AJ Henderson AJ's Blog

October 5, 2010

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Beta Thoughts

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — AJ @ 10:39 pm

So, as a mod author, I was able to get beta keys for my wife and my accounts so we could help with testing and get familiar with the content.  I’ve spent a few weeks trying it out now and thought I would share my thoughts.  The first and biggest thought is that this is NOT an expansion.  It is a completely new game.  Sure you may have characters that have gear that looks the same, have the same professions and have the same class, but from that point on, it’s a new ballpark.  The graphics have gotten a major overhaul with shader based water and improved lighting and rendering.  The game engine now supports loading content while you play and better in-game cut scenes.  The combat system has been completely changed and focused on game play rather than mechanics.  The quest chains have been redone to be more streamlined with better flow.  Almost nothing of the current game really remains.

Overall I think the majority of the improvements are a vast improvement over the current game, though I think the scope of the changes may cause some tension when the expansion first comes out.  Other areas really did suffer for the worse in some people’s views, but not without alterations in other areas to make up for it.  A good example of this is the mass simplification of the gear system.  Previously, if you felt like doing your own theory crafting, it was possible to take non-standard routes with gear and accomplish unique specializations that you couldn’t match with a standard Elitist Jerks build.  Now this really doesn’t seem possible.  There is some options for altering gear stats, but you don’t have enough subtly different variables to tweak anymore.  To make up for this though, the skill aspect of the game has been refocused on game play.  The pacing of combat has slowed, but the complexity has gone up.  CC and cast breaking is back with a vengeance, as is damage avoidance.  It’s less reflex based and more thought based to deal with the challenges each fight provides.  Additionally, Bliz was nice enough to include really solid visual cues for things like ability procs.  The emphasis on all this really seems to be a move towards trying to have a more natural interface with the game that focuses less on the mechanics of playing the game and more on what is actually happening.

What really makes this work is that Blizzard has also really taken the storytelling to a new level in this expansion.  Epic story arcs covering entire zones and smoothly flowing throughout the zone, as well as the addition of heavy instancing and lots of in-game, in-line animation lead to a game that actually feels like you are in the story and your actions matter.  So far I have made it through Vashj’ir and Deepholm and I can easily say these are two of the best zones Blizzard has made yet, with Vashj’ir quite possibly being their masterwork.  Vashj’ir puts you at the center of the conflict between the Naga and the Tidehunter.   Through heavy use of instancing and a smooth, flowing storyline, in addition to the smoother, more natural interface,  this zone feels the most like you are actually making a difference and actually living out a story of any zone I have played before.

Deepholm was a little more like Borean Tundra in its layout, but with a main story arc that covers the entire area.  As you work to repair the damage caused by the rift between Deepholm and the surface, you explore several subzones and interact with different factions in your quest.  In both Vashj’ir and Deepholm, the questing and the instances run smoothly together with the dungeons acting as a cap piece to the story line, very similar to the way Deadmines and the Defias line worked, but to a greater extent.

The last major change, and perhaps the most significant for the longevity of the expansion is the guild leveling system.  One of the main classical problems for guilds is that late in an expansion, players begin to leave.  This leaves guilds unable to continue functioning since there are always new guilds cropping up and it can become impossible for any guilds to maintain sufficient momentum.  The guild leveling system offers significant advantages to running with an established guild and should help momentum be maintained for a more consistent and stable experience.  Also, guild reputation should help ensure stability by offering a reason not to switch guilds flippantly over stupid things since it will take time to re-earn guild perks and rewards if you switch to another guild.  Conversely, with raiding switching to only allowing either 10 or 25 man raids to be done by any particular individual on a particular week, guild perks such as Cash Flow (which grants a portion of the gold looted by guild members as extra gold to the guild bank), act as an incentive for guilds to maintain an inclusive atmosphere extending beyond just a core 10 man team.  Both the criteria of leveling and the perks lean towards benefiting large guilds and should encourage guild leaders to maintain large organized guilds, perhaps with a core raiding team funded by the guild bank and other teams for non-progression players.

I’ll try to post more as I make it through additional zones and get a better perspective on the expansion overall.

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Bible Apps for Android and Reading Projects

Filed under: Church,Personal — Tags: , , , — AJ @ 10:02 pm

So I managed to find two great apps for Bible reading and study on Android.  When I was looking I ended up deciding on one that is easily the best for online (Internet connected) study and another that is a clear winner for offline study.

YouVersion by LifeChurch.TV is easily the best online Bible study program I have ever seen.  A wide selection of translations and reading plans, an online user driven commentary and discussion, synced reading between multiple devices and the web and the slickest, smoothest running Android app I’ve seen all combine to make this a very wonderful reading Bible.  The main disadvantages are the slight additional power usage of requiring a cellular connection, the connectivity requirement itself, and the unavailability of good research quality resources that integrate with the program.  This is now my general reading Bible of choice.

CadreBible, while not quite as neatly refined as YouVersion, is a very solid offline study/research Bible with a good selection of free and fairly priced translations and other resources (like concordances, commentaries and the like).  The selection is not as good as Windows Mobile’s e-Sword yet, but the app is very actively developed by a team in Australia.  I did have some issues getting my paid content downloaded, but an e-mail to the company was returned within minutes and as it turned out they are working on replacing the part of the system that was causing me trouble.  This is now my research Bible of choice.

I’d gotten in to looking in more detail because we have been starting a length study of Romans at Terra Nova and when I was giving the book a read through in preparation, I started noticing just how much of an improvement Today’s New International Version is over the original NIV translation.  The higher quality of the translation led me to notice several things I had not noticed in previous readings and caused me to decide to make another full read through of the Bible with TNIV.  I’ve always found that Bible apps with reading plan guides help this kind of a project to go smoother, so that is what kicked off really looking in to it.  Maybe when I get done with this read through I’ll finally get around to trying to make it through the Koran so I can be better prepared to discuss the differences between what the Bible says about Christianity and what Muslims believe Christianity is about from their teaching.  (For those not familiar, Islam holds that Jesus was a teacher and a prophet, but never claimed to be God.  This can lead to some great discussions with Muslims, but I don’t really know as much as I should for those discussions with more scholarly Muslims.)

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October 4, 2010

Horray for Car Repairs

Filed under: Personal — AJ @ 4:08 pm

Well, finally got around to replacing my worn out tire and turns out the ball joint was bad as well.  I guess that isn’t too surprising based on how badly worn the single tire was and the fact that I’d been driven in to a curb by a pickup truck.  Overall though, the cost wasn’t too bad and the ZX2 has had so few maintenance problems it was really due for something.

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September 27, 2010

New Phone Again

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 8:16 pm

This time I’m switching to an Android Samsung Galaxy S.  I was up for an upgrade and wanted to get a smart phone for Danielle.  Verizon had a buy one get one free deal going on the Galaxy S, so I decided it was finally time to jump ship from Windows Mobile since Microsoft has effectively abandoned the platform with their move to Windows Mobile 7 being on a completely different base code and being much more anti-power user like iOS.  So far the experience has been really good.  The phone performs way smoother with more memory to run apps and a faster processor.  I’ve found apps to do virtually everything I did with the Touch Pro 2, though I did lose global capability.  I’ve got it nicely rooted and able to do what I want with it and am quite pleased.  Now time to learn the inner workings of another system.

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June 28, 2009

Car Repairs and Check Engine Lights

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 1:55 am

Well after getting a check engine light after a repair on Danielle’s car and realizing that there isn’t really an easy way to trouble shoot the issues without an OBDII scanner, I went out and picked one up. Turns out it was the o2 sensor causing the issues so I got a new one ordered from rock auto and should end up saving around $100 on the repair. (another repair like that and I’ll actually break even on the scanner). So if you need to know what your check engine light is on for and you’re around here then give me a hollar and I can probably check it out for you.

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June 7, 2009

Disney Vacation

Filed under: Personal — AJ @ 1:57 pm

Just got back from Disney and celebrating our 1 year anniversary today. We got a crystal laser engraved with Danielle and my photo in 3d at Epcot.

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May 27, 2009

iPod Touch

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 12:32 am

So aparently there is an app for the iPod touch to be able to directly update a blog, so I have updated WordPress and installed the app on my new iPod. In other news, I am going to Disney at the end of the week as a combination graduation present for Danielle and 1 Year anniversery. Work has been crazy lately with deadlines coming up, but it is also rewarding. That’s it for now.

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December 5, 2008

My Favorite Wedding Photo

Filed under: Digg — Pipeline @ 12:38 am

Danielle and I right after our wedding ceramony.  (Also a test of one of my new upload tools. 🙂 )

Posted via Pixelpipe.

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November 12, 2008

Adobe Master Collection and other Cool Stuff

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Work — AJ @ 10:17 pm

Well, I guess I haven’t been much better about keeping this new blog up to date.  A whole lot has happened since my last post. I have changed jobs, my old job is no more (after I left), things are much better work wise and I really enjoy working at Pearl Carroll & Associates.  I have been very happily married for over 5 months now and just yesterday finally started getting around to working on my photos.  (Thanks to getting Lightroom 2.  1168 photos are hard to go through otherwise.)  I should have a gallery up on The Henderson Wedding soon. 

I have also just obtained the CS4 Master Collection and have been messing around with it.  I am actually writing this post from within Contribute and I’m hoping it won’t mess things up too badly when I try to post this article.  Oh yeah, I also left my former WoW guild over issues that we couldn’t resolve and have started a new guild called House of Pain along with two of my friends from PIF.

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September 24, 2007

Coworkers and a small world…

Filed under: Personal,Work — AJ @ 2:37 pm

Well, I learned once again what a small town Clifton Park really can be.  A few weeks back I realized that one of my co-worker’s Chris Nawrot was a year ahead of me at Shen and while we didn’t share any classes, we were going in and out of a room at the same time.  Then this week I found out that another one of my co-worker’s Jackie Chen is related to two classmates from high school.  I guess it just goes to show that even though many of those I know have moved on, Clifton Park still is proving to be its own little small world.

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