the rantings and ravings of a not quite sane cow

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Passion of the Shaman

I've been playing WoW for a while. I was never (and still aren't) a hardcore player. I'm still a shaman nut, though, and I feel it is my civic duty to remind everyone of the shaman awesomeness at every opportunity.

In the beginning, Blizzard created the heavens, and the earth, and many creatures were released upon to the land.

And the shaman kicked ALL their asses.

The ultimate class was restricted to the often less preferred but always infinitely cooler side, the almighty Horde. The orcs had only recently learned shamanism from the tauren. The trolls... wait, why are they shaman? I thought they were more into that voodoo crap. The walking corpses couldn't be shaman, and rightly so, as many shaman consider them to be abominations unto nature.

The noble tauren, the butt of many cow jokes, however, were the true shaman (and they liked being milked).

Some old records say that orcs were shaman on Draenor long before they met the tauren. Yes, the orcs were shaman long before they met the funny walking cows, but they lost their connection to nature for a long time, thanks to their immense love of killing (and a craving for demon blood). Old records said that the mag'har clan of orcs never left Draenor and continued to practice shamanism there, long after most left for Azeroth. While quite possible, the mag'har are considered by most to be an insignificant part of orc history, and of no consequence on Azeroth.

Tauren however, have always remained true to nature and the earth mother. And while that, in itself, doesn't make them hippies, they will only fight when they need to (and since they see the earth mother everywhere, they probably partake in "other" common hippie activities). And they have kept their shamanistic (as well as a bit of druidistic) ways for a long, long time. They don't have much of a written history, so I'll probably get a whipping for this, but please bear with me.

For a while, all was good. Shaman continued to kick ass without question, and pwned paladins at every opportunity. And so, as predictably as the sun rising, the Alliance QQ'd. And Blizzard tried valiantly to soothe their wounds, but shaman continued to rub salt into them, and all continued to be right.

Much of the Alliance's complaining was without reason. Shaman could do everything one would expect an almighty to do; walk on water, resurrect oneself and turn water into DEATH. In response to this sheer awesomeness, the Alliance developed but one talent with which to battle the shaman: the bubble hearth. An act that did nothing more than cement their position as cowards. And so a state suitable to both sides was reached; the Horde killed until their targets fled and were satisfied that they were able to kick ass, and the Alliance lived long enough to have most of their ass kicked.

Then the Burning Legion came unto Azeroth, and with it came the arrival of the Draenei and the Blood Elves. The blood elves concerned themselves not with the affairs of the shaman, as nature could not satiate their lust for magic.

The draenei presented a different problem; they joined the Alliance but knew of shamanism. This was a conundrum for the almighty Blizzard. The pathetic Alliance surely could not handle the pure awesomeness that shaman would bring to the force.

And so Blizzard were forced to make an unfortunate decision: shaman were to be nerfed. And the shaman attracted the wrath of the nerfhammer in an unprecedented show of force never before seen throughout the land. And throughout the land shaman QQ'd, but unlike the Alliance, they did so with reason. And Blizzard heard the complaints, but did nothing to solve them.

Throughout time, patch after patch, the shaman continued to unreasonably attract the attention of the nerfhammer. The great Blizzard seemed deaf to the ears of their complaints. Piece by piece, the shaman community left the loving embrace of the class. Most defected to other classes, a few left the world entirely, for pursuits unknown.

Eventually, the shaman class was whittled down to a few loyalists. Some newbies tryed the shaman, and they liked it. For even when inferior to other classes in terms of damage or survivability, the shaman continued to be fun to play. And so the loyal shaman continued to listen to every word the great Blizzard said, hoping that one day their time would come and they would be restored to their former glory.

During this period, Blizzard tried to appease the shaman, by giving offerings such as a new icon for stormstrike. And while the shaman did not simply laugh in Blizzard's face at such simple attempts to please them, they were most certainly doing so behind its back.

Eventually, when word of the Lich King's approach began to spread, shaman everywhere gained hope. Maybe they would be granted new powers with which to fight the coming evil! This thought stirred in many hearts, and close attention was payed to any announcements made by Blizzard. Soon, bit by bit, good news began to trickle through. Many shaman had their hopes lifted by such news, but some believed they knew better and refused to hope. Many shaman were not sure want to think, and decided to take everything as it came. Debate was fervent: which group would end up being right? Many wished that the group that hoped were right but refused to be part of it.

Discussion was rampant until the Lich King's return to Azeroth, and shaman throughout the land waited with bated breath. Would the shaman be restored to their former glory, or would they continue to wallow in a pit of mediocrity?

Shaman are debating that answer to this day. Many, notably the elementals, considered what they had been given a great boon to their class. Some, such as many of the enhancements, continued to believe that they were still being treated as second class citizens. Much of that group derrided the fact that they were being forced to use the same armour as their fellow hunters, for whom they held much contempt, among other things. And the restoration shaman? They knew their place and that it was safe; they were less concerned with the changes.

That is where this part of the story ends. Many still consider the shaman class to be in a state of disarray. A few loyalists still hold hope that the shaman class will be restored to its former glory someday; others continue to play shaman but do not believe that Blizzard will ever grant them the improvements that they sorely need; much of the rest abandoned the shaman class long ago. What does the future hold for the shaman? That answer falls not upon you or me, but to the great Blizzard, for they and they alone have the ability to shape the future of the shaman class.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A More Serious Cow Post: WoW Add-On Policy

As you may (or may not) know, Blizzard has released a new add-on development policy for World of Warcraft. I thought since I make a couple of mods (however small), I should comment.
Not buying it? I felt like ranting. Better?

I don't see the real problem here. Some mod developers have ragequit, and while I don't agree with every single part of the policy, for the most part I do. Let's have a look at the policy, piece by piece.
1) Add-ons must be free of charge.
No objections here... we pay enough to play the game. I'm not sure who'd pay for a mod, either, considering there are generally free alternatives available. It is very rare to actually force a user to pay for a mod, but I have no problem seeing that going.
I'd like to point out that if my code is ever hard to understand, that's because it's the way I program, not because I don't want you reading it.
2) Add-on code must be completely visible.
Again, no problem. While I can understand some people might not want the mod copied (or its functionality replicated), I'm a great believer in open standards and competition.
3) Add-ons must not negatively impact World of Warcraft realms or other players.
This is actually a fairly fine line. Obviously this means no spamming or doing things to deliberately bog down realms (I don't know how, but I'm sure it's possible). On the other hand, I've seen plenty of mods that can be annoying in several other ways (like ones that yell a random message when you mount), but I'm not sure whether that counts (probably not, as long as there's not too much of it).
4) Add-ons may not include advertisements.
No, really?
5) Add-ons may not solicit donations.
This is the one that has many people annoyed. It specifically allows you to request donations on a web site, but not in-game. Personally I have no problem with mods asking for donations, as long as it's once, when you log in (preferably in the chat log), or in the options pane... but I don't want it popping up during gameply. The problem with only allowing you to ask for donations on a website is that many people (myself included), use an mod manager which updates without us ever needing to visit a website. I would change the policy to severely restrict asking for donations, not removing it entirely.
6) Add-ons must not contain offensive or objectionable material.
I get more than enough of both from Blix's Eyesight Enhancing Romance Goggles, thanks.
7) Add-ons must abide by World of Warcraft ToU and EULA.
Wouldn't expect more from the mods than from the players, would we now? The only people who'd have problems with this would be the ones violating either, and they're not the people I want playing the game.
8) Blizzard Entertainment has the right to disable add-on functionality as it sees fit.
While you may not agree with some (most) of their methods, Blizzard only wants the best for you, whether you realise it or not. This part is pretty standard for basically any closed system, though, and it's basically to stop developers exploiting the system and getting away with it for any length of time.

And that's my rant.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Burnout Paradise DLC Review, Part 1: Legendary Cars

Being a chump, I've bought all the downloadable vehicles for Burnout Paradise (as for why the party pack isn't the first DLC review... I didn't buy it, as I have nobody to party with). I'll be reviewing them in 3 parts, then posting a summary. Up first, the legendary cars:

Jansen 88 Special (you might know it as: DeLorean from Back To The Future)
Undeniably the coolest car of the pack (the Nighthawk gives it a run for its money but ultimately loses), it can switch between road mode (i.e. normal) and hover (lights on back go on, wheels fold somewhat into the car, whole thing stays about a foot or two off the road). Unfortunately, it can't fly, although making it hover does seem to affect the handling a bit (it seems to turn a lot more sharply using the handbrake when hovering).
Oh, and did I mention that there's a flame trail when you boost?
Performance: 7/10. It's no slouch, but there's plenty faster.
Handling: 9/10. It can pull off some pretty tight turns, but not much more than a regular Jansen P12 can do.
Boosting: 5/10. Standard stunt boost, hovering doesn't change anything.
Crashing: 3/10. It's weak... not really weak, but it doesn't take much at all to take it down.
Useful for: Showing off, making power parking harder while hovering (you heard me!).
Overall: 6/10. It's a decent performer in a stunt run, and it looks awesome, but it's not all that useful.

GT Nighthawk (you might know it as: KITT from Knight Rider)
If you just want to know one thing about this car... it's FAST! It looks fairly nondescript driving around normally (as nondescript as a sleek black car that looks like little else in the game can be), but it brings the goods when you start boosting. A rear wing pops up, and arrays of lights on the front and back start pulsating back and forth... you won't have that much time to look at the thing though because you'll be DODGING TONS OF &*$# COMING TOWARDS YOU. This thing is FAST while boosting, and generally the only things that slowed me down were traffic or walls (crashing hurts, and you really start to hate the slow-mo crash screen).
Performance: 10/10. It'd be either among or the fastest car in the game, and while it's a bit slower when not boosting it's still fairly fast.
Handling: 9/10. It's great at drifting when you're going flat out, and when you're not (how dare you?), it's completely more than adequate.
Boosting: 9/10. I'm knocking a point off because of how easy it is (for me) to run into anything in sight (and almost everything that isn't), that and it's a speed boost, and I hate earning enough to actually use it. Despite that... good luck catching up to this thing on an open road with a good driver.
Crashing: 3/10. About as good as the 88. Made worse by the fact that you'll be doing it a lot more.
Useful for: Outrunning and infuriating pursuers, looking like a secret agent, becoming well acquainted with the "wrecked" screen, and outrunning bullets.
Overall: 9/10. If you can control it, it's a potent weapon.

Manhattan Spirit (you might know it as: ECTO-1 (the car) from Ghostbusters)
It's large. It's not all that fast. It has sirens and lights.
The people you run into won't care about that, they'll be too busy cursing you and your descendants. Perhaps not in the car crushing ranks of the Inferno van or the Takedown 4x4 (then again, perhaps it is), the lights and sirens are a great way to let your adversaries know that death is imminent and resistance is futile.
I am sad to report that there are no streams to cross, however.
Performance: 5/10. It's not the fastest, but it doesn't need to be... just don't use it in a race.
Handling: 3/10. That tight corner? Forget about it. That average corner? Uh-uh. That gentle bend? Maybe... if you have enough speed you might be able to drift around it.
Boosting: 6/10. Standard aggression boost. Upgrades the car from "death on wheels" to "death and grave pisser-on-er on wheels". The boost may be standard aggression, the results surely are not.
Crashing: 9/10. Goes through most cars like a hot knife through butter. A couple of others have a chance, but only because they must be decommissioned tanks.
Useful for: Clearing paths through cars, light buildings, livestock and Greenpeace. And inspiring a permanent fear of sirens.
Overall: 9/10. If it's not the best car for road rages and such, it's among the top... but it's probably the most fun.

Cavalry Bootlegger (you might know it as: The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard)
First, let me get this out of the way... a Mexican flag? That's just not traditional (however it is most likely within copyright law). Also a problem is that it's available in colours other than orange, and the doors' condition is yet to be determined. Other than that, it's not the fastest car, it's not the best handling (not exactly shabby in either category though). Trust me, the only reason you'd want this car is for the horn. And trust me, you DO want it. It's also among the best cars for stunt runs that I've tried, and damn it, it's traditional for stunt runs. If you own this car and aren't using it for stunt runs, what the hell is wrong with you?
Performance: 7/10. Not the fastest car in Paradise city, but there are many worse. It's good enough for most things (except maybe racing against faster cars).
Handling: 8/10. Good stunts need good control, and this'll get you lined up well enough. Threading massive car-sized needles might be out of the question, but the needles might make good weapons.
Boosting: Standard stunt boost. Doesn't give you a great deal more speed, but you'll have no problem filling it up. Depending on what you're doing, draining it might be the hard part.
Crashing: 7/10. It's The General Lee, or as close as is allowed by copyright. It's no Manhattan Spirit, but it can certainly hold its own.
Useful for: Pretending you're on an old TV show, giving you an excuse to do old-guy narration when going over jumps, sending people to mental institutions by pulling up beside then and continunally blowing your horn.
Overall: 8/10. It's fun for stunts, and more fun* freeburning online. Just get in that old Duke mentality: there's always some predictable but awesome stunt you can do to win the race.
*Only for you.

Best in set for:
Looking awesome: Jansen 88 Special
Kicking ass (speed): GT Nighthawk
Kicking ass (literally): Manhattan Spirit
Pulling off insane stunts: Cavalry Bootlegger
Infuriating people: Cavalry Bootlegger
Driving while listening to Ride of the Valkyries: Manhattan Spirit
Throwing your controller across the room: GT Nighthawk
That futuristic roleplaying fantasy you've always wanted to do: Jansen 88 Special.

If you're only going to buy one, then buy: Cavalry Bootlegger. But since when does what I say matter? You're going to buy the 88 Special, that's a fact.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Closest Musician, Part 1.1: A Minute with the Rock Band Guitar

Well, I didn't get a chance to try it in a song, but when I saw one lying around I had to pick it up and play around with it.

If you want to know whether you should buy a RB or GHWT guitar, let me sum the RB guitar up like this: I leave things that would work better as guitars lying on the ground after eating a whole bunch of grass.

It has a switch to change your guitar's sound mid-song. If only I didn't prefer the sound of the original song...
Extra buttons for the solos at end of some songs... because I'm simply dying for a thousand or so extra points when I've already reached five stars.
It didn't break when I picked it up.

The d-pad is stiff and not the easiest to manipulate.
The start and select buttons are far too prominent, and mar the looks.
Same for the connect button. While yes, I do realise that they correspond to feature on a real stratocaster, it doesn't change the fact that they look ugly.
The fret buttons make a lot of noise, require a bit of effort to push down and are generally very "clacky" to use the scientific term.
The strum bar is the exact opposite... very soft and mushy, doesn't make a noise or give ANY indication when it triggers. It's... disconcerting.
To finish on a less mean note (much as I hate to do so), the whammy bar isn't so bad. It's a bit too stiff, and generally just doesn't feel as good as a GH one.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Closet Musician Compliment Sandwich: Rock Band

The following sandwich has: 2 fillings.

The song "Ballroom Blitz" is included. Now I don't mean to sound weird (despite the fact that I am), but I like some more out there tracks (as well as 70s and 80s music, for the most part).
It's not the original version. It's a cover. A TERRIBLE cover. Seriously, whoever did this version... quit the music business. Trust me, you're doing whatever is left of your self respect a favour.
Also worth noting: It's easy. I 100%'d it on normal (that might not sound impressive, but have you ever tried playing Rock Band with hooves?).
It is a fun track to play, though.