Shades of Kae

It’s That Time of Year

I love fall – the trees changing color, caramel apples, hot apple cider, new shows starting on TV, Halloween candy, and of course, bad horror movies. I’m talking about the seriously awful, low-budget movies with terrible actors and a ridiculous premise – the kind of movie that would be featured in Mystery Science Theater 3000. Thanks to Netflix instant viewing, we can watch them all year round, but the best ones crop up on TV in the month of October. Recent winners include ThanksKilling, Tremors, and The Beast of Bray Road, as well as the classic I Know What You Did Last Summer, and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Not everyone appreciates this style of movie, but let me give you a hint – a glass of wine or a group of friends is a big help in making them enjoyable. I just love when movies get so bad that they are hilarious.

While lounging on the couch this morning watching a bad horror movie on Syfy, I saw a promo for a new movie starring our favorite geek girl actress, Felicia Day. While I’ve never been a fan of The Guild, I’ve loved everything else that Felicia Day has been in, from Buffy, to Dollhouse, to Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. The Guild’s “Do You Want to Date My Avatar” music video was also quite enjoyable. She’s so adorable, quirky and entertaining, with a lovely voice and decent acting skills. She’s one of those people that seems so “real”, despite her fame. It’s easy to see why she’s become so popular among the geek community.

This Syfy original movie, titled “Red: Werewolf Hunter” has a truly ridiculous premise – “Little Red Riding Hood’s descendants get revenge on werewolves”. It premieres on Syfy at 8pm Central tonight, and I can think of no better way to spend our Saturday evening. I highly suggest you check it out tonight or press record on the DVR.

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What's In A Name?

I’ve tried to write this post before, but I always end up tossing it – so many other bloggers have covered the topic well enough, and I didn’t feel like I really had anything to add. Recent events, however, have left me pondering the subject of names. I missed the Blog Azeroth Shared Topic about names that occured earlier this month, but I’m going to spill out my thoughts on this out anyways.

WOW Character Names

Everyone has a different strategy for choosing names for their WOW characters. Many choose names from their favorite books or movies. Some people are inspired by nature, or mythology, others by manipulating real names, and still others just use the random name generator. Some people use foreign words based on their meaning, or try to mimic the style of NPC names of their chosen race. And of course, their are those that try to be funny with their names, or even crude. Naming is a deeply personal process, regardless of how much thought is put into it.

When you have a plethora of alts like most do in our guild, you see a lot of different “themes” that occur. The most common one is choosing names that start with the same syllable, or incorporate the same word. Other themes are more subtle – variations on popular names, or words that mean something relevant to the class of the character. It’s certainly easier to identify a guild member when the names are themed (although even that can cause confusion, such as when another member uses someone else’s syllable in their character name).

There are many opinons about names. Many decry the use of names that reference popular fantasy figures, claiming it is unoriginal. Others mock those that use non-standard characters in their names (I’ve been guilty of this, but only because they’re so dang hard to type). It’s amusing to realize that you can find elitests in every aspect of the game – people who think that their naming strategy is somehow better than everyone else’s.

My own strategy has evolved as time went on. At first, all my names were derived from my favorite fantasy novel series, usually obscure characters or creative spellings (I’ll let you guess which ones). Now, however, as I’ve saved names for future characters, I find myself going back to the “Kae” prefix that has become my online identity. One of the names that I’ve saved is actually derived from my real first name, although I haven’t quite settled on a class to give it to.

My husband’s strategy is a mix of the random name generator, and finding words that mean something about the class. Jardal came from the Blizzard random generator, which is amusing considering that is now what he’s known as in-game. Parzifal his paladin, I think is derived from Parzival, a poem about a knight on the Holy Grail quest, which was found by randomly searching on the internet.

Names and Identity

Often, a character name can be someone’s identity. Choosing your own name is an opportunity that very few people outside of the internet have experienced. It’s almost more meaningful than your real name. This personal investment in a name is why people get so upset when that name is compromised. Maybe they move a character to a new server, and that name is already taken. Perhaps their name is mistakenly marked as being inappropriate. It’s a deeply upsetting experience for those that identify with their character name. It’s easy to get attached to a name, and hard to imagine yourself as anything else. It’s uncomfortable, unfamiliar when you take a new name.

It often seems that the more unique a name is, the more it means to a person. In the real world there are hundreds of Matts and Mikes and Jennifers, and many choose a nickname to differentiate themselves. People pride themselves on having a unique (and often unpronounceable name). How often have you heard someone say, “I’m the only one with my name on Google”.

We often make assumptions or connotations based on a person’s name or nickname. Our personal experience, culture, and other environmental factors shape our perception of names. This probably why spouses argue endlessly about what to name their children.

Names and Context

I’ve been Kaelynn for about 1.5 years, which isn’t really that long compared to many people in WOW, but it’s become a part of me. I never really had a nickname before, and secretly always wanted one. I respond to it as readily as my real name – in the right context.

As I grew closer to my guildies, and with the advent of real ID, many have learned my real name. The first time someone used my real name on vent, I didn’t even recognize it. It’s strange how our brains work – context is key for our own recognition and retrieval. On the other side of things, hearing my internet name out in the real world makes me pause a bit.

Changing My Name

I changed my last name after I got married, and it is most certainly a strange process. There are so many places to change it, so many requests to fill out and people to inform. Beyond the tedium of changing it is the disconcerting feeling that the name you grew up with is gone. I introduced myself to someone new yesterday and I hesitated for an awkwardly long time before saying my name. I’ve spent 24 years known as one thing, and now it’s like I’m someone else. My identity is shaken a bit.

Another amusing thing is how other people deal with my name change at work. No one is able to find me in our internal company directory. People ignore my emails because they don’t recognize the name. I also received an angry note from the office mailperson who couldn’t figure out how to deliver mail to the mailbox that still was labeled with my old last name (never mind that I’m the only one with my first name on my floor ).

Pronunciation

Have you ever read a book, and heard a name in your head one way, only to find out some time later that you were actually “saying” it wrong internally? It’s happened to me many times, and it really bothers me. I have to step back and view the character in a different way. The way names sound conveys some essence of a person that I can’t quite describe.

Have you chosen a WOW character name that looked good on paper, only to find that you disliked how other people pronounced it, or disliked how it sounded out loud in general? My rogue’s first name was Kairen – which I pronounced internally just like Karen. The first person who said it out loud though, pronounced it as Kai (rhymes with guy) – rin. It just didn’t sound that great to me, and yes, I could have tried to correct the person, but having an unpronounceable psuedonym wasn’t appealing to me when my real name is already so hard to pronounce.

My shaman’s name, Leane, is prounced like the popular name LeAnn. For some reason I’ve never been in love with this name, and the way it sounds just doesn’t click with me. As she’s going to be my main come Cataclysm, the name must be changed.

Some things to ponder:

What does your name mean to you? How did you choose it? Does your pseudonym feel more “real” than your given name? How does your experience reflect the way you view certain names? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Blizzcon Streaming Day 2

Random Comments

An interview that Direct TV did yesterday revealed that an Alliance counterpart to the Lament of the Highborne will be put in the game for Cataclysm. It has something to do with night elves. I can’t wait to hear it – that was such a haunting and beautiful song, and it felt unfair that the Alliance didn’t have something similar.

Cataclysm Cinematic

I love the Cataclysm cinematic, so I was excited to see behind the scenes.

Apparently they originally thought about showing various races fleeing from the destruction, but they didn’t want it to look like “a 70’s disaster movie”, and they wanted to keep it fair and balanced so that no one race got the spotlight. In the end they decided that the Cinematic was all about Deathwing and his story – “Deathwing vs. the World”. They were able to produce fantastic cinematics for the Worgen and Goblins as well, but in-game instead of rendered.

They showed how they designed Deathwing, as well as other structures throughout the cinematic. They use simulations to create realistic looking fluids, smoke, fire, etc. It was pretty neat to see the process.

Then the world premiere of the the Worgen cinematic was shown, which of course was incredible. It made me shiver a little bit – they really captured the spooky, dangerous, and gloomy vibe of the worgen quite well.

Classes Q&A

I honestly just couldn’t keep up with the questions. Here’s a link to the MMO-Champion live-blogged version. It was certainly interesting to watch, but I didn’t feel very passionate about any of the subjects that were brought up. I did enjoy seeing Ghostcrawler in action. It was also amusing to see how many serious geeks there are at Blizzcon. Some of the questions aren’t great… they’ve already been answered or fixed in Cataclysm. It’s a lot like the developer Twitter chats.

WOW Open Q&A

Here’s the MMO Champion live-blog link.

One of the more interesting questions was someone asking for female characters that don’t look like they stepped out of a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. The developers of course gave a rather flippant answer, “which catalogue would you like them to step out of?” I understand their answer, but I’m sure that the woman who asked the question is probably a little pissed. It’s  a very tough topic, and one that has been covered many times by the blogosphere. Personally, I prefer my fantasy world to have idealized avatars – it is an escape from reality. I like looking at pretty things in the game. I would rather they spend more effort on keeping their female characters strong and interesting in personality (oh Jaina, what have they done to you?)

They also said that an incarnation of the Emerald Dream/Nightmare will definitely occur in the future, it’s just a matter of when.

They had hoped to get in a vanity item closet for Cataclysm, but they haven’t resolved the data storage issues necessary for it yet. I hope this can come in a patch during this expansion – my banks are filled to the brim. They also wanted to include a drop down for tabards, but they have yet to figure out how to deal with tabards that have an on-use effect.

The Insane in the Membrane feat of strength will NOT be achievable in Cataclysm, due to changes to many of the factions such as the Bloodsail Buccaneers. If there is a huge outcry for it, they will put a similarly painful achievement in for the future.

They are not planning on adding any more character slots. This was very disappointing to hear.

Wrap-up

I have to run to a halloween/mystery dinner party, so I’ll miss the rest of the evening’s festivities, although I might go back and watch the Tenacious D concert. Blizzcon was fantastic, and I can only imagine how great it would be to be actually physically present. Being surrounded by so many people who share a common interest is always a very energizing experience. I hope everyone that went had a wonderful time!

The livestream this year was certainly improved from last year, although there were still some lag/stuttering issues that seemed to be on Direct Tv’s end instead of our end. I definitely consider it worth the purchase, especially given the included “Deathy” murloc/deathwing  in-game pet. We got many hours of entertainment out of the stream, and it got us very excited for Cataclysm, and about the game in general.

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Blizzcon Streaming Day 1

Livestream

I managed to work from home this afternoon to catch the Blizzcon livestream. What better thing to do while I wait for important historical data that I accidentally wiped out to be imported back in to my database…? (*sigh*)

The livestream itself has vastly improved from last year. It’s less laggy (although the lag ramped up as the day wore on) and has a bunch of new features. You can choose from several stages to watch, instead of being locked to what is on the main stage. This means that I get to see all of the WOW panels, which is all I’m really interested in. Hooray! You can also watch segments on-demand instead of live if you happen to miss something, by choosing the time in the stream that the panel you’re interested in occurs.

Direct TV does a great job of piping videos that are shown on the panel’s project screens directly to their audience – we probably get to see these better than those people who are physically there. There were also less sound issues this year. The only real problem I noticed is that the feed automatically switches between qualities depending on the bandwidth, which causes it to skip back a bit. Often it would skip back too far when it did this.

Interesting interviews and discussions are woven in between the panels – this reminds me a lot of the coverage I saw of Comicon.  It’s nice to see a bit of the convention floor, and get a small sense of what it would really be like to be there. The hosts are cheesy, but very knowledgeable and professional. The hosts take questions from Twitter to ask the various Blizzard staff they interview, which is really a neat touch.

You can get a free stream of the RTS tournaments or WOW tournaments, if you haven’t subscribed to the full Livestream.

Opening Ceremony

There wasn’t anything too thrilling from the opening ceremony. Mike Morhaime gave a nice speech, and Chris Metzen warmed up the crowd. They did announce the last Diablo 3 class – Demon Hunter, as well as Diablo PVP. I will probably give Diablo 3 a shot when it comes out, but it seems so far out that I’m not really ready to get excited about it. The Cataclysm cinematic was also shown.

The official blue post can be found here.

Dungeon & Raids Panel

Panelists: Cory Stockton & Scott Mercer

The Dungeon & Raids panel is one I really enjoyed last year, and this year was much the same. A few random thoughts about it, some of which we’ve heard before, some of which is new:

Classic dungeons were broken up into more manageable pieces to comply with the current standard of dungeon design. Layouts were fixed in some cases, such as Wailing Caverns. Quests are all at the beginnings of the dungeons, rather than a big chain you need to complete before entering.

Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines were greatly revamped for the heroic versions, but the normal at-level version was also revised. You may see different bosses depending on the version. These instances have the same feel as the originals but are improved.

They showed a trailer for Cataclysm raids – these all look very pretty. I’m very excited by the various art styles that they’ve used, and it sounds like they’ve put a lot of thought into interesting and unique encounters.

A feature in a future patch (probably 4.1) will be enhanced maps. These will further enhance the 2-D maps that will be present in every dungeon in the game upon Cataclysm’s release. This will include boss lore, loot, a 3D portrait, and boss abilities. This last piece is one that I’m sure we’ll hear lots of controversy about. (QQ!!!! this game is too eazy!)

They’ve already mentioned in the past that in Cataclysm, raids will be on a per-boss basis. You can switch raids at will, as long as it wouldn’t result in you killing a boss twice. The caveat they mentioned is that Heroic modes will not be that way – you will be locked to a RaidID for heroic modes (although you could complete the rest of the bosses on normal if your heroic raid ends up falling apart). I’m not sure what the rationality is behind this, but I’m sure we’ll hear more in the future (and it might even change).

They also mentioned in response to a question that in Cataclysm, loot rules for LFG are stricter – you can’t roll on items you can’t use. I haven’t heard anything about this from beta players, but perhaps I missed it. I assume this means things like, a rogue can’t roll on loot with Intellect on it?

They gave a small preview of 4.1 – it will include the Abyssal Maw dungeon (elemental plane of water), and the Firelands (elemental plane of fire, and home of Ragnaros)

Someone mentioned in the Q&A that they would like to see a Raid Observation system. They didn’t say “never” but that it would be a very big feature. I would love this feature in WOW – it would allow guildies who are left out of a raid for whatever reason to essentially tag along and be a part of the fun.

Another question was about legendary components, and whether they would retroactively get them to drop in 10-mans, now that the raid philosophy has changed. They weren’t sure about this one either. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping, because the We Are Legendary Achievement for the Dark Phoenix Mount would then actually be obtainable by my guild.

The official blue post can be found here.

Quests & Lore Panel

Panelists: Chris Metzen & Alex Afrasiabi

This was strictly Q&A, so it was a bit hard to follow, and therefore my own thoughts will be a bit disjointed. I love how Chris Metzen could barely contain himself – he wanted to share the spoilers with us. He is so enthusiastic and passionate about his job – definitely something to envy.

A lot of people pleaded for legendary items. Others asked what happened to lore figures like Turalyon, the Infinite Dragonflight, Kil’jaeden, Kul Tiras, etc. The basic answer was… we’ll see them, but not yet. WOW has a massive set of lore, and since it’s not really being designed as a cohesive story, but rather piece by piece, things will always be left that need to be tied up. As my boss likes to say, “there’s a big difference between a 4000 square foot house that was planned and built all at once, versus a 4000 square foot house that was built 100 feet at a time.”

The Earthen Ring (go shamans!) will apparently play a big part in Cataclysm. I’m very excited for this.

A novella was written about Kael’thas’ character and transformation by a member of the lore department, and they hope to get it out someday. I would love to see this, as I never really understood how Kael’thas ended up where he did. His character seems comically egotistical and flat – it would be great to see it fleshed out, if only in a story outside the game.

The Troll druid lore is still coming. I can imagine how it might go – obviously the trolls in various troll instances such as Zul’gurub new the ways of druidism.

The feed started going wonky at this point, so I probably missed something.

Garrosh’s character development is a big theme in Cataclysm. His movement into the position of Warchief is part of a far larger storyline. Thrall is apparently the “most important figure in Warcraft”. This has been pretty obvious – which is why I’m glad he’s not representing the Horde anymore. It seemed unfair that the Horde should have such an admirable and heroic figure leading them, while the Alliance got stuck with Varian Wrynn. Garrosh was built as a foil to Thrall, and plays a pivotal role in the storyline. As they develop Thrall, Garrosh will also develop as his counterpoint.

They know Outlands doesn’t make sense, and they’ll deal with it someday.WOW is a big game, and they’ve effected a lot of it in Cataclysm. They just didn’t have time to make it cohesive for the ship of Cata. Essentially you’ll be jumping around in time. They put 3,500 quests in for Cataclysm, as opposed to 1,000 for WOTLK. I totally understand that they have a limited set of things that they can get done, and its easy for me to consider the other expansions as being in the past. I’m not looking forward to running through Hellfire Peninsula ever again, but that’s just the way it is.

The Council of Tirisfal is still yet to be implemented in the game. It was built out for the comic book but they aren’t sure how to best leverage the content. I haven’t read the comic – this reminds me that I probably should give it a shot.

Someone asked if Illidan might be resurrected and redeemed. Metzen said it would be cool and no one has ever mentioned it before. I’m not really sure how I feel about this.

They’re going to strike a better balance between Burning Crusade’s strategy of never really seeing Illidan, to WOTLK’s possibly “cartooning” of Arthas. Deathwing will be present, but when he shows up he’ll kill you. This is exactly what I was hoping for.

Nizoth(sp?) is an old god that will be apparent in Cataclysm. He was the one responsible for the spark of the Emerald Nightmare. (OMG, spoiler!)

The dragon aspects will be heavily involved in the fight against Deathwing. The Earth aspect is missing from the “family”. Perhaps that is a way that Thrall can contribute, as he is a Shaman and has powers of earth. (Could he be the new aspect of Earth?)

The events of the novel Stormrage are hard to pull off including in the expansion. Things can get muddled in building an expansion – the game is more important than a novel. Some things are referenced, but it’s not a priority because the Cataclysm is happening, and the Emerald Nightmare is over.

They’ll go back to the Goblin mines at somepoint in in the future. I’m not really passionate about Goblins, although that might change after I play their starting area.

Cataclysm’s storyline will be more cohesive than the disjointed one in WOTLK which consisted of Ulduar and the Scourge/Arthas. This definitely bothered me in Wrath, so I’m glad they learned from this mistake.

Kalecgos will be the new magic aspect. Not really a surprise – someone had to replace Malygos.

Nerz’hul is done. They probably won’t revisit Bolvar as the Lich King anytime soon – they’re not interested in chasing any big undead themes for a while. I think we’re all a bit tired of the Scourge.

About a month ago they had a session with Sam Raimi on the Warcraft movie and are waiting for the green light as to where the project fits in with his other movies. Metzen thinks the story is fantastic, and is very pumped about it. He hopes they’ll see some progress soon.

Thrall and Jaina are absolutely not getting together – Thrall will meet someone else. Christie Golden’s “The Shattering” covers this pretty well apparently. Metzen joked, “what happens to the men that Jaina dates?”

They don’t know where the moose that Ghostcrawler promised us is. Haha.

As they’ve said many times before – the Death Knight starting area is in the past. Also, necromancy is not exclusive to the Lich King.

The official blue post can be found here.

Wrap-up

OMG, that is a lot of info to digest, especially on the lore end. I’m even more excited for Cataclysm! I might come back to some of these topics in future blog posts, but right now I need to let it sink in a bit. That’s it for the panels today, all that’s left is the WOW Live raid and contests. I’ll put this out now and will probably just edit the post if anything interesting comes up.

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Azeroth Provides a Sign

Azeroth has given me another sign that switching mains is the right idea. I’ve been complaining that my shaman doesn’t have any cool mounts, and miraculously the game provided for me. I ran the Headless Horseman today on a whim.

I find that low-chance random drops only come my way when I’m not trying. It’s like that old saying “a watched pot never boils”… or something.

Anyways, I couldn’t resist sharing my glee over this first holiday mount ever.

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Trying to Resurface

After months of being overwhelmed by all the wedding and honeymoon planning, I’ve finally come out on the other side. We returned from our two week european honeymoon on Saturday night. I’m still suffering from jet lag.

I’m also overwhelmed by the thought of actually having free time again. What should I do first? I have fun new tools to cook with, games to play, things to write, draw, read, photograph… All my other hobbies were put on the back burner to wedding planning. Many new projects are popping into my head and I’m having a bit of trouble focusing. I’m going to attempt to organize my thoughts by writing them here, which might prove to be less than interesting for readers.

The Current State of WOW

Coming back a few days after the chaos of the 4.0.1 patch was rather nice. I arrived to stable servers, updated addons, and a plethora of information available to help me digest the changes.

I absolutely love the elemental shaman changes. The new rotation makes me squeal with glee – I love procs. I’m also thrilled about the new Blizzard power-auras type thing, as the proc for Lava Surge is very shiny and fun looking. Looking at my gear feels a bit disorienting, as mp5 has magically become hit. My gems and enchants are all wonky, and the concept of reforging makes my head hurt a bit. I’m sure it will all come together nicely once Cataclysm begins, but for now we’re stuck in a limbo where no one is raiding, and theory-crafters have less motivation to churn through the numbers.

I don’t have much to say about the resto shaman changes, but I haven’t actually healed an instance yet. The new healing style is just one of those things we’ll have to adapt to, and it will change in Cataclysm anyways with the larger health-pools and different encounter styles.

As to the rogue changes, all I can say is “meh”. The new mutilate rotation feels exactly how it did earlier in Wrath, before rupture got sidelined. It’s fine, and solid, but it is beginning to bore me. It’s only confirmed my decision that my shaman will become my main for Cataclysm.

The prospect of switching mains has been one I’ve been entertaining for awhile. After actually raiding on my rogue in a regular fashion, I found myself unsatisfied with her. It’s hard to let go of a character who has built up so much – all her pets, mounts, achievements, etc. Her name is my in-game identity. But I can’t continue playing her if it will make the game less fun.

My shaman has become my character of choice. I’m planning on changing her name to something that begins with “Kae” to help offset my loss of identity (not sure exactly what yet). I’m thrilled at the thought of healing in the new expansion, and the elemental rotation has left me actually excited about about being a ranged caster. I will be more versatile for my guild, and have two different play-styles on one character to switch between  when I get bored.

Cataclysm

December 7th seems very far away, but it will be here in a flash. The cinematic that was released this week continues to feed my excitement. It was beautifully rendered, and matches the style of previous cinematics.

Everything that I might say about the new expansion has already said on countless other blogs. We are all waiting impatiently.

I have high hopes for the in-game events prior to the launch. My guess is that they will kick off after Hallows End finishes. Of course we can already see the sporadic earthshakes in the major cities, but there is much more to come.

Future Plans and Projects (WOW Related, and Not)

Here’s a few ideas that have popped into my head upon my return from Europe:

  • Self-hosting. I’m thinking about creating a self-hosted gaming/WOW blog. This would mean the end of this current blog. Since I’ve already scared away my readers by the lack of posting the past few months, I’m not too concerned with making the transition. It will also not happen overnight – I have to brush off my rusty web-design skills to come up with brilliant theme, and the blog still needs a name. I’ve never been in love with the name “Azure Shadows”, but I find it difficult to come up with something that feels right. The content will be the same as this blog – WOW focused, with a smattering of other gaming/geek stuff, and a dollop of Real Life.
  • I also plan on hosting a website for my other creative endeavors – photography, writing, etc. I want to keep this separate because it’s something I would show to people I know in Real Life. It’s funny how I’m fine with my online friends knowing who I am in RL, but showing people in my RL the online persona makes me uncomfortable (especially family members).
  • Cooking: I have a bunch of new tools to play with thanks to wedding gifts. All-Clad cookware, a food processor, etc. Our friends and family were very generous! I have new recipes and cookbooks to read and try. I’ve set a goal of trying a new recipe at least once every other week.
  • Photography: Process the ~1000 photos I took on the Europe trip. Also play with my new macro lens.
  • In-Game: Level my priest at least to the point where she can complete the Wrath-gate. Also run Zul Gurub a few times before it disappears into the void.
  • I also have the arduous task of changing my last name. I despise paper-work, but this is something that must be done in the near future. Off to the Social Security office and DMV today to get started
  • Selling all the crap that is sitting in our living room from the wedding. We purchased a lot of things instead of renting them to save money. If you know anyone who needs blue table linens, 120 wine glasses, tons of vases,  or tealights, let me know.
  • Far-distant future: Organizing our finances and deciding if we can buy a house any time soon.

Expect more posting to come in the near future – far more than has occurred the past few months.

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I'm Just a Sunflower, But See Me Power An Entire Infantry

I interrupt this awkward silence to call your attention to the most awesome news ever!

Brains are Quite Rich In Cholesterol

If you haven’t already heard, the popular PopCap game, Plants vs. Zombies is going to be a quest in Cataclysm. PvZ is one of my favorite games of all time – it’s highly addictive, quirky, and an absolute blast. I reviewed it earlier this year. Since then PopCap has come out with an iPhone version(for $3!) and an Xbox version (complete with multiplayer modes). If you haven’t given it a shot yet, then… what is wrong with you?

This video gives us an overview of the WOW implementation of the game as it appears in the beta, courtesy of TotalHalibut. It is a series of quests, called Peaceboom vs. Ghouls.

The mini-game has several achievements associated with it, as well as a pet reward, the Singing Sunflower. The pet is being voiced by the adorable Laura Shigihara, who composed the original PvZ theme song. I definitely don’t need any incentive to do these quests, but the pet is a nice bonus.

I’m excited by so much of what Cataclysm will have to offer, but this news shook me awake from my rather comatose state. I absolutely cannot wait!

Now I’m off to try to get that ridiculously catchy song out of my head…

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Finally Some Horde Epicness

I finally had an epic lore experience on the Horde side. I’d been waiting for the Hero of the Mag’har questline for a long time, and it did not fail to deliver.

To pick up the questline you must be level 66, and have completed the Blademaster questline, Altruis the Demon Hunter questline, and the escort quest from the Murkblood village. The pre-requisites are quite enjoyable in themselves, especially the Demon Hunter one, which gives a little nod to the main villain of the Burning Crusade expansion.

Nagrand is full of interesting lore figures for the Horde, such as Garrosh and Saurfang the Younger. Getting a glimpse of their past makes their characters really come alive for me – no longer do they appear as shallow villains.

For those that don’t know, the Mag’har are a faction of orcs that remained uncorrupted by the Burning Legion and banded together. Garrosh is a chieftain, assisted by Jorin Deadeye. What Garrosh believes about his father causes him to fall into a deep depression, and throughout the questline he seems rather apathetic to your successes.

The questline culminates in Thrall’s visit to Outlands. I won’t spoil too much of it, but here’s a few screenshots:

Thrall and Garrosh meet
Thrall and the Greatmother of the Mag'har

I can’t help but love Thrall, despite my Alliance loyalties. He’s a truly heroic and inspiring character, and adds an element of “good” to a faction that seems so evil. This experience only strengthened my admiration for him. I suppose this is why Blizzard had to remove him from Horde leadership for Cataclysm – having a likeable Horde leader weakens their goals of increasing tension between the factions.

Sidenote.. but OMG, Thrall’s new model for Cata is fantastic. Srsly.

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GM Fail

I came across this a few months back when the guild bank goods were returned, but forgot to post it. I love when technology fails.

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Power Auras: Resto Shaman Edition

UPDATE: This post is a bit out of date. If you want to check out my current setup, I’m keeping this page updated with my most recent shaman Power Auras.

Power Auras is an addon to show visual cues on your screen. Typically it’s used for buffs and debuffs. It’s a very powerful tool that can be a bit intimidating to configure.

I typically use Class Timers for tracking buffs, but sometimes I need things thrown in my face. Power Auras is a way to put a reminder to the forefront of my UI in a visually interesting way. My first experiment with the addon was during my brief foray into enhancement (we won’t go into the reasons it was brief, let’s just say it never “clicked” for me, and I’m a tad lazy). I used the Auras shown by Wow.com’s enhancement columnist in this post.

After seeing that Power Auras wasn’t as scary as I once thought, I decided that my resto shaman could benefit the most from them. When healing, the tunnel vision threatens to take over, and having a more noticeable reminder seemed helpful. In the midst of frantically healing Saurfang, for instance, I found myself forgetting to reapply my Earthliving weapon, or letting my Water Shield drop.

My approach to Power Auras is to use them minimally – not for every buff, just for those that feel uber important. Some people use numbers and icons, while I choose to use graphics that remind me aesthetically of the buff.

To start up configuration, you type /powa into your chat window. This brings up the main menu.

Power Auras main menu

The first aura I added was one to remind me if my water shield falls off. Here’s the configuration:

Power Aura for water shield configuration

You can change the graphic, size, color, and position up top on the screen. The bottom part is the true nuts & bolts. What the above setup basically says, is to show the shield graphic when I am in combat, and when there are no stacks of water shield up. The key to making this happen is the ‘Invert’ checkbox.

I also made sure that the warning won’t show up while I’m mounted or in a vehicle – preventing me from being annoyed during Flame Leviathan or when riding on a dragon in Oculus. That’s controlled by putting an ‘X’ next to those options.

I have it show up in both specs, as Water Shield is important for elemental as well. You can change that by selecting ‘Spec 1′ or ‘Spec 2′ down at the bottom.

Here’s what it looks like in-game:

Graphic for water shield power aura

Next, I added a similar warning for my Earthliving weapon:

Power Aura for Earthliving configuration

As you can see, the configuration is basically identical to the Water Shield one. Again, the key is the ‘Invert’ checkbox, for showing a graphic when buffs are missing.

Graphic for Earthliving power aura

Next I configured auras for two buffs that I wanted to know procced. First was Tidal Waves, which provides yummy crit and haste bonuses for Lesser Healing Wave and Healing Wave respectively upon a Riptide cast. Here’s the setup:

Power Auras Tidal Waves configuration

With this more simple configuration, you just type in the name of the buff and use >=0, leaving the Invert Checkbox alone.

Graphic for Tidal Waves

The same setup is also applied to my Rapid Currents aura, which shows when the T10 resto bonus procs. Blizzard really made the T10 bonuses fun and useful, and the resto shaman one is no exception. It provides a lovely 20% haste buff for 10 seconds, which is nothing to sneeze at. Keeping this up as much as possible is a huge advantage.

Power Aura for Rapid Currents configuration

I love the glowing graphic on this one – it really makes me feel epic.

Graphic for Rapid Currents Power Aura

And there you have my very simplistic use of Power Auras. This addon has a vast array of possible uses, but I’m starting small. I intend to expand to other specs and characters in the near future, and will post on those when they’re ready.

Check out this article for some more possible uses for resto shaman.

Sidenote: There’s been some buzz in the blogging community lately about the usage of addons. If you’ve read anything on my blog, you know I use addons extensively. As a software developer myself, with an interest in usability, I’m not interested in putting up with inefficiencies of someone else’s design. If I can make the game more usable and more fun, why shouldn’t I? Addons have their pitfalls – they can be memory intensive, they can be distracting, and they don’t always work perfectly. For me though, dealing with the frustrations of the default UI’s limitations is just too much.

I didn’t even give LOTRO a fair chance due to its lack of addons (and as such am thrilled to hear that they’re going to add LUA capability in the near future). The way I see it, it’s all about what you find fun, and what you want to be challenged on. For me, trying to determine visual cues from tiny buff boxes is tedious and irritating – but obviously for others, it is an intriguing challenge. That’s the great thing about WOW, is that it can be enjoyable for so many types of personalities and gamers. Many people feel the need to feel elitest about the way they do something – as if their way was the only “right” way. As with much in life, the right way is extremely subjective.

The decision to use addons is wholly up to you – however Blizzard knows that most people do use addons, even designing encounters with that in mind. They often incorporate addons into the base UI, such as with the new raid frames for Catclysm. This tells me that they recognize significant usability improvements that addons provide. Yes, this make make the game “easier”, in the same way that Microsoft Windows made it easier to use a computer than MS-DOS.

I’ve added  my config string below if any of these seem useful to you. You can import the string and modify as desired.

Set=Page 1@
Aura[1]=Version:st3.0.0J; gcd:bofalse; b:nu1; anim1:nu1; g:nu0.46666666666667; optunitn:bofalse; ignoremaj:botrue; Instance25ManHeroic:nu0; stacksLower:nu0; target:bofalse; icon:stInterfaceIconsAbility_Shaman_WaterShield; size:nu1.1999999284744; torsion:nu1; r:nu0.031372549019608; Instance5ManHeroic:nu0; begin:nu0; x:nu0; customsoundend:st; customname:st; groupany:botrue; isAlive:botrue; timerduration:nu0; unitn:st; bufftype:nu1; CurrentMatch:stWater Shield; stacks:nu0; focus:bofalse; Instance10ManHeroic:nu0; raid:bofalse; texture:nu21; stance:nu10; alpha:nu0.40000000596046; aurastext:st; InstanceBg:nu0; symetrie:nu0; owntex:bofalse; isResting:nu0; spec1:botrue; duration:nu0; mine:bofalse; randomcolor:bofalse; multiids:st; inVehicle:bofalse; speed:nu1; Instance5Man:nu0; sound:nu0; InactiveDueToState:botrue; stacksOperator:st>=; realaura:nu1; threshold:nu50; exact:bofalse; id:nu1; HideRequest:bofalse; textaura:bofalse; Active:bofalse; anim2:nu0; wowtex:bofalse; groupOrSelf:bofalse; customsound:st; soundend:nu0; beginSpin:bofalse; InstanceArena:nu0; inParty:nu0; tooltipCheck:st; GTFO:nu0; aurastextfont:nu1; CurrentSlot:nu2; spec2:botrue; Instance10Man:nu0; customtex:bofalse; PvP:nu0; Instance25Man:nu0; isSecondary:bofalse; thresholdinvert:bofalse; inRaid:nu0; combat:botrue; Showing:bofalse; UseOldAnimations:bofalse; buffname:stWater Shield; y:nu-30; off:bofalse; texmode:nu1; inverse:botrue; ismounted:bofalse; targetfriend:bofalse; party:bofalse; finish:nu1@
Aura[2]=Version:st3.0.0J; gcd:bofalse; b:nu0.07843137254902; anim1:nu1; g:nu0.92549019607843; optunitn:bofalse; ignoremaj:botrue; Instance25ManHeroic:nu0; stacksLower:nu0; target:bofalse; icon:stInterfaceIconsSpell_Nature_AstralRecal; size:nu0.74999994039536; torsion:nu1; r:nu1; Instance5ManHeroic:nu0; begin:nu0; x:nu0; customsoundend:st; customname:st; groupany:botrue; isAlive:botrue; timerduration:nu0; unitn:st; bufftype:nu1; stacks:nu0; focus:bofalse; Instance10ManHeroic:nu0; raid:bofalse; texture:nu4; spec1:botrue; randomcolor:bofalse; stance:nu10; alpha:nu0.75000005960464; aurastext:st; InstanceBg:nu0; symetrie:nu0; owntex:bofalse; isResting:nu0; duration:nu0; mine:bofalse; multiids:st; inVehicle:nu0; speed:nu1; Instance5Man:nu0; sound:nu0; InactiveDueToState:bofalse; stacksOperator:st>=; realaura:nu1; threshold:nu50; exact:bofalse; id:nu2; HideRequest:bofalse; textaura:bofalse; Active:bofalse; anim2:nu0; wowtex:bofalse; groupOrSelf:bofalse; customsound:st; soundend:nu0; beginSpin:bofalse; InstanceArena:nu0; inParty:nu0; tooltipCheck:st; GTFO:nu0; aurastextfont:nu1; spec2:botrue; Instance10Man:nu0; customtex:bofalse; PvP:nu0; Instance25Man:nu0; isSecondary:bofalse; thresholdinvert:bofalse; inRaid:nu0; combat:nu0; Showing:bofalse; UseOldAnimations:bofalse; buffname:stRapid Currents; y:nu-30; off:bofalse; texmode:nu1; inverse:bofalse; ismounted:nu0; targetfriend:bofalse; party:bofalse; finish:nu1@
Aura[3]=Version:st3.0.0J; gcd:bofalse; b:nu0.45490196078431; anim1:nu1; g:nu1; optunitn:bofalse; ignoremaj:botrue; Instance25ManHeroic:nu0; stacksLower:nu0; target:bofalse; icon:stInterfaceIconsSpell_Shaman_TidalWaves; size:nu0.75; torsion:nu1; r:nu0.49803921568627; Instance5ManHeroic:nu0; begin:nu0; x:nu0; customsoundend:st; customname:st; groupany:botrue; isAlive:botrue; timerduration:nu0; unitn:st; bufftype:nu1; stacks:nu0; focus:bofalse; Instance10ManHeroic:nu0; raid:bofalse; texture:nu3; spec1:botrue; randomcolor:bofalse; alpha:nu0.25; aurastext:st; stance:nu10; InstanceBg:nu0; symetrie:nu0; owntex:bofalse; isResting:nu0; duration:nu0; mine:bofalse; multiids:st; inVehicle:nu0; speed:nu1; Instance5Man:nu0; sound:nu0; InactiveDueToState:bofalse; stacksOperator:st>=; realaura:nu1; threshold:nu50; exact:bofalse; id:nu3; HideRequest:bofalse; textaura:bofalse; Active:bofalse; anim2:nu0; wowtex:bofalse; groupOrSelf:bofalse; customsound:st; soundend:nu0; beginSpin:bofalse; InstanceArena:nu0; inParty:nu0; tooltipCheck:st; GTFO:nu0; aurastextfont:nu1; spec2:botrue; Instance10Man:nu0; customtex:bofalse; PvP:nu0; Instance25Man:nu0; isSecondary:bofalse; thresholdinvert:bofalse; inRaid:nu0; combat:nu0; Showing:bofalse; UseOldAnimations:bofalse; buffname:stTidal Waves; y:nu-30; off:bofalse; texmode:nu1; inverse:bofalse; ismounted:nu0; targetfriend:bofalse; party:bofalse; finish:nu1@
Aura[4]=Version:st3.0.0J; gcd:bofalse; b:nu0.90980392156863; anim1:nu1; g:nu0; optunitn:bofalse; ignoremaj:botrue; Instance25ManHeroic:nu0; stacksLower:nu0; target:bofalse; icon:stInterfaceIconsinv_weapon_shortblade_100; size:nu1.0799999237061; torsion:nu1; r:nu1; Instance5ManHeroic:nu0; begin:nu0; x:nu0; customsoundend:st; customname:st; groupany:botrue; isAlive:botrue; timerduration:nu0; unitn:st; bufftype:nu5; stacks:nu0; focus:bofalse; Instance10ManHeroic:nu0; raid:bofalse; texture:nu17; alpha:nu1; aurastext:st; InstanceBg:nu0; symetrie:nu0; spec1:botrue; randomcolor:bofalse; owntex:bofalse; isResting:nu0; duration:nu0; mine:bofalse; multiids:st; inVehicle:bofalse; speed:nu1; Instance5Man:nu0; sound:nu0; InactiveDueToState:botrue; stacksOperator:st>=; realaura:nu1; threshold:nu50; exact:bofalse; id:nu4; HideRequest:bofalse; textaura:bofalse; Active:bofalse; anim2:nu0; wowtex:bofalse; groupOrSelf:bofalse; customsound:st; soundend:nu0; beginSpin:bofalse; InstanceArena:nu0; inParty:nu0; tooltipCheck:st; GTFO:nu0; aurastextfont:nu1; stance:nu10; spec2:bofalse; Instance10Man:nu0; customtex:bofalse; PvP:nu0; Instance25Man:nu0; isSecondary:bofalse; thresholdinvert:bofalse; inRaid:nu0; combat:botrue; Showing:bofalse; UseOldAnimations:bofalse; buffname:stEarthliving; y:nu-36; off:bofalse; texmode:nu1; inverse:botrue; ismounted:bofalse; targetfriend:bofalse; party:bofalse; finish:nu1@
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