The Wednesday WTF.


Late, again. Anyway. The subject of this week’s WTF is the Skill Shot. The skill shot is a fairly common mechanic in LoL, given its name because it requires you to aim your attack at an enemy instead of just clicking on them, which theoretically requires some skill. The targeting looks something like this (image is not mine):

The projectile travels down its path until it (hopefully) hits your target. A particular type of player (usually one that has never played a champion with a skill shot) will take any miss on the part of a player with said shot as a sign that they are hopelessly terrible at the game. While it is true that the shot takes a bit to get used to, and thus it is possible that someone missed because they are bad, having a bad day, or too busy eating pizza, but far more likely one of the following occurred:

  • It wasn’t supposed to hit. Skill Shots, because of the difficulty of landing them usually have a fairly nasty effect when they do. Even letting one off you know will miss can cause enemies to retreat to safety. You can even use this to force them to go where you want them to.
  • You were using it as a deterrent. A shot launched to where an enemy will be if they continue with their present course of action is quite effective at convincing them they should go do something else. Especially useful for saving allies in danger.
  • Mind games. This is by far the most likely reason. Once you have mastered the basics of “aim thinger at other guy, fire”, and your opponents have mastered “dodge bad thinger”, most skill shot scenarios become a game of who can out-guess who. You can’t aim straight for a target because they will move out of the way. At the same time, your target can’t wait to see where it’s going: they have to move immediately. So, did you pick the right direction to aim it? Did they? There are plenty of ways you can improve your aim beyond the 50/50, but even so there’s a fair element of luck involved.

Skill Shots do in fact require skill, and not all of that skill is hitting something. There are plenty of other factors to consider, and even the best LoL players aren’t going to land every shot.

Castles and Lava and Zombies, Oh My!


In before every corner of the Internet knows about this. Over the past couple of weeks, several people recommended that I pick up Minecraft. Last weekend I caved and forked over the €9.95 (about 15 USD). I did not sleep for the next 24 hours; I was too busy constructing a castle. Minecraft is one of those games that is beautiful in its simplicity. 8bit graphics may be a bit hard on the eyes, but they are a small price to pay for a game that really redefines the “sandbox” genre. There’s no plot, no goals to speak of beyond those that your set for yourself, you’re just handed a world (thanks to the low demands of 8bit, it really is world-sized) and told “do whatever the fuck you want”.

It’s like being turned loose in the largest, most advanced LEGO collection ever. And if you don’t like LEGOs you are probably either a sociopath or allergic to fun. While the game does present various baddies that threaten your health bar, beyond being alive you can pretty much choose to ignore them. Of course, killing them does net you some of the best resources in the game, or at least access to said resources, but if all you wanted to do was build things you need never bother. I could go on and on, but I think the point would be better illustrated with a video. There are plenty more, but I think that is probably the best.

Also, some screenshots of what I managed in the past week (at least, above ground….)


Minecraft isn’t for everyone, but if you like open ended gameplay, exploration, or even action/adventure, this is a must-have. Also it has multiplayer.

The Wednesday WTF.


Oh man it’s Wednesday again. Well, I guess since I’ve covered tanks in 4.0 and then DPS, it’s about time to talk about healers. This has to be split into two parts: now and Cataclysm.

Right now healers are pretty much fine. Subject to tweaks until launch, there’s really not any glaring problems with healing right now. Any issues right now are people learning, either how to play, or how to gear. In particular, complaints of mana issues arise from people either not re-gearing for spirit, or from trying to heal like you did before 4.0. Seriously, that new heal you have? Use it. Mana expenditure is actually higher than it would be if you were to fight a level 80 Cataclysm mob, because the Wrath damage output is still higher than what the new abilities are designed around. Luckily, you can buy ICC epics now from farming heroics, so we can all outgear content and rofl until the expansion.

Of course, the infinite mana goodness right now goes away when you level past 80. Most of the real healer QQ is that we’re not going to be viable at level 85. The problem is: I just watched a dozen guilds down 6 Cataclysm bosses. They got through it. That’s pretty conclusive evidence that healing is viable. I’m not lucky enough to have gotten into the beta, so I have to take others word that it’s hard. Fine.  Even if there was some way to prove that they made healing the hardest thing in the game, it still wouldn’t mean that healing was broken, just that it was, you know, difficult. At which point I say… welcome to raiding?

I also keep hearing something to the effect of “Healers are so bad at 85, I have to drink like every pull in heroics!”. Okay, this… I don’t even. Remember when they nerfed spirit, but didn’t buff replenishment? Yeah, I had to drink every couple pulls then too. So you can’t blow through heroics as fast as your tank pulls. I again disagree that this means your class is somehow broken. More perhaps than any other role, healers’ success is going to be dependent on the rest of the party. And while people are still getting rid of those Wrath habits, themselves just barely geared enough, and still subject to new and changing abilities, I think drinking often is right about where we should be.

So healers just like everyone else need to chill out, especially if most of your beef is with an expansion that isn’t even out yet. Blizzard is still in full-time-balancing mode. Just sit down, take a deep breath, and maybe… have a drink.

Mandelbrot’s In Heaven, No Longer Teaching Math At Yale.


I just found out Benoît Mandelbrot died the other day, which is super sad times. Best known for his creation of the Mandelbrot Set, a type of fractal that repeats itself infinitely no matter at what “resolution” you view the image, it turns out he even coined the phrase ‘fractal’. So yeah, very smart fellow. Even if, like me, you’re not overly fond of geometry, you’ve got to respect what he did for the field. The world is less for his passing.


I’m Not an Artist, but I Play One On TV.


About a month ago I (rather foolishly) volunteered to make a webpage for a local artists’ open studio. The site went live last week, and I figured I may as well share it. It was, shall I say, an interesting venture. Besides being reminded that things like this always consume far more time than anticipated, I learned:

  • Designing a site for people who are themselves designers is an exercise in frustration.
  • Things I learned a decade ago are not quite as clear in my mind as they once were.
  • Things I learned a decade ago are now poor practice.
  • The FTP interface for Netfirms is quite possibly the buggiest thing ever.

Despite all of this, there’s still some fun art on the site, so if you’re interested check it out. If you happen to live in the greater Portland metro area you could even attend. I hear they have cookies.

The Wednesday WTF.


Oh man 4.0, so much stupidity to choose from. I think I’ll pick… every non-cloth DPS QQing that they’ve been nerfed. (Seriously though, mages too high, warlocks too high, SPriests too high… THE CLOTHIES WILL RISE AGIAN.)

Okay, so right off, if you are a warrior, feral druid, or retadin, you have a legitimate complaint. Those specs are getting buffed to be in line with other classes. Despite this, most of the following still applies to them. Ahem. Basically, you did not get the nerfbat, you got the L2P bat. This comes in a few forms:

  • The parent change in this is 4.0. It changed abilities, talent trees, and resources. All of this causes an upset in how you played. Even if Blizzard magically made every class exactly as powerful as they were before, you would still be lower in DPS right now because you’re learning how to play again.
  • For many classes their DPS rotations became considerably more complex. Let’s be honest: unless you were a feral or an enh, your rotation in WotLK was pretty freaking easy. This both made good players lazy and let bad players think they were good. The new systems are a slap in the face, and undoubtedly a large contributer to the QQ. Combined with legitimately low DPS this has Fury and Ret looking pretty terrible at the moment.
  • You’re still level 80. Endgame is no longer balanced around your level, and many classes or specs are missing role defining abilities. 85 is the new black… I mean level cap.
  • You might have deserved a nerf. Especially true of warriors who not only scaled improperly but also were legitimately bugged, and no one can say that rogues didn’t need to calm down a bit. Other classes too, but mostly I like picking on those.
  • Data, we need more data! Even with Beta and the PTR, the theorycrafting community is still information starved. This means that optimal itemization, rotations, specs, glyphs, and so on are still under debate. All the DPS gaining tricks from the past 2 (6?) years went out the window and we have to find the new ones. Expect a steady increase in each classes’ DPS ceiling as we learn more.
  • Mods. Oh god mods. They all exploded. And while the default UI has come a long way, it’s still not up to where mods can take us. Also that pesky unfamiliarity thing comes up again.

That’s what I got for now, but I don’t doubt I could come up with even more reasons if I thought hard enough. Anyone that takes the next couple of weeks with anything other than a giant grain of salt needs to caaaaalm doooooooown. We’re sure of nothing at this point, except maybe that everything is still a giant “?!”, and Blizzard is working around the clock to balance this madness. In between bouts of rubbing themselves with money. I heard there was a pillow fight too.

The Wednesday WTF.


I was actually having some trouble finding delicious stupidity on The Internets for this week. Lucky for me, the Internet pulled through at the last moment in the form of a particularly spectacular player in League of Legends. I’ve created a second account to play with my lower level friends, so that my higher level does not bring in higher level players while they are learning. Or at least that’s the idea. In actuality, about half of any given match is players that at best have done what I have done, and plenty that have rerolled with their friends at level 1 to stomp new players into oblivion.

As luck would have it, my “main” champion Morgana is free this week. So there I am on a low level account, playing my preferred champion, which I like to think I’m halfway competent with. Usually when I play Morgana I go mid, and so that’s where I headed at the start.

A brief tangent: for those not familiar with LoL, there are three pathways by which you can attack the enemy base. With five players per team, the accepted method of splitting is to put two champions in each of the top and bottom lanes, and the fifth in the middle or ‘mid’. While technically any champion can go in any lane, there are a group of champions which by the nature of their abilities have an edge in mid. Mid is also the most crucial lane to control, as it represents the shortest route to the enemy base. Combined with the self-reliant nature of defending mid, the base skill level to succeed is somewhat higher than in the top and bottom lanes, and for those reasons teams usually want the most skilled member of the appropriate champions to take mid. Alright, tangent over, back to the story!

So, at the start of this game a pugger claimed mid while I was on my way there. Naturally distrustful of puggers, especially at low levels, I told him I would relinquish mid if he could convince me he was competent. He began by telling me he was level 30, and that being his first fact should have clued me in to how this was going to end. Alas, it did not. He also told me he was playing with friends which, while usually helpful, again is not by itself proof of one’s competence and thus I remained unconvinced. Pressed for more information, he told me that he was ranked, with a ranking of 1500. Knowing nothing of how the rankings in LoL work and assuming anyone that was brave enough to try them must be at least decent, I conceded.

As the match progressed, this individual quickly illustrated that he was none too skilled. Dying repeatedly, letting turrets be taken, getting his teammates killed, etc. He just as quickly started to blame the two people on the team that were not his friends for all of it, namely me and my friend. Always know for my patents with pugs, I noted that he was an unskilled player blaming others for his failures. He responded with claims about kill/death scores (convenient I just talked about this innit?), claims that we were simply not assisting him (we were, and dying because of it), and the like. At this point, none too endeared by his blaming of others and abuse of my friend who was busy trying to learn the game, and began to simply mock him.

For some reason, at the same time I had decided I was done having a reasonable conversation with him he decided that he needed to try to prove his superiority. This came in the form of making specific claims about how to play our classes. It went something like this:

  • “Morgana is a hard carry.” She’s not. At best, she can be a soft carry.
  • “Morgana is a nuker.” Again true only with certain, generally inferior build.
  • “You do more damage than I do.” Even if I had built for damage, Ezreal is superior in every way for damage dealing.
  • “Morgana has only one support ability.” This is where I lost it. Morgana has three, arguably four (that’s all your abilities, for those keeping score) support abilities. It’s pretty much all a well played Morgana does.

So there you have it. Surprise, being max level does not mean you’re any good at a game. It just makes it all the more laughably pathetic when you’re so very wrong. I looked up the rankings after the match: a 1500 rating doesn’t even put you near the top 1000, likely not in the top 2000 (I got bored 47 pages in and gave up). Good game sir, and thank you for keeping stupidity alive on the Internet.