Piloting, from hercs to mechs.

Piloting, from hercs to mechs.
A running recap of what I'm doing for fun, between active duty flying, technology, gadgets, and some of my favorite games.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Slight Edge and gearing a priest

Have you ever heard of a book called The Slight Edge? No? That's ok, most people would probably never pick it up...and even if you did, I doubt you would see it's direct connection to WoW. But, if you happen to be a reader, this book could certainly make you dangerous in a game like WoW.

The essence of that book is this: small, consistent actions, multiplied by time, yield success. This principle is exactly why my priest, seemingly "overnight" began accumulating gear that seemed unobtainable only 2 weeks ago. I persistently and consistently ran heroics, amassing hundreds of Emblems of Triumph and a meager supply of Emblems of Frost. I began making incremental upgrades, and I capped out at an average item level of 232. But, because I did not quit and continued to accumulate Stone Keeper's Shards, honor, and emblems, I also gathered a modest PVP set (even though I couldn't use it at the time). However, in two days, in a matter of hours, I began accumulating frost emblems at a seemingly unbelievable rate, killed 6 bosses I had never killed, completing 3 weekly quests, and purchased my Crimson Acolyte Raiments! (I also almost got a great healing staff, but a shadow priest rolled over me...QQ)
I also want to point out that I was really "floating the raid!"

And, on top of that, all that consistent effort, which is basically what passively enabled me to join a group that successfully ran as far as we did, also led to some new achievements. So, if you're moving slowly toward your gear and progression goals, keep in mind that your small, incremental movement ultimately culminates in seemingly large "leaps" eventually.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fun with healing UI

OK! So I have a lot of things that have been going on behind the scenes.
1. I am lvl 449 enchanting!
2. I have re-macro'd EVERYTHING in my arsenal!
3. I have created a new UI that I am play-testing when I get time.

Here is a screenie of my new UI:

OK, it's not perfect, but I am very pleased with it so far!
What am I using?
1. Viewport provides the black background.
2. Dominoes provides the action bars, which include macros for literally every spell a priest can use. Shift 1-5 on top. 1-5 on middle. F1-F5 on bottom. Then all the other keys I can easily reach with my left hand.

3. Forte provides the cooldown monitor at the top of my screen. I have found over the past 2 weeks that this mod has helped me double my usage rate of 2-3 minute cooldowns across the board.

4. Grid: Awesome raid frames, and I have included the GridStatus addon to it as well.
5. Quartz: A good castbar with a lot of options...I use it very basically.
6. Pitbull: Unit frames, which I have configured to show me the info I can process quickly. This is one area where I will make improvements over time.7. Skada: Damage/healing/ABSORB meter, which I love because I can more accurately see my disc do-gooding.
8. Minimapster and MinimapButtonFrame.

9. WIM (WoW Instant Messenger): I use this for tells, because I seem to miss them otherwise.
10. Auctioneer.
11. Bagnon for a single bag.
12. Prat: A better way to chat frame.
13. Gearscore: I don't use this as a crutch, but it is still useful.
14. DBM: for raid encounters and timers.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If I knew then what I know now...WoW in Iraq would have been better.

So, I learned some great lessons from Iraq!
Some are SO important for high-latency players that I just have to list them:
1. If I’d known it was that easy: I would have been doing the weekly raid quests every week! I accomplished both Ulduar and Naxx and even with my latency in Iraq I would have had absolutely no problem succeeding in those instances! I’d definitely have enough Emblems of Frost for the chestpiece and I’d be halfway to the helm or shoulders by now!
2. CT_Mailmod is a MUST.
3. AltClickToAddItem is HUGE...because of latency, this addon makes literally any player-to-player or player-to-AH/Mailbox interaction SO much smoother. Do yourself a favor and stop clicking dragging and dropping.
4.Auctioneer scanning is ftw! Everybody with bad connectivity knows there are simply going to be downtimes when you can't party up, you can't hang out in Dal, and you definitely can't raid. There are times when you probably have too high latency to even farm your gathering profession (if you still haven't woken up to where the real $ is). How about letting the AH scanner collect useful data that can make you a ton of gold? It's easy and automated, and it's something you can do even if your ping gets up to 4000, which happened often to me over there.

5. Leatrix Latency Fix (also, google for a similar command line function for macs - I used both and both worked!) This made WoW much more playable! You can also use an http tunnel...I used Socks2Http to be able to play in the USO, where they "locked out" the WoW ports. (I used to use that trick when I was at the Air Force Academy too.) So, if you're over there, grab some latency fixes and you'll find that your latency will drop from 1900ms to about 900ms, which is a noticeable difference.
DISCLAIMER: simply improving your latency won't help with bandwidth...I have no idea what to do about that, sorry.

6. Blogs are a great way to enjoy the game even during downtime, which can be much more often over there than just Tuesdays.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Back...from Iraq!

Alright! I am SO happy to report that I have exited Iraq, and I am enroute back to the states! As I write this I have 180ms in WoW for the first time in 4 months! I have to say, I am very proud of myself...I actually did not have a frame of reference for how much more difficult playing with high latency was...healing is FUN when things happen right away! I ran Naxx 10 and Ulduar 10 tonight, as well as completing 10 or so heroics and leveling enchanting up to 445! What an amazing difference it can make.
I am thankful to have had the perspective on lag, latency, and low bandwidth, and I'll continue to post in my normal fashion on healing-related observations.
So glad to be almost home! The sodas don't have Arabic writing on them...it's going to be a great day!
I even spent about an hour sketching out ideas for improvements to my UI, so I'll be reconstructing it and I'd like to start a great conversation with other healers about what they feel is important in a raid healing UI in WotLK.

Btw, you know what's a great feeling? Knowing that when I click Publish Post, it won't take 15 minutes to do it. I'm back baby!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

“Changes Posted” means the same thing in WoW and the AF.

In the pilot world, if you hear your stan-eval guy (standardizations and evaluations office) tell you “Changes are posted” it means that the powers-at-be have updated something and officially changed the text in one of our volumes, and that we need to go review it and make sure our personal copies are updated as well. And, we need to incorporate those changes into our daily flying if they apply to us. Well, you can find the new priest changes posted (pre-Alpha OMG Cataclysm iz coming /rant time!) on many of the best priest blogs. I’m not a subject matter expert as much as I am a comparative analyst.

I just want to point out a fantastic parallel between WoW changes and expansions and my job as an AF pilot.

On almost a yearly basis the Air Force updates our “pubs,” the governing publications that have information on our aircraft, tactics, rules and regulations about flying. There are more volumes of official publications than you can possibly fathom, but each time something new comes out you can hear all the nerds talking about every inconsequential change. “Oh man, did you hear how they changed the procedure for an ITO on the H-model?” or “Dude, they are updating the Pen-Descent charts to be more in-line with our actual descent profile!” or “They changed the checklist response and now the engineer answers first when we call Oxygen!! OMGWTFBBQ”

Bottom line: WHO CARES. I’ve come to learn that changes to any institution always appear more abrupt and revolutionary than they ever are, because in WoW just as in the Air Force, there is always a natural process of balance and remodification.

We have a saying: “Resubmit in 30 days for further disapproval.”

I’m not being a pessimist, btw…that would be someone who assumes that the changes will not be good. I’m just pointing out a fantastic parallel…the attitude that most have about change is the same. “People innately fear that which they do not understand” and “people have an inappropriate sense of what is good and bad.”

My own opinion on the changes so far is: I love gaining passive benefits to the healing I already do. Most priests would agree in principle…we all stack spell power first, and even crit, haste, and mana regen are all innately PASSIVE bonuses to the job we’d do either way. So, I like the concepts of Chakra. Now, as far as adding a whole lot of new heals and spells…there is a principle that serves me really well from the military: KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid). Might sound dumb, but that simple principle is a valid foundation for most of our elite combat specialists and most of the truly great players in WoW. Like the rest of the blogs, as we find out more I’ll comment more!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

High latency gameplay...a different profession.

I get a kick out of funny situations that occur naturally. And, obviously, this picture implies that I was inquiring about a new profession. Why? Because, as the title implies, WoW is different when you are connection-limited in any way. Professions actually create a different "plane" of the game, one which is much more of a level playing field. For instance, if you are a 450 alchemist, you can ply your trade at 1500ms just as easily as the guy that plays with 25ms!

So, why enchanting? For 5 years I'd been exclusively alchemy and herbalism.
But while I started gearing up here in Iraq, I made a big mistake. I maxed out herbalism and skinning, thinking that it would be easier to make gold with gathering professions, because they are easier to level. The cold hard truth is simply that you have to do something gameplay-related to gather something. In an instance if you are high latency, you DO NOT HAVE TIME TO SKIN THE DRAGONS...your party will die or the other skinner will beat you to the punch every single time. In the world, with high latency and low bandwidth, you will miss a lot of herb spawns because they won't load before you fly out of range! And then, it takes you a considerable amount of time to demount and remount. And what if you have to kill a mob and you aren't in your shadow spec? Trust me, I would have been better off farming low level instances for greens to DE and sell rather than riding around indefinitely looking for herbs.

Also, look at the benefits from enchanting vs herbalism for a priest. Lifeblood? I know I'm not running ICC right now, but I'd rather have the ring enchants, which are a passive bonus to performance, than another ability that I could use to save my butt if I got in serious trouble but had a lot of time to get healed back up...wait...I could just shield myself and hit desperate prayer.
Plus, I've always been jealous of those healers that had that extra spell power on their gear when I didn't even have that option myself. And, be honest, isn't it SO much better to be in a 5-man group when someone can DE all the crap that nobody is going to use.

From an economic/latency standpoint, disenchanting plus auctioneer equals excellent income potential in game. I actually played for years with Zuggy of zuggaming, who has put together some excellent gold guides for WoW. Zug's best advice has always been to learn how to use the auction house to generate gold. Trust me, if you are playing on a limited connection, the AH can be your best friend and some of the most productive time you can spend in game! You can buy sell, scan, DE, re-sell, and really accumulate a ton of gold through the AH, regardless of your lag. If you only have herbalism, your main venue of making gold is spending tons of time, hoping you find a good number of herbs, then selling them on the AH for a very marginal profit. I know this because I've DONE this. It's simpler to mindlessly fly around looking for the yellow dots, but not easier or faster. And you can be an all-star at the AH with a really crappy connection. This comes down to playing to your strengths, once again!

A good parallel in my line of work? Oh, this is good. Most people would think that the most valuable skill to have as a pilot are spatial orientation, hands-on, active flying skills. Or, maybe, knowledge about your aircraft, the tactics, and the specific execution of today's mission. After this deployment, I am CONVINCED that the most valuable skills you can have are not the "active" skills I just mentioned, but rather people skills, leadership skills, teamwork, and a broader perspective. Why? Well, the obvious skills can get you from point A to point B, just like farming herbs can get you a predictable, linear ROI. But those less objective skills come with a "passive bonus." At the end of flying with the same 6 people for 120 days, you have improved each of those people, got along with them, fostered an environment for a team, and created a productive atmosphere for a long-term deployment. The Return on Investment in that case is considerably less predictable but greater, both immediately and residually.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Healing, practically

Healing, practically (brand new tanks): Ok, I have developed a new pet peeve in this game in relation to healing. When a “tank” decides to queue up for heroics after they have literally just hit 80 and have not a single piece of item level 200 gear. What does this mean to the healer? This individual is trying to skip normal instances and lean on completely random players to provide dps and heals. And, on top of it all, there is no way the player can be def maxed whatsoever, he has less HP than my priest Smoogee, and he absorbs more damage while having LESS health. It is simply irresponsible to queue for heroics unless you have a pocket healer, when you do not have the gear to sustain a party as a tank. So, today, without so much as a twinge of hesitation, I made a “command decision” and when I saw 2200gs under my tank after he nearly got one-shot by the first trash mob…I asked him if he just hit 80. He said yes. I right-clicked my player frame and hit “Leave Party” and happily incurred a 30 minute suspension from my daily grind of heroics. Worth it? Even though I don’t get to play much between flights here in the desert and Iraqi network downtime each day, you better believe it. When you play on a limited connection, you have to know your limits. It’s kind of like knowing your “operating limits” for an aircraft. For example, I know what temperatures and torques our 4 engines are limited to, so that we can shut one down before it becomes a catastrophic emergency if necessary. In a 5-man instance, I have some similar “operating limits” and I know when to pull that metaphorical “fire handle” to prevent my temper from overheating.

Also, I downloaded the addon Prat, so I will take screenshots of such conversations and situations to spice up the blog from now on. For now, you get more ppt editing.

Friday, April 2, 2010

From sustaining operations to sustaining a tank

Ok, sports fans! First of all, thanks to Miss Medicina, I have discovered how to do a feedburner RSS feed. And, again, thanks to M for the shout-out. She is the first healing blog that I stumbled upon, and if you have any priest questions, I highly recommend you start with her site.
Also, Daffnae from wowsanggrail pointed out that I needed the Name/URL option in comments, so it has been added. I have updated the blog! Yeah! Now it has a "chicklet" and a picture, which I cleverly edited in powerpoint (lol), as well as an updated profile.

Now, to the point: There are astonishing principles that carry over between distinct areas of your life.
For example, yesterday I had quite the run-in with my "aircraft commander" (the more experienced pilot on a C-130). Well, has anybody ever had to contend with immature, abrasive, or criticizing leaders in a guild or raid environment? I imagine that most of us have. Well, in my profession, we don't get to pick our leaders. Much like you might stick with a guild for the raiding, despite terrible personalities, I get to stick with my particular aircraft commander (like it or not). Now, I'm still fuming IRL from the confrontation, because I hate confrontation...BUT I was amused because I have some similar memories from WoW. Military or MMORPG, everybody has an ego that can be trampled. Leadership is a valuable trait that you should appreciate when you find it in your "chain of command."

Some other time I'll make a full post on the organizational parallels between the military and a guild.

Today I want to draw a parallel between my job and my class! My IRL role as a copilot on a C-130 Hercules is to help get our bad-to-the-bone 1960's era trash-hauling machine from base to base. Our operations directly support, supply, replenish, or relocate troops anywhere and anytime (literally...I was flying last night on NVGs in the middle of the night and last week I was flying in the middle of the day). SO...what does that sound like on a macro level? To me, that sounds like we are major support players in this "game" we're playing here in Iraq. Now, what do I do in WoW? I replenish, support, and enable players and groups in whatever goal they are trying to accomplish! I think the reason that I've enjoyed playing a singular class for 5 years (or more) is that I truly derive pleasure from supporting, enabling, protecting, and working "behind the scenes." I could have been a fighter pilot (I could have played a mage) or I could have opted for special ops aviation (I could have been a rogue). I could have gone helos (those guys are nuts, so I think that's a lot like a warlock) or I could have flown UAVs (/spit) (that's like a hunter pet LOL).

This whole gaming vs personality vs career concept was introduced to me through a book called Now, Discover Your Strengths, which I think most WoW players would thoroughly enjoy.

Also, I want to say that sustaining operations in Iraq takes constant, planned, air-land schedules. Our daily schedules are incredibly paralleled to the way that a healer might queue up heals, shields, dispels, and HoTs. There are proportionally a lot more "dps" players in the military...AKA the Army, Navy, and Marines. Not a lot of "healers" though! And you can't kill the Lich King without healers can you? No, and you can't succeed in a major military operation without the same kind of support. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoy the role that we fill here...and I LOVE healing people in game.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I find it completely ironic that I can be healing a heroic Halls of Lightning and literally 1 hour later I'm flying the friendly skies of Iraq.

Today, healing is more fun, trust me.