Post Blaugust post

Blaugust is wrapped up for the year, and it was great fun to participate. I was a bit wary about signing up and committing to writing, but I’m glad I did – it created a good discipline to write each night, and the interaction with other bloggers was very rewarding. It was really good to find so many new blogs to follow, and also to see people didn’t worry about ‘gotta post every day’. I’m pleased I managed the streak – on the couple of days when I struggled for an idea, it was great being able to turn to the Blaugustians and quickly find inspiration. After 31 days of posts, having three days of radio silence was kind of weird, but it happened to coincide with a work /afk trip so it all worked out pretty well. Thanks to everyone who’s visited, and special thanks to Belghast.

Looking good

One of the questions I had when pondering the rare mob collection project was how to improve the quality of the screenshots – pictures or it didn’t happen, after all.

After a bit of hunting around, I found that there a few console only settings in Warcraft related to the screenshot quality. If you type these commands in the chat window and press enter, they are changed permanently everywhere. (You don’t get any feedback that anything happened, but it does work.)

The first is choosing between JPG (the default) and TGA. TGA is a lossless format, so the image quality is higher and non compressed, but it is a fairly arcane format – you’d want to convert it to something more useful like PNG to use it on WordPress et al. In any case, the command to change it to TGA is:

/console screenshotFormat tga

And to switch back to JPG:

/console screenshotFormat jpg

Sticking with JPG is more convenient, but the default quality is pretty average. The good news is there’s another console setting that bumps up the JPG quality until it’s barely different from the TGA files (confirmed by much internet commentary). Wowheads screenshot submission guidelines state the default JPG level is 3, but we can bump it all the way up to eleven 10:

/console screenshotQuality 10

I tried this and while the difference is noticeable if you look closely, it’s not as huge as you might expect. One byproduct is the filesize grows from about 500KB to 2MB, but with some judicious resizing the filesize gets more reasonable.

So it seems changing the quality setting is not quite enough. Which means learning more about doing some post processing on them. There are some great photography-inspired tips in this excellent article on Blizzard Watch which seems a good place to start.

Aside from the framing tips, the main advice seems to be about adjusting colours and contrast, to get the details to really pop and sparkle. The main problem I see is that the screenshots are too dark, so I played around with an image of our second RFC run to see what could be done. Here’s the default shot:

The heavy contrast is quite nice, but it does tend to hide much of the detail

Using Irfanview (which admittedly is more of a viewer than an editor), I mucked around with adjusting contrast and saturation, but in the end found that the ‘auto adjust colours’ setting did a pretty good job:

Details are much clearer, at the cost of some depth

Finally I used the ‘sharpness’ setting to see what that would do:

Things like belts, tabard edges, and moustaches(!) are picked out, though there is also some jagged edging

Hm. I like that you can see more once it’s adjusted, but it does wash it out a fair bit. I guess using the default settings isn’t a great plan – more to learn and more experimenting to come. Either that or I should just start taking screenshots in daylight…

Developing appreciation

It’s been nice reading the various Developer Appreciation Week posts on the Blaugust blogs, the surge of positivity is very welcome.

The obvious candidate for me is Blizzard. Warcraft has provided endless hours of entertainment, fun, laughter, obsession, joy, sorrow, and accomplishment, and continues to do so even now. Most recently I’ve discovered the cleverness of level scaling in dungeons, which has meant our lowbie guild can all be completely different levels but still play together – something that must have been very hard to implement into the creaking framework of old WoW code, and yet appears seamless to the player.

Overwatch is also a brilliant game, the perfect antidote to the long termedness of an MMO. Jeff Kaplan in particular is a great front man, communicating extremely well and obviously loving what he’s doing, but the entire team have achieved incredible things. The game is constantly evolving and updating, which is all due to the dedication of the dev team no doubt.

On a slightly different note, I’d also shout out to the team that have put out 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Our tabletop group have loved the current version, which managed to simplify the rules somewhat and also introduce a bunch of great new mechanics like Inspiration – basically a free re-roll granted by te DM to a player for particularly clever role playing. It’s a simple idea that escalates the enjoyment instantly without bogging things down. They have also managed to make all the classes feel exceptionally heroic, with every class feeling powerful and different, and the official modules have been entertaining for DM and players both.

Finally I’d call out gaming bloggers again. So many great, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, curious writers who are passing on their love of a game, or many games, to all the readers out there. And through that enthusiasm they in turn highlight what a great job so many of the developers are doing. It’s a virtuous circle, and may it ever grow stronger.

Expansion paralysis

It’s happening again.

Instead of diving into the latest expansion with arms open and eyes wide, I’m doing everything to avoid even logging in to my only 110 character. This happens every time, and I’m at a loss to explain why.

Running dungeons with the Alliance guild is one thing, but everything else I’m doing is pure avoidance. So far I’ve rolled up one of each Alliance race, tried them out, deleted them. Settled on a Dwarf Hunter alt, then decided the name would be better for a Panda, but do I really want to play a Panda? Maybe a Human. But wait, I’m an actual human, why would I play one in a game.

Then I thought I should level a Highmountain Tauren – the character model is beautiful, especially those massive antlers, and it would be fun to unlock their epic looking cosmetic armour. 90 levels before I’d have to face BfA – that should be time enough to get used to the idea!?

Realising this was kind of ridiculous, I caught up on a few blogs, thinking that working my way through the great Blaugust list TAGN put together would focus me on the task ahead. But instead, reading through them made me start to ponder rolling up some characters in some completely different MMOs.

Armagon Live’s enthusiasm for SWtOR (and the great transmog in that post), along with the long term commitment to the game from blogs like Going Commando, make me enthused to don a lightsaber and jump back in again.

Likewise the ongoing chronicles of GW2 from Bhagpuss (who even when wary of the direction the game is taking makes it sound interesting) lures me to GW2, and it’s hard to resist the deep appreciation Blaugust creator Belghast has for ESO. Or Syp’s relentless enthusiasm for LotRO and DDO. Speaking of Dungeons & Dragons, my DnD group are playing The Curse of Strahd (aka Ravenloft revisited), which led me to thinking I should maybe play Neverwinter Online in order to flesh out ideas for the tabletop game.

Meanwhile my Horde Hunter stands patiently waiting but gets no closer to being played. Does anyone else have this problem?

Ah well. If nothing else, my BfA avoidance scheme has made me appreciate the gaming blogosphere all the more. Even though we can’t play every game, the enthusiasm of the blogging community means we can get close. Thanks all!

Meta Blaugust blogging

With Blaugust fully rolling now, I thought it might be ok to post a meta post about blogging – or more specifically questions about blogging and commenting.

(I guess this could be better asked on the Blaugust Discord, but I don’t really use or get Discord, and anything posted there is only visible to the Discorders. Which is why blogging is so great – it’s public and a permanent record).

One of my biggest confusions with blogging is commenting. Whenever I see a post that stirs the imagination, I think about commenting, but then decide it would be better to make a full post here. The logic is normally that there is too much to write in a comment, and comments tend to be seen by a tiny fraction of blog readers.

On the other hand, comments can be the heart of a blog. It’s how you know people are reading, and reading enough to care to respond. Veteran blogger and Blaugust mentor Bhagpuss is pretty clear on the matter:

I one hundred percent recommend and advise any reader to comment, whether or not they also blog or plan on starting. Comments are the life-blood of blogs. Bloggers love comments and commenting leads to blogging. Do it!

But! He also goes on to say:

I’ll start commenting and within a few sentences it will occur to me that a) the comment is going to run long – most likely very long – and b) it would make a perfectly adequate blog post! At this point, out of blogging solidarity and politeness, I usually change the comment to something along the lines of “Great post! I was going to comment but then I realized I ought to make it into a post over at my blog”.

This is exactly what happens. Though I rarely get as far as starting a reply.

Is the best etiquette to post a reply, but link to your post if you make one? That sometimes seems like it might be a bit rude, hijacking someone else’s post, but it does seem a good compromise? I certainly like seeing a link posted as it leads me to find great new bloggers, or great posts from existing blogs.

It might also be the only way to guarantee the author knows you have posted a response. The state of link-backs seem perilous at best, which is a real shame. There could be terrific post somewhere engaging with one of yours, but you may never see it.

Interested in thoughts on this – feel free to comment or post a response! And then comment. With a link. Argh!

Fishing for Blaugust

I’ve signed up for Blaugust 2018, which is a wonderful initiative from Belghast at Tales of the Aggronaut to initiate or (re)kickstart gaming blogs. It’s amazing what one enthusiastic blogger can do – so far there’s 80+ blogs signed up, and a great list of mentors from the more established blogs out there. So many thanks to Belghast and crew for all the work on this – and for helping waking this blog up again!


With the Thonry War underway, I needed to get away from Sylvanas’s crazy crusade for a while, and there is no better way to find some peaceful equilibrium than fishing1.

Fishing & Highmountain, like milk & honey

I’ve been tootling around the Legion zones seeking all the rare fish for the Bigger Fish to Fry Achievement. There’s a fun mechanic where you occasionally fish up a special bait that in turn gives you a two minute buff in which you can catch the associated rare fish.

The bait names are all pretty amusing – from Message in a Beer Bottle to Stunned, Angry Shark – and some even create things like a Sleeping Murloc who runs around throwing fish with gay abandon. Each zone has it’s own fish, and it’s a nice way to tour some of the more out of the way places on the (still beautiful) maps.

But I mostly love just quietly throwing in a line and waiting. Those moments when nothing is happening, and you can simply enjoy the serenity and scenery. It’s like real fishing, but with less rigmarole, and far less smelly.

Unless you fish up some Aromatic Murloc Slime I guess.


  1. I have all my Tauren totems out and hooves crossed that they never kill fishing like they did First Aid. 

Influence

A commentator on Syp’s always entertaining blog Bio Break took him gently to task for sometimes dwelling negatively on MMOs that he has abandoned. Syp rightly defends his approach on the grounds that it would be dishonest to say otherwise, though he agrees that letting go is eventually appropriate.

It’s an interesting dilemna, one faced by critics of all forms of entertainment. Critics have such a huge influence on the success or failure of a venture that it must sometimes seem overwhelming – some recipients of bad reviews have even turned to the courts to seek recompense. I remember talking to a record store owner who knew the music reviewer at the Sydney Morning Herald. This reviewer had made a conscious decision to only review music he liked, perhaps as a response to being sampled by The Necks apologising profusely for a bad review he’d given them. That’s obviously an extreme reaction, but on the other hand, why waste time dissing something when there is so much good stuff out there.

Now independent blogs are obviously a different order of influence magnitude to a old school broadsheet newspaper, but the influence is still there.

Despite blogs being a free-for-all, people are impacted by blogger opinions and thoughts, especially when the blogger is as well known and prolific as the bio-breaking one. We can’t help but want our choice of MMO to be ‘right’, and for that decision to be reinforced by the community at large. I remember the great disturbance in the force when BRK stepped down – it actually made WoW feel less fun for a while. I (and many others) still keep an half an eye on his personal blog, just in case he comes back – wishful thinking I fear, but he added so much life to the WoW community, and hence to my enjoyment of the game.

If I read someone praising WoW – as everyone is doing at the moment due to the new LFD tool – I feel justified in my investment in the game. If someone attacks or criticises, I want to turn a blind eye (if it’s justified criticism) or argue back (if it’s unfounded or irrational).

The complusively-readable-despite-the-horror Goblin would call this hopelessly “social” behaviour, but I’m sure even he enjoys his popularity. As Tobold pointed out, “if Gevlon would be honest to himself, he’d realize that writing a not-for-profit blog is an extremely social act”. If even Gevlon can be partly socialised by popularity and influence, what hope do the rest of us have?!

Begin

Duty Now for the FutureA blog. About Warcraft, mostly, and other gaming. Somewhere to capture my thoughts.

As this blog begins, I’m in the thick of Warcraft, having been there for a good 18 months now. In other words, a late starter, but fascinated by it. I’ve always gamed, but until Warcraft it was limited to single player with the occasional “drag a PC to a friends house” LAN day – huge fun but a logistical nightmare.

The social gaming I did revolved around Dungeons & Dragons, which didn’t seem possible to recreate in PC gaming. We played fast and loose with the DnD ruleset, playing the game in a very ad-lib way, making it more about the interaction than the system. We were blessed with a fantastic GM who could create entire worlds, political systems, religions, and brilliant NPCs, and our monthly sessions were a highlight.

Then a couple of us started to dive into WoW, having heard so much and yet steadfastly ignored it. And we, of course, were instantly hooked & utterly staggered.

Which is where we begin.