The simple things

One of the keys to playing an MMO effectively as a raider or mythic dungeon runner has always been getting your rotation right. Making sure that you fire off key skills at the right time, don’t waste cool downs, and combo your best abilities correctly.

After every major patch there is always a new rotation to learn and action bars to configure to ensure optimum key pressery. BfA is no different, so I’ve set about researching the new best-in-class rotations for my Hunter. I’ve never professed to be anything beyond a ‘Normal’ level player, but I still like to try and make sure I’m not doing anything obviously stupid, and preferably doing most things right.

There are a lot of great guides out there, from Icy Veins to Wowhead to individual class masters like Bendak at Eyes of the Beast. I usually try and cobble together talents and rotations that combine passive skills along with the more fun active talents, and then hotkey them in some semblance of the correct order.

This time however I stumbled across a really interesting post on the AskMrRobot blog, which examines Simple vs Complex rotations, and the effect on DPS as the rotation gets increasingly involved.

Using a Marksmanship Hunter as an example, they discovered that the difference between a simple rotation and a very complex one can be as little as 1-3%. Even the difference between the simplest possible rotation and the most complex was only ~10%.

I found that amazing to read, and somewhat liberating as a casual player. Obviously if you’re a progression raider that 10% difference is immense, but for the Normal and even Heroic players, if you can pare it down to a 3% difference then it seems very safe to choose.

As AMR points out, the major benefit of simpler rotations is that you can focus better on the boss mechanics, and you’re more likely to be able to maintain your rotation in the face of the chaos of a boss fight:

Simpler rotations aren’t just easier to do, they are also more robust. They can stand up to the interruptions from a real boss fight, like movement, knockbacks, and switching to adds that need to be nuked down. A lot of complex rules lose all of their benefit when these types of interruptions happen and either offer zero DPS gain, or in some cases, cause a DPS loss.

Again, great news for the casual player who still wants to be effective! Which makes me happy to turn to Icy Vein’s ‘Easy Mode’ guide (despite the slight but ridiculous shame that comes with associating with ‘ezy’ play), or Wowhead’s Levelling Build when designing my BfA setup.

Looks like another case where the old saying might be true: the simple things in life…

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!

Fractious Factions

Since the announcement of BfA, a lot of people have been wishing factions would go away, to let everyone play as one happy horde. Or should that be alliance?

There are arguments for merging that are strong – playing with friends no matter what race they’ve chosen, less conflict with other players to allow more with fictional enemies, and a sense of cooperation instead of conflict.

It would mean the end of mass PVP, as it’s hard to see how you’d create two predictably opposing forces without the prop of factions. PVP may be a minority activity, but it adds flavour and drama for those that seek it out.

Despite the arguments, I think Factions should stay. Removing them would remove some of the soul of the game.

I like that there is a different feel and personality to each side. That you can have cities that are distinctly one side or the other, with the colours and personalities that go with that.

There is a sense of tension and curiosity created by having zones that you can’t safely venture into, forcing you to skirt around or tentatively work your way through. Having to sneak into Ironforge in order to fish up Old Ironjaw was excellent fun that wouldn’t be possible without Factions.

It doesn’t always have to be red vs blue, as shown by Legion. Blizzard could do some cool things like having a raid with both factions inside, meeting at a final boss that they combine to defeat. To allow friends to play together, similar mechanics could be introduced for dungeons or even raids, easily explained in lore as temporary truces in order to defeat a greater foe.

A grudging respect and sense of accomplishment created by working with the other side is sometimes more rewarding than having everything as one happy family.

If nothing else, Factions should stay for the stories they generate, the current uproar being a great example. And also for the sense of belonging they create. As Saurfang’s Troll recruit Zekhan expressed so well, “The Horde… it’s all we have”.

Without armour

Well that was unexpected. After all the hand wringing, Blizzard drops one of their brilliant cinematics, perfectly targetted to assuage the wavering Horde players.

As suspected, Saurfang is being given the role of the moral core of the Horde, and it’s immensely relieving to watch. Sure it’s doesn’t let we Horde players off the hook – the World Tree is still burnt to cinders – but it does allow us to believe there is a better path to follow.

The player engagement must be off the hook at the moment. I bampfed to Dalaran last night to find a spontaneous group of players slow marching around the mid city, yelling that this was a protest to demand Saurfang be installed as Warchief. And this is not on a RP realm, which demonstrates how hard all this has hit.

Best use of idling in Dalaran yet

Another great spontaneous player protest that has emerged is players hiding their shoulder armour, in deference to Saurfang and his Troll disciple. Or DeadlyBossMods adding Saurfang’s sage “Don’t die” advice as a Raid Warning.

I do wonder if this was dropped early, but once again it’s much more likely that Blizzard are just better at this than we give them credit.

Underlight Angling

Last night I continued my flip-flopping between Sylvanas and fishing, with fishing coming out way on top. I caught my last rare fish and consequently completed the requirements for the best Legendary of Legion, the Underlight Angler. Thankfully the arrival of Azerite hasn’t relegated this Legendary to the annals of history.

Hello old friend

Before wielding it, there was a great surprise (though I should have guessed) when the inimitable Nat Pagle turned up for the quest that would unlock the rod. I was very happy to see the old sod again, and we went off fishing together for a while, just like old times.

We – well, I – had to defeat a giant murloc in order to finish the job, which somehow then became part of the fishing rod itself.

Mglrrp!

Once it is complete, a number of reputation and upgrade quests become available. The Fisherfriends seemed a good place to start, and fortuitously it was in Highmountain.

At first I started fishing alone, before recalling that there were such things as ‘fishing raids’. I signed up for one, and it was hilarious and brilliant.

Fisherfriends require you to fish up specific items to earn rep, and you have to be standing in certain spots to achieve that. For the Highmountain, that spot is a tiny boat in the moat around the building. Which means there were 20+ people suddenly crammed on the boat, all fishing peacefully.

Fish raid!

Best of all was when a conversation started that somehow ended up talking about D&D, Warhammer, miniature painting, and Pathfinder 2 beta testing. In other words, not Barren’s chat.

I loved it. Everyone was just casting, idly killing the occasional boss spawn (that gave a buff meaning every cast caught the required items), and having a relaxing time and thoroughly ignoring what was going on out in the ‘real’ world. As fellow Blauguster Barely Readable Diary puts it:

So here we are. On the cusp of Blaugust Reborn, and of the continuation of the so-called War of Thorns and the Battle for Azeroth, and I’ve gone fishing. I’m pretty sure as soon as I have a foothold on Kul’Tiras sorted, I’ll go fishing again, too.

May your casts land true, my friend!

Sylvanas the Lich Queen

What Sylvanas has done is inexcusable, and effectively makes her the inheritor of Arthas’s mantle – celebrating death over all else, destruction for destruction’s sake, all out of spite and malice. The Warbringer animation does a good job of showing her come full circle, from heroically trying to save Silvermoon to cravenly destroying Darnassus and Teldrassil.

As Grimmtooth notes, it’s left the majority of the playerbase feeling some combination of angry, guilty, and bereft – or as Perculia puts it, everyone feels bad. Except maybe well known elf-hater Syp, though I’m sure even he wouldn’t support what Sylvanas has done here.

As with part one, it’s kind of refreshing to see no get-out-of-jail cards being played. No appearance of the rumoured Old Gods to get Sylvanas off the hook, no surprise sabotage to frame her, just a pure and simple act of evil.

Pleasingly, the Tauren are still conspicuously absent

If nothing else this new narrative has certainly engaged the playerbase. We’ll never be told, but it would be interesting to know how much Blizzard anticipated the level of outrage and sorrow (and the predictable but abhorrent social media attacks on Blizzard storycrafters). I suspect they may have underestimated, but then again they’re not new to this game.

That ellipsis says a lot

As many have pointed out, it’s important to remember that this is just the prologue to the full story. It was interesting to watch Saurfang hesitate during the cinematic, even as he obeyed his Warchief. There’s more to come there, no doubt, hopefully including the rebellion of the Horde faction leaders1 against Sylvanas’s madness.

It’s not enough to make me re-roll Alliance, because I want to be there when we fight back – and make amends, if that’s possible.


  1. If you’re interested in the lore beyond what happens in-game, this deep analysis by Wowhead details how Baine is deeply suspicious about what is going on, and that Saurfang is horrified by what happens at Darkshore. All good signs. 

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. 

Thorny War

For the first time as a dedicated Horde player I am questioning my role in events. The pre-expansion quests have Sylvanas leading the Horde in a wholescale invasion of Alliance territory, quite clearly an act of war, and only very marginally justified – if at all.

I’ve always liked Sylvanas, and loved her role in the Legion and BfA cinematics. She’s a true Queen, getting down and dirty with the rabble, and unleashing that banshee wail. I was proud to serve under her, and one of my oldest characters is an Undead Rogue who has always followed her Queen.

Lead on?

But this war she has started is unsettling. Her justification – that we need to stop the flow of Alliance Azerite into Darnassus – is very flimsy, so flimsy that there must be more to it. Taking my Tauren Hunter into the campaign alongside her felt almost like a betrayal – I don’t want to be doing this, and it feels wrong, but I’m following along because we must.

I’d love to see the Alliance side of what is going on, it’s almost enough (but not quite) to use the 110 boost to jump in on the Alliance side and witness what they are experiencing. Is there another side to this story?

It certainly feels bad dragging the recently recuited Highmountain Tauren into this conflict too. They joined the Horde in good faith having seen what we could do against the Legion and to defend their lands. Before they have time to breathe, they are being asked to join what appears a phony war with a dark and irreversible ending.

Would they have joined if they knew what happened next?

As Rohan at Blessing of Kings noted, this is different to what Garrosh did at Theramore, as we are personally involved. Garrosh was a monster, but one we didn’t have to follow directly into catastrophe, which is where this feels like it’s headed. Rohan is right that we should applaud Blizzard for committing to the conflict and forcing the players to acknowledge it, but it’s also hard when you basically have no choice. We can’t conscientiously object.

Having said that, it was interesting to see that it seemed like the bulk of attacking forces were Orcs and Goblins. I hold some slim hope that perhaps this is the time for Baine Bloodhoof, son of the mighty and betrayed Cairne, to step up and hold the moral line.

A Tauren Warchief? Never say never.

Console-ation

Coming back to your PC one afternoon to find it dead, and still dead after hours of fiddling, and deader still after days of troubleshooting, and confirmed dead after weeks of swapping parts, and finally condemned after even a multimeter on the motherboard couldn’t help, is not recommended. It certainly puts a stop to any MMO play, and also puts a stop to blogging.

Due to a combination of option paralysis and over analysis, it’s taken 6 months to get a new one built and installed. Which put me so far behind in Warcraft that all I could do before Battle for Azeroth was finish of Legion flying, and unlock the Highmountain Tauren and Nightborne allied races (I pity the Alliance who could only unlock their extra races after finishing late-game Argus factions). I’ll mainly regret never getting the Field Medic title, but after grinding hundreds of poor murlocs (some revenge for the many times they swarmed a levelling lowbie) time just ran out.

However the enforced break did have some positive consequences, mainly in the form of playing some long queued-up PS4 and Xbox One games1.


First up was Uncharted 1 & 2, featuring the charming, handsome, and literally bulletproof Nathan Drake.

Handsome, and Nate

These are old games now, but they still play as smooth as butter and look good too in their remastered states. It’s on-rails (literally in the case one of the best sequences on a moving train), Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft high adventure, all told with great vim and vigour, and the British humour is welcome.

There’s a tad too much gunplay sometimes, but the sheer inventiveness of the set pieces and beautiful locales make it all worthwhile. I’m pleased to think there’s 3 more games to go – just have to wait for the PC to break again I guess.


Next I plunged in to Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a beautiful game to play and watch. The scenery is often breathtakingly lush, and it’s set in a unique and totally compelling world of mechanical animals and primitive human civilisation.

The lead character, Aloy, is a great protagonist, vastly different from the smirking Drake and a perfect example of how to create new and interesting heroes without having to fall back on standard tropes.

The control and animation is a treat too, all feeling natural enough to pick up and play relatively easily even after a break. I spent a lot of time just wandering around foraging and exploring, slightly resenting having to deal with the mechanical wildlife when I strayed too close.

Worth the climb – this is the view from the back of a moving ‘Tallneck’ dinosaur

I didn’t finish HZD though, mainly due to the sheer size of the game. I thought I was traveling quite well and progressing the story, only to unlock a new section of the map that totally took the wind out of my sails. It was overwhelming to see how much more there was to do, to the extent that I downed controller and moved on.


As a palate cleanser I dipped back in to the online stalwart that is GTA V.

Seems legit

The single player game is too brutal for me, but the online version is so full of ridiculous things to do (play golf or tennis, try and steal an army jet, race through Hot Wheels tracks in the sky) that it’s hard to resist. It’s an MMO without any question, albeit one without any structure other than the city you live in.


Due to various Rockstar bonus events, I managed to save enough to buy a posh apartment this time around, which was fun – just like real life without the responsibility. I find GTA has only short term novelty value (though many would disagree – there’s plenty of role playing and career gaming happening there), so before long it was time for the highlight of this console escapade.


Welcome to Armadillo

Red Dead Redemption.

Easily one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. I’m a sucker for Westerns and RDR revels in the stories and traditions of the genre, then lets you live in it2. It’s quite incredible.

I’d started and stopped it many times before (‘I should be paying Warcraft not this’), but this time it got the hooks in deep. RDR is a sprawling Western told through the eyes of John Marsden, a perfectly realised and written Western hero, fitting every stereotype yet rising above them all. The land he inhabits is full of wonderful characters, ranging from mad grave diggers to Mexican Cartel Generals, and everything in between.

The range of personalities is great, and they’re all fully voiced, but it’s the landscape that is the real star. It’s beautiful and barren, dangerous and serene, begging you to stay on horseback and just ride as far as you can to see where you end up.

For an 8 year old game it still looks stunning, and the fact there is a remastered 4K version for the Xbox One X almost made me buy a whole new console just to see it in full glory.

No cow left behind
Of course being a Rockstar game there are few women, and unfortunately RDR2 looks to continue that tradition, but there is one very well written NPC that makes up for some of that. Some of the storylines are throw away, but many pack gut punches and emotional heft well beyond what you would expect from such a well trodden genre.

And, no spoilers, but it has the most powerful endings to a game I’ve ever experienced.


  1. Plus watching Game of Thrones S1-S7, finally. 
  2. Which made watching Westworld after playing RDR a real pleasure. 

Overwatch’s League of Gentlemen

Blizzard’s Overwatch League is about to begin it’s first ever pre-season, before the real competition kicks off in early 2018, and there is already controversy with teams missing the preliminaries and players suspended for cheating. Just like the real sports that Blizzard wants the OWL to be!

And just like traditional sports, there are city based teams with trainers and managers and owners. At first I was wondering how a game that sells for ~$50 could afford to support all this, but when you see the amount of OW merch available it all starts to make sense. Today they announced a new in game currency would be available to purchase OWL skins for your favourite teams. There’s plenty of cash in them thar hills.

It’s quite incredible the amount of money that is being poured into this endeavour, and shows just how important esports are becoming. The 12 members of each team are provided with “USD $50,000 minimum base salary, healthcare and retirement savings plans, and housing provided during the season”, there’s a Commissioner, and super high quality profiles of top players.

What they don’t have, however, is women.

There are 96 official players (8 teams of 12 players), and they are all men. Given the seriously good push for diversity and representation in the game itself, this is incredibly disappointing. This is a brand new sport, invented from scratch, with no rules and no historical precedent, and yet the inequalities of rusted on sporting tradition seem to have been applied.

There can be no argument about physical differentiation in esports, so not mandating some kind of gender balance or ratio seems like a huge missed opportunity. Imagine the positive change that could be made by Blizzard enforcing a 50/50 or 60/40 ratio of men to women. The competition for those spots would be intense and reveal a whole new tier of skilled players. But without the seeing the chance to play at the highest level, professional female players will surely struggle to be motivated.

The arguments would be made that viewers only want to watch the top 100 players, and if they all happen to be men then so be it. But that is of course a self perpetuating problem, and Blizzard could have made a huge and positive difference to how women view, play, and are encouraged to become professional sportspeople, in a way that is uniquely available to esports. Not to mention the incredibly positive press you would imagine this would generate for Blizzard – and they are one of the few companies powerful enough to shut down the inevitable haters.

It will still be fun to watch, but in the back of my mind will be the feeling that it could have been so much better.

EDIT 6 Dec: As if on cue (the marketing people are doing their work) there is a long profile of OWL in Wired. It addresses the gender issue, and predictably the answer from Blizzard is ‘it’s complicated’. Disappointing to read that “When asked what the Overwatch League was doing to attract more female players, nobody at Blizzard could point to any specific outreach or recruiting efforts.”. Perhaps most damning is this quote from Nate Nanzer (Blizzard’s global director of research and consumer insights):

“There was never a question that I was going to sit and play games with my son,” he said. “But then the other day my daughter asked me, ‘Can I play Overwatch too?’ and I was like, oh shit, I gotta be better about this. I gotta treat it equal.”

If the ‘director if insights’ has only just had this…insight…then it’s no wonder the league is a testosterone festival.