Monthly Archives: January 2012

On ESDF, Old Dogs, New Tricks

Cynwulf_-_av_-_bunker_defense_-_lol

One of my goals in my Mists bucket list is to learn to use an ESDF keybind. It’s a little odd. There’s a story behind this goal, and … I don’t know how it ends. See, I’m not trying to move from WASD to ESDF (which is honestly a difficult move for many people.) That shift over one key can have a big impact on your playstyle and muscle memory.

No, I’m moving from a system where I steered entirely with my mouse to using some of the keyboard to steer, freeing up more of the Naga mouse buttons for casting. This somewhat unconventional system has worked for me for a while – over a year – but there are some drawbacks which I hope ESDF will help address.

And to date, it’s been a disaster.

THE PRICE OF COMPLEXITY

Cynwise_-_demo_ui_starting_point_-_mid_december_2011

I used to play WoW exclusively on a 13″ MacBook. I detailed how that influenced my keybinding in some detail on CBM over two years ago – and while things evolved and changed over time, the basic philosophy of pinky on Tab, move with mouse, and rebind the entire keyboard stayed the same. I got better moving with the mouse, binding my strafe keys to it, getting a Naga, binding autorun to the center button, things like that.

The biggest advantage is the huge number of keybinds I can squeeze out of the laptop. The picture above is a recent shot (mid-December 2011), and is actually a somewhat stripped out PvE keybinding. The PvP binds were more full:

Cynwise_-_lillis_-_pilgrims_peril_-_uc_-_i_brought_a_fork

It was complicated, and a little overwhelming, but I could get to everything. And there are like 80 keybinds without even thinking too hard about it!

The problem came when I started healing again, and suddenly I’m supposed to be mousing over things to heal them.

And moving.

Huh. Okay, that is a bit of a challenge.

I actually figured out how to do this, with a combination of Click-to-Move and Autorun that worked out pretty well. But all the while, my keybinds and bartender setup got more and more complicated, and further from the standard. No problem, right? I have backups, lots of backups, it doesn’t matter that my bars have only a superficial relationship to the original mapping, right?

*sigh*

IT ALL FALLS APART

Got a new computer. Yay!

It’s hooked up to a huge screen. Yay!

Wow, look at all that screen space! I bet I could actually … see my screen, not have to viewport it just to be able to see my feet under my casting bars. The possibilities!

Maybe, just maybe, I could try out some of those fancy UI packages that people always rave about. You know, ElvUI or TukUI or … anything, really. I have a new computer, so it shouldn’t affect my other UI settings, right? I have backups and screenshots and the like.

I’ll just try it out on one character. Sure, ElvUI kinda screwed up my previous UI, but that was because it was on the same computer. I’m sure I’ll be able to revert.

Ok, huh, a couple of setup steps… looks nice, looks cool… the bindings are gone, but that makes sense, Bartender has its own settings. They’ll come back. This is kinda neat.

Huh, my abilities are all in odd order, must be something with the bars. I can fix that later.

*plays around with it for a while, switches to a different toon*

Wait. Where are my keybinds?

*different toon*

Why are the bars all messed up? I mean, not only keybinds but actions are gone? Buttons are messed up?

*switches back to toon with ElvUI running*

Keybinds are gone, bars are messed up here, too.

Ok, don’t panic. I have backups.

*exits WoW, uninstalls ElvUI/TukUI, restores WTF/Addon folders, logs back in*

Oh god.

They’re gone. They’re all gone.

*goes to laptop, logs in*

Same here. Keybinds are stored on the server. Whatever ElvUI did to the binds must have wiped out all the bartender settings, too.

*opens macro pane*

Dude, where are my macros?

Cynwulf_-_parachute_failure_-_lol_facepalm

DESPAIR AND DESTRUCTION AND THE ALLURE OF PEER PRESSURE

Well, fuck.

I still don’t know how it all happened. I went from installing ElvUI and going, okay, looks nice, but doesn’t scale well down to 13″ (which is why I rejected it originally), let’s try something else, to losing the heart of my custom UI across all characters.

I could have rebuilt it. I could have rebound the buttons and gone through each character, recreating their macros and trying to match up what I had done before.

But I thought, you know what? Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this is a chance to start fresh, to throw it all out, eliminate the cruft and get something that can work on both computers. I can figure out how to sync them, I’m sure I can pick something simple that uses the default bars. Maybe I can finish up that keybind post by revisiting my own binds. After all, most really good PvP players seem to get by just a few addons, not major reconfiguration of the bars.

Maybe I should try doing it the way everyone else does. Maybe there’s a reason I should be using WASD that I don’t know about. Everyone else does it, it lets them use their mouse to click on things, I wouldn’t have to autorun everywhere.

Maybe not WASD. Didn’t Christian Moore have a post on ESDF? Oh yeah, that looks a little better, let’s try that. It’s not universal like WASD, but it’s got some clear advanatages, let me try that out.

*tinkers*

So, ESDF is now bound on all my characters. Right in the middle of my prime keybind space are movement keys. I’ve shifted my hand to a different position, unbound strafe from my Naga, rebound all sorts of action keys to it…

…and I kinda suck with it.

I’ve been playing with ESDF for about a week now, and there’s no real good way to put it. I suck. I flounder and mishit abiliites. I’m slower with casting off the Naga than the keyboard. Not finding the button – pushing and then spaming it. I switch to mouse driving, then remember I’m supposed to use E to go forward.

The UI layout is also confusing, because the buttons aren’t laid out in a visual way. So I’m like, wait, where is that ability? It’s on that bar, what is that key combo? Shift-3, REALLY?

So I’m kinda at a low point here with this new keybind experiment. I’m struggling to find a clear and compelling reason to stick with it, aside from “this will take time and a lot of practice.”

Like, just because something is popular and The Usual Suspect, does it mean it’s the best option? Is this like driving a car, where you want to have controls be standard across all models and types? Am I doing ESDF just to fit in? Or do I really believe it’s going to turn out to be better?

I don’t know. I don’t see compelling evidence yet that it’s going to be that much better than mouse-driving.

But maybe that’s because I haven’t really given it a good solid try. That’s what worries me. Maybe it’s just a matter of not putting in the effort, and that a week isn’t enough. Maybe it’s 2, or 4, or 6 weeks until it’s comfortable.

Maybe. I dunno.

I hope it’s worth it.

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Playbook: DPS Midfield Pick

Strategy is the plan to win the battle; tactics are specific techniques used to enact that strategy. You have to have both to win. I’ve talked at length about strategies here on CBM, but less about tactics than I probably should have. Partly this is because tactics tend to be class specific, and also because they tend to be highly situational – sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, and you have to exercise judgement in knowing when they’re going to apply.

In retrospect, I think that was a bit of a mistake. It’s good having a strategic understanding of each battleground, because then you can make decisions about where you should go next. But it’s also good having a tactical playbook, of having techniques you can use in support of that strategy.

My personal goal is to keep these more focused than many of my strategy posts. Here’s a play, here’s where I think it’s useful, give it a go and see how it works for you. Teams will vary, responses will vary, but hopefully you will find my playbook useful.

THE DPS PICK

Let’s start with something simple, the DPS Pick.

I use this play a lot in WSG, and it’s a tool for a fairly common situation – the FC is unsupported in midfield, a rez wave has just hit, and the enemy is in pursuit of the FC across midfield. I’m playing DPS. What do I do?

I pick the opponents and get the FC to safety.

A pick in sports is when one player runs the opponent covering them into another player. I learned it playing lacrosse, where it’s specifically applied to stationary players, but since Warcraft doesn’t allow collision detection, it’s going to be a little different.

The FC is running for the tunnel entrance. If they’re smart and heads up players, they’ll run right to the GY, but for sake of example let’s say they’re not paying attention and just going straight tunnel.


To set the pick, I get on an intercept course for the FC, angling to pass on the midfield side of him. As a healer, I would head towards the tunnel entrance and try to get ahead of the FC – as DPS, I want to get behind, because that’s where the pursuers are.

My goal is absolutely not to kill the pursuers. My goal is to control and distract them. Every second I can slow them down is good. If I can get them to stop chasing the FC and engage me, that’s even better. I want to be as irritating as I can be so that they think they need to deal with me, instead of chasing after the FC.

On a hunter, I’d try to trap or scattershot. DKs has Chains of Ice and ice cubes, mages have Frost Nova and Polymorph, warlocks have Shadowfury, Fear, and Howl of Terror. Tailors have nets. Engineers have bombs.

Every DPS class has something they can do to stun, slow, fear, or otherwise force the opponents to stop chasing the FC. Don’t open up with attacks – open up with CC. You’re not there to kill them. You’re there to let the FC escape.

Keep up with the CC. While instant fearbombs can be nice, an AoE stun followed by mass fear can be even better – not only will it stop pursuit, but it is guaranteed to piss off the other players and cause them to forget about the FC to focus on you.

And all the while, your FC is running out of midfield, either to the safety of the healers in the base, or directly in for a cap. Once the FC is safely away, or you have their attention, then you can start laying on the damage.

You can use this play in other BGs – Strand of the Ancients, for instance, is prime ground for DPS to pick opponents. There are multiple FCs in SotA, after all – they’re called Demolishers. If Demos are rumbling by a GY where defenders are rezzing, get in there and distract them! Who cares if you die, the FC gets away!

And that’s the whole point of the DPS Pick.

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On Making A Bucket List for Mists of Pandaria

Cynwulf_-_maelstrom_-_thrall_-_twilight_threat

Is it too soon to be talking about making a bucket list for Cataclsym? I don’t know, but I’ve been thinking about it, indirectly. And maybe it’s time.

By cancelling my recurring subscription, I’ve accelerated the end-of-expac mindset and have to start thinking about what do I really want to get done in game. I’ve placed a constraint upon myself – not a hard constraint, but a soft limit that challenges me to define what I want to do, see if I can do it by a specific date, and then evaluate if I’m still enjoying playing enough to justify purchasing another month. Or three. Or if I should take a break.

I like constraints. I wrote about embracing constraints at the end of Wrath, and while I’m not feeling the same pressure I did back then – I don’t think all the revamped zones I haven’t yet seen are going to disappear when Mists is released – by drawing a line in the sand it’s at least forcing me to ask what my goals are, what do I really want to do? There’s a difference between action and accomplishment, and MMOs blur that line. I enjoy logging in to my Druid and kind of mindlessly healing battlegrounds now, free of the grind, free of anything other than trying to better my performance and win a fight – but that doesn’t necessarily get me closer to goals and accomplishments. I still have attachments. I still have desires. I haven’t reached satori yet.

There’s more to this desire than just an expiring subscription, though. Killing Deathwing means that Cataclysm is over for me, at least from the story’s standpoint. Sure, I can kill him a few more times, but … why? I think the only reason I’d venture back in to Dragon Soul is if my guild is short a DPS, or if I have some friends who are running LFR. Hey, Cyn, want to go? Sure, why not? is about what it comes down to.

So all of this makes me think it’s time to put together a bucket list for this expac. Get some focus. Have a list of things I want to do before it ends, and do them.

Caveat: I don’t think this is going to be especially deep or anything like that; sometimes it’s just nice to write things down to organize your thoughts around them.

TL:DR: there are many bucket lists. This one is mine.

Everyone

  • Since keybinds and UI got wiped out last week, go back and rebind everyone to a ESDF model. Switch over to ESDF from previous mouse movement + keyboard casting model.
  • If you can’t be bothered to rebind a character’s keys, delete it.
  • If you have more than one alt of any given class, consider deleting.
  • If alt is on a server I haven’t visited in 6 months, delete it.
  • General bag and bank cleanout.
  • Redo addon profiles in ACP for each toon. This got fubared in the computer move too.
Cynwise_-_blessed_by_elune

Cynwise

About the only thing I can think of is getting ‘wisey some gear for the looks. That’s it.

  • The only gear that really appeals to me, visually, is the S11 Conquest gear. It looks great, and I’d like to have it for mogging later on. But I don’t have a lot of Arena options right now, so this goal might be shelved.
  • Consider filling out the T13 look with lookalike VP gear, if I want to make tentacle jokes later on.
  • (I can’t even be chuffed to go max out the Catalyst reputations. Is that bad? Maybe I should do that so I can get the BoA enchants for next expac, at least? Nah.)
Cynli_the_greenhealer

Cynli

  • Exalted with SSO for BiS alchemy trinket, resilience head enchant, and really cool tabard.
  • Design mog outfit to go with Waypoint tabard.
  • Design mog outfit to go with SSO tabard. Go buy the title, why not, you’ve earned it, right?
  • Complete bear set, tank a few times to make sure keybinds are ok.
Ashwalker_-_untwinking_at_70

Ashwalker

  • Level to 75 to max out professions, especially JC.
  • (Consider dropping Engineering for something that makes money)
  • (Consider leveling to 85 for possible main replacement in Mists)
  • Design mog outfit to go with Gilneas tabard (already have other alliance tabard outfits).
Parachute_failure

Cynwulf

  • Screenshots. LOL screenshots.
  • That’s it. Dude is done.
Waylan_-_frying_pans

Waylan

  • Sell off contents of guild bank, everything must go. Consider selling guild bank (5 tabs, anyone want?)
  • Level to 75 (currently 60) and max out professions. If you can’t get back into playing a rogue, consider deleting and leveling Enchanting on Ash/Cynix.
  • I haven’t really enjoyed playing a rogue. I like this character concept and homage, but … I haven’t enjoyed roguery since level 30 or so. :(
Cynedra_-_spider_web_robe

Cynedra

  • Once keybinds are done on secondary spec, she’s done.Don’t have any desire to level her up at this point, not even to see Hordeside quests.
Cynix_-_level_15_-_shaman_training

Cynix

  • Not going to lie, healing LFD is kinda boring. If I can’t level Waylan up to 75 easily, then I’ll level Cynix up to 75 healing LFD (currently 42) and consider making her my new enchanter on Durotan.
  • Otherwise, done. (Hey! I didn’t say delete her, I’m improving!)
Cynderblock_-_transmogrified

Cynderblock

  • Done. Already has all Cata BiS gear.
Cynwyn_-_arcane_blast

Other Alts < 20

  • You probably need an AGM at this point to not get deleted, to be honest. That leaves a human mage and a blood elf pally, as well as my level 24 hunter twink.

—-

I didn’t think too hard about the list – this is very much the first or only things that came to mind as I went through my roster of characters. What I find interesting are two things:

  1. How professions-oriented it is. With the exception of some mog outfits, it’s all about getting professions to a level where they’re useful at endgame, not about getting the toons to endgame.
  2. It’s fairly grounded towards a return. Most of the goals presume that I’ll be coming back to the characters and actively playing them, hence a focus on cleanup.

I’ll have to think about this list some more, and probably prune it down some. There’s only so much time between now and mid-February, so I don’t even think the whole thing is possible. And there are no BHAGs like the Ambassador project to really sweep aside all other motivations and get me going.

So. We’ll see how I do.

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Synchronizing World of Warcraft Between Two Computers

Playing Warcraft on two different computers can present some real challenges to a player, and the more customized you make your user interface, the harder the challenge. How do you keep your UIs consistent, your addons updated, your preferences shared between the computers?

You can do it manually, which can be a real pain if you like to roll a lot of alts. Smart profile use can help, but it only goes so far – at some point changes need to be synchronized between the computers, and only so much of your interface is stored on the Warcraft servers. Trying to keep your interfaces up to date can be a nightmare if you’re an altoholic, and more trouble than it’s worth even if you’re focused only on a single toon.

I finally found myself in the situation where I need to keep my Warcraft information synced between two computers, an old Macbook (2008 model) and a shiny new Mac Mini. They share similar operating systems, but have very different video capabilities. The Macbook has a 13″ screen and integrated video chip; the Mac Mini is hooked up to a 25″ monitor and has an actual graphics card.

Here’s how I did it.

ONLINE SYNCHING WITH DROPBOX

My goals were simple in concept, if not in practice:

  • Provide the same user interface, including keybinds, general bar layout, addon configuration. Logging in to a character on one computer should feel the same as logging in on the other.
  • Changes made on one game should be propagated to the other automatically. I don’t want to have to make an update in one place and then manually make it again on the other computer.

I thought a bit about how I could approach these goals. My setup was very addon-heavy, with a lot of custom keybinds through Bartender, using the Naga to both push buttons and move my character, and a suite of addons which I’d manage depending on the character’s current role.

It was, in all honesty, probably overengineered. (But that’s a different set of posts.)

I could:

  • Nuke all of it and use the default UI. This would get me my first goal, as well as providing an extremely fast load time and better responsiveness on my aging laptop. But it’s also restricting – I would have to make sure that I didn’t make any changes, and that I’d need to configure things like the bar setup on each computer separately anyways.
  • Redesign and periodically copy over the interface files from one computer to the other. This would help keep me synched up, but requires remembering to do it. That’s bad, I’m forgetful. Also, a simple copy means that you can have file conflicts between the two systems with no resolution system. When you make different changes to the same character, one or the other will be lost when you resolve the conflict.
  • Schedule an automatic periodic direct sync between the two machines. This reduces the chance of file conflict, but doesn’t eliminate it unless the sync is scheduled very frequently.
  • Use an online syncing program to sync the files as soon as a change is detected, usually on logout, reducing the conflict chance to nearly zero – since I can’t be logged in on the same account at the same time on two different computers.

Some other events happened which caused me to very seriously consider nuking all my addons and going back to a default interface, but after some thought I decided to go with an online synchronization service called Dropbox. Dropbox is one of several services available that you can try for free, and their free version is perfect for this task.

Plus I already use it to transfer files, so, you know, Dropbox was pretty much a no brainer for me.

Now, the problem with most online sync services is that they monitor a specific set of folders on your hard drive, usually within their own directory structure, for files that have changed.

The files that control the UI are in the Warcraft/WTF and Warcraft/Interface folders, however. So unless I put my entire Warcraft installation in the cloud – which gets expensive – I was going to have to find a way to make it so Dropbox knew about those two folders.

This is where symlinks come in.

SYMBOLIC LINKS

Symbolic links, or symlinks, are pointers on your file system that look like one address for files, but point to another location. If I have a folder in my home directory called “Website Logs,” but I don’t want to actually keep all the log files within my home directory, I could make that folder into a symlink and put the files where I really want them to be, say in an archive directory or somesuch.

Symbolic links are often the answer for problems like this.

  • Dropbox monitors a folder called Dropbox in my home directory (~/Dropbox/).
  • Warcraft stores UI data in the Interface and WTF folders in the World of Warcraft directory (usually /Applications/World of Warcraft/Interface, etc.).
  • By moving the UI folders into the Dropbox folder and putting a symlink in the WoW folder, WoW thinks that the data is right where it should be, while Dropbox syncs it whenever something changes.

(I’m going to use Mac/UNIX directory structures in my examples, but the concepts are the same in Windows.)

Before I did anything else, I made a complete backup of each folder I was going to be touching – just in case. Take your time when working with files!

To create a symlink you use the ln -s command in Unix. The format is ln -s target link, where you specify the destination – where the files should really be stored, what your symlink points to – and then the name of it.

To keep things easy, I created a Warcraft folder in my Dropbox folder. This means that my targets are both going to be in ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/.

On the machine with the UI I wanted to use as a base (the server):

  1. Move to your Warcraft installation directory:
    1. cd /Applications/World\ of\ Warcraft/ (or wherever your WoW installation is)
  2. Copy the current Interface and WTF folders to Dropbox with:
    1. mv Interface ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/
    2. mv WTF ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/
  3. Create the symlinks:
    1. ln -s ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/Interface Interface
    2. ln -s ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/WTF WTF

When I look at a full list of the directory (ls -lah), I see my symlinks for Interface and WTF, along with their destinations, in my home directory (/home/username/Dropbox). A quick check of the Dropbox folder and I’m able to confirm all my files are where they should be, and the symlinks are up!

My final check on the source computer is to fire up WoW and validate that everything still works. If I’ve made a mistake, it shows up in here pretty quickly.

It goes without saying that syntax matters in UNIX, and small changes can have big repercussions. ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/Interface is different from ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/Interface/, for instance. If you’ve never tried symlinks before, take your time and practice. There’s a manual page for it – type man ln and you can read it.

I did all of that work on my server, since it was shiny and new, and I was making a lot of changes to my UI to take advantage of the big screen. Setting up the laptop was very similar, but because it was going to be receiving the files I didn’t want to move the WTF and Interface folders into the Dropbox folder – instead:

  1. Rename the WTF and Interface folders (WTF became WTF 20120101, etc.)
  2. Create the symlinks from WoW to Dropbox, just like above.

This points WoW on my laptop to look at the interface files stored in Dropbox – which are the same ones from my server. It was pretty cool opening up WoW on my laptop and seeing the UI I’d created on my big screen in all its glory.

Except… wait.

WoW looked really good on my laptop. Really good. Better than it’d ever looked before.

Uh oh.

EXCEPTION HANDLING, VIDEO SETTINGS, AND OMGWTFBBQ

It didn’t take me long to realize that not only was I looking at not just the addons, keybinds and bar layouts of the server on my laptop – I was looking at the same video settings. The video settings were turned up way higher than WoW normally allows my laptop to handle, and with good reason – my laptop can’t handle very much.

So after I shut down WoW, I realized that I needed to sync most of the settings, but not all of them, if I wanted to avoid using my laptop to actually cook BBQ.

The video settings are stored in ../World of Warcraft/WTF/Config.wtf, a plaintext configuration file. The other UI elements are stored in WTF/Account/. So what I needed was the ability to sync everything in WTF/Account/ but not the Config.wtf (or Launcher.wtf file.)

Symlinks to the rescue!

On the server:

  • I didn’t change a thing. This way the Config.wtf will be backed up and I can use it, or not, if desired.

On the laptop:

  • I deleted the symlink and restored the /Applications/World of Warcraft/WTF/ directory from backup. (i.e. I renamed WTF 20120101 to WTF in the finder.)
  • I went down a level and backed up the Account directory, renaming it to Account 20120101.
  • I created a symlink for the Account folder only:
  • ln -s ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/WTF/Account Account

Doing this allowed me to keep the UI layout unified between computers, without threatening to fry my laptop’s video card (and me underneath it!)

Each computer now has its own video settings, while sharing the same UI.

It may not look as good on the laptop, or have as much space due to UI scaling, but it has a consistent layout and feel – which is what I really wanted.

Also, it won’t set my laptop on fire.

ON UNIX COMMANDS, WINDOWS, AND TECHNICAL DISCLAIMERS

While I’ve been working with the seedy UNIX underside of Mac OS X, this technique should be adaptable for Windows. Vista and higher has a mklink command which functions similarly to ln; however, since I don’t run Warcraft on Windows, I can’t really test the function out. It should work, but computers can be funny.

I also know that a lot of users aren’t comfortable working from the command line on either Macs or Windows. I’m going to toss out a disclaimer right now – the code I posted above is suggestions about what worked for me, not a script that you should just copy and paste and expect to work 100%. It’s not. This is more of a recipe than a shell script to execute – a guide to how to make syncing your WoW interface seamless, not a prescription to making it happen. If you’re not comfortable with a command line interface but want to try this out anyways, make a lot of backups. Copy your WTF and Interface folders somewhere safe on both computers before starting. Check each step to make sure the computer did what you expect.

If you’re willing to take the plunge into Terminal, I think you’ll find the command line very fulfilling. Stuff like this becomes possible without waiting for someone to make an app that does just the right thing. It’s not rocket surgery!

For me? I’m enjoying playing with my UI on my laptop, and seeing the changes mirrored on my desktop the next time I log in.

Good luck!

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