Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Testing the Robot

Or The post in which I do not make dirty jokes about robots...

A couple weeks ago raiders at Eff were asked to submit their upgrade list to assist with raid scheduling. This was an interesting exercise for me... Of course, I have gear lists. But the lists I usually make are lists of all possible upgrades. So for glove upgrades I had Grips of the Failed Immortals, Hands of the Twilight Council, Flamebloom Gloves, and Shadowflame Handwraps.

I needed a way to narrow down the list of not just gloves, but all of my pieces to just one upgrade for each. Well, the message included this:

"Use Ask Mr Robot if you want to figure it out fast and loose."

Huh. I've heard of Mr. Robot before, but I've never used it. What's this Robot all about anyway?

Turns out, he's about OPTIMIZATION. One of my favorite topics as a computer scientist. My favorite feature, let me show it to you:

It will generate a Best-In-Slot list for any level of gear (level 85 and up) that you're looking at. Until just two weeks ago, that would have been Pre-Raid for me. I ran the crap out of the trolls dungeons until they gave up significant 353 caster cloth. Except for the very first night, these went smoothly enough. It helps to have people along who have done them as raids.


Plz can haz Karazhan 5-man?



The other options are pretty neat too. I usually tell it to ignore expensive enchants, because... y'know, I'm not rolling in Maelstrom Crystals.

Actually, I tell it to ignore most other things except the Darkmoon Cards. I might see if I can put a Volcano Deck together. Not that I'm in need of gold sinks or anything. I am in need of better trinkets.

According to Mr. Robot, I am in need of a lot of things. My optimize screen is a study in failed (according to Mr. Robot) reforging and enchanting.

I was rather put out by this. Suboptimal? Le angst! I mean, I followed all the appropriate rules of reforging for warlocks. Maybe not the enchanting so much... I generally just use what's available at the time. Still! I'm totally awesome! ...right?

Well... no.

My dps is not what it could be. So let's see if this Mr. Robot guy can help me out.

The Setup

The only buffs that I tested with are the ones that I can provide myself. Also left out: Flask of the Draconic Mind and Severed Sagefish Head.

The Control

See below, to the best of my ability, my standing dps at its maximum. Just me and my imp against the world.

My dps epeen, is it big enough? I'm afraid its not big enough.

The Test

This section is not worthy of a screenshot. You don't need to see me hanging out with the Reforging guy or mindlessly rearranging the enchanting mats I've been hoarding since before the server transfer. Promise.

The Results

After blindly following the mandates of Mr. Robot:

Some Conclusions

Ok, so 700 points of dps increase is not the epic conclusion I had hoped for. Regardless, it is an improvement. For a few seconds, I was definitely afraid I wouldn't see any improvement at all - or worse, a decrease in dps.

It also wasn't the easy fix I could have hoped for. I'll need to research other avenues to determine why my dps isn't meeting my own, possibly delusional standards.

One thing I totally loved though? Thanks to Mr. Robot I'm no longer over the hit cap. I'm a smidgen under it, actually. So close to the hit-cap I can not only taste it - I could have it for breakfast if I wanted to. All with the advantage of no wasted stat points.

Further Research?

The only point of contention I might have is the call for a wrath enchant. I can't wrap my brain around 28 spellpower trumping 50 haste. I mean, I love haste.

Despite the fact that I know haste balancing is kind of delicate with plateaus that must be observed, its difficult for me to accept that sometimes less haste is the way to go. When the numbers back it up, though, I have to concede.


The final step, of course, is seeing if I can bring this improvement to life in a raid situation. Until I can do that, there's no saying for sure whether this wasn't just a (highly entertaining) waste of time.

I think Mr. Robot has done all right by my warlock. I look forward to further testing.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Raiding Bicycles

Or The post in which I search for normalcy.

So, since the last set of posts clearly did not do its job of restarting a normal blogging schedule, here is my next attempt. Some background information will be necessary as a lot has changed since The Elephant.

In the real life arena, Sen and I succeeded at house buying. Last weekend we moved most of our large furniture. And got the internet set up. That was super important. The cats love being in the new house where they can run around and look out a bunch of windows and just generally aren't cooped up in one room. Troy has taken a liking to sitting on my desk - usually in front of my computer screen. And as he's the fluffier of the two, he takes up the entire screen and I can't see anything.

I see this causing problems in future raids.

Speaking of raids, I was actually able to get my warlock "raid-ready". With the end of the spring semester came two weeks of not having to go to campus in order to get my work done - in turn leading to excessive hours spent in Azeroth.

The summer semester starts on Monday, so my time will start being limited again.

So, it's a good thing I joined a guild that has a relatively relaxed attendance policy.

That's right. I joined a new guild.

No, it's not Soulfire like I thought it might be. Which is a good thing, but that's a whole other story.

I not only left Memento, I left Hydraxis altogether.

It was, to me, kind of a big freaking deal. I've server-changed only one other time - and that was to leave a PVP server that I hated with a fiery passion. As fail as Hydraxis tended to be in the raiding department, I would never have left if it wasn't for a simple event hosted by Alas at Eff the Ineffable.

The Fishoree - as it went on my calendar - was a blast. I checked with Alas for what kind of classes the Eff team might need for raiding. I transferred my warlock a week later after making sure Takk, Mord, and Ann were all well aware of my intentions.

You see, Eff is an officer-less guild. You may remember from The Elephant what we were trying to make Memento before it fell apart. No officers - no Council - decisions made by the guild as a whole. Of course I was drawn to Eff like a moth to flame. It's everything I wanted Memento to become.

I've been trying to get back to a regular raid schedule with Eff. Takk made the transfer as well, so I have the best of both worlds - familiar faces and new friends.

So... the point of this post: raiding is not like riding a bicycle.

Once you've mastered the bicycle it essentially never changes. It's always two wheels connected in-line with a seat and some handlebars. Sometimes the front wheel is bigger, sometimes the back wheel is bigger, sometimes the tires are thicker, or the seat is different - whatever, you can still ride it. Because its a bicycle and your body remembers what to do with it.

Such is not the case with raiding. At least not for me.

Its true that the overall mechanics haven't changed - stand in good, stay out of bad, dps the bad guy at appropriate times - my body just does not remember what to do with them.

Without constant practice, you start to lose both the reaction time and the muscle memory associated with a raid situation. You know that when an angry yellow circle appears under your group it's time to gtfo - but it takes an extra second to reach for your movement controls and actually start to gtfo.

Furthermore, a warlock has several methods for moving and continuing to do damage. From the perspective of a Destruction Warlock, I have Conflagrate, Fel Flame, Corruption, and Bane of Doom. It doesn't make for the best dps, but it's better than nothing. But it only works if your brain processes fast enough to use these spells OR if your muscle memory is so good (or has had enough practice - repetition is the key to all things memory related) that you reach automatically for the movement spells while moving.

At the moment neither of these applies to me.

To an extent, the repetition necessary to achieve an appropriate level of muscle memory and reaction time can be fabricated. That's why they added training dummies, after all. They're good for more than just mastering your standing rotation - though they are excellent for that. You can also use them to judge your burst moments - if you unload everything at one time how much damage can you actually do? You can use them to judge your white damage, your dot damage, your moving damage. I'm sure other classes have discovered other uses for them as well.

Of course, to judge your moving damage on a training dummy YOU have to be the one doing all the moving. To face off against a moving target, I recommend Glop, Son of Glop. You have chase after Glop in order to be in range to do moving damage and you need to move continually while Glop is standing still in order to avoid mushroom damage. The only thing its lacking is puddles of good to stand in.

Still, nothing quite compares to a true raid environment. Eff farms on Tuesday nights and Progresses on Friday and Saturday. While it's been a great deal of fun, I don't think I've been able to show my best stuff. Frankly, I'm out of shape. So here's to hoping it won't be too long before I feel comfortable again in the raiding environment.

Raiding is not like riding a bicycle. But it's worth the effort.