Hi! Did you know that the Extra Life Gaming Marathon for Children’s Miracle Hospitals is on November 2nd? And that I’m gonna do 24 hours of gaming again this year, even though it almost broke me last year? Every dollar counts for the kids, so if you’re able to donate I hope you’ll consider it. And if you’re not able to donate, you can help by spreading the word! (And huge thanks to those who have already donated.)
Need some more encouragement? I wanted to play with video editing, so over the weekend I made this 90 second pitch video.
So okay, let’s just get this out of the way: I seem to be playing WoW again as my primary MMO. I think it’s partially a retreat into an old familiar friend during a time of much external turmoil, and partially the fact that showing up for the end of an expansion means a bounty of content for us slackers. For whatever reason, it’s happening and I don’t wanna hear no guff about it (although I probably deserve some).
Playing Liore-the-goblin again means healing again, which means addons. This weekend I spent far too much time going through a ton of mods, so I’ll share my findings here for others who might be jumping back into it.
My first idea was to just go with one of the established full UI sets so I wouldn’t have to fuss with things. I was running RealUI back when I quit at the start of Cataclysm (many years ago for non-WoW players) so I figured I would give it the first shot. RealUI is still going strong and has a remarkably better installation and set-up system now. That being said, this minimal UI has gone a little too minimalist to the point where I couldn’t tell if that little green stripe on my user frame meant I was getting rested XP or I had accidentally flagged PVP.
After that I tried the extremely popular ElvUI. This also had a slick installation process, and looked good. I liked the raid frames for ElvUI “out of the box” better than those with RealUI. However, the default font choices are pretty terrible and after some fiddling I decided that I would be more comfortable creating a UI from scratch.
My first attempt at creating unit frames was using Pitbull 4. This addon has not changed a lot since its early days during WotLK, which means the customization is powerful but really obtuse. There are almost TOO many options. Also as of this writing some users are getting serious errors with Pitbull 4 after the patch, which left me feeling less than confident.
The alternative was Shadowed Unit Frames, or SUF. SUF was exactly what I wanted — within minutes I had nice minimal user frames that showed what I wanted to know and ignored what I did not.
Raid frames are also known as “what the healer stares at”, so they’re probably the most important part of my UI. There seem to be three popular options: Grid, Grid 2, and Vuhdo. I used Grid for years back in my serious raiding days (with no complaints), so I decided to try something totally different and go for Vuhdo.
I was a little intimidated when I found this 45 minute (!) video on how to set it up, but after about 15 of those minutes I easily figured out how to make my raid frames do what I needed them to do. I am entirely pleased with Vuhdo.
No experimentation here, I’m afraid. I used to use Bartender back in the day, so I installed Bartender4 first and it still works like a champ.
You can set up how debuffs are displayed on your raid frames through Vuhdo for easier dispelling, but there are plenty of other spots on the screen with buff and debuff information. For that reason I downloaded popular mod Raven, which is supposed to handle these things. I then started it up, looked at the configuration menu, made a little face, and uninstalled it. I am sure it’s a great mod that does an array of lovely things, I just decided that for now I don’t care about advanced buff and debuff handling.
Cast Bars and Timers
I downloaded the mod Castbars only to find that it simply edits the Blizzard cast bar, which means you still can’t move it around on your screen. I went with a custom integrated cast bar with SUF.
The timer and cooldown display in RealUI was by far my favorite part of that compilation and after some research I discovered that it was done by the mod Weak Auras, which didn’t exist back in my day. This mod is so amazingly powerful and flexible that I have no idea how to use it. Fortunately I just had to import these strings by Tales of a Priest. If you’re not a priest, I got nothin’.
Mods I tried that did not make the cut: Titan Panel (info display), MikScrollingBattleText (um, battle text) — I used to love both of these mods but now I feel like they just put way to much useless info on my screen
Mods I tried that did make the cut but I’m sorry about it: Deadly Boss Mods. The timers are still super useful in dungeons and PvP, but getting updated definitions seems like a huge pain if I don’t want to install some Adobe Air nonsense
I am pretty amused by how many of my current UI addons are just updated versions of the exact same ones I used 3+ years ago. The only huge new advancement in mods seems to be Weak Auras, which is too smart for me to use myself.
Last week Liore, Ellyndrial, and special guest Corranhorn were all at PAX Prime, and they had such wonderful things to show us.
Like WildStar! We went to Carbine’s panel and had hands-on experience with the game. Was it any good? All three of us also tried the Oculus Rift, and we can confirm that it’s much better than the Virtual Boy. Liore played TESO and Watch Dogs, while Elly went crazy for the Digital Card Game panel.
Indies were really the best part of PAX Prime, and we definitely have some favorites, like Escape Goat 2, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, and Beatbuddy.
We also had time to play games outside of PAX! Elly lived up to his threats from last time and played Gone Home, Liore finally gets around to playing Bastion, and Corr experiences the growth of RPGs in Evoland.
Like to watch? This podcast was also a Hangout on Air:
It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)
For the past couple of months myself and a few of my friends have been meeting up on Monday nights to play WoW. I was pretty cranky about it at first — ugh, WoW? Why? — but we rolled brand new characters on a new faction and a new server (and no heirlooms!) and it turned out to be legitimately fun to get on Mumble with the gang and see all the changes to dungeons from level 1 up. I log on at 7pm, log off at 9:30pm, and don’t have a single thought about WoW until the next Monday. I liked it that way.
Last night while we were playing I mentioned that as I logged in I saw a warning about a patch. The response was an explosion of details from my friends. “Yes, it’s 5.4 and it’s the best patch of the expansion! There are solo challenges. And a raid where you kill Garrosh! And flex raiding! And a new zone! And a pet battle tournament!”*
That just opened up the floodgates I think, because then they started talking about all the things us clueless casual quitters may have missed about the expansion in general, like the Black Market and the Brawler’s Guild.
I tried to ignore them. La la la I play a baby cat druid 2 hours a week and I like it that way. I am happy to not know everything about WoW, unlike my TBC/WotLK days, and enjoy being genuinely surprised by things in the game.
After I logged off at 9:30pm, though, something stuck with me, and that’s the Proving Grounds. It’s a single-player scenario that can be completed by healers (or DPS or tanks, but whatever). Participants will be awarded a result and gold, silver, or bronze medals, and the best of the best will be listed on a leaderboard. Gear is normalized for all participants, and everyone has equal buffs. So I can compete for being an awesome healer, on my own, with little but skill as a measurement. Oh Blizzard. You beautiful bastards.
So anyway, maybe I should level Liore to 90. You know, just to keep up with expansions and all.
* All quotes from friends are paraphrased. They don’t actually speak with so many exclamation points. Well, Ellyndrial kind of does.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to get my hands on The Elder Scrolls Online. On the downside, I only had about five minutes to play. On the upside, there was no NDA for those five minutes!
My sense is that the answer to almost any question about TESO is “Skyrim”. What is the character creator like? Skyrim. How does the UI work? Like Skyrim. How does the game look and feel? Tooootally Skyrim. You even have that little compass at the top of your screen that tells you which direction to go for quests.
TESO handles class specs slightly differently, and there is no giant skill wheel in the sky like Skyrim. Players still gain skill points through action, like earning Light Armor by being hit, but they can also purchase specific skills at certain levels. This is where you can start to steer your character towards magic or physical damage. The skills you buy are placed on your hotbar, and otherwise you have two attacks bound to each mouse button.
So what of the multiplayer part of this MMO? First, the other players are displayed in a way that blends into the environment well and doesn’t mess with immersion. (In fact, I spent a good half of my battle time fruitlessly hitting my fellow players, thinking they were enemies.) That was all well and good when you had another one or two people running around, but once you had a lot of players on your screen it genuinely started to feel a bit silly.
Although I personally never really enjoyed Skyrim, my understanding from others is that a large part of its appeal was the immersion. It was having random encounters happen, it was getting lost in the giant world, it was overhearing bits of gossip as you walked by someone in town. (There’s a reason first person view is so popular with players!)
Having played TESO I feel like ZeniMax Online got the mechanics of that same Skyrim immersion correct, but it quickly becomes trampled by the old MMO structure. It’s just hard to feel like a part of a virtual world when PlayerX zips in front of you and steals your quest mob, or when there are 15 people all running around the same area trying to find the same plant.
I admit that from the outset I knew that TESO was not a title that interested me, but I left their booth feeling that while the game played well and had that old Skyrim spirit the title would still have been much better served as a game you play with a couple of friends and not the whole world.