60 fps (Weekend Highlights)

It felt like it took forever to get everything for the game installed and downloaded on Friday. The computer arrived shortly after noon, and when I posted around 3pm, I was partway through the second patch download. I still had to download 2.3 (another biggun), install BC, and get all my addons in the right place. It was about 6pm before I was finally logged in and playing again. It was totally worth the wait though. Even standing in the auction house in Silvermoon with my bank character was completely stunning…. the detail! I cranked all the video options up to give me maximum detail for the environment, the spells, everything. Wow. I couldn’t believe how sharp everything looked. Sort of reminded me how in the old days, the cinematic at the beginning of the game would be incredible quality, but then the actual game play had very blocky graphics. Over the years, the games have looked more and more like the cinematic. Now, I’m finally playing the cinematic.

I took my mage out for a spin in Dustwallow Marsh, and … again, it’s hard to describe how breathtaking it all was. The weeds all over the ground, the shimmers on the surface of the water, the bricks on the road… and then when I started casting spells! Amazing! I almost died in the first battle because I was so distracted by all the new animations surrounding me. I can’t believe how much I’ve been missing.

So far, it’s consistently giving me 60 fps, with nary a dip. I think I saw it go down to 50 once, but that’s not something I notice unless I’m looking at the number. When I’m leaving or arriving at a flight path, I can see all the animation. When the zeppelin carries me from spot to spot, there isn’t a full minute delay where I know I’ve arrived at the destination, but just can’t see it yet. It’s immediate. When I walk into an instance, I only see that loading screen for a few moments. I don’t have to sit there wondering whether I’ve disconnected again, hoping my party doesn’t replace me… Ahhhh! It’s all so much more relaxing, more predictable. I love it.

[/new computer joy]

So, we played quite a bit on Friday evening, and then almost all day on Saturday and Sunday. I did meet all my goals for the weekend…

I played my hunter just a little bit. She wasn’t fully rested, but had enough double experience saved up to get me to 52 just grinding greens on my way to some quests. I killed my way through the trolls in Jintha’Alor to make my own Mallet of Zul’Farrak. Easy peasy. I then decided to wander west and try to kill the giant spider Shadra. Turns out she was a bit out of my league, so I ended up abandoning my poor cat and making a hasty retreat toward the exit. Will have to try that one again later. (It was an orange group quest, but hey, my pet and I are like a group, right?) I had one more Hinterlands quest on my list… to get the ancient egg from the cave behind the area where I’d just made the mallet. Doh! I really need to read these quests more carefully after I receive them. SO, I revisited those trolls and swiped the egg. *Yoink!*

I also got my mage to 40. I mostly killed stuff around Dustwallow Marsh, but did travel a bit to get stuff for the mage-specific quests from Tabetha there. I got to the last quest in the chain, which involved killing the Demon of the Orb that she summons in the little garden by her house. I got his hit points pretty low on the first try, but he killed me before I could finish him off. I retrieved by body, ran back, and tried a second time. Again, so close. The Demon and I basically flopped to the ground at precisely the same moment. Damn! Again, ran back to Tabetha’s cottage, and when I went inside, there was a pair of 38ish level human mages starting the same quest. So, I waited while Tabetha walked out and summoned the Demon for them. I watched them slay the demon (and even fired a helpful frost bolt in there as he began smushing one of them… I know, they’re humans, but… he’s a big demon!). They killed him, and as they were turning in the quest, I peeked in my quest log to see what the reward was, and noted at this point that it said “group.” Heh… But I had come so close twice by myself! So, I decided to try it one more time. When the humans were done, I had Tabetha summon the Demon again. The humans followed me out in the garden to watch the fight…

I secured him in place with my frost nova and then hurled frostbolts and fire blasts at him until he was no longer frozen. I had to take hits from him until the nova cooldown was over, but then recast it as soon as I could, ran backwards and bandaged myself briefly. I then repeated with the fireblast, frostbolts, and cone of cold until he was on me again. I drank a healing potion, and then finished him off with everything I had. I was down to about 20% of my hit points as he finally crumpled to the ground. It was so awesome.

The human mages stuck around for the whole the battle (no complementary frost bolts for me, but I didn’t care, since it was pretty exciting to down this Demon myself), and they both cheered for me and saluted me with respect after the kill. Too cool. That was one of the highlights of my WoWeekend. Somewhere along the way back to town I hit level 40, and then went to buy a mount. She now has a nifty blue hawkstrider.

We took our priest/warrior duo into Blackfathom Deeps so that my priest could kill Lorgus Jett, and my husband could complete a few lingering quests he had there. We wouldn’t get much experience (if any), but we thought it might be a fun challenge with just the two of us, and we’d get a bit of loot for disenchants, rep, etc. We actually did quite well. We made it all the way to Kelris without a wipe, and dropped him like a bag of dirt. Yay! So, it was time to light the four trays on the altar. I’d mentioned to my husband that we should only light one at a time (as he hadn’t done this instance before), but he lit one, and when it seemed like nothing happened right away, he ran over and lit a second one. Ooops…. so, we wiped. It had taken us so long to get there, and knowing how close some of our earlier scrapes were, we weren’t certain we’d be able to do it, so we just decided to call it a night. My husband is very anxious to get a character to 40, so we may not pair again with these two until we’ve both leveled a bit. His warrior is at 37, my priest at 36.

Our paladin/shaman duo will continue to bulldoze the opposition, however. We did Ragefire Chasm together, just the two of us, since we were both significantly above the level range. It was so much fun that we decided to try running the whole of Wailing Caverns, just the two of us. I’d heard that folks can pretty much solo WC at level 30, so we thought there was a good chance we could do it as a pair of 24s, each with healing and resurrection capabilities. Turns out we were right — we did very well. We approached each pull very carefully, and our deliberation paid off. We wiped only once, and it was when we weren’t paying attention and got hit with a few patrols during a battle where we were taking on three at once already. We both decided to bail from the battle, hoping one of us could get away and resurrect the other, but my husband unfortunately took a wrong turn right into another patrolling slimy thing, and I, instead of jumping over the side into a clear area, took the ramp down instead and got killed. Doh!

Aside from that, we kicked butt. We killed all the bosses, collected all four of the gems for Leaders of the Fang, and then did the final event. I mentally prepared myself for the idea that we would not be successful in killing all the waves of monsters that emerged from the water around us, but it turned out to be surprisingly easy. Nooo problem.

While it was perhaps not the best use of our time (it took a very long time, and yielded very little experience, though we did both level to 25 upon turning in the quests), it was really very much fun. I loved the excitement of wondering whether we’d actually survive some of the fights — some of it was easy, but some of it was quite challenging. This is what I love about running instances. I don’t care so much about the loot or the lore. I enjoy working out the strategy for each pull, given the particular resources of the team, and trying to execute the plan.

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Patch-o-thon!

The new computer arrived a day earlier than Fed Ex’s initial prediction! Last night felt a little like Christmas eve, knowing that I’d have it in my hot little hands by the end of the day today. I played a bit this morning, keeping one eye on my mage as she did a brief SM-Library run with some folks from the guild and the other eye out the window, watching for the Fed Ex truck. I actually didn’t notice he’d pulled up until I heard some banging on the neighbor’s door. I ran down the stairs and poked my head out the door of the apartment building and got his attention. I suspect he was trying to deliver it to the wrong apartment, so I’m relieved that I caught him…

So, it’s now set up, and I’ve got most of my basic everyday software installed (FireFox, WinAmp, etc), and all five discs for WoW are loaded. One big patch installation is complete, and I’m now 21% of the way through a second one, and I suspect there will be at least one more. After that, I’ll pop in the BC discs, install any remaining patches, grab all my addons, and then awayyy we go…

I’m not sure what to say about the computer so far other than it’s absolutely humongous. I think the tower is at least twice the physical volume of the one its replacing. I have one of those big wooden desks with a hutch on top and a compartment below that is designed to hold a tower. The compartment is tall and wide enough, but not deep enough, so the computer sticks out of the front of it about five inches. I guess this means the little door has to stay open, but… whatever. Like I’m going to be sitting here playing WoW and thinking, damn, I wish I could get that little door on my desk closed. Not likely.

My world at 5 fps

This past weekend when I was loading some new interface mods, I added PerformanceFu, which monitors your frame rate, latency, and some other stats on how well the game is running. At first, having the frame rate immediately available was nice, because when I’d see the frames per second drop, I’d just calmly say, Ok, I’m lagging. I’d wait for the number to increase again, and then start moving. Whenever I saw oddities, like the fps shoot way high and then drop way low (usually while in the elevator in the Undercity), I’d calmly say, Ok, I guess I’ll be disconnected in a second. Somehow, just seeing that fps number and knowing what the next few moments were going to be like made it a little less frustrating. At first.

Now, those regular dips in frame rate are just making me spend a lot of time at Dell.com, shopping for a new computer. My computer is about five years old, and although I haven’t looked at the minimum specs for running WoW since I first installed the ten day free trial all those months ago, I’m pretty sure it’s below what they have listed as required. (It’s certainly far below what is recommended.)

When I first decided to play WoW, I did shop for video cards a bit, thinking that just upgrading that would be good enough. At the time that I got this computer, I was playing some games, but nothing so graphics intensive that I noticed a slowdown. The first game I noticed it choke on was Civ 4, so I usually played that on our laptop instead, which was newer and slightly beefier than my desktop. I couldn’t imagine playing WoW on the laptop though. Civ 4 made the laptop run pretty hot, so I think WoW would probably cause a total meltdown. Anyway, WoW seemed to run well enough on my desktop, so I abandoned the idea of an upgrade pretty quickly.

I’m not sure what’s happened since then. My lag problems seemed to get worse just after the last patch. I don’t know if it’s all the fancy effects they’ve added with the sunlight or what. I’ve changed some settings to reduce the video quality a bit, turned off the music, moved a bunch of extraneous non-WoW files to an external hard drive (because it was getting pretty full), and defragged the heck out of it. According to the PerformanceFu thing, my mods aren’t adding that much of a strain, so I don’t think that’s it. With every patch, I guess the game gets a little bigger and more complicated, and it’s just more than my little computer can take.

I found a mid range video card that I thought might be a good, sturdy upgrade, but then I noticed how cheap PCs are getting. For just twice the cost of the video card, I could get a whole new system. (I do have a nice monitor, so not replacing that already makes the whole venture cheaper.) But you know how things go. If you’re going to spend $800, then what difference would a few more hundred bucks make? And then a few more, and … well, this is a major source of entertainment for me, the last computer did last five years, so if I just beef it up a little more, this could last me another five, and … yeah. I want a whole new computer, and not just a moderate upgrade. I want it to kick ass. I don’t ever want to see Azeroth at 5 fps again.

So, I’m shopping seriously now. (And getting no work done.)

Edit: The new computer has been ordered! Est. shipping date is the 19th. Now, the agonizing wait…