Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Garrison Growth

I've reached level 2 with my garrison, and would like to start growing my professions buildings (alchemy, herbalism). I've also realized that the Tailoring hut probably won't benefit me any and should be replaced. I want to start a salvage yard.

Here is the research materials I found:

  1. Ask Mr Robot has compiled a great list of each garrison resource.  Based on their suggestion, I am going to start an enchanting hut for my third small plot. This will allow me to DE all my drops, instead of just vendoring them.
  2. WoWJuJu has compiled a great list for garrison followers. From here, I found out that the blueprint vendor is in my garrison and he sells them for around 1000g. I was looking at the vendor in Ashran and thought he was the only one. In addition, you can only assign a follower to a level 2 building. 
  3. WoWHead breaks down when and where blueprints come available. Through this I realized that I am probably about to get the plans for all my small plots soon as I think I am about done in Talador, maybe, ah who knows. As an alchemist, I'd really like to upgrade my farm. For dungeon/raiding, I'd really like a level 2 salvage yard. 
Blizzard, I hope you realize, this better move with me.. I am spending a lot more time and resources than I imagined on this place. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

In Response to Blizzard's Release Day Issues

Blizzard has been taking a beating over this recent launch. Clients worldwide are getting hit with long queue times, slow response from the game servers and even disconnected randomly. As an Information Technology professional for 15+ years, I can totally sympathize with them.

I work for a large public sector agency on a team responsible for supporting email services for close to 100,000 employees. I am responsible for the design, deployment and day-to-day operation of the computers hosting the email services. For comparison purposes, I would suspect that I am responsible for approximately 3 medium-pop realms worth of users on WoW. This is my attempt at explaining a technical environment and it's issue in as user-friendly of terms as possible.

Design: If I were to design a 'realm', I would want to mirror what we do with our email environment. It meets the needs of a high-demand environment, where the clients are using a fat client to connect and requires pretty much 24x7 access.

First off there would be resiliency. This means multiple computers that are supporting active clients

and exact-copy (passive) servers that are simply waiting for something to go wrong with the first (active) set. This allows my team to do minor repairs on the 'passive' servers while clients are actively working. This "cluster" of active & passive computers work together sharing information for that inevitable moment when everything goes haywire. As my population grows and shrinks, you can add/remove members to a cluster or you can spawn new clusters (i.e. add new realms).

Second would be security. Imagine your current residence (home, apartment, condo, etc.). Would you rather have all of your stuff simply out in the open, laying out on the lawn? Or would you want some walls, a door, locks and maybe even a high-end security system protecting your valuables? Our accounts, our characters and the entire virtual world are our valuables. Protecting that realm would involve perimeter security surrounding the entire server cluster, possibly around all clusters (i.e. region of US, EU, etc.). There would be a single point of entrance into this area for all connections to the cluster. I would likely place a high-end security device that could monitor the traffic going in, and turn away bad traffic. It's easy to manage. I won't need a millions of Internet connections (or IP addresses)

The alternative is placing each and every server directly on the Internet (i.e. out on the lawn). Doing this would open up each and every server to all sorts of malware, hacks and malicious intent. We would see a LOT more issues if this configuration was used. Anyone driving by our property could simply come by our 'place' and pickup something of value.

Day-to-Day: Blizzard grew to over 11 million players, then shrunk back down to 7 million.
This left Blizzard in a lurch with their investors as the cost of maintaining 100+ realms, but not the subscriptions to support a cluster of 6-10 high-end servers, and back-end infrastructure (backups, power, data center floor space, etc.. ). These costs don't go down. In order to reduce costs, Blizzard had to decrease their footprint on that data center floor. This is why Malfurion and Trollbane joined forces. Malfurion had shrunk, so we were migrated to Trollbane's clusters. We kept our realm info, but we've all been consolidated onto Trollbane's hardware. The beauty is lower cost of ownership on the equipment, same level of user satisfaction (in fact no to low pop servers come back to life!) and Blizzard doesn't have to raise subscription costs! The drawback would be if everyone logged in at the same time, there possibly won't be enough processing power to support the entire user base at once.

Diagnosis: There are two things I think went on. Based on the twitter feeds of several individuals, I don't think I am far off.

First off, the DDOS attack was focused on the front door of the datacenter. That front door was absolutely bombarded with millions of connections coming from both legitimate and illegitimate connections. Imagine a huge line of door-to-door salesmen ringing your doorbell at the same time your guests are arriving for a GIGANTIC party. The bouncer at the door needs to check with each person and see why they're there. We still got into the party, but the line was out the door, around the block a few times and then into the surrounding neighborhood. Even if 1:1000 people were these annoying salesmen, the bouncer is going to have a lot of extra work to do when there are several million people coming to your party. You have people scan the crowd for people carrying briefcases, or wearing suits. You ask them what the party is for and or ask questions about the host. It all takes time at that gate. Unfortunately, most of the time you simply have to ride it out.

Now, realize that these "salesmen" are not the only people hammering on the front door. The attacks could also be you and me. (wait... keep reading) At my RL job, we've had legitimate users, too chatty with our environment and take down servers. For example, Apple regularly releases a new iPhone OS and many people immediately update their devices. These updates are not always well tuned for our email servers and may require us to patch them or Apple may have a bug that needs fixed. Every once in awhile, their phone finds a corrupted calendar entry and asks 100,000 (an hour) for an update to that entry. This chattiness prevents anyone else from pulling their calendar updates. Now, with each major expansion, Blizzard often changes access interfaces on the game. These changes break add-ons. Add-ons that people come to love and rely on. Add-ons that they'll run even if outdated warning comes up. To stop the traffic, we end up blocking this user's access to their email until they fix their phone. Blizzard cannot do this for 1 million customers (easily).

Secondly, over commitment. I think Blizzard was a bit surprised in the number of concurrent users.
Now that the clusters had been shrunk to avoid additional costs, when our sudden flash mob hit the door, many of us overwhelmed the capacity. Blizzard had to put population quotas on the servers on the highest pop realms until they could add back capacity. ((This likely cost them a bunch of $$ to grab servers that quickly "here take my credit card and go buy whatever you need!!")). Like the Gym after New Years, aka "New Years Resolute-rs", the spike in traffic was there release day, then will slowly taper off. Me taking vacation time on Thursday and Friday, threw off the predicted connection patterns that they designed for. Sorry. My fault. I don't think I'll be taking the next expac release day off.

Going forward: Blizzard has gotten over the hump. The erratic release-week traffic has died down; I am back at the office now. We are already starting to see max-level 100s on the realms; saw 2 last night. Blizzard plays their cards right, we'll continue to see old players come-back to the game for about a year. After that, I would anticipate drop off of subscriptions if another expansion doesn't drop. They just need to make sure realm-performance maintains.

Thanks for the time Blizzard,


Friday, November 14, 2014

My First Day in WoD

This is my first day in Draenor via screen shots. My server is Malfurion-US (CST or GMT-6) I live in California (PST GMT-8) 

9am I log-on to the server and start questing. Immediately feel the urgency of the game. Leveling going great. The flow of the starting area, the cut-scenes, it's a lot of fun. Feels like the Jones series in Uldum of Wrath.  

I reach the first boss (this might not be him), and have to laugh as the names flash across the screen.
It reminds me of the silly splash screens that Borderlands is famous for, like... 

9:38am, I find my first profession, herbalism, book. Opening this book, teaches me several of the basics. Nice way to learn the next level of a profession, by doing it. 

After one such plant picking, I am attacked by a flower buddy. He's a little loot monster for the plant. Killing him nets 8x of the same plant. Very nice!

 Then the lag starts. I spot little things like this peon who's sleep walking. He proceeds to sleep himself up the ramp and out the front gate of my garrison.

Got into the same dungeon 2 times. First time I barely kept up with the tank. He basically took the entire dungeon at a full run. If you looted the bodies, you were left behind. 
I liked the mechanics in this dungeon. The void area silenced you. No damage, but as a caster, I couldn't do anything. 
By 1PM, the lag was terrible. Here I am at the taxi stand waiting to dismount. Eventually I just had to exit the game the hard way (close the program). 
After about 5 minutes at the taxi stand, I bounced up into the air, where I found someone else stuck on the taxi. We could chat, we could emote, could even turn the taxi around, but couldn't dismount.

 Logged on after 10PM local and started working again on leveling up. In searching for a rare, Primalist Mur'og, I found this path with ogre path markers. Gotta love that ogre logic. Top image is at hideout, bottom is at entrance.

Accomplishments so far. 

  • Level 92
  • Garrison level 2 (great Garrison Guide by AskMrRobot)
    • Alchemy Lab - started first work orders. Now what can I do with these mats?? Not sure yet. Bought all the recipes that he had to sell for gold and the +int recipe for one research.
    • Tailoring - did first work order now need to gather mats to work on 545 head piece.
    • Tavern - two dailies that actually need me to go back into dungeons. Hour plus wait last night so maybe today after patched.. 
    • Mine is open. Need to find starting quests for farm and fishing pond.
  • Almost done questing in starting area, Frostfire Ridge. Wow that place is HUGE. I still haven't completed some quests in the upper north.

IMHO, the expansion day one went well. I can't remember a day one in the past that didn't have at least some lag on the very first day. They're working on something right now, so very possibly this will be resolved. Wowhead is reporting it was a distributed denial of service attack?? Or is that just techno-talk for Wow a lot of people from all over are all trying to logon!?! 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Alliance Druid Update

My Alliance druid is still working hard to reach level 90 before the expansion drops. The last few days played (real time elapsed since 6.0.2 dropped), Esha-Alliance has been questing and running Wrath dungeons. The questing has been interesting because of the difference between Alliance and Horde. Little nuance differences like their purpose for coming to Dragonblight. Save the humans, vs experiment on the humans!

As of yesterday, I've dropped carrying the iLevel 40 off-hand and decided to just carry a bouquet of flowers. The stein provided only a few stam, then int and spirit. The flowers. set off the ninja costume nicely against the main-hand weapon. Yes, it's silly, but so was equipping a weapon that was from the starting area of Vanilla. Ok, I really should have gotten the two-handed weapon for tanking! I know now!

DMF is almost over, but I've tried to maintain the Whee buff for the dungeons. I really should purchase a few of the DMF hats for when I pull more than the healer can keep up with. I am trying to learn all my damage mitigation techniques, and hopefully it helps. Trying to be less of a button masher, but druid tanking (so far) doesn't seem to be anything but that.

With all that's going on at home, aka IRL, I doubt I'll make it all the way to 90 before Wednesday. She seems too close to 90 to pay $60 for a boost to 90 at this time. I do see the value though. Leveling all the way to 90, vs, 60 with a boost, or even boosting from 0, I could have been running rated BGs, or raids with my co-workers a lot longer. Maybe even made some inroads into the legendary cloak before the 6.0 patch landed. My current target is 88. See 12 more levels and she should be able to start questing in new Draenor.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

While I am away...

Elkagorasa wakes up stiff and sore. He did not sleep well again. He dreamt he fought Garrosh yet again. This time the team that came with him different, but the fight came out the same. Garrosh is imprisoned for his deeds. Only later to escape with the help of that insidious Kairoz of the bronze dragon flight.

He looks around his bunk in the Inn, finding all his familiar items, he sighs with relief, he can rest today. Nothing planned all morning. Sitting up he spots his well worn robes and the weapons that seem to be twitching for a fight. Outside the doorway, he can see the goblins, Branzlit and Perixa, crossing the courtyard to open the Bank. They appear to be bickering about some transaction or another in their own Goblin way. This causes Elk to chuckle to himself.

Hopping down from his bunk, he lands on the plank floor with a soft thunk. Strides over to the basin, wash his face, then pull on his light slippers, and finally grabbing a turkey leg from Gryshka. Out for a quick run. Out the front gate, down the Razor Hill, following the road towards the Crossroads, cross the river and turn north at Far Watch Post, follow the road then trail until reaching Talrendis Point. Finally pass through the back entrance of Orgrimmar, run down passed the war machines, passed the constant the brawler's guild, and jump off the dock, diving into the pond. Ahhh.. Despite his hulking orc body, he swims smoothly across.
Elk loves that run, as it passes through places that have become his fondest memories of home. Even after Deathwing's destruction, the Barrens have survived and managed to adapt. All of the new plant growth bringing new life to the former dry. The plants, the animals, the scenery, the smells, all bring bright memories while off adventuring in foreign lands.
Dripping wet from his swim, Elkagorasa saunters through the tunnel from the pond towards the Drag. Wisps of smoke come up from the dark magics performed down there, burning his nostrils. This brings a giddy skip to his step and he picks up his pace, walking faster along the path back to the Valley of Strength. Upon reaching the Inn, he grabs his gear and dresses. Uses the restroom. Then picking up his backpack with the hidden gold coin pocket and slipping it over his shoulder, he heads out to the taxi stand.

"One to Camp Ataya" and off the griffon flies towards Feralas. Much to his surprise, the wind rider knows exactly where to go and starts heading off over the city. Soon he is soaring over the Azshara and the spectacle of the goblins. Below he can see numerous orc and troll joy riders on the rocket sleds going between the multiple stops. Off in the distance, the monolith of Gallywix, forever a reminder of the race's ostentatious nature. While on the taxi, the rhythmic beating of the wings puts Elk in a calm, almost meditative state. He often starts to think about various things in his life. How much longer would he do this? Why does he continue fighting the evil? What rewards are there for him?

The rest of the ride into Feralas is uneventful. He lands at the camp and wind rider runs over to Tono. They nod to each other in respect, but do not speak to each other. On the outskirts of the camp, Elkagorasa opens his mount journal and summons a flying mount. Lately his favorite mount is his disc of the red flying cloud. This awesome mount allows him to fly around as if simply flying himself. It's agile, quiet and small. Elkagorasa is able to skim the water then fly up over the tree tops.

During his last trip to Feralas, he found a new Goblin ran resort. A bit of guilty pleasure that sprung up after Deathwing's ascent. Elkagorasa's favorite portion is to simply lounge in the extremely hot steam pools. As an orc, he's able stand quite a bit more heat than the blood elves. With that he swims down to the bottom of the pond in search of crabs for his lunch. A little crab kabob cooked over an open fire, along with a cool drink from the wait staff make for an excellent break. Elkagorasa sits down in a lounge chair, feet up and he falls asleep.

"CLIFF DIVING EXCURSION LEAVING IN 5 MINUTES" screams the little gnome standing next to him. Startled and partially asleep, Elkagorasa flys out of his seat and almost strangles the tour guide. Looking up, he notices that there's a crowd following him. This causes him to quickly adjust and pat the little guy on the back, then join the crowd. "darn alliance", Elk mumbles to himself. The gnome snickers at him bumbling. The tour group departs soon on foot for the Twin Colossals. It doesn't take very long as the landmark is very close to the Resort. At the bottom, everyone is teleported to the top of the Eastern Colossal. At the top, Elkagorasa trades in some of his crab cakes, for a parachute from the vendor. Grabbing the chute from the vendor, he starts running south and jumps off the edge just as he gets it equipped. Soaring through the sky like a bird, Elk lets out a thundering roar. He even spots animals and the ground who start to run at his sound. Just as his feet brush the tree tops, Elk pulls the ripcord, deploying the chute and landing in the nearby pond with a huge splash.

Elk looks up and notices the sun is about to set. His nap must of been longer than he thought. He has one more stop planned before heading home. Elk picks up his pace and starts jogging back to Camp. He waves to Tono and hops onto the nearest wind rider. Whispering in his ear, the animal jumps off the ground and starts flying west across the land. Soon the sulfurous smell of wyrms starts to fill his nostrils. Why anyone would want to live there confuses him. Oh well, not his town. The wind runner lands, but doesn't run over to the goblin master. He seems hesitant. Elkagorasa dismounts anyway, but gently pats the beast on his nuzzle and urges him over. The animal doesn't like it here at all.

Once again, Elk mounts his red cloud and starts flying. This time at a much somber pace. As he approaches the former city, he starts to weep gently for the loss. Upon reaching the former entrance, he dismounts and looks out across Theramore Isle. The devastation of the former, bustling Alliance city hits him hard. The mana bomb has left a permanent stain on this place. It's energy can still be felt tingling at his fingertips. He cannot believe the audacity of the former warchief. This makes him even more outraged that Garrosh has managed to escape punishment. This Iron Horde incursion via the Dark Portal reeks of his doing.

Reaching into his backpack, Elkagorasa pulls out his hearthstone, the small palm sized stone that has been with him since the very beginning. He starts the spell that will send him back to the Inn in Orgrimmar. He needs to rest. He has a feeling that in a few days, maybe a week, his entire world is going to change. Back to the battlefields. Back to his war craft.

Taming MOAR Pets

WFH means Work Warcraft From Home Monday was a work from home kind of day, so I worked on a little project of my own. I saw this on Twit...