Longing

I have been feeling a bit of a nostalgia hit recently, having seen some gameplay from Shadowlands where a holy priest was played and really wanting to give the spec a shot again. So far I’ve ended up deciding against it, since I’m still somewhat familiar with the state the spec is in and there isn’t really any content that I do where changing specs would make sense along with my last impression of the spec in this expansion being somewhat negative with it just feeling so powerless in comparison to Legion.

It feels a bit strange how something so innocuous has managed to trigger so much desire in me for something I know I won’t actually enjoy all that much in the end, and perhaps consequently the most sensible approach would be to give it a short shot so that I have it over with so to speak and then not have to think about it again. The problem there becomes, the recent thinking about wanting to play my old spec has also rekindled feelings of wanting to play my old race, night elf, which of course isn’t something quite as easily manageable.

I still find the connection I feel there to be somewhat remarkable, especially now that I have over two years of quite active—probably more active than at any point prior to Legion—play on Horde. To be fair, at the same time it still somehow feels that I’m finding my feet a bit here, not when it comes to the community or the guild I am in as I quite like those but my character. Her latest iteration is, as mentioned here before, vulpera and while the race does feel quite nice to play and having the roll back is really cool, I still find myself somehow missing both being a blood elf but even more being a night elf. Now the former is of course still an option though I think toys or consumables for swapping appearance are the more sensible alternative there rather than a race change again, the latter is sadly still quite definitely off the table unless we get to start raiding cross-faction.

In the end these will probably be feelings I end up not acting upon since while they are valid they conflict with other desires I have that take priority, and I do also really quite enjoy both playing vulpera and discipline as well. Though to be fair, as far as specs go, I do have a bit more freedom to experiment so maybe a raid here or there as holy isn’t such a terrible idea, especially one of the boostraids since the spec might even be slightly better suited for that environment; more easily allowing for healing such large groups. In addition, I was also considering trying shadow again for at least an instance or two which does mean I need to look into the gear needed for that as well. I guess I have more things to consider than I thought…

World of Warcraft

Design

Looking back at my recent thinking about fonts as well as my general desire to poke and prod at the design of this site is making me realise that design overall something that I’m rather interested in. I mean, this is something that I’ve known to some degree before and I do already lurk on places like r/web_design so it feels somewhat obvious, but it is interesting to note how interested I actually am in making this experience and that of other projects as good as I personally can.

At the same time, I don’t really think I could do work as a designer, the idea of taking someone else’s wants and vision and turning that into a ready and useable product seems a foreign concept to me and not really something I would like to spend my days doing.

This desire to constantly iterate on the design of my personal projects was actually something of an early stumbling block when starting to test out WordPress, since I was quite used to the quick iteration cycle afforded by static site generators: since you have all the source locally and can consequently edit and then re-generate the site locally it was really easy to iterate on the design. With a CMS like WordPress in contrast, if I wanted to experiment with the design I had to set up a staging version of the site in order to do that; this problem is solved now though there is still some funkiness going on with how my staging and live environment are linked occasionally causing problems when testing things out.

At the same time, I do have experience of refining the designs of others, the current design of this website being a prime example. It’s based off of an old fansite kit provided by Blizzard, just updated a bit and brought up to a bit more modern standards with responsive elements added so that it works decently on mobile devices as well. There are some parts of it that I’m not quite sure about still, like the seemingly somewhat low contrast on the article pages themselves as well as some of the link colours, but overall it has served me well in the past year or so. So maybe working with design wouldn’t be that hopeless of a proposition after all, especially since it wouldn’t necessarily be implementing someone else’s vision but creating my own of how to use something.

Design is also overall a very interesting field, especially since it does not just compass how things look but how they work and how they are to use, these two last elements getting a lot more attention recently than they have in the past at least as far as the web is concerned. Simultaneously, there is also a lot of pretty designs going on that have poor usability and it always makes me want to improve those things and make them nicer to use; it’s also one of the main problems I tend to have when dabbling in other MMOs outside of World of Warcraft, the UI gets in the way. Honestly, one of the things I like the most about WoW, is being able to customise the UI so freely and bring the information that is important to me to the fore while blending the rest out. This also always makes it so difficult for me to understand when people hate on addons in WoW and think they are somehow cheating, all they are doing is displaying the information provided by the game in a more sensible manner—well, most of the time, and when that isn’t the case steps are generally taken to remedy that. It just seems silly to hate on a feature that is there to make the game better for the players.

Circling back to my initial point, I think I need to start poking a bit more on the site again to fix those small annoyances I have with it—hopefully with the side-effect of making it more readable in the process.

Misc

Grunt work

Looking back at my activities in recent times I find myself reaffirming my conclusion that I’m very bad at grunt work, the menial things that belong to jobs and tasks that are simply doing something, usually repetitive, that simply need to get done. The most recent example of this being when I was poking around with fonts, once I had concluded that I probably couldn’t achieve what I want and needed to start looking at potential alternatives that while still modern would at least provided the correct feel I kind of just stopped or at least progressed in fits and starts, letting myself get distracted by the smallest things so that I didn’t need to just keep doing the somewhat boring and manual task of merely scrolling through different font samples and looking for something that caught my eye.

It’s also something that features somewhat heavily in my writing about World of Warcraft I notice, any time I need to do the ancillary tasks related to getting my character ready for the primary content I want to do I tend to get frustrated and not remain overly motivated to continue to do so. I feel this approach in something that is primarily there for entertainment makes more sense than with other pursuits, but it could still be a useful skill to take with from there as it could prove quite important elsewhere.

I currently have a few of programming projects I have been meaning to start on for a while, and while I have quite a clear idea on where to go with them and almost exactly what to do I just can’t seem to get started. It feels like it’s the same problem in this case, I like the challenge of thinking something through but once it comes to the “easier” part of actually implementing it my will to do so starts to falter. I’m not sure what exactly can be done about this, and I tend to have bursts of motivation where these things go easier, but it feels like it’s something I’m currently struggling with more than perhaps is usual for me.

The amusing thing is, since I tend to like reading and learning things, I think I already am aware of the tools that could be useful in combating something like this yet for some reason I don’t seem to be implementing them. It’s a strange feeling, knowing exactly what and how to get something done yet at the same time being unable to do so.

Misc

Fonts

I stumbled upon a discussion about “90s fonts” on HN recently and since this blog has a bit of a retro theme going on as well I was quite interested and decided to do some further digging. In order to test this on my site I disabled ClearType—the brand name if you will of Microsofts font antialiasing—and set the font used to Arial and wow, that felt like pretty much the perfect combination. It had the same blocky look seen in the screenshots of the article and it just kind of felt like it fit perfectly in here.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no sane way of achieving this. If it were available, font-smooth feels like the only reasonable way to get the correct look but not only is it very much non-standard, the Firefox variant of it is only enabled on OS X making it not really fit for purpose.

Now the approach the original article ended up with was creating a new font which mimicked the rendering of that font on older versions of Windows, and while this looked quite good to me there were some problems identified in the discussion which made me feel that wouldn’t be an appropriate approach for this site. Also, from what I could tell, they didn’t make their font-files available, so that also put a bit of a damper on that thought—to be fair, I didn’t look at the source, maybe there was a simple note there with a license.

Someone mentions bitmap fonts being usable, but I didn’t really find anything to support this statement and rather more comments stating the opposite as well as the original article.

Idea #2: Importing bitmap font files
We couldn’t make vector fonts look pixelated, but could we get around this by importing authentic 90s bitmap font files instead? We had a Windows 98 disk image with all of the system fonts including MS Serif: a riff on Times New Roman in the bitmap .FON format dating back to Windows 1.x. Unfortunately, we quickly found out that CSS @font-face doesn’t work with .FON files, and none of the web-based font conversion tools that we could find would convert them to the vector formats that are usable with @font-face.

Convincing-looking 90s fonts in modern browsers

And even if they were useable there would be problems with scaling since bitmap fonts have one “native” size and anything else will not look all that good.

With all of this at hand, I concluded that there was no way for me to achieve this look in a way that would also be technically satisfying to myself so I then ended up spending some time hunting for other fonts which might satisfy my itch for a more retro look without necessarily being as authentic as this. I did find a style I find quite satisfying but in the end decided it’s probably better to leave well enough alone for now (there was also the slight matter of it being Mozilla’s core typeface, which made it feel somewhat wrong to use it). As far as I can tell the current fonts provide quite decent legibility and while they might not be retro still have a quite pleasant air about them making them nice to read.

Misc

Writing

So I like writing, should be somewhat obvious on account of me having decided to start a blog that you seem to be reading in the first place. Or at least, I like to see myself as someone who does like write, or I like the idea of being someone who writes—not a writer necessarily, since it feels like that comes with a different set of connotations that I’m not sure fit either me or my ideal.

However, what might also be obvious to an astute reader is that I’m not necessarily so dedicated to this craft since there is a tendency for my writing to be rather sporadic, coming and going as I have both an idea and inspiration to write about it. Once I sit myself down and start, I can generally get something satisfying but down—for me at least if not for the reader.

The process is enjoyable in these moments of inspiration but for whom do I then write, myself or you dear reader? Or merely for the act itself? Looking back at some of the things I have written before—like my writings about bosses we have killed or the like—I feel a certain uncertainty in those pieces, made for the act of making itself rather than with any more lofty goal, writing a guide that isn’t quite a guide yet not quite a recollection of the events nor a thorough analysis of the fight. These pieces seem to fall into that third category, made for the act of making itself.

They were also always the writing I felt least satisified by, trying to appease some nonexistent audience yet at the end serving no real purpose but to make something. But that act of making is in itself also valuable and while it may not serve the reader it does serve to satisfy the writer and her whims, and taking care of those is important as well. So in the end, those pieces were made to satisfy me yet they did not truly feel satisfying to me.

The other type of writing I have sometimes engaged in is simply trying to put my feelings on (virtual) paper in order to work through them, yet choosing to share them so that they may potentially serve as guidance to others or as memories to myself. It can be quite interesting to go back and read some of those pieces and look at the state of mind I was in at the time, especially now with the advantage of hindsight. I tend to gain a certain amount of resolve from those moments, since especially when looking back at times when things have felt hopeless in the moment those times have passed and have given time for better things. The best example of this, I think, are the posts during my transition from Alliance to Horde; those were somewhat difficult times where I was neither quite satisfied with the game nor my place at the time, yet both of those things ended up turning for the better and I made some cool new friends through the experience.

This process of writing things down can be quite freeing, giving another perspective on a matter and helping to process the feelings associated with it. I can remember this happening many times, having written about something and having it feel like a weight being lifted from my shoulders. Thinking about it, I think I need to start doing this around more things in my life though this place probably isn’t the right platform for that, having a somewhat constrained focus at least in my mind but who but I is to decide about what I write here? Maybe that is what I need the most in this time, to realize that my audience is me and not to write in order to appease others but to write to satisfy myself and get the things said that I want to say, not worrying too much about who they are for but me.

Uncategorized

End-of-expansion blues

So that part of the expansion cycle is with us again, the endtimes. The raid is cleared, there is no new content on the horizon beside the next expansion and the general interest towards the current content is rapidly waning.

Raiding

We are still going somewhat strong and maintaining our weekly raids though we have those down to one per week now, but aside from that it’s mostly just the occasional mythic+ run along with the weekly alt-run that keeps us coming together and playing together.

The reduced activity has given me the opportunity to actually participate in the aforementioned alt-run and I’ve actually taken and geared my paladin well enough to be allowed to join in there which has been rather fun. My paladin I tend to play as a tank so getting to play another role again has been fun as well though surprisingly stressful even in a raid environment which I wasn’t expecting—usually I find raids more relaxing to tank than mythic+ but this somehow hasn’t quite been the case with Ny’alotha so far though I’m getting there with my comfort level.

This has also given me the opportunity to see how much of the raid I had been ignoring mechanically since these things didn’t really directly concern me though in at least one case it would have actually been useful to know. Three specific things come to mind: Shad’har tank mechanic; Ra-den phase two tank mechanic; N’Zoth Psychus phase.

Now the Shad’har tank mechanic is essentially don’t let your co-tank get two different types of debuffs which while quite simple as a mechanic and not something I need to concern myself with when not tanking is something that tripped me up the first time there.

The Psychus phase again is very relevant as a tank since I’m directly responsible for positioning Psychus correctly so that the debuff gets applied as well as ensuring the pool on the floor spawns correctly, and it’s also very good to know as a damage dealer so the correct tentacle is getting damaged it is largely irrelevant as a healer except for impacting how and where I move though even that is more down to environmental awareness than anything else.

The Ra-den tank mechanic however is something that might have been somewhat useful to know even as a healer though to be fair our tanks did call it and as such specific knowledge of how it works wasn’t important. But essentially, in phase two, Ra-den applies a debuff that does damage to the tank which scales with their current health at the time the debuff was applied. Knowing not to heal the tank before the debuff gets applied is of course important because of this, but as noted it got called anyway and I wasn’t focusing on healing the tanks in that phase so how and why it was important didn’t really register until way after progress was over.

All of this has however made me even more interested in maintaining more alts in Shadowlands if possible so that I have reason and opportunity to gain this insight earlier on in the content when it might actually prove relevant to progressing those bosses on mythic.

Shadowlands

Speaking of Shadowlands, we are slowly also getting more information to how the upcoming expansion will work and while my outlook remains perhaps more pessimistic than most I’m trying to keep an open mind.

The systems on the surface actually look quite promising, I’m looking forward to seeing interesting legendaries again and Thorgast could end up rather fun if implemented correctly especially considering my recent experience with another roguelike but I’m just worried they’ll suffer from the same problem that the Mage Tower in Legion and the Horrific Visions in Battle for Azeroth: being gated behind world quests/dailies. To me, this just adds a completely unecessary level of stress and frustration to the experience especially when playing multiple characters.

My other really big worry are the Covenants since even with the updated information of the initial switch being easy but returning being difficult I’m really worried about how Blizzard will manage to balance the abilities in a sensible manner as well as tying cosmetic rewards to gameplay since that will probably mean I won’t really have much of a choice in the matter. With luck those two things will align however I don’t feel that is overly likely. The optimal case is of course all of the abilities being close enough together that one can actually choose freely and this is more likely for the healers anyway than for damage dealers or tanks, but it is still something I’m looking at with more worry than excitement at the moment.

I think that actually sums up my general feeling toward Shadowlands: a mix of worry and excitement, though definitely more of the former; I’m looking forward to what’s to come but wary of getting overly excited.

World of Warcraft

For The King

For the King is a turn-based roguelike RPG that we have been playing recently.

For The King is a challenging blend of strategy, turn-based combat, and roguelike elements. Each playthrough is unique with procedural maps, quests, and events. Explore Fahrul in either single player, local, or online co-op.

So far it has been a rather fun time, we even managed to get to the final boss (we think) on our first proper run of the game though there our way was sadly cut short. To be fair, we did play on the easiest difficulty thinking that a good starting point, especially for something that can be so unforgiving as a roguelike.

The game is not without its flaws, there seems to be some occasional fast-forwarding going on where everything moves very quickly and I’m not sure what’s causing that, some player behaviour or potentially network issues. The turn based nature does make it rather slow going at times as well though it does provide for some interesting choices especially when navigating the overworld view.

Despite this, the core turn-based combat experience along with managing the limited resources one tends to have in this type of game have provided for some unexpectedly interesting gameplay. The game may be quite simple but the different classes, stats and gear provide enough customization and options to still keep it interesting to me for now at least. To be honest, this game really surprised me since I was not expecting to necessarily like it since I haven’t been that into roguelike games before, but maybe that’s the coop aspect of it talking and I’m just having good times with friends and wouldn’t be interested in the game otherwise. For that purpose though, I can heartily recommend it and I think that might be something particularily valuable in these trying times.

Gaming

We did the thing

So progress is over for this expansion, we killed N’Zoth yesterday with a moderately decent performance of only 219 tries in total.

The fight itself is a big improvement on the heroic version, with actually some rather interesting parts going on for healers with all the damage coming in though it ends up feeling somewhat finnicky with how precise all the timings one needs to hit are; a mistake a minute or so earlier with a wrongly used cooldown might lead to deaths later on. Still, it does make the whole thing feel a bit more like a precisely executed dance than anything else, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing though it can get frustrating when progressing the later parts of the fight with simply how long it takes to get there. Having to maintain a decent level of concentration for 10+ minutes before one even gets to the new and interesting bit can be difficult at times.

The secret phase was also something of a disappointement, with not that much going on aside from the usual healing and damage. Sure, there is the dance where you dodge a couple of swirlies and yes some people have to disarm the bombs, but overall it felt more like a bit of a lull between all the activity in the other phases while still requiring somewhat precise execution on timing, namely when the mob dies.

Overall though, the fight did end up feeling like a good end to the expansion, even if there might have been some fights earlier on that were interesting and the patch overall didn’t really “save” the expansion as one might have hoped. Now I guess we just need to wait for the alpha or beta to start in order to see how Shadowlands is progressing, though I am more pessimistic than optimistic of its prospects at the moment.

World of Warcraft

Vulpera

So as mentioned, I was rather disappointed by the confirmation at BlizzCon that we won’t be getting cross faction play, mainly because I was hoping to get the chance to play Night Elf again but of course having the opportunity to play with some friends who are still Alliance was also a factor. With the release of the new patch however, that has lessened somewhat with the Vulpera being available.

So cute

They are obviously a completely different feel to Night Elves, but still, I think they are the first Horde race I can feel at home with though admittedly it is early days and time will tell. Just hoping we don’t get another raid like Dazar’alor where one gets turned into the other faction, since Mechagnomes are the Alliance counterpart and while I do find the concept cool, they just aren’t my jam at all. Though the race changes in Dazar’alor were somewhat random anyway, not following the counterpart rules of the Orb of Deception at all—played Forsaken, got turned into Human instead of a Night Elf for some reason.

World of Warcraft

Benediction

I managed to find the Eye of Shadow in the auction house to a somewhat reasonable price of around 360 gold, and off I went to the Eastern Plaguelands in order to complete “The Balance of Light and Shadow” for the final part of the puzzle: the Splinter of Nordrassil. This was definitely the most difficult part of the whole ordeal: Molten Core is rather trivial and perhaps half the raid needs to be somewhat awake in order to get through it in a reasonable time and you just need to get lucky with the drop in order to get the eye from there; the Eye of Shadow mostly requires patience, either through farming or having enough gold; but this final part actually requires you to do something alone, or well, I did it alone at least.

To expand a bit on that, I saw some old comments saying other priests could actually help with the quest, as long as:

  • they only helped by healing and not doing damage
  • they also have the Eye of Divinity in order to see the NPCs
  • they don’t move, since apparently even moving potentially triggers the failure state

There was another priest queuing for the quest after me, but he decided not to risk it and assist me and I managed to complete it anyway which was nice.

The quest itself is somewhat curious, waves of ghostly NPCs spawn that you have to keep alive while they get bombarded by skeletal archers as well as melee skeletons that spawn, the melee skeletons will also aggro you once you start healing so some way to deal with this is recommended, I ended up using Oil of Immolation which made rather quick work of them and saved me a lot of mana. I also saw recommendations to use Stratholme Holy Water but that feels somewhat overkill since one would need a group to farm it and the oil made short work of the skeletons anyway. What I definitely would recommend however is a couple of big mana potions, the quest has you pretty much constantly in combat and healing so you will probably be stuck inside the five second rule meaning mana will be a problem; using Renew worked well for me, downranked to rank three as well as max rank.

What makes this quest curious however, is that while you are essentially spothealing a raid, you don’t get any of the usual UI elements which you would normally use to do this and instead have to completely rely on the nameplates. What makes this somewhat more annoying are the debuffs which the standard nameplates don’t display meaning you do also have to keep an eye on the NPCs themselves in order to see if they are diseased or not—curing the disease quickly is vital since it deals quite a lot of damage.

Overall the quest proved a positive surprise since I’m not actually expecting to find much difficult content in Classic which was nice, though the biggest challenge being actual UI problems as well as proper consumable usage does dampen that somewhat. The unecessary waiting between tries forced by the 20 minute or so respawn of the questgiver is also somewhat disappointing but still a lot better than the original two hour one, that was actually something I was very happy to see has been changed in Classic—or maybe it was changed in one of the later patches, not sure, though a lot of old comments indicate the timer used to be two hours.

World of Warcraft