Tech tip: For WordPress/Google Reader users

EDIT: One drawback to this method is that it’s based on individual posts, not posts-per-feed. So if someone’s blog twitches and reposts all of their content to their RSS feed as new… well, that’s what you’ll see.

Two things were bugging me.

  1. I really like the “recently updated blogs” widget thingy that blogger users have access to. It’s very cool. I wanted it for Mysterious Buttons, which is self-hosted using WordPress.
  2. Maintaining a blogroll is a pain. I’m still adding 2-3 new wowblogs/week to my reading list 7-8 new wowblogs/week to my reading list (thank you FollowFriday) and exporting/editing/importing the OMPL file from Google Reader into WordPress is a pain.

So I did some looking. And some fiddling. And played a bit with WP Social Blogroll before giving up. And did some more fiddling. And found a solution I think I like.

I now have two folders of WoW-related links in Reader – a “main” set which is shared, and second set which contains the feed from MB, my armoury feed and any sites I’m still unsure of (sites I’ve just discovered, basically). Any sites I add to the main set are automatically included in the blogroll, and updates to those sites appear in the “Blogroll updates” box.

Here’s what I did.

WARNING: for this to work, you have to make your WoWblogs folder(s) “public” in Google Reader. You’ll want to play with the privacy settings and potentially edit your user details in the account page, lest you inadvertently expose yourself (oo-er).

In Reader, go to Settings > Reader Settings > Folders and Tags. Choose the folder of links you want to include and change it’s sharing setting to “public”. Four options are then available.

To start with, choose “add a blogroll to your site”. Delete the text in the “title” box (as you’ll add a title to the container box on your site) and change the colour scheme to “none”. This should mean that, when we add the list to WordPress, it picks up styling from your theme. Then select the HTML snippet in the box and copy it.

Go to the Appearance>Widgets section in your WordPress dashboard, and drag a new “Text” widget to an appropriate place on your sidebar. Give it an appropriate name (“Rollblog”?) and paste the HTML you copied into the box. Hit save.

If you also want to add the “recently updated” feed, then read on. If you’re done, skip ahead two paragraphs.

To get the “recently updated items” feed, head back to Reader, to Settings > Reader Settings > Folders and Tags, and this time choose “add a clip to your site”. Once again, remove the text in the title box and choose “none” as your colour scheme. You’ll also want to make sure the “show item sources” box is ticked. You might want to untick the “show item notes” box, depending on how you use Reader. Again, copy the HTML snippet from the box and return to WordPress.

In WordPress, as with the blogroll item, add a new Text widget to your sidebar, give it a title and paste in your HTML. Save. Almost done!

If you view your site now you should hopefully see these new items which (hopefully!) will have picked up styling from your site’s theme. I found it necessary, however, to tweak just a couple of things in the CSS so things worked how I wanted them to. To fix these, you need to edit your theme’s CSS file. For the theme I’m currently using, I could do this in a single file, accessible from Appearance > Editor in the WordPress Dashboard, but depending on permissions YMMV.

I added the text below to the CSS file:

/* Google Reader specific styles */
#readerpublishermodule0 .s a { font-weight:normal;}
#readerpublishermodule0 .s { font-size: 9px; margin-bottom: 15px; }
#readerpublishermodule1 .f { margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 25px; }
#readerpublishermodule0 .f { margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 25px; }

A quick explaination

The snippet from Google reader you pasted in generates divblocks with IDs of “readerpublishermoduleX”, where X is a number starting at 0 and corresponds to the number of snippets from Reader on the page. On Mysterious Buttons, there are two, hence the styles for 0 and 1. These divs also have an overarching class, but I chose to work with the ID values to allow me to adjust them individually if necessary.

Individual elements have one-letter classes applied:

  • “i” is the item title & link (I didn’t need to style this)
  • “s” is the source, complete with link
  • “f” is the footer (the “view all” link)

My styles are specific to the current theme I’m using: for the “recently updated” section (module0) I removed the boldface from the source link, reduced the typesize of the source line and added some clear space below to separate the entries. For both sections, I indented the “View all” link so it aligned with the other elements and added some clear space above it.

Nice tanks

Sorry, that title was just a ruse to lure you in.  They were actually awful.

Originally, it was supposed to be a run where two of us (both DPSers) with recently-dinged 80s could scrape up some loot. Another guildie, a shadow priest who does fairly hefty DPS, was coming along, which was handy – he’d more than make up for us if we were a little weak. After some shuffling of characters we picked up a tank through the DF and zoned into Pit of Saron.

Tank the first said nothing on arrival, not even a “hello”, sprinted off the moment buffs were done and pulled a selection of giant skellys and drakes. We killed them, eventually, but I got squished by a loose skelly when ice block was on cooldown.

This set a pattern of the tank sprinting off and gathering unhelpful numbers of adds without waiting for looting, or mana breaks, or even the death of the previous adds. And I should be specific about “unhelpful numbers”: generally two or three mobs, so that single-target was the best option, but the tank was eating plenty of damage and keeping our healer unnecessarily busy with very little benefit.

When we got to Ick & Krick, having pulled the vomiting zombiethings in pairs (which made finding a clean spot to stand on no fun) he proceeded to pull the last zombiething and Krick at the same time. And then lose aggro on the zombiething so the healer and two of the DPS (including me) got randomly munched by it. It was then up to our shadowpriest guildie to keep the tank alive, dodge vomitballs and take down the boss. Which he managed. I was fairly impressed.

Next up, after rezzing and healing and re-mana-ing: the hill of doom. Hold up, where’s the tank?

Oh yes. While the rezzing and healing and mana-ing was taking place, he’d charged up the hill, accompanied by one dps. So we’ve got heals and two DPS at the bottom of the hill, tank+1dps at the top, and 10 mobs in between, including four of those irritating cc-one-and-burn-the-other flame/coldwraiths. Needless to say, we wiped hard after he charged down the hill. Then he dropped the group.

Back in the queue we went. We occupied the short wait by examining our previous tank’s behaviour and carefully considering the actions he should have taken, and how best one might communicate such information politely and helpfully. Or possibly spent five minutes calling him a prick, I can’t remember. Anyway, we soon found a new tank. See the conversation below -– the marking suggestion is from our retadin guildie.

Friendly, personable, GSOH
Friendly, personable, NS, GSOH.

Wonderful, isn’t it. Perhaps marking is overkill for HCs. I like it, but perhaps I’m just a noob. I do think that, if someone *asks* for marks, it’s probably helpful to apply them even if you don’t think it’s necessary.

Anyway, whilst he could have used another couple of ice ages at charm school, he was at least a capable tank. We made it to Tyrannus without incident, managed not to bug the instance and proved to Tyrannus that if you’re the proud owner of a skeletal flying dragon, it makes no sense to jump off to start a fight. Finally, our shadowpriest was able to pick up the Engraved Gargoyle Femur, and I was able to congratulate him (although I may have hurt my fingers whilst typing).

Don’t let me break your raid

First up: go read this post about the recruit-a-friend system by Alas if you haven’t already. In it, she argues that the triple experience bonus you get when playing with your RAFbuddy is a bit too much, and contributes to the number of people bimbling around at level 80 in search of a clue (any clue) by rocketing people to 80 before they’ve had a chance to learn how to play their class and their role in groups.

I can’t comment on her site at the moment for some reason (fesking javascript errors) but in response to one question, “how are recruited friends supposed to learn”, I think the answer is “we teach them”. Excuse me while I imagine Blizzard’s thinking…

“We want more people to play the game, because that earns us more money and we can buy more ponies yachts. People bringing their friends in is a good way of doing that. Problem is, a) experienced players might not feel like leveling yet another alt, and b) their friends might get a bit frustrated if the sales line is from their friend is “epic 25man battles with elder gods” but they then have to spend the next 8 weeks hunting for boar sphincters. So: we give them triple experience when they play together. The new player levels up really quickly. The recruiter can powerlevel another alt if they want, and they can explain how things work to their friend. More champagne, Jeeves.”

There is, however, only so much you can do. You can’t be there, wiping your RAFriend’s nose and shoving them out of the fire *all* the time. From their point of view, “not like that, like *this*” would probably get a bit tiresome after a while – part of the reason we play games is to discover things for ourselves, after all. So what to do?

A training raid
Consider the idea of a designated “learning” raid, which all people who wanted to raid would have to complete. This would be a relatively short encounter which featured a couple of core mechanics from raiding instances – a few trash pulls, some basic crowd control and a boss or two with relatively simple, common mechanics: “don’t stand here, don’t do <egg> while <bacon>, make sure you <currant> when the <bun> is <toasted>”. The key feature, however, would be gear normalization. No matter what gear you’re wearing (provided you meet a minimum standard), you gear is adjusted so that all raiders have roughly equivalent gear. Whether via a simple “Soldiers! Quickly now: we must remain undetected. Put on these guards’ uniforms!” mechanic where all members of a class/spec are temporarily forced into identical gear, or just by scaling stat values back to consistent levels, this would hopefully prevent people brute forcing their way through by massively overgearing the encounter. Perhaps players would be forced to learn to *play* instead?

New players could find themselves with no-one to group with (in the same way that it’s near-impossible to complete some of the Icecrown quest chains now because of the phasing). This could be alleviated by making this a selectable option for the “raid finder” interface: as a new raider, it’s your only option until you’ve completed it. Once you’ve completed it, it’s a tickbox – “include <learning raid> in your random selection?”. Rewards could also be experience dependent – one set of rewards (perhaps just a “raider” tabard) for people completing it for the first time, other rewards (gear? Badges/points/whatever they’ve renamed them?) for those choosing to help out new players. Vanity trinket for running the training dungeon 100 times once you’re qualified?  [The Blackboard Eraser] On use: causes a cloud of chalk dust to appear around target. Target appears in school uniform and emotes with “child” voice for 30s. Appends “, sir!” or “, miss!” to all text chat.

It might be seen as similar to the old attunement mechanics (which don’t seem to be missed by many). I wasn’t playing when these were in place so my understanding is fuzzy (and potentially wrong), but hopefully a single “attunement” for *all* raiding wouldn’t be so terribly onerous.

Tuning the difficulty level would also be very tricky – this might be the major sticking point. It would be very easy to design the encounter to be ez-mode. It would be just as easy to make it so hard that new raiders would be completely discouraged. Possibly the new tutorial system could help out here: for those without the “Take the training wheels off my raid” achievement, it would pop up various helpful prompts.

All of these things will never “fix” the players who just don’t want to learn — but there’s no way to do that. It might be really useful for people who are inexperienced (*cough*) and keen to learn (*cough cough*), and would help us them feel more confident if they had an official “You are now raid ready” badge (*splutter*).


Fun fun fun: playing a mage

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been fairly focused when I’ve been able to play. I’ve not logged on to Argent Dawn to play and chat with the SAN crowd. I’ve not spent *much* time on my paladin main.

Nope. I’ve been leveling a mage. A mage who was at level 30 a short while ago and to whom I gave a bunch of random PVP heirlooms as a way of spending Stone Keeper’s Shards. A mage who I started leveling again primarily because my cloth storage alt was full,  and I’d filled my bank alt’s bank, the mage’s bank and the spare space on my main’s bank with BoE items I was hoarding to level up enchanting. Both professions were capped at her current level, so there was really only one thing I could do!

I’ve done relatively little questing on Centrella since the mid-30’s. At lower levels, instances seem to hand out plenty of experience, making life in the dungeon finder a very reasonable alternative. It’s not that I was trying to ape Vidyala, or anything, more that a) I really like instanced content shared with other people and b) I’d seen very few of the lower level instances on my main. So I quested only whilst waiting for the DF to find me a group, and almost always asked if the group wanted to do more instances just before the end.

Having a clear goal and the means to attain it (versus the current “but how?” situation my paladin faces) was a fine thing. Even once I arrived at Northrend, where the quests are familiar and the dungeons more so, standing at the back lobbing arcane blasts is quite a different experience to standing with my head stuck up the boss’s backside. Also, the relatively simple rotation of an arcane mage means I spend the majority of my time looking at the action, rather than watching for the next ability to come off cooldown.

So: Centrella is now level 80 (my second 80 – can I start being cynical and complaining about the good old days yet?) and is on the “/g anyone for random HCs?” treadmill. And it’s fun – because I’m seeing the instances from safe spot at the back of the room, but also because I’m back to actually looking at the loot which drops, rather than hitting DE on anything which isn’t a trinket. So much of it is an upgrade, especially from the ICC instances.

Even things like stats are interesting me. The hit cap for mages is higher than the melee hit cap (even for Arcane spec picking up 6% for free) so it’ll be interesting to see how that manifests itself on gear. Then there’s spellpower vs crit vs haste – I suspect I’ll be keeping everything that looks useful and consulting Rawr for my best combinations. And reading Gnomeaggedon (even more).