is 1 'trash' mob after Malwyn who will summon a shadow copy of each of your party members.  Have everyone stack up so you can easily grab these adds.  Overall, this is easy.  Then you fight the Lich King.

You don't actually fight the Lich King, he is slowed and you have to run from him w/ Jaina or Sylvanas.  They will break through barriers he puts up while you kill adds he throws at you.  There are 4 barriers and 4 groups of adds, with each being harder and more time-consuming that the last.  There are ghouls, abominations, and vrykul.  The vrykul have an AOE shadow bolt, so they need to be killed first.  If you aren't fast enough, the Lich King will wipe your party.  Go fast, go hard, go home.  You're done.

That's all that there is to the Frozen Halls.  Good Luck, Have Fun!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Educational Games

Games which are directly educational are notoriously crappy.  I'd have to say that a large part of this is probably due to a lack of inspiration and passion by the developers.  Furthermore, kids are naturally averse to blatant attempts at education, because the stereotype is that school is lame.

But you see, games don't need to teach math, science, grammar, or history.  The things that games can teach are far more important, they can teach people how to think.  Even in my limited teaching career, I've come across several people who don't seem to know how to recognize patterns.  I'm not talking about seeing a list of numbers and knowing which one come next.  Many of my students don't seem to realize that they already have the tools to solve a problem, they don't realize that they've done a problem before, or that a new problem is a simple combination of two or more old problems.

Games teach you how to learn and think in a natural way.  Failure is discouraged and success is rewarded, new problems are often combinations of old problems and can often be easily recognized as such,  and trying new things is encouraged.  They also help teach you how to react to stressful situations, and how to react to change.  Video games may not offer much in the way of knowledge, or skills, but they mold your brain into something that is more functional.  We need to end this bias that video games are bad for you.  Video games are good for you, but like all things, must be taken in moderation.

The new Information

Information is being disbursed in entirely new ways now.  With twitter, RSS, and sharing capabilities, things have changed drastically.

It used to be the case that top-heavy news organizations would collect the information, and distribute what they deemed interesting.    Newspapers have a delayed distribution effect but allow you to skip stories you aren't interested in.  News television allows you constant news (or at least several times a day), but you don't get to filter out what you aren't interested in.

With the advent of the internet, news websites allow you to pick what you want to read about, when you want to read it, and as soon as they have compiled the story (as opposed to the next day).  However, this creates the problem of having to go out of your way to check the news sites for what is new, and searching for what is new on the site.  A person who is very interested in a particular topic (say, videogames) is likely to visit up to 10 (I did at one point) websites to get their news/review/preview fix, which is very time consuming (again).

Enter RSS
RSS, when accompanied with RSS readers, gave the spontaneity and full time of news websites the ability to be delivered like a newspaper.  When a news provider publishes an article, it will show up in your RSS reader, waiting to be read.  This eliminates you having to search for news.  Now, news is brought to you when it happens and only if it's something you're interested in.

Twitter and Sharing
With the advent of Twitter and its Trending topics, news has become social.  Now you can be fed news by people who you follow, having them act like filters for interesting news.  They decide what is interesting and pass it on.  And, if something is of great interest, it will likely become a trending topic, hopefully piquing your curiousity and spurring you into looking into it.

This new means of news sharing is unlike all that have come before it.  Now, the world decides what is interesting and relevant.  Your friends act as filters for other content, sharing news with you.  If you enjoy it, you share it with your friends.  This turns news sharing from a very structured top-to-bottom method, to a literal web, with side-to-side distribution.  It becomes an organism, where its actions aren't determined by some master control, but by the collaborative actions of its parts.  It's freaky and fascinating at the same time. It's predictable in the large scale, but unpredictable in the small scale.  It's great.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Characters who take your stuff

I hate it in RPGs when one of your well equipped, awesome characters who you put most of your time into leaves the party.  Even if it's only temporary, they still could have given you the stuff before they left.  This is one of the benefits of having already played they game, you can unequip the character before they can leave you.

Think you're going away to train and take all of my stuff with you, I think not!

I ran into a similar situation in Breath of Fire II.  A character wanted me to loan him all of my money to buy something, and then later he would give me 200 gold (or whatever).  Fortunately, Breath of Fire II lets you deposit your money at the bank.  So I deposited my money, gave him all 0 gold that I had, and then I got 200 free gold later.  It was awesome. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Printing is broken

What is the most frustrating part of your home office setup?  If you answered 'my printer' then you and I think alike.  Printers are given away at every step, with many computers coming with free ones.  Buying ink is confusing and expensive, when it needn't be either. Printer compatibility and setup is unnecessarily difficult.  And god help you if you're printer also scans, because it's going to try to install ALL SORTS of unnecessary bloatware and crap to your computer that is nigh impossible to turn off/remove.  What follows is my personal critique and analysis of home printing.

Personal Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is believed by many to be the future of the computing model.  Many people think that our programs and data will live on the internet, allowing them to be portable and universally compatible.   For businesses, the decision to use a cloud computing model is one of money, effectiveness, and security.  However, for individuals it's even more ambiguous which to use.  Current cloud based models are those like Google Docs, where your documents are hosted and edited online.

Many people aren't comfortable with this model for their personal data.  They'd rather be in control, and know that their data can't be accessed over the internet.  Furthermore, what about if your data holder collapsed, or suffered a temporary unavailability of service.  These things aren't good.

So this idea occurred to me.  Many homes already have routers in them, and there is a growing trend in people having networked storage available on their network, so that if you're on the local network, you can access the files.  Why not combine the two, place the storage inside the router, and allow it to be accessible via a password.  You could connect to the router by directly typing in the IP address (or via a URL, but that would require buying a domain name), and use a password to access our files.  Better yet, if you place a Google Docs type editor on it, you can edit the files w/o downloading them.  This would help assuage issues that many would have with some other organization holding their files.

But what if you locked your data behind a special URL, invisible to the public.  Then the main URL could be saved for webpage serving.  So if anyone accesses it, they will see something that represents you, as opposed to a login.  This would be a simple addition to the device, since it already has storage, you just store the necessary html in a file, and set it to load when the router is accessed.

So in conclusion we have a combination router/network storage/cloud storage/webpage server device.  It wouldn't be difficult to manufacture, it's just adding storage some extra processing power to a router, and adding the software to make it work.  It seems like a great idea to me.  I'd certainly buy one once it was financially feasible.