Friday, December 11, 2009

I had the craziest dream...

If I were the back-story writing, let me blog about my persona type, I'd best guess I'd handle the paid race change I did with some sort of 'dream scenario.' But I'm not, so suffice it to say:
I never wanted to be a dwarf.

5% of total population play dwarves
of those that play dwarves, 88% play male.

Summer 2005. We were always short on healers, so I started a human priest. It was a struggle learning how to solo (coming from my warrior main), but I'd finally found the rhythm and was making progress. I ran into another guildie who had also recently started a healer. She stood there, with her willowy Night Elf druid body, gorgeous purple hair, laughed in that throaty, bourbon-soaked voice and said "But if you're going to be a priest, it needs to be a dwarf priest."

I balked. I didn't want to do it. Dwarves are short, and fat. And they dance stupid and have crappy voices. (Though I must admit, some of their flirt socials have grown on me "No they're not real, but thanks for noticing.") But it was for the good of the guild. So I extracted promises from her to level up with me and to make me a full set of 16-slot bags, then re-rolled my priest as a dwarf.

Molten Core & Onyxia were end game content and fearward was the racial ability that made dwarven priests highly desirable for raids. So I put up with the fat jokes and, should we pull a mob while threading around a corner, endured it being blamed on my dwarf's big ass. Fearward was uber and I'd remind players that it was a toon I suffered through to make their lives easier. All well and good, respect re-established.

Fast forward, fear ward was given to draenei, then to everyone. The -only- reason I was a dwarf long gone, stuck in a body I never wanted.

Of all the combinations available, my dwarf priest is the closest representation of RL me available in the game. Her ample chest, wide bottom, and thick waist are what I see in the mirror every day. Even down to her apple nose and light golden brown hair. That's me. And what does it say about me that I'm willing (even eager) to change the shape of my avatar the moment I get the opportunity? Is it escapism? Can I say 'it doesn't matter, it's just a game?' In writing this, I'm asking permission to be so shallow as to be so vain that I can divorce the body issues from the mental state this implies.

And yet, I'm tired of it. I didn't choose a dwarf because I wanted it, I did it for my guild. Most other female dwarves I know are married women; I'm single and (relatively) young. No need to spend all my time in a body most reminiscent of my grandma.

The biggest thing I'll miss: the twirling braids when casting.
* * *
I purchased a race change when I got home from work, the first day the option became available. Now a Draenei, tall, svelte... every time I look at her, I'm pleased at how pretty she is. Will I see her as 'me'? Like the magic 8 ball says: "Reply hazy, ask again later"

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

geeking on CPU

Tom's Hardware Guide recently did a test of multi-core CPUs.  In particular, the cool thing they showed was how you can run the test at home:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dual spec, take 1

Yay! At long last (and for a measly 1k gold), I can with impunity and joy reclaim the shadowy goodness I enjoyed in the days of my youth. Dual spec, FTW!  Now, my best-geared toon can finally work on dailies without them being the utter kick-in-the-face that they've been. (My desire to have additional options for my priestliness is why I've got a second priest at level 43. The announcement of impending dual specs is what stopped me from leveling her any further.)

So I bopped over to Ironforge and plunked my money down. Ba-zhing! Achievement! Whoa, didn't really expect that.  And guild chat switches to what my intended spec might be...  "She's going dual deep holy, or heavy holy/light holy, tough call."  I fended off giving straight answers.  I *do* plan to have my second spec be shadow, just not right away.  I've been intrigued by the lunatic fringe and their outright glee at the discipline spec, but didn't want to try it, /head-desk, and cause problems in raids.

So for now, I'm keeping holy and trying discipline... so the "heavy holy/light holy" joke wasn't too far off the mark.
First spec: 14/57/0
I went through the holy tree and added points to everything that looked good, sounded good, or caught my eye. I ended up with ~60 points in Holy. Perusing the Discipline tree later, I saw I needed to reclaim a few points, ending up with the following:
Healing Focus: 2/2 Reduces pushback suffered from damaging attacks while casting any healing spell by 35/70%.  Not sure it's the best use of two points, but I'm hoping it should mitigate the wipe-age when DPS fails to keep adds off the healers.
Improved Renew: 3/3 Increases the amount healed by your Renew spell by 5/10/15%. HoTs=joy. Better HoTs=15% more joy.
Holy Specialization: 5/5 Increases the critical effect chance of your Holy spells by 1/2/3/4/5%. There's talents later on that depend on holy crits and it's best to feed those.
Spell warding: 0/5 Reduces all spell damage by 2/4/6/8/10%.  General wisdom says not needed for PvE healers.  We shouldn't be the target of spells in general, and I'm not clear if boss spells would be subject to the mitigation offered by the talent.
Divine Fury: 5/5 Reduces the casting time of your Smite, Holy Fire, Heal, and Greater Heals by 0.1/0.2/0.3/0.4/0.5 seconds.  The tried and true cast-time shortener for the Big Heal. Also makes those Holy dps spells a bit more fun.  And seriously?  Heal is still in the game? /shakes head.
Desperate Prayer: 1/1 Instantly heals the caster for 3716 to 4384.  I use it, I plan to keep using it to save my butt when things dip into Bad.
Blessed Recovery: 0/3 After being struck by a melee or ranged critical hit, Blessed Recovery heals you for 5/10/15% of the damage taken over 6 sec. Additional critical hits taken during the effect increase the healing received. I'm a raid healer; if I'm getting critically hit, the shit has hit the proverbial fan and a small percentage of damage healed over 6 seconds isn't likely going to save the raid.
Inspiration: 0/3 Increases your target's armor by 8/16/25% for 15 sec after getting a critical effect from your Flash Heal, Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal, Penance, Prayer of Healing, or Circle of Healing.  This sounds nice, but when we get down to it, I'm a selfish healer. I want my talent points to help me and this helps, well, some *other* person. Seriously, "Heal" is still in the game?
Holy Reach: 2/2 Increases the range of your Smite and Holy Fire spells and the radius of your Prayer of Healing, Holy Nova, Divine Hymn, and Circle of Healing spells by 10/20%.  Anything that heads off out-of-range deaths is a good thing.
Improved Healing: 3/3 Reduces the mana cost of your Lesser Heal, Heal, Greater Heal, Divine Hymn, and Penance spells by 5/10/15%. Reduction in mana costs is a good thing.  LoL, "Lesser Heal" is still in the game?  (I checked my spell book and yep, still there.  It heals ~1000 damage for ~1100 mana. The healer equivalent of gallons per mile in a Winnebago.
Searing Light: 0/2 Increases the damage of your Smite, Holy Fire, Holy Nova, and Penance spells by 5/10%.  Unless the tool tip is wrong, DPS only; skipping due to healing intents.
Healing Prayers: 2/2 Reduces the mana cost of your Prayer of Healing and Prayer of Mending spells by 10/20%.  I love raid healing and frequently use these spells; making them cheaper is awesome. The change to Prayer of Healing so it can be cast on other groups induces a happy-dance urge in my toes.
Spirit of Redemption: 1/1 Increases total Spirit by 5% and upon death, the priest become the Spirit of Redemption for 15 seconds. The Spirit of Redemption cannot move, attack, or be targeted by any spells or effects. While in this form the priest can cast any healing spell free of cost. When the effect ends, the priest dies.  I've never been too fond of this spell; I don't want to be of more use to you dead than alive. But... I've used it and find it helpful (especially when you're nearing the end of fight and have been OOM for a while, suddenly being able to cast off big spells can't hurt). Ignoring that, 5% increase in Spirit for just one point seems a bargain.
Spiritual Guidance: 5/5 Increases spell power by 5/10/15/20/25% of your total spirit. More spellpower, yay. (My gear has been leaning towards spirit, but I've got a number of things without it and my spirit is around 1k. Each point in this talent thus gives me ~50 spell power.)
Surge of Light: 2/2 Your spell criticals have a 25/50% chance to cause your next Smite or Flash Heal to be instant cast, cost no mana, but be incapable of a critical hit. This effect lasts 10 seconds.  Free, suddenly-instant cast spells!  I need to set up an addon to keep me aware of when this procs, but I see it frequently and love it.
Spiritual Healing: 5/5 Increases the amount of healed by your healing spells by 2/4/6/8/10%. Scalable increases to healing. Very nice.
Holy Concentration: 0/3 Your mana regeneration from spirit is increased by ??? 16/32/50% for 8 sec after you critically heal with Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal, or Renew. This was a tough call and a place I harvested points from.  These are spells I use frequently and crit on all the time. But critting "all the time" isn't 100% of the time, and compared to the constant 50% mana regen from maxxed Meditation, this "for 8 seconds" just doesn't warrant the points.  It only looks worth it to me if you're not able to spare the points to get up to the second tier in Discipline.
Lightwell: 0/1 Self-service healy goodness. Some folks like it, but it doesn't suit my style of play.
Blessed Resilience: 0/3 Increases the effectiveness of your healing spells by 1/2/3%, and critical hits made against you have 20/40/60% chance to prevent you from being critically hit again for 6 seconds. Again, anything that depends on ME getting hit for its goodness to happen, ought to be rare enough (as a PvE healer) for this to be a poor choice of point spending.
Body and Soul: 0/2 When you cast Power Word: Shield, you increase the target's movement speed by 30/60% for 4 sec, and you have a 50/100% chance when you cast Abolish Disease on yourself to also cleanse 1 poison effect in addition to diseases.  Grab bag much? Maybe it makes more sense in a PvP scenario...
Empowered Healing: 5/5 Your Greater Heal gains and additional 8/16/24/32/40% and your Flash Heal and Binding Heal gain an additional 4/8/12/16/20% of your bonus healing effects.  Bigger heals FTW.
Serendipty: 3/3 When you heal with Binding Heal or Flash Heal, the cast time of your next Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing spell is reduced 4/8/12%. Stacks up to 3 times. Lasts 20 sec. Situational haste. Not sure this is a great use of three points, but it might be. I'm envisioning a situation where the damage is coming fast and I'm casting little heals because I don't have time for a big heal; 12% may not be the deal breaker, but I'm going to see how it goes. Probably something I'd want to have an addon remind me about.
Empowered Renew: 3/3 Your Renew spell gains an additional 5/10/15% of your bonus healing effects, and your Renew will instantly heal the target for 5/10/15% of the total periodic effect. Burlier renews AND front-loading the HoT?  Awesome!
Circle of Healing: 1/1 Heals up to 5 party or raid members within 15 yards of the target for 958 to 1058.  My beloved instant cast, now with increased healing.
Test of Faith: 3/3 Increases healing by 4/8/12% on friendly targets at or below 50% health.  Very nice boost to healing when it matters most. Very aptly named.
Divine Providence: 5/5 Increases the amount healed by Circle of Healing, Binding Heal, Holy Nova, Prayer of Healing, Divine Hymn, and Prayer of Mending by 2/4/6/8/10% and reduces the cooldown of your Prayer of Mending by 6/12/18/24/30%.  All multi-target heals benefit from this which is great. And fully spec'd, the golden frisbee is available every 7 seconds.
Guardian Spirit: 1/1 Calls upon a guardian spirit to watch over the friendly target. The spirit increases the healing received by the target by 40%, and also prevents the target from dying by sacrificing itself. The sacrifice terminates the effect but heals the target of 50% of their maximum health. Lasts 10 sec.  My favorite use for this spell is to cover my ass when I'm sending off my shadowfiend to regen mana.  It gives that extra bit of coverage to my temporary distraction.  We've also been using it in larger raids, sequentially going through the priests to help take the burden of the healers when a boss enrages. A very nice talent to have in the deepest position of the tree.
Unbreakable Will: 0/5 Reduces the duration of Stun, Fear, and Silence effects done to you by an additional 6/12/18/24/30%.  Sounds great, but I've not been convinced this is worth it.  It seemed to not work when I first tried it, so I've been resistant to it ever since.  And moreover, when I'm just barely dipping into the discipline tree, there's other things calling out for points.
Twin Disciplines: 5/5 Increases the damage and healing done by your instant spells by 1/2/3/4/5%. Five percent to both heals and damage is really sweet... and gets me to the second tier.
Silent Resolve: 0/3 Reduces the threat generated by your Holy and Discipline spells by 7/14/20% and reduces the chance your helpful spells and damage over time effects will be dispelled by 10/20/30%.  I'm less keen on the dispell part, but the threat reduction sounds great.  I'm skipping it due to needing to conserve points, hoping my threat reduction enchant, the general threat generation capable by our tanks, and my willingness to use fade will make up for it.  If threat becomes more of a problem, I'll revisit this one.
Improved Inner Fire: 3/3 Increases the effect of your Inner Fire spell by 15/30/45%, and increases the total number of charges by 4/8/12.  When Inner Fire was just armor, this was an easily skippable talent; now that it increases spell power, this is a wonderful place to rest a few points.
Improved Power Word: Fortitude: 2/2 Increases the effect of your Power Word: Fortitude and Prayer of Fortitude spells by 15/30%, and increases your total stamina by 2/4%.  Selfish healer or not, better buffs for the entire raid are worth the points.  
Martyrdom: 0/2 Blah blah blah, effect that only kicks in when I'm getting critically smacked. Moving on.
Meditation: 3/3 Allows 17/33/50% of your mana regeneration to continue while casting.  I've always been a fan of regenerating mana while casting; with the changes to the 5SR, this talent is even more important.  Getting this maxed was why I harvested a few points from my initial Holy tree wish list.
Inner Focus: 1/1 When activated, reduces the mana cost of your next spell by 100% and increases its critical effect chance by 25% if it is capable of a critical effect.  If you don't use it, this is a waste of a point.  If you don't use it correctly, its a waste as well.  It gives you a free spell, so an excellent time to whip out the Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing.  It has an increased chance to crit, so it can be a wonderful lifesaver when you're low on mana (or rotated in earlier in the fight, so it can be ready again towards the end).  I use it when I'm hunting for any last bit I can do to squeeze a few more heals into the fight.  The worst thing: hitting Inner Focus, and suddenly the other healers have found their mana and are now keeping everyone topped off; I've ended up using it to cast a small heal or one that isn't capable of critting -- very sad moment.
Improved Power Word: Shield: 0/3 Increases the damage absorbed by your Power Word: Shield by 5/10/15%.  I grew up in the days of "don't shield the tank" and haven't gotten past that. Shielding is what I do to mages and warlocks when they pull aggro, but that's almost the extent of it.  I see other priests using their shield a lot, but it hasn't worked its way into my technique, so I'm guiltlessly skipping putting any points into this talent.  Which is also good, because I'm out of points. :p

My second spec is 57/14/0.  Penance looks way cool (the same button does both heals AND damage, depending on the target!).  The Discipline tree is ALL about shielding and having that be the lifeblood of your healing technique. So I'll have to see how it goes.

The interesting variation to me is how my stats changed, wearing the same clothes when I hit the button for the alternate spec: self buffed (yay, trainable divine spirit), same gear
       disc         holy
spirit         1144         1134
int         1081           941
spell power 1897         2180
mp5/casting mp5   695/380     647/356

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stalking the FPS monster, part 2

As I mentioned, a friend of mine (Nibuca) asked me for help with her new computer.  I built her last computer on a shoestring budget. Her goal at the time: a computer that would let her play WoW, but not necessarily at max settings. She had recently started to play WoW, and with its modest system requirements, combined with a few recycled parts, we were able to get her a system that would run the game just fine.
  • Athlon 64 2.2GHz Socket 939 single-core processor
  • socket 939 nForce4 motherboard
  • GeForce 7600GT 256MB video card
  • 1GB DDR 400
That was early 2006; nothing great, but enough for a casual player to run around on her lowbie toons.  Flash forward to 2008 - she's the addon-queen of the guild, playing a top DPS raider, and occasionally trying to FRAPS our guild runs.  The modest system she started with is no where near enough. Her frustration begins to mount, as mine had, when our 25 man raids were becoming the norm of our guild activities. Single digit FPS before the fights got started.

Argh, new computer, now!
I enjoy researching hardware (and because it is proximally related to my day job), I offered to make system recommendations for her. Her requirements:
  1. Run World of Warcraft in all its graphics glory. It's a pretty game; she wants to see it.
  2. Run Fraps to record in-game movies.
  3. Multi-box-able (run more than one instance of the WoW client).
  4. Completely playable framerates in 25 man raids (and not too bad in Dalaran).
  5. Plenty of ram
  6. Dual monitor support.
  7. Not have the sides fall off. 
Unlike my situation, her new computer will be a complete new system.  Even the case will be replaced (see last requirement, above). Short version, what I've recommended she get:
  • AM2+/AM2 AMD 790FX motherboard
  • Phenom II X4 920 2.8GHz quad-core CPU
  • 8gb DDR2 1100 ram
  • Radeon HD 4850X2 2GB
As for why... (the long version)
World of Warcraft has updated their recomended system requirements to be:
  • Dual-core processor, such as the Intel Pentium D or AMD Athlon 64 X2
  • 1024 MB RAM (Vista - 2048 MB of RAM)
  • 3D graphics processor with Vertex and Pixel Shader capability with 128 MB VRAM, such as an ATI Radeon X1600 or NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT class card or better
  • Two-button scroll-wheel mouse
And that's it.  Not much to go on, since that's what I've already got on my machine, and it clearly isn't enough.  Okay, I know Fraps is a resource hog; maybe it will give me a better way to narrow down what to spec for:
  • Requires DirectX 9.0c. 
  • Requires an Intel Pentium 3, Pentium 4, Pentium D, or AMD Athlon, Duron, Sempron, or Opteron processor. 
  • Captures fastest with an nVidia GeForce or ATI Radeon graphics card. 
Except for the specific version of DirectX, that's so vague and specific-free as to be utterly useless.  Alrighty, dual boxing/multi-boxing.  That's a subject more open for variation (and more likely to have folks proud of their systems and willing to share details).  Indeed, the friendly folks at did provide more to go on, but if you go to their page where people have listed out the specs of their machines, you'll see that some very modest machines have been used for multi-boxing.

And at this meandering maw of uncertitude, Nibuca sent me a link to machines she was seeing at Doghouse Systems.  I clicked over to see what they had and was elated that they gave performance numbers for World of Warcraft.  There's some great techie analysis sites out there ( and are high on my list).  Tom's Hardware, in particular, will analyze the holy crap out of the components they test. Unfortunately for me, World of Warcraft isn't a "system killer" application, so it doesn't merit a position on their testing platform.  WoW is supposed to be fairly easy on the hardware... which doesn't help much for the folks who buy utmost top-of-the-line rigs only to have them falter as they try to run around Dalaran.

Blending the set-ups available at Doghouse Systems with the comments from user reviews of individual components at, I was getting closer to having a recommendation to send to Nibuca. The goal: more processing power then their entry-level system, more graphics oomph than their middle system, and keeping the price down to something in keeping with a value/performance ethos. Then I stumbled on to something that would have made my life a little easier: a Phenom II System Buyer's Guide from  But if I'd started there, I wouldn't have searched the hundreds of NewEgg user comments for their WoW performance mentions.

Why AMD?
Yes, currently, the Intel Core i7 is the fastest CPU out there. It is also the most expensive. As of mid-March 2009, the cheapest of that line is just under $300 and quickly goes up to $1000. That's a lot of dollars for bragging rights. Thankfully, my system building skipped the lackluster generation that was Phenom. We're looking at very well performing Phenom II CPUs at attractive price points. The latest reviews speak fondly of these CPUs doing well for a number of reasons (cost of CPU, performance, overclockability, overall system affordability).

Why the 920? Everyone else is recommending the 940 BE...
The Phenom II X4 920 2.8GHz is one step down from the fastest available. The 940 is 3.0GHz, the "BE" distinction refers to "black edition" meaning it is lacking some of the restrictions that generally impede overclocking. Part of the $40 extra cost for the 940 is that implied overclockability. Nibuca is not so much about the hardware, so paying more for that feature set isn't worth it.

Why the Radeon HD 4850X2?
The 4870 is indeed faster, but the 4850 offers a lot of performance for a lower price tag. Translating that to the x2 models (2 GPUs on one card), the 4850 version is over $100 cheaper. I'm wanting to stretch a medium-sized budget to get the most computer muscle I can.  There's plenty of comments out there from people claiming great framerates with just a single 4850, but Nibuca is wanting to multi-box and a separate GPU to handle that extra window/monitor seems like a good bolstering of the graphical needs.

Why go with the AM2+ and DDR2 version? AM3 with DDR3 is faster...
And more expensive.  The AM3 motherboards are just coming available, and DDR3 ram is significantly more expensive for the time being.  One of the goals was to have a machine with oodles of ram.  Oodles of ram isn't within the budget if we went with DDR3.  As for faster, enh...  The articles on both Tom's Hardware and AnandTech showed that an AM3 Phenom II with DDR3 ram had slightly better energy efficiency, but the performance compared to the AM2+ Phenom II with DDR2 ram showed "little if any differences."

The above choices lead to a few other things worth mentioning.
  1. The video card is a bit of an energy-sucking monster. We needed to make sure an approved power supply was in the mix to keep up with it.  A 750 watt Corsair came highly recommended.
  2. Oodles of ram (meaning anything more than 3gb) requires an operating system that can access it.  This meant making sure to get the 64-bit version of Vista.
  3. Cooling. A dual GPU card is going to generate a goodly bit of heat. While she won't be pushing the CPU beyond its stock speeds (and therefore shouldn't need an after-market CPU cooler), getting a bit more airflow in the computer case is probably a good thing.  Preferring something that doesn't approach the high speed whine of jet engines, I copied the solution I used on my current setup and pointed her at cases with LARGE side fans.  The 250mm fans push a goodly amount of air but do so at a far more genial volume.
  4. There's a bit of "buck passing" when it comes to how much ram the CPU/motherboard can deal with.  The motherboard manufacturers say "our board can use up to 16gb ram, but your AMD cpu will only listen to one ram slot per channel (dual channels, ergo, two ram chips)" and AMD says "it's the motherboard that is keeping you from using your ram at its best speed."  The megasize ram chips (4gb) are expensive and I'm not clear on their relevant availability, so how to get more ram available?  On this point, I'm largely taking it on faith from AnandTech's system builder guide.  Their comments on the matter made me re-read the little asterisked caveat about ram slots/speed.  The motherboard manufacturers say "Due to AM3/AM2+ CPU limitation, only one DDR2 1066 DIMM is supported per channel. When four DDR2 1066 DIMMs are installed, all DIMMs run at 800Mhz frequency by default for system stability."   Ah-ha!  It isn't that more chips of ram won't be read, they'll have their default speed lowered.  Anandtech's guide says, "Yes, that's what they default to, but with quality ram and a quality motherboard, you can manually override this."  So I chickened out and recommended following their recommendation to.the.letter.  And when the system gets put together, their guide will be followed.
So that's the strategy we're following to slay her FPS monster.  The parts have been ordered and should arrive next week.  I'll follow up with what kind of performance her new system gets.

All of this has made me more cognizant of my displeasure with the framerates I'm getting.  Its only occasionally unplayable. For a good laugh, I maxed everything and turned shadow details back on, then ran around Dalaran; after the screen started moving again, it'd get up to 6.8 fps -- sometimes as high as 9 if there weren't many people in my field of view.  I'm currently looking into what sorts of upgrades I can wrangle.

stalking the FPS monster

Our guild has fairly recently started to regularly do the 25man raids. Yay, us! But with that many people, toons + mob(s) + spell effects x25... my "ok most the time" FPS grinds down to single digits. Single digit FPS makes me an unhappy camper and on more than one occasion probably led to me dying. Recently, a friend of mine with a seriously undergeared computer, also dissatisfied with her FPS asked me to spec out a new rig for her.  Whilst doing the research for her shopping list, I was starting to wonder, "Hmm, what kind of upgrades could I get for my computer that would give me the most bang for my buck?"  Result:
Good news: the new components out there are built in a friendly enough way such that they'll fit in with my older system.
Bad news: they'll fit, but either won't work or will be significantly crippled.

Time for the way back machine.  
2006, December.
The Burning Crusade expansion was due any minute and I wanted to make sure my enh visuals didn't get so bogged down as to make my gameplay unworkable.  My old computer let me play WoW, but I had to have plenty of things turned down (distance you could see terrain and distance you could see objects, in particular). I wanted a computer that I could grow with, one that was ammenable to upgrades. I normally selected components that were a supreme bargain for their surprisingly good performance, but ones that didn't have an obvious next step. But I figured, this time, I want to be able to buy my computer 'presents' every so often.
I went with the newly debuted AM2 socket and made the leap to DDR2 ram.  I knew I was paying a minor premium for going this route, but it would be worth in the long run. My dual-core CPU was something that even put a little swagger into my step. I picked a solidly performing graphics card that could gain a twin when the prices went down thru SLI.
  • AM2 nForce 590 motherboard with PCIexpress x16
  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+  2.0Ghz dual-core CPU
  • GeForce 7600GT 256mb video card
  • 1gb DDR2 800 ram
My computer was everything Blizzard recommended and then some. My FPS were pretty good overall, but bogged down in Shattrath. I poked at some forums and my situation was similar to what other people were experiencing. The concensus was: download new drivers, be patient while Blizzard improves the code. I grumbled as I turned down my settings, but the game was mostly playable, so I moved on.  Over the next ~two years, I added more ram (woot, up to 3gb) and was able to increase the terrain distance; islands magically appeared off the coasts. But no other upgrades were added to my machine.  If it works, don't try to fix it.  Also, as long as I've got my ears plugged singing "La-la-la-la" -- I'm not reading about the new hardware advances that are going to tempt me.
Two years pass. Wrath of the Lich King (3.0) introduces lovely new graphical effects; the world is beautiful; my shadow dances with me... and my previously-ok system is now doing slideshow FPS. I double checked Blizzard's system requirements and amazingly, my 3 year old computer was still at their 'recommended' level.  Blizzard also maintains that they don't support multiple graphic card solutions, and I've read from plenty of unhappy SLI'ers that they're not getting better FPS, so I didn't plunk down the money to see if that might help.  As I detailed in an earlier post, by turning off the shadows effect/detail, I was able to salvage playable FPS.  
But the 25man raids (even with many settings lowered) is dipping into single digits. Word to the wise: don't turn down spell effects -- that's what shows you, say, the poison clouds from Grobbulus (voice of experience).
Alrighty then, my machine was built with an eye to the future. Let's see what wonders of technology can be implemented!

Video cards
The arm wrestling between Nvidia and ATI has continued to benefit the consumer. The graphics capability on a current sub-$100 card exceeds that of the cards that were $500+ when I built my current system. Yay progress.  The new cards are on the PCI-Express 2.0 standard which increases the bandwidth available to the data; they're backwards compatible, so they'll still fit in my PCI-Express 1.0 slot, but won't have the bandwidth available.  Um, yay?  I can get a new card that will be oodles faster, but how much of that will be apparent on my system is a bit vague.

CPU market
AMD has fairly recently rolled out their new Phenom II line. They've done so in a particularly socket-friendly way; they're releasing versions in both the new AM3 as well as the older AM2+ sockets.   Eh, what?  AM2+  Oh crap, my motherboard is AM2 (no plus).  Research reveals that while the sockets may be physically compatible, the BIOS has to support the new architecture. No big surprise, 3 year old motherboards aren't so much with the continued support. There are motherboards that even will support AM2/AM2+/AM3 -- so I could get a new motherboard and even use my old CPU in it.  The previous AMD line, Phenom, is generally reviewed as sucking ass, so hoping to get a good deal on a mid-range/older CPU doesn't hold a lot of appeal. 

The initial release of AM3 chips requires the use of the newer (and currently substantially more expensive) DDR3 memory, but the second (already out) and future rounds of chips will be even more flexible with dual-memory controllers and able to use either DDR2 or DDR3 memory. It'll just depend on what memory your motherboard uses. For those playing along at home, that means the 'advanced' memory I bought several years ago is still viable.

So, while all the new important components will still 'fit' in my supposedly forward-looking system, they'll not work or not work very well.  So the least sexy upgrade (the motherboard) is the first priority.  As I look to keep costs down, maybe have the upgrade be a rolling one with the essential ones bought first and followed up with the more supporting roles later...  I could buy just the motherboard.  My old CPU will work just fine in it.  My old video card will work just fine in it.  My ram will work just fine in it... and my FPS will most likely have not improved one iota.

Friday, January 9, 2009

I can do what?

In my last post, I lamented that, although my newly-shadow priest is killing things quickly, she has no AoE.  But ho, what is this?  She dinged 75 last night, and one of her new skills is an AoE: mind sear.  I went to bed straight-away after training and haven't gotten to play with it, but, ooh, it feels like Christmas.  :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Coming up for air

Finals over: check.
Holiday parties: completed.
Traveling to visit relatives: done.
Processing shock over my boss's new facial hair: in progress.

In the meantime, I've had fun leveling up my warlock.  Got her flying (to facilitate the herb-collecting), and there's much glee in dropping out of the sky to pick a flower while a Hordie is on foot to the same node.  The adder's tongue is mine, foul blood elf!  And oh, look, you aggro'd how many frenzyheart 'puppy men' to get here?

Our healer is where?
Having gotten fairly thoroughly burned out on playing a healer the last many months before Wrath came out, I've been doing a good job ignoring my holy priest.  Compared to my warlock, doing quests with the priest were agonizingly slow; I found myself preferring to do chores around my house, rather than level my priest (good for local cleanliness, not so good for my guild).  Then came the awkward news: one of our main healers was in jail.  As in real jail, not some euphemism for when your mom won't let you play WoW.  Probation violation, 90 days AFK. (Moral of the story: "court-ordered _________" means the court gets cranky if you don't do ________.)  A healthy reminder that being in a guild of grown-ups, life happens, and it can be fairly interesting. Humorous note: even if the guy didn't show up for his court-ordered , he was conscientious enough to let the guild master know he'd not be able to make the Naxx run.

So now, half the folks in our guild are hurrying to level up their neglected healing toon. The other half are cranky because there's not enough 80s on to run heroics (because everyone else is busy on lower level healing classes).

Trying to level my holy priest, I was following the advice I found that said "holy is pretty good for leveling, you just need to crank up the crits."  So I swapped around gear, got my crits up, and yeah, things died okay, but I was playing like a mage, having to drink after every fight, and no 'conjure water' spell to be found.  Like I said, I was preferring housework over playing my priest. Time for something new!

Holy no more
A quick respec, a juggling of gear, and my deliciously shadowy priest was trailing iridescent gas clouds over Northrend.  Which doesn't sound as fun as it's been.  My word!  Things die!  and so quickly!  /gleeful_happy_dance    She can't do shit for AoE, but seriously, my lev 72 shadow priest is killing things more quickly than my lev 78 affliction warlock.  (Maybe this is to be expected, given the quest-grade gear and build of the 'lock...  but I'm just blown away by how much easier it feels).