Friday, February 26, 2010

Satellite gets Nesingwary First Blood Queen Kill

Hells yeah for us! Go Team Jacob!

We then managed to save Dreamwalker which, while not a server or even faction first, combined makes us #1 on the server for progression.

One of our 10-mans has reached Arthas and will hopefully down him this weekend, unlocking hard modes for us.

I'm actually quite excited. When I apped with Satellite, I was expecting to be benched for a few months at least while I got geared and experienced... and just a bit over a month later I'm aiding in Guild and Server firsts. WoW-Life is good.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Epic Cuteness.

Gryphon Hatchling VS Wind Rider Cub
(Images are pulled from Blizzard's Store and belong to them.)

With all of the fresh news regarding patch 3.3.3 (sorry to those of you who have been vendoring your Frozen Orbs) and the upcoming pre-Cataclysm events, I've been spending more time at MMO-Champion. Yesterday morning I checked in to see what the new news was and was suddenly overcome by epic cuteness. In the same vein as their Murloc stuffed toy, Blizzard has expanded their plushie line with the Gryphon Hatchling and the Wind Rider Cub. Not only do you get some awfully cuddly cuteness, each of the plushies has a code that provides you with a matching in-game pet. Awwwwwwww!

Of course, I instantly went to Anakha and made sad kitty eyes. He hasn't ordered mine yet, but I must have them, dammit!

Is it just me, or is the Wind Rider Cub infinitely more cute than the Gryphon Hatchling? I've always thought that the Horde Wind Riders were much more unique than the Alliance Gryphons and these stuffies continue to echo that in my mind. I've only ever seriously played Alliance characters, but the Wind Riders alone would be enough to go Horde on a permanent basis--so long as I can ignore every Forsaken (Undead) I happen to see.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Drama: Hiding in Plain Sight.

There is absolutely no way to avoid drama. Thirty different people have thirty different opinions, priorities, play styles--the list goes on. Pleasing one person is going to piss off at least one other and vice-versa. Any guild that says they are drama-free is full of it and any person who says they're drama-free is lying. Some guilds handle drama better than others, just as some players do, but to say that either has neither is a flat-out fallacy.

Most of the drama I've experienced has dealt with loot and/or raiding. Now, the two tend to go hand-in-hand: when you raid you get loot and you need loot to better yourself to further your raiding. Most guilds handle loot drama through a priority system of some sort, usually combined with some sort of metric to balance the amount of effort someone has put out with the amount of gear they receive. No system is perfect, which accounts for the variety of them out there, but some handle certain situations better than others. Outside of guilds, you're at the mercy of the raid Master Looter.

I've been told that I'm far too optimistic--perhaps that is the case. When I walk into a PuG raid, I generally assume on-spec before off-spec, pass if you've already won something, be courteous, loot the stupid puppy so someone can skin him, and if something extremely rare drops everyone currently eligible for the item gets a roll. It seems that these rules, though common sense, don't apply to every raid. And, even when they do, it can still cause drama.

Alliance actually had Wintergrasp and a guildmate put together a VoA 25 run. We filled a number of the slots with mains and alts from our guild and PuGed the rest. The question was asked what the loot rules were and the response was "MS OS" (for those not used to the shorthand of lazy people, it implies that Main Specs have priority over Off Specs). The fight was ugly but we killed our boss on the second try. A rogue piece drops, a priest piece (too bad the only priest in the group dropped after the first wipe), and some leather PvP bracers. Only one rogue in the raid so he gets the rogue piece, then the bracers are rolled for. Now, I'd never really dealt with PvP gear drops before. They generally are not very good for PvE and the guild policy has been that all interested people can roll on PvP gear. The bracers are actually a best-in-slot item for the feral tanking kit I've been working on. The rogue has rolled a 95 and my chance of winning is slim, so I roll and get second highest at 68 or somesuch. The raid-leader states that since the rogue already won a piece, it's going to the next person and I now have a pair of leather PvP feral bracers in my inventory.

Queue tell-hell.

If I'd actually thought I'd win, I'd never have rolled; while guildies would understand (and many said that I deserved them), PuGs certainly would not. "But they're a healer?" was mentioned in raid chat right as I received a whisper from both the rogue and a feral cat druid who had been the third-highest /roll. As I'm receiving these tells, the decision is made to go kill another boss and as one of only 4 healers I'm racing off to keep the tank out of that laying-on-the-ground-motionless state.

Long story short, the rogue offers me gold for the bracers and the druid asks for them because feral is his main spec and then says it's 'really shitty of me' since I 'only have 1000 kills' for PvP. Considering I'd only started PvPing casually about a week before, I was pretty proud of those kills. That and I hadn't responded to either because I'm trying to keep people from dealing with more repair bills.

I could have said fsck them all and kept the bracers, saving me 45k honor that could have gone to my cloak instead. No, instead I did the noble thing and gave them away. Not to the rogue, since he'd already won an item, but to the druid after demanding an apology. I haven't been yelled at on the realm forums so I guess I did the right thing. I'll never /roll on PvP gear that isn't caster related outside of a guild-only run again.

World of Warcraft, Tabletop Style.

I run a 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons game twice a month for a group of teenager at a local gaming store. The kids are a hoot, though they scare me sometimes, and it allows me to keep from getting too rusty in my DMing since my Friday night game has fallen apart as it always tends to this close to Finals Week. The gaming store is much smaller than my original haunt just outside of downtown, so we're usually rubbing elbows with the Warhammer players but the store owner is a great guy who really loves running his shop.

Now, I own a metric ass-ton of D&D books as well as some non D&D rulesets. However, as said before, I'm a sucker for a sale and I'm also constantly on the lookout for something new and fun. So, browsing through his discount bin, lo and behold, I find a copy of the World of Warcraft Roleplaying Guide.

The front cover is almost torn off; seems someone knocked over his book display case and this one got the worst of the damage. The publisher wouldn't take it back so he was stuck selling at a discount. I like Ron, but his loss is my gain. Rather than the $40 cover price, I grabbed this puppy for $10 and with some laminate, it will be as good as new.

The ruleset is based on 3.5 and WotC's Open Gaming License, though it's actually branded Swords and Sorcery (a sort of sub-ruleset/campaign setting). Constitution is changed to Stamina, Dexterity is changed to Agility, priests and mages still get spell slots, Goblins are a playable neutral race, and there are new Technological Devices that can explode in spectacular ways. Space Cows and Gender-Confused Elves need not apply--the story thus far is only up to WoW's initial release and really only includes that content. Of interest is that in their descriptions of lands and the cosmology, they specifically mention Outland (expansion) and Icecrown (expansion), as well as the Emerald Dream. I know Cataclysm is having the world explode in spectacular ways, but if the ultimate plan is to hit level 100 and we're now down to 5 levels per expansion, there's plenty of room to fit the Emerald Dream in there somewhere.

I haven't gotten too far into the reading, mostly it's been glancing at all of the cool stuff like Jumper Cables and seeing how they work in a table-top setting. Chances of finding a group of people who actually want to sit down and play are probably as good as finding a group for Shadowrun but it's certainly a good read and nice to see not just in-game art within its pages. If you manage to find a $10 damaged copy, snag it for sure. If it's face-value... well, I'm not telling you how to spend your money.

Gearing Up, Redux.

Holynub demands I update, so here I am.

Actually, I've been fighting a case of the blahs and just thinking about typing a blog made my head hurt. I'm back now, with quite a few updates so enjoy the chain postings.

Part one of this two-part series discussed the core components that I decided on for my new gaming machine. Those were the meat-and-potatoes pieces, the rest here is gravy.

Power Supply: Thermaltake W0319RU 850W Modular Power Supply
Alright, so the power supply is actually a meat-and-potatoes part. Making sure that you're going to have enough power on the rails for your graphics card(s) and that there is enough wattage being sent out in general is very important. With my plans to upgrade with a second card in Crossfire in the future, I knew I needed a power supply with enough oomph to handle the both of them in addition to all of the other pieces in my box. I also wanted to get rid of the unsightly and airflow-interfering cable mess that was so common in PCs I'd built in the past so I knew I wanted modular. The problem with modular power supplies is that there is certainly an extra cost for the ability to only utilize what you need. If it weren't for my plans to add in the second card, I could likely have gotten by with only a 650W power supply. Better to pay a little extra up-front than to replace the entire thing later.

Case: Cooler Master CM690 II Advanced Mid-Tower Case
Alright, this case is sexy. It was also significantly more than I planned to pay for a computer case, but Anakha gave me his blessing to spend the extra on it. I was actually eying its little sister, the CM690 II Basic, but it hadn't released yet and I'm impatient. What I learned after having received this case is that it's the big brother to Anakha's. There's plenty of space for long graphics cards, the width is more than enough for my over-sized CPU cooler to clear, and the number of fan options is just sexy. Luckily it comes with filters that rest on the inside of all of the mesh of the case or it'd be one huge furball. My only actual complaint with my case is that LCDs in the front fan do not seem to be working. I could have mis-wired something, but I actually prefer it without that light.

Monitor: Hanns-G HH-251HPB 24.6" 1080p
Anakha's combined Birthday/Christmas present two years ago was a 1080p monitor for his computer. He was, of course, in love with it. Thus when it was my turn for a monitor, he was insistent that I pick up a 1080p myself. I'm not generally a fan of more window space; I prefer to have everything in one small area that is easy to maneuver around. However, I'm a sucker for sales as well and when I found this beauty for $180 I was sold. No dead pixels and HDMI make me a happy camper. It does have an annoying syncing problem whenever there is a resolution change of some sort; I've been told it's probably my cable and have yet to test it, just be aware. Turning the monitor off and on again causes it to resync and I can continue on from there.

Headset: Sennheiser PC161
I'm not an audiophile, not even close. I actually have pretty terrible hearing overall and wouldn't notice the difference between 28kbps and 192kbps unless you told me there was a difference. I do, however, want to be able to hear my instructions on Vent clearly, without popping and crackling, and I wanted the music in-game to sound nice, even if at horrible bit-rates. With three hour raids, plus usually 5/10-man Vent discussions going for however long, I needed something comfortable as well. I noticed that the Sennheiser headsets were performing quite well in reviews, specifically the PC 350, but a $200+ price tag was more than I really wanted when, quite frankly, I'd never really notice the difference. A guildmate asked for a headset suggestion as well, and the PC161 was one of those mentioned. I love these things. They're extremely comfortable, lightweight, and sound great. I have had no complaints that folks can hear me over Vent and when I hear myself loopback, it sounds crystal clear.

Mouse: Microsoft Sidewinder X5 Mouse
I owned a Logitech laser mouse once upon a time, the kind with the weights that you could manipulate for different feels. It was certainly aimed more at an FPSer and I never changed the weights after distributing some through it the first time. This time, I decided I wanted a mouse with more buttons. It was while the mouse was enroute that I discovered how much easier talking on Vent was when my push-to-talk button was on the side of my mouse rather than my 'z' key (what I normally use for Vent) so it must have been some sort of foresight that caused me to buy this one.

Biggest issue for me was that it was advertised as being a 9-button mouse; three of those buttons are actually triggers for DPI settings, so it's more a 6-button mouse, with one button being highly non-useful since it's under the heel of your hand most of the time. Having two thumb buttons is great, however; the top one is my Vent push-to-talk and the bottom is mapped to be my 'Alt' key for macros. This mouse has significantly helped my playing just by not having to stretch my hand across the keyboard for macros. I still occasionally realize I'm pressing the alt-button rather than the push-to-talk button and haven't actually told anyone that my Rebirth is available again.

Keyboard: Saitek Eclipse II
Alright, this one I didn't buy. Anakha was actually using it but had complained he didn't like it, so I planned to take it back so he could buy some Microsoft keyboard or whatever he wanted. Ends up he liked this keyboard after all and is now using a cheap big-box-store keyboard until he chooses one he really wants.

First of all, this thing glows in the dark. I don't type home-row; never have, never will (if you care, I learned to type while playing MUDs and thus learned to type kill orc as quickly as possible). While in general my WPM and accuracy are pretty good, sometimes I will find myself 'lost' because I don't have a place that I return to by default. At those times, I have to take a quick second to glance down at the keyboard and re-orientate myself. And, of course, as a geek I hate light and revere the dark, making it hard to see where I'm supposed to be going on the keyboard when there is no light. The back-lighting on this thing has helped significantly in that aspect. That and it has purple as a color option. What's not to love?

The keys are nice and crisp and have a good feel to them; they spring right back up and don't 'clack' so noisily it's distracting. The layout is normal for a keyboard and all of the media-control keys are grouped up nicely in the top-right corner. With black and silver colouring, it's simple and elegant with that added bling. I'm in love with this keyboard and I'm happy to say that many seem to prefer the Eclipse II to its big brother, the Eclipse III.

Game Pad: Belkin n52te (Nostromo Tournament Edition)
How people layout their keybindings has always interested me. With my layout, I had found that there just did not seem to be enough keys within easy reach for all of the abilities that I needed or wanted to use. I originally thought about snagging one of those Logitech G15/19 keyboards but I'm so in love with my Eclipse II that I just couldn't give it up (again). I'd been reading through the Resto4Life blog and had seen the review and configuration tutorial for the Belkin n52te and thought, "Wow... that's exactly what I'm looking for!" So, added to cart (on sale for bonus points) and when it arrived I was disappointed to find that it was most certainly created with larger hands in mind. Even altering the angle of the hand-wrest just could not provide me with a comfortable position where I could actually reach all of the keys without having to stretch or move my entire hand (which is what I bought this thing to avoid in the first place). Controlling movement with the thumbstick (or D-pad since the thumbstick could be removed) was awkward at best and after a couple of days of trying to get used to it (after a few hours of configuring the damned thing), I gave up. This accessory is not for the feint of heart. If you have larger hands and are great at fine-tuned movement with your thumbs (all of you XBox 360 and PS3 FPS players), you'll love this thing. For me, it wasn't such a great buy.

If you're interested, I have one new in box that I'm willing to sell or trade.

For a bit more information, I'm running windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit and the ATI Catalyst drivers are a huge load of suck. I've been crashing with vertical bars at least once ever two days. Rolling back to a previous driver seemed to solve the vertical bar problem but caused many of my games to glitch graphically. Seems ATI is 'aware of the problem' and is working on it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Gearing Up.

When I originally left WoW, I had a pretty good little desktop. Self-built, I had chosen components carefully to allow for upgrades, like SLI and extra memory. But WoW was the main resource hog that I had been playing, and I now had a fairly powerful box for games like Evil Genius and Fallout 2. When my now-husband moved in as a roommate, two PCs and desks and chairs just took up too much space. His place of work provided him with a laptop so I inherited his, which was perfect for what I was doing at the time, and shipped my desktop to the other side of the country for my little brother to use for his own WoW obsession.

On my initial return to WoW, I was still using this laptop. Even at minimum settings, I was running a lovely 18 FPS in deserted areas. Halls of Reflection waves caused my FPS to drop to about 2 unless I stuck myself close to a corner and kept my camera pointed there, which I could do as a healer.

Even before returning to WoW, I'd begun getting into games that the laptop just couldn't handle. I wanted a copy of Fallout 3 for the PC so I could have access to mods. Borderlands was making me drool, and while I could play Oblivion on my laptop at minimum settings, it looked like garbage and was extremely choppy. With the windfall of some cash that I'd lent being paid back (thanks Mom!), I had a reasonable starting point for a new desktop. With the good graces of the husband and the promise that he could upgrade his desktop next year, I got to work on piecing out a new machine.

Below are my specs, why I chose what I did, and some information about where I aim to upgrade in the future. Maybe some folks will find this information useful for their own building purposes in the near future. Keep in mind that I had not built a computer in over three years and had to relearn a lot of new technology in order to put this baby together.

My budget was $1500 and I certainly went over, but not by much. I am not an overclocker by default, but my purchases were made with the intention of doing some small overclocks within my comfort range of not exploding my PC.

CPU: Intel i7 860
I was more than happy to go with an i5 750 but my husband, being the Intel fanboy he is, suggested I look at an i7. The default to look at, of course, were the new 1366 form-factor chips, but many reviews were not impressed with the difference between triple-channel and dual-channel memory. The i7 870, while being an 1136 form-factor, received extremely strong marks, had the hyper-threading that the husband insisted I get, and had some amazing overclocking capabilities once Turbo mode was turned off. The price was a little much for my budget, but it's little brother the i7 860, certainly fit my range and the only real difference was a slightly lower clock speed. Word is that this baby can overclock to 4.0 GHz with air-cooling alone.

CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
I've never had any faith in stock heatsink/fan combos. My last desktop had one of the huge copper Zalman coolers which worked quite well but I'm a bit of a snoot in saying that I like my case colors to meld and copper wasn't doing it for me. The price tag also tended to make me cringe a bit. The Hyper 212 received some rave reviews and was silver/black, a good neutral color combo. A word to the wise: This thing has a massive amount of height! Be sure you have a case with enough depth that you'll be able to put the side cover on it. Sitting here typing up this blog, the CPU is only hitting 15C! I haven't checked it during/after a huge WoW marathon, but so far I'm very impressed.

Motherboard: ASUS P7P55D-E Pro
I knew I needed an 1136 form-factor motherboard, and two kept coming up time after time: The Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P and the ASUS P7P55D-E Pro. The main differences between the two boards is how they handle SATA3 and USB 3.0. The Gigabyte utilizes one of the PCIe 16x paths in order to power the controller, while ASUS created their own extra controller that allowed these two technologies to not have to steal from the rest of the board. When two PCIe 8x graphics cards are used in SLI/Crossfire on the Gigabyte board, SATA3 and USB 3.0 devices get rate-limited back to their version 2 counterparts because that extra path is no longer available. The ASUS does not have this problem. Now, I wasn't sure if I was going to run a single graphics card for now or if I'd go on and splurge for Crossfire, but in the future Crossfire was certainly the plan. Losing the new technologies for the sake of Crossfire was not high on my list so, even though the Gigabyte board is slightly cheaper, the ASUS won in the end.

Memory: G.Skill ECO Series 2x2GB DDR3 1600
The i7 860 can only really handle up to DDR3 1333 out of the box. However, with my hope to play with overclocking, DDR3 1600 open up the possibility for some better speeds. G.Skill's ECO line seems to be the latest craze in memory, and it's no surprise: rather than the industry standard of 1.65v, the ECO series boasts 1.35v with some fairly tight timings. My biggest concern was whether or not the ASUS motherboard could manage to lower its voltages that low, and reviews stated it could. Even better is that there is an XMP profile built onto this memory so loading the timings and voltage in my BIOS couldn't have been easier. My hope now is that two years down the road when I can upgrade a sister pair will be available so I can utilize all four channels on my motherboard.

Graphics: HIS ATI Radeon HD 5850 1GB
I spent hours trying to decide on a graphics card. I read multiple reviews, checked many comparisons on well-known sites, and still the debate continued. I finally decided to get the best single card I could for my budget with the plan to upgrade in two years by obtaining a second one and setting up Crossfire. At ~$290, the above was what I finally settled on. Another contender was the 4750, but with the smaller voltage drain and DX11 compatibility out-of-the-box, the 5850 won in the end.

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar 500GB 7200RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s
This one really didn't have much contest. I've always been a fan of Western Digital's Caviar line of drives. They've served me well for years and I am most certainly a happy repeat customer. 500GB should last me for a good long while and while 7200RPM is nothing spectacular, it works for what I need. In the future I might grab one of those new SATA3 6.0Gb/s drives with 10TB of data or whatever, but the cost of either of those is more than I'm willing to shell out at this time.

Optical Drive: Sony Optiarc DVD/CD Rewritable
I paid an extra dollar for the Sony brand and 2x more read speeds on CDs and DVDs. I rarely burn media, so I'm not really picky as far as my optical drive so long as it doesn't grind or click. This one runs quite nicely.

I'll be back later with the rest of my components.