Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maximum System Requirements

So after doing a little searching around after having wow crash on me in Dalaran repeatedly since the patch I found that Blizzard is aware of the issue and working toward a fix. I also found out that the issue has been reported for at least a year and a half and 3.3.5 was just the straw that broke the camels back.

Apparently support for 64 bit operating systems hasn't been a priority for testing and users who have reported issues have been getting the update your video driver and disable your add-ons run-around for months. Since it was such a small percentage of the player base it makes sense that it didn't get much attention, but it still looks bad for Blizzard now that 64 bit systems have become more or less the norm for new computers.

So we have a slow memory leak affecting some systems which causes intermittent crashes. I noticed this myself when I upgraded my machine, but I disregarded it as being related to my choice of running with two video cards in an SLI configuration. I ran with shaders off for quite a while as they caused outdoor areas to flash like someone was turning the light on and off, but that was fixed with the release of wrath.

Out comes 3.3.5 which exacerbates this preexisting issue by turning a small memory leak into a large one. Now pretty much everyone running wow at max settings on newer hardware is experiencing regular crashes at least in computationally expensive places like Dalaran.

Blizzard's solution while they work on returning the problem to its 3.3.3 state is to reduce graphics settings. Note they did not say they would fix it, only make it work as well as it did previously. That's good enough for me I suppose, a little annoying, but good to know I wasn't doing something horribly wrong.

My guess is that stable support for todays newer hardware won't be flushed out until Cataclysm at the earliest and by that point there will be even newer stuff out there. Warcraft is rather unique in that is runs on such a wide range of systems and can be played on fairly ancient computers by todays standards with minimal impact on playability.

The take away from all of this is something most people who buy, upgrade or even build computers for themselves have known and kept in mind for years, don't overspend. The 100 rule comes to mind, you should never spend more than 100 dollars on any one computer component, including those fancy graphics cards despite how manufacturers would have you believe otherwise. I know I've broken this rule when I built my own machine, but only just barely and I still think SLI is cool. :)

Software companies aren't developing for or catering to excessive hardware as Blizzard has demonstrated, they might not even be considering it or even testing for it. Not to mention a piece of fancy hardware that costs two or three times as much will not last you two or three times as long. In the long run it is more cost-effective to buy older cheaper technology and then replace it when needed. That could be a very long time so far as warcraft is concerned seeing as system requirements have only gone up a little for wrath in six years.

Even then consider that I was up until shortly before the release of Wrath running wow on a dell manufactured in 93' a whole 7 years before warcraft. I did have to replace the video card and even then I was having issues in 25 man raids when AOEs started flying around, but everything else was completely playable at a decent frame rate and quality. Hardware has far surpassed current software needs and left us all spoiled.

4pT10 Enrage is Liberating

I finally got the rest of the frost badges together for my fourth tier 10 piece thanks in part to the holiday boss rewarding two each day. I ran around to gem and enchant it right before going to tank for my guild's weekly raid.

It was better than I had even imagined. No more did I have to worry about timing my enrage with the readiness of the raid for maximum rage at the time of the pull. Enrage was always a little weird in the sense that you want it for the start of a pull, but you don't want to take additional damage, especially at the start of a pull when healers are getting into place and hots haven't been stacked up yet.

With the set bonus enrage is actually another defensive cooldown with a 12% damage reduction instead of an armor reduction. So you can enrage as you pull, have plenty of rage to get some decent snap aggro and at the same time take less damage while healers get situated. As an added bonus I have a talent point in King of the Jungle since I run with a hybrid tanking/DPS spec. That provides me with an extra 5% damage while enrage is active and helps even more with getting a good lead on aggro from the start.

In the middle of the fight the rage or aggro aren't usually an issue so it becomes a lesser barkskin cooldown to reduce incoming damage. There are fights where it helps more though like Bronjahm in Forge of Souls. In phase 2 he doesn't hit very much and rage goes to near zero pretty quick, popping enrage allowed me to put out a lot more damage than I would otherwise been able too without taking additional damage.

Speaking of Forge of Souls I ran that after my raid as you might have guessed, and guess what dropped off the last boss! The Needle-Encrusted Scorpion, of course. I can't even remember how long I've been trying, but I've lost the roll at least 5 times and some days I even got lucky and ran it twice, once queued specifically for it and again after as a random heroic.

I must say I earned it that time, healer went down in the beam (which happens quite often) and I took the opportunity to battle rez. I don't think they expected it as they didn't accept right away and I had to resume tanking before I could top them off with an innervate. Blew a couple cooldowns to mitigate the Phantom Blasts in the meantime, if only I could lower the cooldown of bash further or convince PUG DPS to interrupt. Boss went down and I won the trinket, yay. The 22 slot bag dropped that same run, but I didn't win it, I'll just equip the crafted 22 slot bag I made on my rogue as a contingency plan since as I suspected I don't want to run through that instance again for quite a while.