Witcher 3 vs World of Warcraft

I used to be a casual World of Warcraft player – since vanilla. Aside from the huge world, rich PVE & PVP content, required skills, social aspect, faction / class possibilities and the general overall fun; what I liked the most was that I was able to lose myself in the game. As if I have entered a new world through a portal.

Coming back home from work at the end of a busy day, playing WoW made me relax and have lots of fun; because I had a break from the real world for a short while. It was my secret little vacation.

Then, something changed over a period of time. At first, I didn’t know what it was, but it was there. The game wasn’t what it used to be. I tried different classes, alternative factions, changed my weight between PVP / PVE, etc. Every single change I made had me play a little longer, but after about 10 years of WoW, it was time to accept that the game lost its spark for me.

Meanwhile; I heard people talking about Witcher 3; so I started playing it. Now don’t get me wrong, Witcher 3 is not a MMORPG. It isn’t even a multiplayer game. However; the story, atmosphere, music, characters, gameplay, and many other aspects made something possible once again: To lose yourself in the game and forget about the real world for a while.

That was the exact point when I realized what was wrong with WoW nowadays: I can’t take WoW seriously any more. I mean, there are kung-fu pandas running around, and at every bank holiday, you get a similar event in Azeroth – Valentines Day, Christmas, Easter; you name it, they have it. Rather than an alternative world, it slowly turned out to be a cartoony reflection of our world itself. Nevertheless; it is really silly to see a fierce orc warrior carry a bunny-balloon or being followed by a pet. Now how can I ever take this seriously and make myself a part time resident of this world?

Fight mechanics have also gotten worse over the time. Nowadays; you have 5 major buttons to hit, and mostly fight in whack-a-mole style. Generally speaking; even if you assume that magic really exists, lots of things happening in PVP / PVE fights don’t make sense at all.

Quests and achievements have also taken their share of the overall fall. And what about garrisons? If I wanted to play Farmville or Clash of Clans, I would play those games themselves. Not some warcraft-ized decoy. Making NPCs run around & call you “Commander!” at every instance possible isn’t enough to keep things interesting.

No matter which class I play and how I spend my time in the game; my logic often gets in the way and says “Hey! What just happened is so stupid, this is not real!”.

Witcher 3, on the other hand, brought back that long lost feeling of having a brief part-time life in an alternate universe. Apparently, they did everything in their power to ensure this; with great success.

One thing that amazed me is how your dialogs and actions shape how the rest of the game goes. Another instance of their effort is that all characters “speak”. When you are dealing with a quest, all the NPCs actually speak to you, instead of popping up text windows. Imagine the effort behind that. Combat system relies on you knowing the enemy, picking the right tools on that instance, and your reflexes – mindless facerolling won’t get you too far. Those are just a few examples from an overall great game; find out the rest by yourself.

Overall; the storyline, quests, atmosphere, gameplay; everything is consistent – like WoW used to be.

Don’t get me wrong though – WoW is no game to scoff at. It is one of the most successful games ever, fun as hell, and I’m still looking forward for the movie to come out. However, it simply doesn’t make sense any more – over time, it turned into a cartoony earth reflection rather than a fierce combat game involving developing your character.

If I would start playing WoW today, I would probably still play it for a long time and have fun. So if you never played WoW before, don’t let my frustration over 10 years discourage you from trying it. However; if you got tired of WoW (and liked Assassin’s Creed), Witcher 3 definitely deserves a shot.

Diablo 3 Slow on Mac? Here is a Solution Against Low FPS

Stay a while and listen! Like many other users, I have suffered from unplayable FPS on my Mac. Although Blizzard has accepted the problem and promised to publish a patch in the upcoming weeks, they seem to be busy with the recent hack incident. Therefore, I decided to publish a temporary solution.

The trick is to find the D3PREFS.TXT file, which contains some settings which are unavailable in the normal user interface. This file is hidden in /users/[YOUR_USERNAME]/Library/Application Support/Blizzard/Diablo III . Easiest way to access this folder is to open Finder and click Go –> Go To Folder… . There, you can enter /users/[YOUR_USERNAME]/Library and start browsing from there.

What you have to do is to open & edit this file manually. Here are the settings I made to increase my FPS to a playable degree. Some of those settings might also be setup through the user interface, but not all:

  • DisplayModeWindowMode “1”
  • DisplayModeUIOptWidth “800”
  • DisplayModeUIOptHeight “600”
  • DisplayModeWidth “896”
  • DisplayModeHeight “656”
  • DisplayModeRefreshRate “60”
  • DisplayModeBitDepth “32”
  • ShadowQuality “0”
  • PhysicsQuality “0”
  • ClutterQuality “0”
  • Vsync “0”
  • Letterbox “0”
  • Antialiasing “0”
  • LowFX “1”
  • LimitForegroundFPS “1”
  • MaxForegroundFPS “25”
  • LimitBackgroundFPS “1”
  • MaxBackgroundFPS “1”
  • DisableTrilinearFiltering “1”
  • ColorCorrection “0”
  • ReflectionQuality “0”
  • HardwareClass “1”
  • ChannelsToUse “16”
  • ReverseSpeakers “0”

After doing this setup and restarting the game, my FPS increased from 5-10 to around 20, which made the game at least playable.

Alternatively; if you want to play in a readable full-screen mode so that you can read things on the screen, you can try the following configuration enduring a cost of 2-3 FPS:

  • DisplayModeFlags “8”
  • DisplayModeWindowMode “0”
  • DisplayModeWinLeft “552”
  • DisplayModeWinTop “482”
  • DisplayModeWinWidth “800”
  • DisplayModeWinHeight “600”
  • DisplayModeUIOptWidth “832”
  • DisplayModeUIOptHeight “624”
  • DisplayModeWidth “832”
  • DisplayModeHeight “624”
  • DisplayModeRefreshRate “60”
  • DisplayModeBitDepth “32”
  • MipOffset “1”
  • ShadowQuality “0”
  • PhysicsQuality “0”
  • ClutterQuality “0”
  • Vsync “0”
  • Letterbox “0”
  • Antialiasing “0”
  • LowFX “1”
  • LimitForegroundFPS “0”
  • MaxForegroundFPS “27”
  • LimitBackgroundFPS “1”
  • MaxBackgroundFPS “1”
  • DisableTrilinearFiltering “1”
  • ReflectionQuality “0”
  • ChannelsToUse “32”
  • ReverseSpeakers “0”

I have also heard that Bootcamping into Windows made also a difference of 5 FPS, and that playing on the built-in laptop screen (instead of an external display) helps as well. But the solution above was good enough for me while I wait for Blizzard’s official fix.

Here is the totally useless Blizzard post to improve Mac performance; I think they released it to buy some time: http://us.battle.net/support/en/article/diablo-iii-running-slow-or-choppy-mac .

Here are the specs of my Mac:

  •   Model Name: MacBook Pro
  •   Model Identifier: MacBookPro5,4
  •   Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
  •   Processor Speed: 2,53 GHz
  •   Number of Processors: 1
  •   Total Number of Cores: 2
  •   L2 Cache: 3 MB
  •   Memory: 8 GB
  •   Bus Speed: 1,07 GHz
  • Chipset Model: NVIDIA GeForce 9400M
  •   Type: GPU
  •   Bus: PCI
  •   VRAM (Total): 256 MB

Two Neat Priest Macros: One-Click Dispel and PoM Auto-Jump

One-Click Dispel
This macro consolidates your dispels into one single button:
#showtooltip
/focus
/target [modifier:alt] Player
/cast [nomodifier] Dispel Magic
/cast [modifier:alt] Dispel Magic
/cast [modifier:shift] Mass Dispel
/target focus
/clearfocus
  • If you click, it will simply cast Dispel Magic on your current target (friendly or enemy)
  • If you ALT + click, it will cast Dispel Magic on yourself without losing your current target
  • If you SHIFT + click, it will cast Mass Dispel without losing your current target
PoM Auto-Jump

When healing in a dungeon / raid, you are usually focused on a friendly unit. If Prayer of Mending jumps on you meanwhile, you can make it jump to another friendly unit by casting Shadow Word: Death on an enemy unit because you would be taking damage.
This macro will automatize this process. Whenever you see Prayer of Mending on yourself, you can cast this simple macro. It will target the enemy unit your friend is targeting, cast Shadow Word: Death (make damage to yourself and make Prayer of Mending jump) and target your friend again. All in one single click!
#showtooltip
/assist
/cast Shadow Word: Death
/targetlastfriend

Keyboard Automation in World of Warcraft

INTRODUCTION

As most of the WoW players already know, Blizzard provides us tools to develop our own macros. We can use commands like /cast , /castsequence , /castrandom , etc to combine actions into a single command. With a basic knowledge of Lua, it is even possible to extend this functionality with the /script command.

However; Blizzard probably doesn’t want to encourage gamers to write intelligent scripts involving AI. For example, you can’t write a macro to make your character “Cast first spell, wait for 1,5 seconds, cast second spell, wait for 1,5 seconds, cast third spell” with one single keystroke. The only way to do this would be to write a /castsequence command and execute your macro three times. Right?
Well… Not really…
If you are using tools provided by Blizzard, that’s true. However, if you take the red pill and go beyond the reality provided by Blizzard, you can bend or break this limitation. I will show you two alternative ways to do this.
Please note that I am a Mac user. Therefore, the tools and approaches I am going to mention are Mac based. I am sure that Windows users may find similar solutions.
SOLUTION 1: KEYBOARD MAESTRO
There is a software called Keyboard Maestro which can be used for keyboard automation on MacOS. Using this program, you can easily record keyboard macros and run them later.
For example; you can record a keyboard macro like this:
  • Hit CMD + V
  • Wait for 1 second
  • Hit CMD + V
Let’s assume that you recorded this macro; and assigned it to the keyboard shortcut SHIFT + V. Now; as long as Keyboard Maestro is running, whenever you hit SHIFT + V, MacOS will act as if you have hit CMD + V, waited for 1 second, and hit CMD + V again. Copy some text to your clipboard, open your favorite text editor, and hit SHIFT + V. You will see that MacOS will paste your text, wait for 1 second, and re-paste your text again.
Neat, eh? If you google about it, you may find some other keyboard macro applications for the same task. I mentioned Keyboard Maestro only because I tried that one.
Now… How does this help us in World of Warcraft?
Let’s assume that you have set the following keybindings in WoW:
  • Spell 1: CTRL + A
  • Spell 2: CTRL + B
  • Spell 3: CTRL + C
Those keybindings are just examples; you can set any shortcut that makes sense to you. Keybindings can be set under Game Menu -> Key Bindings (doh!). I recommend using alternative actionbars for this purpose; which can be activated through Game Menu -> Interface -> Actionbars (doh!). That way, you save your default actionbar (1, 2, 3, …, 9) for your manual spell rotations.
Let’s also assume that in certain situations, you have to cast these three spells in a row. For example;
  • You are a shaman, and you want to throw three totems in a row with one single key; despite the global cooldown
  • You are a hunter, and you want to cast Wing Clip, Disengage, and Concussive Shot when you come face-to-face with a melee class with one single key; despite the global cooldown
  • You are a priest, and you want to cast PW:F, Divine Spirit and Shadow Protection with one single key; despite the global cooldown
Okay, those may not be the best examples; I’m sure that you can think of better ones. Just bear with me for now.
You simply can’t achieve those with Blizzard’s standard macro tools because of the global cooldown problem. But if you have Keyboard Maestro, you can =)
Here is what you need to do:
  • The shaman will do the following keybindings: CTRL + A = Totem 1 ; CTRL + B = Totem 2 ; CTRL + C = Totem 3
  • The hunter will do the following keybindings: CTRL + A = Wing Clip ; CTRL + B = Disengage ; CTRL + C = Concussive Shot
  • The priest will do the following keybindings: CTRL + A = PW:F; CTRL + B = Divine Spirit; CTRL + C = Shadow Protection
You got the idea… Now; within Keyboard Maestro, record a new keyboard macro which will take the following steps:
  • Hit CTRL + A
  • Pause for 1,5 seconds
  • Hit CTRL + B
  • Pause for 1,5 seconds
  • Hit CTRL + C
Do this; and assign the key SHIFT + 1 to this keyboard macro (or any other shortcut that makes sense to you) within Keyboard Maestro. Now; during your World of Warcraft adventures, whenever you hit Shift + 1, three spells that you assigned to CTRL + A, CTRL + B and CTRL + C will be cast in a row with a pause of 1,5 seconds inbetween. Meaning that;
  • When the shaman hits SHIFT + 1, his system will automatically hit CTRL + A (resulting in casting Totem 1), wait for 1,5 seconds (global cooldown), hit CTRL + B (resulting in casting Totem 2), wait for 1,5 seconds (global cooldown), and hit CTRL + C (resulting in casting Totem 3).
  • When the hunter hits SHIFT + 1, his system will automatically hit CTRL + A (resulting in casting Wing Clip), wait for 1,5 seconds (global cooldown), hit CTRL + B (resulting in casting Divine Spirit), wait for 1,5 seconds (global cooldown), and hit CTRL + C (resulting in casting Concussive Shot).
  • When the priest hits SHIFT + 1, his system will automatically hit CTRL + A (resulting in casting PW:S), wait for 1,5 seconds (global cooldown), hit CTRL + B (resulting in casting Disengage), wait for 1,5 seconds (global cooldown), and hit CTRL + C (resulting in casting Shadow Protection).
Neat, eh?
Here are some important points to consider:
  • If you are playing WoW in full screen, Keyboard Maestro won’t be allowed to interfere with the application; and your keyboard macro SHIFT + 1 won’t work. That’s because of a limitation of MacOS to prevent OS-wide shortcuts to interfere with the shortcuts of the full-screen application (I think). As a workaround to this problem, go to Game Menu -> Video, and make sure that the options Windowed Mode and Maximized are checked. This will still make WoW appear full screen, but it will make your MacOS to consider WoW as a windowed application. Therefore, Keyboard Maestro macros will be able to access your WoW shortcuts, and your keyboard macros (SHIFT + 1) will work. You may find that other OS shortcuts, such as CMD + TAB, will also work.
  • The examples above were given with the assumption that your global cooldown is 1,5 seconds. If your global cooldown is less due to talents, haste rating, etc, you can decrease it. If you have lag problems and the time between your spells need to be a bit longer than the “official” global cooldown, you can increase it.
SOLUTION 2: AppleScript
Solution 1 was for people with no programming experience. If you got the idea above, and you prefer coding over recording macros or hate extra third party applications, you can code the same macro (CTRL + A, Pause, CTRL + B, Pause, CTRL + C) in AppleScript as well.
Although I am a software developer, I am by no means an AppleScript expert. But, your AppleScript is supposed to look something like this:

tell application “World of Warcraft”

activate

end tell

tell application “System Events”

key code 0usingcontrol down

delay 1.5

key code 45 usingcontrol down

delay

key code 34 usingcontrol down

end tell

To enable AppleScript interact with World of Warcraft, you need to consider the points mentioned in Solution 1 (full screen mode and global cooldown). You also need to “Enable access for assistive devices” in your Mac’s System Preferences -> Universal Access menu.
A list of (most) key codes usable in AppleScript can be found here.
To start this macro with a shortcut, you need a third party application, such as Quicksilver. Here is a great step-by-step tutorial on assigning shortcuts to AppleScripts using Quicksilver.
SOLUTION 3: Additional Hardware
If you are looking for a simple, intuitive, plug-n-play automation with no rocket science involved; you might consider purchasing additional gaming hardware. I personally tried the gaming mouses of Razer and was very satisfied, but there are other brands as well. You basically get a mouse with additional buttons, which may be customized as single or consecutive keyboard shortcuts (macros). Simple, effective and no hassle!
Conclusion
I hope that this post gave you some initial inspiration for World of Warcraft keyboard automation. I’m sure that some of you can extend this idea and move it to further dimensions.
Stay away from’da Voodoo!

I Have Quit World of Warcraft

I have quit WOW. I am not a World of Warcraft player any more. If you don’t know what World of Warcraft is, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_of_Warcraft for starters.

Before I move further, let me give you some information about myself. I am a well educated person with a nice career, and a decent social life. I am a software engineer, and a semi-pro musician as well. I have a girlfriend too.

Therefore; I provide a live evidence to negate the argument “World of Warcraft players have no life”. Even if you do have a life, you may become a player – and get addicted as well. Have I ever been addicted? I wouldn’t say that, I was more of a casual player. I never had enough time to spend on the game anyway. However; in the past three years of my WoW life, I seem to be able to spend enough time to make three epic Level 80 characters. This means; I have spent a serious amount of my free time playing World of Warcraft. The fact that the time was dispersed over the years doesn’t change the fact that it was spent.

Before you start judging me about spending time on some video game, consider how much time you spend watching TV, reading useless newspaper columns, chatting about insignificant subjects, or similiar stuff. Video games are yet another way of killing time passively. The time spent there is actually a precious time out of my real life. However; was the time spent for something good? Or was it just wasted for nothing?

Well, that’s a good question with no correct answer. WoW can teach and provide beautiful things, but it has a dark side as well. I guess that the same applies to many online games; but in our case, I’m focusing on WoW.

One of the things you can learn from WoW is to appreciate diversity and teamwork. WoW gives each player the chance to select a different class, and different players need to work together to achieve greater goals. This is a nice example of the fact that different people may have different roles in life. Supporting the same idea; WoW also gives players the chance of being members of guilds – which could roughly correspond to sports teams or corporate companies in real life. Having a different class and race, each member of the the guild contribute in a unique way to achieve greater goals. Sounds simple, but may teach young people a lesson or two while entertaining them.

The balance between different classes of WoW is usually a topic of great discussions. Ask every single player, and he/she will tell you that one of the other classes within WoW is overpowered. But the fact that there is a balance of rock – scissors – paper in WoW is widely accepted. This means; every class can kill some other class very easily, and get killed by another class very easily as well. This approach keeps the game interesting and may teach young people that the weakness in one situation may turn into a strength in another. Losing in some scenarions doesn’t necessarily mean being incompetent in general.

The distinction between specialization and generalization is another aspect of the game. Many characters may be specialized through talents and gear to specialize and become the best in one role (healing, tanking, damage dealing, etc); or they can become hybrids and fulfill multiple roles at the cost of not being as good as specialists in the roles they may take. However, to be accepted to teams aiming at the high end contents of the game, you usually need to become a specialist and focus on one aspect. Hybrids are generally support classes or play more casually. This also corresponds to the fact that high end teams (like bands, companies, sports teams, etc) aiming at the best achievements in real life would be looking for the best people out there – which usually are specialists. If you divide your time into multiple professions, you probably won’t be as successful as someone who focuses on one single profession within the same time span – ceteris paribus.

I’m sure that I can find one more real life lesson or two if I think hard enough. However; I believe that you got the general idea. Now, let’s move on to the dark side of WoW.

First, I want to crunch some numbers. As of 2008, WoW has more than 10.000.000 subscribers worldwide. Each subscriber needs to pay a monthly fee of 14.95$; which corresponds to a shiny minimum income of 149.500.000$ right into the pocket of Blizzard every month. Yeah, this is huge. And income from initial game purchases, toys, merchandise, additional virtual services, etc is not calculated at all. To keep the cash flow running, Blizzard must keep the game interesting and the players addicted. This is something Blizzard was able to sustain since the very early times of WoW. They buff classes over others, invent new mounts, provide additional challenges, ruin the epic Warcraft lore, destroy former homelands – they do whatever it takes to keep people connected to the game. Let’s inspect some sample elements of Blizzard’s way of keeping people pay the monthly fee.

First of all, WoW has a “Carrot on stick” approach. When you start to play with a character for the first time (level 1), you have simple tasks to achieve. But since your character is weak and you don’t know your character very well, your tasks give you (as human) a moderate challenge. As you advance in levels, your character grows strong and you know your character better. Therefore, harder tasks in higher levels give you (as human) the same moderate challange. You make bigger damage, you kill larger monsters, you overcome more complicated difficulties – however, they give you (as human) the same moderate challenge. You strive for better gear and better stats in hope of having an overpowered character. However; no matter how strong you get, former tasks will be too easy for you and new tasks will be a little too challenging – pushing you to strive for even better gear and stats. This is a never ending loop, keeping ever unsatisfied players online and turning them into loyal debitors.

WoW is full of time sinks as well. Taxis (flying mounts) are slow, arenas and battlegrounds have long preparation times, characters run very slowly without mounts. Facing such time sinks, players end up spending more time in the game without playing – which means, paying more on the long run. Blizzard provided WoW players some tools to (apparently) help players minimize the effects of some sinks. You can get your mount earlier for faster movement, and some heirloom items provide you more experience for faster level progression. However, this is also part of a larger strategy. The path to the max level (80) is too long now. Without having such time savers, a player wouldn’t consider rolling a new character; and without having alternative characters, players would get bored of the game sooner or later. Therefore; the time savers are actually money makers as well.

Another element of the dark side of WoW is; it consumes time which should supposedly be spent on real life. Of course; we are humans and we need our free time to break away from the daily life sometimes. We go to the movies, watch TV, play football, have chat, read books, etc. There is no reason why WoW shouldn’t be another subject of entertainment. However; it is so addictive (even for adults) that it can easily become preferred over other real life elements – school, friends, hobbies, even spouses and families. How do I know that? I witnessed it, believe it or not.

Spending real life money on WoW is also another issue. Virtual WoW goods and services are sold by third party companies. Although Blizzard announces from time to time that trading virtual goods (like gold) and services (like power leveling) is against the game policy, people keep spending hard earned cash on virtual junk. Which is, obviously, not the best economic decision ever.

The last (but not least) point I’m going to mention is the mental and emotional masturbation that WoW provides. Yes, “masturbation” – did that word offend you? Yeah right, as if you never did it. Anyway… According to the famous APA motivation theory, people have three motivational incentives: Achievement, Power and Affiliation. Following that theory, WoW virtually provides all of those elements in a relatively easy way. In terms of achievement; all you need to do is to push some buttons in the correct order and you can kill a very large monster – for which you can fool yourself about having a great achievement. Isn’t that mental masturbation? In terms of power, all you need to do is to play the game long enough and you will get great stats and gear to kill other players or monsters more easily – for which you can fool yourself about being very strong. Isn’t that mental masturbation? In terms of affiliation, all you need to do is to join a guild, lead some raids and spam the trade channel or something – you will eventually have some virtual people who have never seen or met you before, but think that you are cool – for which you can fool yourself about being a cool person. Isn’t that mental masturbation? You know that it is, and it may lead you to a point where you prefer WoW over real life for APA which you maybe never experienced in real life at all. But the truth is, which you also know deep down inside, achievements in WoW doesn’t really mean that you have achieved something important at all.

At later stages, your character may even give you a false identity. If you find yourself running around in real life fooling yourself that you are a paladin or warlock, you may have a slight problem in your psychological balance.

In summary, WoW can be a source of great entertainment to have a blast with (preferably real life) friends, and teach young people a thing or two. But it also has a dark side – it may become addictive very easily, and start to do intangible harm.

So what’s it going to be? Should we praise WoW, or mark it as a tool of the devil? The answer is very subjective and personal. However; since alcohol can also be fun but addictive and dangerous at the same time, I would like to share a Surah of the holy Quraan about alcohol as my conclusion:

“They ask Thee concerning Wine and Gambling, Say: In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.” (Surah Al-Baqarah:219)