Novice AR-15 Build – Black Rifle on a Budget – Part 1

For those of you not chatting with me on twitter, my latest project is a first time novice build of an AR-15 ‘black rifle’.

I’m not going to lie, this is toys for grown ups time I’m talking about.

Well, it gets more complicated than that.

My son is really enjoying the Ruger 10/22 rifle and his shooting skills are coming along well. The .223 Remington round in an AR-15 rifle has comparatively low recoil and can be a fun gun to shoot, a step up from the .22 LR but not all the way to a .303 or 7.62 yet. As a next step in developing his shooting experience it’s a good rifle to go with. Also, building one ourselves will be a great experience for him, I’m looking forward to having him take part in the assembly once all the pieces have arrived to see just how everything goes together and how the system works.

The AR-15 is also the modern civilian version of the M16A2 rifle, the rifle that I used while in the US Marines. There is a strong sense of nostalgia to building one of my own, but even better since this one will be ‘my’ M16, built the way I’d like it. And I won’t have to check it back into the Armory once I’m done playing with it at the range.

One last thing… modern AR-15s have so many damn customization options and accessories and design considerations that you can trick yours out any which way, but the end result (when tuned right) is a lot of fun for ANYONE to shoot.

The Plan

I’m going to do a couple of posts over the next week as I build it and take it in to shoot. The last rifle pieces I have on order should actually arrive TODAY, so this is going to be a true novice work in progress, and any issues that come up are going to happen live. You’ll get to see exactly what happens as I try and build it and what the final results are.

The Disclaimer

This build is going to be a true novice “I’ve never built one of these damn things before” project. What’s more, it’s on as tight of a budget as I could manage while still getting the base features I wanted on my rifle.

Yes, I was in the Marines for eight years, and yes I know the M16A2 extremely well. That has nothing to do with building an AR-15 from scratch. I certainly never had to select my own components in the Marines. They hand you an M16A2 and you learn it exactly as it is. So building this thing will be a new experience.

On the flip side, I’m not inexperienced in firearms. No, I didn’t pick much up during my military service, but firearms and reloading were among my biggest hobbies bordering on obsessions before I went in. So I do have extensive knowledge of firearms… knowledge that ended in 1986. No, I’m not joking. As far as I’m concerned, my knowledge is as outdated and useless as a wheellock enthusiast at a 3 gun match.

Coming back to the firearms hobby has been a lot like playing World of Warcraft in vanilla original release and having a great time, hardcore raiding and defeating original Naxxramas. Then, imagine quitting the game only to come back seven years later wondering if anything changed while I was away. Oh, and since when did Druids get allowed to tank stuff, they’re only good for healing, right?

Stuff has changed a lot from when I was into firearms, but at the same time the core principles of centerfire rifles in general and the M16 gas impingement system in particular are still around, so things are thankfully familiar to me. But I’m taking nothing for granted as I research and plan this build out. I’m assuming that whatever I think I know is wrong or dangerous and I’m double checking everything.

So. If you’re reading this, I’m going to be writing about choosing stuff and assembling as a rank beginner, BUT I may use terms and describe in passing ideas that seem obvious to me but that you’re not familiar with. If something seems confusing, by all means let me know in a comment or sending me an email.

It occurs to me to mention for those reading that haven’t seen my blog before… I’ve been doing machine maintenance, both mechanical and electrical, for well over two decades now. I can weld, machine, fabricate and lathe, run a CNC and etc etc. I have a bunch of tools and a passing familiarity with which end of the wrench is venomous. If I encounter something during the assembly of this rifle that I think requires more than minimum mechanical know-how, I WILL say so. And I’ll also list what special tools I felt it important to buy or have on hand for the build, and why.

The Goal

I’m assembling an AR-15 black rifle chambered in .223 Remington/5.56 NATO, legal to the requirements of the state of Minnesota. If you are building your own, make sure you check your local laws on permits, magazine capacities, barrel lengths, etc.

I am attempting to build this rifle for the absolute cheapest cost I can while at the same time reaching my own personal minimum standards of quality and equipment options. I may upgrade this build later by replacing components, or I may sell this rifle for a small profit and use the increased funds to build a rifle with better features or workmanship standards. Or I may keep it as is depending on reliability at the range.

Keep in mind if you’re reading this, there are hundreds if not thousands of customization options for every aspect of an AR-15 rifle on the market. Johnny Cash built his Cadillac one piece at a time, and he might have needed to do a little fiddling to get everything to work right together. I expect the same result.

I intentionally chose low cost options that had positive reliability or quality reviews for a budget rifle. You can pay thousands more than I did for top of the line components and systems. You can take a shitload of money and throw it at manufacturers and build the Rolls Royce of gun systems.

The thing to remember is, at the heart you are building a rifle whose parts should all be ‘Mil Spec’, meaning they are designed to conform to the military specifications for the M16 rifle system to be a perfect interchangeable fit with the same minimum quality tolerances and standards acceptable for service. Can you get better than Mil Spec? Absolutely. But Mil Spec parts means that the rifle should at least be able to serve as a safe and fully functioning rifle using the same commercial grade ammunition as every other .223 rifle. At least, it will as long as you match your system parts such as buffer tube and buffer to barrel length and gas system, or bullet weight to gas system length.

Sorry, another tangent. The point is, to have a fully functioning and safe AR-15 doesn’t require purchasing the top of the line parts.

Those parts may improve reliability in adverse weather conditions, increase the durability of your components across thousands of rounds fired downrange, make the gun easier to clean after firing, reduce overall recoil, reduce barrel rise, improve accuracy or tightness of groups, etc etc. But you expect that from a Rolls Royce. If you’re looking to take a Pinto out and do donuts in the parking lot, you can probably settle for less.

My goal is a fun gun to take to the range and put holes in paper. Maybe go to an outdoor range and ping some tannerite, watch a pretty flash.

What This Build Isn’t

One thing I want to be clear about, I’m not building a home defense rifle. I’m also not going to arm myself with an ‘assault rifle’ to take back my streets like some kind of 80’s action hero. This is a grown up toy that I do not have a personal need for unless zombies really do take over the country, and if that happens I’ll be using this rifle only long enough to get me a 12 gauge shotgun like an 870.

I would personally never choose an AR-15 chambered in .223 for my home defense weapon. I own a home in the suburbs of Minnesota, so if I shoot at an intruder, and God forbid I miss, the last thing I want is for a bullet to overpenetrate the thin exterior walls or windows of my home and enter someone else’s house with enough foot pounds of energy left over to cause harm to an innocent.

For home defense I prefer a shotgun, and NO not because it is guaranteed to hit, because they’re not. In the hallway of a home, or at ranges you could expect to find within a home, a shot pattern won’t spread more than a few inches apart at most. It does NOT fan out into some huge basketball sized never-miss thing like you see on TV. You still have to be able to hit exactly what you’re aiming at. But the shot from, say, a 20 gauge will still do considerable damage to an intruder while not having the individual pellet energy to be life threatening if they hit someone else’s house across the street.

Specifically, if I were to select a firearm for home defense I’d probably choose a 20 gauge shotgun with the shortest barrel length legal in my area, mount a flashlight on it for positive target identification, stick a pistol grip and folding stock on it to be easier to move around corners, and stick it loaded by the bed with a 3 number trigger lock on it that I can move one digit to unlock by feel in the dark.

The point is, I don’t intend the AR-15 to be a home defense weapon. But I AM putting a flashlight on it. A flashlight is supposed to be for positive target acquisition in the dark so you don’t shoot the wrong person (or your son sneaking into the house drunk at 3 in the morning), but in my case it’s going to be so I can get that ghetto Tommy Tactical look I crave by hanging a widget off the barrel.

Okay, I kid.

Well, maybe not. Wait until you see what I’m going to use for a flashlight. Oh man, just thinking about uncasing this thing at the range is making me laugh my butt off.

Wrapping Up

My next post will go right into the parts list I ordered for the build, including web links, the cost of the items, and the breakdown of why I chose each one. I heartily encourage those of you that know far more about this than I do to mock the living shit out of me.

Until then, have fun and happy shooting.

If WoW PVP had other popular PVP modes

Yesterday Blizzard revealed they were developing a ‘Mercenary’ mode for battleground queing.

In brief, it’s a system that would speed up queue times by letting members of an over-represented faction play on the opposing faction team for that match.

I like that Blizzard are very careful about there being ‘lore’ reasons behind all the pvp content the players have available. There needs to be some small suspension of disbelief in the number of times the battle for Alterac Valley plays out, but everything has to this date had to be explainable in terms of lore and story and setting and motivation.

So it is with Mercenary mode. A simple conceit that allows us to imagine, if only for a moment, that some traditionally Alliance races have individuals that would be willing (for a wage or a cause) to join in on the other side.

Sounds pretty cool to me.

I’m sure a lot of questions immediately spring to the minds of the perpetual complainers. “What about people who join a match intending to throw it for their friends on the other side!” Etc, etc, ohmygodarewebacktothat.

I remember a time, lost to the pages of history, where you could have characters of only one faction on a server. You could go Horde or Alliance on a server, but not both. Why? Because OMG what if your friends on Alliance were going to PvP and you could switch to Horde and listen in on enemy plans WTFQQBBQ.

Yeah, that was a thing. Didn’t really happen because, as we all discovered, outside of flaming forum posts nobody ended up having the energy to truly give a shit what the other side was planning. I mean really, nobody has time for that shit.

Remember when Transmog was impossible to consider implementing because of how game breaking it would be for pvp if people couldn’t evaluate your power level by recognizing the look of the individual pieces of gear you had equipped?

Oh yeah, you think I’m kidding. That was also really a thing, and some people actually took that argument seriously.

Moving on…

I like this idea, I think it sounds fun, spices things up and adds some additional flavor options.

But I don’t think we’ve gone anywhere near far enough, and I wonder if the desire to match gameplay into existing lore and story are limiting our options.

As an example.

We have these wonderful maps for PvP battelgrounds, places like Alterac Valley, just as an example.

These maps, if present in a traditional first person shooter game, would each have multiple mission types you could choose from. capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, you know the drill.

We get one type of battle built in to each map. Wouldn’t it be WONDERFUL if we could use these maps for other types of missions? Missions that perhaps wouldn’t use the looking for more / automatic matchmaker function, but would instead open them up for inner-guild or cross-realm friend gameplay events?

My first example of what I’m talking about, using Alterac Valley, would be a Snipe Hunt.

A group of friends or guildies, all same faction, group up into a raid and queue up for the battle.

The existing looking for group has role verification. You get a popup offering you the different types of role you are willing to queue for based on the capabilities if your class.

In this case though, it wouldn’t be a role check for tank, healer or DPS. Instead it would be a check for Hunter or Hunted.

In Snipe Hunt, one person would be the Hunted, and everyone else would be the Hunters.

That one person would be the target of everyone else. Obviously a class with stealth capabilities would be great for this, but consider this;

The first question everyone would have is, why not gang up in groups of four and ensure that whichever group finds the Hunted can lock them down and insta kill them?

My answer to that is, proximity based health and dps debuffs. The closer a Hunter is to other Hunters, the lower the debuff drops their health, damage and related atributes like armor.

If you hunt as a pack of four, you will be more effective in terms of numbers and multitasking but you will still have the effective health and combined damage of one player, the average of all four combined.

Can you imagine the fun of a stealthed Hunted sneaking up on a group of four Hunters and killing them all in a burst of Killing Spree or Barrage because of how weak they were when clumped up?

One grenade, man. Just one grenade. Don’t bunch up! Get scouts out on the flanks, damn it!

It would be a balancing act, but I think you could tweak the gameplay into something that would be fun and thrilling, especially if there were bonus objectives like capture the flag or treasures to steal or other things that could give the Hunted multiple paths to gather enough points to hit a win objective.

If it were all capture the flag, then the Hunted turn turtle, and if there are no capture points or treasures than there is no reason for a Hunted to go roaming instead of hiding in stealth in a corner. But give the Hunted a time limit and a point total to reach, and make each Hunter kill, flag point or treasure worth a certain number of points and the Hunted gets plenty of options to make the flow unpredictable.

Moving away from the gametype, think how you would feel being able to join a group of guildies for a night of “Hunt the Guild Leader”, where everyone gets to go into a battlegroun with one goal… hunt your guild leader down and kill him with extreme prejudice.

Or a cross-server group of Twitter friends able to group up with the express goal of killing someone like Rades. Rades is a badass hunter, he could handle it. Right?

Same-faction grouping for different pvp modes in battlegrounds wouldn’t really fit in with lore or story, AT ALL, but I think it would inject a lot of life into the game and add lots of possibilitiies for friends to get together and do things together outside of formal pve raiding or playing against strangers.

With all the innovation taking place in FPS games, i’d love to see more gameplay modes available for our existing battlegrounds. Heck, even tourist modes for Battlegrounds would be a hoot.

What do you think? Do you have any passing ideas for spicing up pvp by keeping the battle within your circle of friends?

Ship Just Got Real – WoW Shipyard Tips

Murloc Navy

I’ve learned a few things the hard way, and I hope some of the following helps you. or amuses you, whatever floats your boat.

My approach to the shipyard has been to do it on only two characters, my two ‘mains’. They’re the only characters I actively play, the rest are Garrison Mission gold farms.

That being said, I have set up my main Garrison to support my Shipyard activities. My mains already have fully maxed out Followers with the mix of talents and abilities I wanted. If you’re not done with Follower upgrades or leveling yet, or if there are still things you are leveling buildings in your Garrison to accomplish and need resources to build, some of what I’ve done will probably be a waste of time.

First thing to decide is if you are going to build your Shipyard to fully optimize the Legendary quest chain. The Legendary Ring quest chain has a very strong naval component to it, and to have the absolute best chance of mission success requires certain ships loaded out in certain ways.

Chibisan#1890 (on US servers) put together a fantastic list of every mission in the Legendary Shipyard quest chain with rcommendations on the best way to succeed at them that he posted on Reddit, I’m linking it for you here.

The relevant bit for planning purposes is this;

To complete all missions with the best chance of success, you will need the following ship and crew combinations available:

1 Transport (Crew does not matter)
1 Carrier (Must have undead/human/panda crew)
1 Submarine (Crew does not matter)
2 Battleship (Only 1 battleship needs undead/human/panda crew)
2 Destroyer  (Only 1 destroyer needs undead/human/panda crew)

Also, those ships will mostly need to be epic to make sure you have two equipment slots per ship you can customize. Some ships have custom crew (like Murlocs) so they may fulfill multiple conditions without using an equipment slot, but for planning, those ships on the list up there are the ones you will need.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is that you can keep destroying ships at the Shipyard table and then going and make another. Yes, it takes a while for the next ship to be finished but to get that perfect ship with the right crew can be a true relief. You can change equipment out later, but the crew is yours forever. Or until you scuttle the bastard. I wouldn’t worry about trying to proc a rare or epic ship, I’d be more concerned with the right crew combo. Nothing hurts worse than releazing you’ve leveled all your ships to epic and you really should destroy one so you can have the right crew available.

As a side note, you can rename your ships. I still haven’t done that yet, but I have been reliably told there is (so far) no profanity filter for your ship names. Go nuts.

as a super special side note if you happen to get a Murloc ship (like the one I show you from my Warlock above), save it. It’s got a Murloc crew that is pretty rare, so hang onto it. It doubles as a transport. Also, I love the idea of a ship with an all Murloc crew. As pirates. Singing show tunes. Well, murgling show tunes. And if murgling wasn’t a word for a singing Murloc before, it is now.

I’m assuming a lot here. I assume you know you have to go out and get the patterns for ship equipment before you can buy them at your shipyard. Or where to find them. That kind of thing. I know you’re all usually better informed than I am and you’re reading this for amusement value. Still, if someone does have a question about something I passed over just say so, I’ll be happy to help.

About ship equipment, you’ll rarely ‘just happen’ to have the exact equipment and ship loadout combination you need for all those treasure missions, legendary quests or Hellfire Citadel loot missions you want to run.

That means you’ll be buying new equipment to load up your ships, at the stupidly inhibiting price of 500 Garrison Resources. EACH. Ugh.

STUPID amounts of resources.

Still, rather than rail at the Gods of the Frozen Storm for setting such a steep cost, let’s work out some solutions.

What I’ve done is fired up both a level 3 Trading Post AND a level 3 Lumber Mill at my Garrison to keep me fed with resources. And I do the follower missions for them. And I set my Tree Follower to the Lumber Mill to boost the gain. I damn near forgot I had that Evergreen chap, nice to see he’s still willing to help me butcher his leafy friends to fuel my war machine.

Using Garrison buildings to boost resource production is one method to speed things up, but the other is to try and get bonus free ship equipment.

Having at least one or two ships with Troll (Horde) or Gnome (Alliance) crews is a treasure. The Troll and Gnome Crews bring back equipment when the mission is complete. So far, every single successful mission I have sent my Gnome Crew on has brought back some equipment that is worth 500 Garrison Resources each. I just stash them in my bags, hoarding them until needed.

This is where destroying ships and making news ones looking for the right crew comes into play. It’s not just for Human/Panda/Undead crews. If you make sure to get a Destroyer or Battleship with a Gnome/Troll crew, there are frequently 4 hour naval training missions up for those ship types so you can keep that ship busy bringing you back some equipment and saving you massive resources. Stockpile those up and use them!

Now, other gates to sending ships on missions are Oil and Time.

Oil is pretty obvious. If you go to Tanaan and do dailies and kill rares, you’re going to have plenty of Oil. I’m getting plenty of Follower missions that being some back too. Oil is not gating my ability to do ship missions. I was all worried about the Oil thing before the patch went live. Little did I know what equipment was going to cost. Worried about oil my big furry butt.

Um, that didn’t come out right. I don’t mean I want you to oil my big furry butt, I’ve already got tons of oil… damn it, I did it again. Um. Okay, I’ll come back to that and fix it later.

Time is the other big factor. With so many missions taking from 4 to 18 hours (and thank you to Blizzard for pulling back from the two full day stuff, OMG), you can only run what you can get done.

One thing I didn’t know going into this patch was that the Mage Tower / Spirit Lodge did more than have Ogre Portals to whisk you away across the map of Draenor.

The other HUGE thing a Mage Tower or Spirit Lodge can do for you is give you work orders for Apexis Crystals, which now have tons of value. Mounts sure, but 20,000 Apexis now gets you an ilevel 695 token to upgrade that baleful gear that drops like flies this patch.

Ilevel 695! And you can choose what baleful gear to upgrade so you can choose to upgrade pieces that have optimal stats! Even better, those 20k upgrade tokens are bind to account, so if you have alts that were slowly gathering hoards of Apexis from the 600 crystal follower missions, those things just proved their value.

Sorry, talking about Mage Towers and Spirit Lodges and benefits for your Shipyard.

When you complete a work order for the MT/SL, there is a CHANCE (about 30% per work order for me) that you will ALSO get a Mission Completion Order. You can have up to five at a time, and using one instantly completes a Garrison Follower mission… or a Shipyard mission. At least, when they don’t bug out as they apparently are occasionally doing. I haven’t had it happen to me yet, and I’ve used several, but I’ve heard it can.

It was a tough choice for me to drop my Dwarven Bunker / Gobline Workshop for a Mage Tower, but I’ve never regretted it yet. I have gotten plenty of those Mission Completion Orders and they have hastened the leveling and mission progress for me quite a lot.

Just imagine, you send your ships on an 18 hour mission at 97%, and instead of waiting until tomorrow to find out if your Murloc ship blew up, you can use a Mission Completion Order and find out RIGHT NOW that it blew up.

And let the murgling commence.

So, to recap.

Don’t be afraid to destroy and rebuild new ships now to lay the foundation for having leveled ships with the right crews later.

Ships with Human/Panda/Undead crews are critical to get that extra success chance for the Legendary quest lines, but also try to aim for some Gnome/Troll crews to get you free equipment and save Garrison Resources.

If you’re starved for Garrison Resources, don’t be afraid to double dip a Trading Post and Lumber Mill. If you choose only one, I’d take the Trading Post because of the delicious +20% faction reputation bonus you get with it at level 3. You do want to fly someday, right?

And finally, if you are done with leveling your Garrison Followers and don’t mind having to buy all three of your weekly raid bonus rolls, don’t hesitate to dump your Dwarven Bunker / Goblin Workshop for a Mage Tower / Spirit Lodge for the bonus Apexis Crystal work orders and Mission Completion Orders.

Happy sailing!

Adventures in the Timeless Jungle

With the advent of Patch 6.2, I tried to have as few expectations as possible. Spoilers and all that.

Still, it’s hard to be spoiler free when you’re online and surrounded by enthusiastic people who enjoy sharing the things they look forward to, especially with such a big unknown as ‘what will we be doing next?’.

So I knew there would be rare mobs and treasure chests that had a spawn cycle similar to the Timeless Isle from MoP.

I also knew there would be ships and a shipyard, but I didn’t give much of a ship. Can I get on them and take my piracy on the high seas like in Assassin’s Creed – Black Flag? No? Oh, I get to send faceless crews off to do missions for me and you’ll let me know how they turned out?

Okay. Well then. I hope you go have fun! Bring back some fruit and little pink umbrellas so I can enjoy a nice tropical drink while I bask in the sunshine here on my beach because I guess I’m not going on a cruise ship with you. Because I’m the hero. /sip.

It’s safe to say I didn’t know the specifics, but what I did know didn’t exactly flip my skirt up in excitement.

But that was then, and along came Tuesday, so let’s go see this Timeless Jungle.

So far, I have to say it’s changing my expectations.

The terrain is as varied as the rest of Draenor, but much more cluttered, claustrophobic, atmospheric. I’m enjoying it. There is definitely more of a feeling of tension moving around.

There are bad guys everywhere it seems, crammed into every nook and cranny.

And yes, just like in the Timeless Isle there are rare mobs on respawn timers everywhere, and yes there are already camping groups waiting for their specific highly desired spawn. With the added complication of the Group Finder and cross realm match making, which I think is going to be a big help. Heck, thanks to group finder we filled out a 40 person raid group to take down the Whale Shark off the Northeast coast of the jungle last night to get our Shipyard blueprints, took less than 10 minutes to finll the entire group. That plus inviting friends, of course.

Before I go too much farther into the good, I have some grumpiness to get off my butt. let’s get this out of the way.

There are factions grinds, and my apologies to Blizzard but this ‘kinder gentler rep grind’ I was told about is bullshit. I’d rather grind mobs and unlock rep at MY pace then be locked behind gated daily quests that force me to drag it out over weeks.

Here’s the horrible truth about the new reputation system, at least for your initial faction-specific reputation; it still sucks.

there are two ways we’ve seen this, and each has it’s pros and cons.

Having only mob kills give rep means you have to grind mobs to get your rep and with a teeny bit of rep per kill, it will take a long time to amass vast quantities. But at least when you have a really big block of time, like say a day off from work on Saturday, you can get in there and get some serious grinding done.

Having only daily quests give you rep means that yes yuo can log in and do one big event for a large chunk of rep, but you can’t go out and spend all day grinding if yuo have a sudden sufficiency of free time. You have no choice but to do the limited quests available in a single day, and even if you have plenty of time you run out of rep quests before you might run out of desire to do them. And if you have too little time to do even the single quest in a given day, I know I feel like each day I don’t log in and do them is another day I’m falling farther and farther behind with NO WAY TO CATCH UP TO MY FRIENDS.

The solution?

ADD BOTH METHODS instead of this either or crap. /rant off.

Okay, so I got that out of my system, and it was important for me to say something because Blizzard made a lot out of how they heard our pain from the initial WoD rep grinds and made them so much better. Um, no. When I finally got the TIME to do rep grinds, it took me less than a week to finish all FOUR. And it felt great.

Also, I’d like to point out that the original Warlords of Draenor reputations had no impact on gameplay or gating content. They provided cosmetic items, mounts, pets, followers. Most of those items shared to your account, so only ONE character really needed to do any of them.

Now, there is actual content for our mission success gated behind reputations, meaning every character that we want to have a viable shipyard or legendary progression needs to do those same rep grinds, to some extent. No, honored ain’t that long a slog but it’s more than my Priest or Druid needed to do so far. Just an observation.

So, as far as the concept of reputation grinds being so much better now? I have a saying that I find applicable.

Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

Okay, seriously, moving past that. The actual area is so much better than that.

I went into Tanaan Jungle, and what I’m finding is I really like the hunt for rares, the seeking of the Equipment Blueprints for my Shipyard, the random events and activities and the general feeling of hustle and bustle.

I also like how some of the reputation is at least done in different ways, like instead of just daily quests one of them DOES require you to farm mobs to get claws, to earn your right to challenge more powerful bosses for better reputation. That sounds pretty good, right? earning the right to challenge an opponent to increase your reputation with their enemies? I like that.

What has surprised me is how powerful the normal mobs out there are.

I’m running as a Warlock with a tanking AoE demon pet and wearing damn near iLevel 700 raid gear. I didn’t expect each generic mob fight to be so stiff, and to have to watch where I was going to the extent that I am.

I also didn’t expect the entire area of the Throne of Kiljaeden, where lots of rares and quests and stuff are, to be elites.

I can kill them one on one, even two on one sure, but it takes a lot longer than I expected.

I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m saying it’s unexpected.

Running around in there solo for a few days, it felt pretty slow. Things take a while to die.

On the flip side, I’m using Avianna’s Feather on cooldown to get around fast. That thing is a must have.

So I was getting kind of down in the mouth about it. I mean, here’s the new content and if it’s this stiff on my raid geared tank-having character, what the hell would my squishy Rogue or Priest think? I get sudden images of a train rolling down the track. POW! right in the kisser!

And then this morning, while I logged in for a few minutes to see if maybe I could score a rare, I found that a bunch of guildies were also on and I joined them while they bopped around slaying rares by the dozens, including tearing through the Throne of Kiljaeden.

Suddenly, it all makes sense.

If you actually have a group of friends with you, even if none of them are healers, everything in that zone clicks and it’s perfectly balanced. It is good to have a tank, but I bet a Hunter with a tanking pet and a healer could get along fine.

With a small group, the timing feels perfect. The mobs are just tough enough to let you cut loose with your rotations and not feel like the thing will be dead before your first cast gets off, and soft enough to not feel you’re gonna insta-wipe when you pull an extra pack.

Suddenly, reputation grinds like collecting claws makes PERFECT sense, as long as you approach those areas of Tanaan Jungle as an opportunity to get together with just a couple of other friends and make a go of it for an hour or two.

For me it was a really nice sense of shifting perspectives. Instead of grousing about how tough the opponents are, I started seeing that some areas are fine for soloing, and others are balanced to encourage you to go play with friends for a bit.

Do you HAVE to? Not really. Like I said, I didn’t know any better. I took my Warlock up to the Throne area on Tuesday night, and I had it all to myself. It took me a long time, but I did go up there and I did kill quite a lot of enemies and explored around a bit. I just had to take my time and be careful of positioning.

I know, it’s still early days. Maybe things will change and I’ll be grumpy again next week.

But for right now, my first real impressions are that I like it. In fact, I love it. I just don’t want to spend a lot of time there doing it. It ain’t no place to relax. Get in, get it done, get the heck out.

My hope is, not only will this encourage ME to find other friends to play with on a regular basis but that other people will also feel inspired to want to play together instead of always being a lone wolf. It doesn’t do much good to want to play with friends if everyone else is too busy getting their soloing done.🙂

One last thing.

This really does highlight how awesome the Barracks is, and the ability to have a Bodyguard to follow you around. And how wonderfully useful it was for Blizzard to give us multiple different types of potential Bodyguards that we can pick from depending on what WE think we need to fit our playstyle. I have a tank I can control as a Warlock or Hunter, so I’d rather have a healer or DPS along to help out.

But I can promise you, my Priest, if she ever goes there, will have a pet tank as a Bodyguard, 100% guaranteed.

Never really NEEDED a Bodyguard before, but now? Now I can definitely feel the benefit, no matter how billy badass I think I am.

All things considered, I have to give the patch a tentative Bear Butt Up.

Farming Sha’tari Defense Rep – The Quick Way

Shatari Defense Trading Post - mount and building

This morning, I finished the last of my pre-6.2 patch bucket list. I went from Neutral to Exalted with Sha’tari Defense, the reputation associated with the Garrison Trading Post, in three hours.

It was fast, it was fun, it was easy.

I’ve avoided working on this reputation because of the insane length of time it would take to solo it out. There will be things like a Garrison Quest in patch 6.2 that gives 1000 rep towards it that will help, but if you’re looking to clear the decks BEFORE the patch drops, maybe this will help out.

The pre-requisites to accomplish this are having an Alliance Trading Post at least to level 2 so that you unlock the Sha’tari Defense reputation, and preferably to level 3 for an extra 20% reputation boost. It is very helpful to also have a Battle Standard of Cooperation or other Guild Banner (sold from Guild Vendors) that you can drop on cooldown to award bonus rep. Oh yeah, and be level 100, of course.

The way I did it is the same way I see most people getting it done lately, forming a 5 person group in the Custom Group Finder tool, and then hitting the Path of Glory.

You see, there is a place in the Northeast corner of Talador called the Path of Glory, leading right to the massive iron gates blocking the way to the jungle.

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - smallYou can get here quite easily as Alliance by flying to Fort Wrynn (where you started in the zone) and riding along the path to the place where it forks before the citadel.

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - map

Here you will find the Path of Glory, just by taking the branch of the path to the right. It’s a very short cul-de-sac that ends at the massive Iron Gates. And before these gates, tasty, tasty elite mobs that award Sha’tari Defense reputation. Lots of it. EACH.

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - before the gates

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - before the gates 2

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - before the gates 3

While I’m sure my Death Knight pal Monstre could walk in here and solo them all, I’m not quite so sturdy.

So, it’s time to find some friends, fast.

There are LOTS of folks trying to get this rep done. All you need to do is start or join a 5 person group. Raid groups larger than 5 don’t receive rep for kills, so you need to make a 5 person one to get this done.

Just in case you haven’t used the new Dungeon Finder tools to do this before, you need to choose Premade Groups and then the Custom sub-category.

Dungeon Finder tool 1

Dungeon Finder tool 2

If you’re a tank or healer, it should be simple to find a group. If you’re DPS, you may want to make your own.

I was fortunate enough to join a group as DPS that still had a few open slots. We ended up with a raid geared Monk tank, two destro Warlocks, a balance Druid and an arms Warrior. No, we had no healer, and yes, that made some of the pulls where we grabbed everything a little tricky. We had to time things to make the really big pulls when the tank had a lot of cooldowns available.

Still and all, dropping the banners, using our Warlock AoE stuns, dropping massive AoE damage (gotta love Rain of Fire and Fire and Brimstone), even without any heals we cleared the area in front of the gates repeatedly as soon as the mobs respawned. And the spawn FAST.

We’d usually still be finishing off the last few from barrel toss pulls as the respawns began trickling in. You are not left waiting.

Three hours of clearing the area, minus probably a half an hour of messing around as people wanted to hearth to Garrison to buy banners from the guild vendor and be summoned back, then hearth to the Garrison to upgrade (or build!) their Trading Posts and then be summoned back. Or go walk their dog. Or look for a garage remote for some strange reason.

The rewards for finishing this rep are pretty good. Aside from a really nice set of Plate armor that is transmoggable (and binds on pickup, so if you want it make sure to run this on your plate-wearing character!) there is also the nice bloody elephant mount shown above, and two toys, one of which transforms you into a Draenei plate-wearing Sha’tari Defender for an hour. Transforming items that last an hour are pretty rare, so it’s a very nice toy.

Oh yeah, and you’ll be able to buy the Sky Fry pet, as well, if you haven’t bought him off the Auction House.

Personally, I’d recommend a standard 5 person group of tank, healer and three DPS instead of trying it with no heals. All it takes is grabbing a group too big with no tanking cooldown available and you’re in for a short run back from the graveyard.

I’ve been wanting to do this and putting it off for at least five months now, all because I didn’t want to solo an endless grind.

But a three hour clear? I think any of us can handle that, if only once. And if you don’t get all the way there with your first group, there is always another you can join or form.

Did I mention that group finder is cross-server? Just in case you haven’t ever used it and were worried not many might know of it or use it from your low population server. No, it’s widely used, and extremely convenient.

Just be careful that the server you get pulled into doesn’t change you from PvE to PvP… or accept it and be prepared to maybe farm some honor while you work.🙂

I don’t know what will happen when patch 6.2 comes along. I think this area in front of the gates to the jungle will be opened and the elite mobs will no longer be so convenient to munch on. Maybe in three days you’ll be back to farming reputation in the harbor or Shattrath City.

Whatever happens, if you’ve been hanging back, I hope this encourages you to take the step to get it done if you’re at all wanting the toys, mount and pet. I know I’m very happy I did.

Only thing that would have made it better was if I’d done it with some friends.

Half an Idea – Injecting Randomness into Gameplay

E3 is going on right now, and aside from making me really glad to have bought an Xbox One, it’s pretty cool to see the new ideas and gorgeous concept videos on screen. I love a slick trailer.

Still, there is a reason Penny Arcade coined the term ‘bullshot’ to refer to advance release screenshots full of bullshit hype that doesn’t reflect real gameplay. I’ll enjoy the promise and then judge the execution, just like most other gamers I know.

While looking at all of these game trailers that are coming out, I had a thought occur to me on what could be a fun addition to mutliplayer shooter gaming that I just haven’t seen done yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

There are a lot of first person shooter games already out that incorporate leveling and loot aspects. It’s a hugely successful genre, and everyone is always looking for a way to spice things up, including how to generate real surprise.

What I was thinking was, what about mid-game context sensitive bonus objectives with enticing loot or rewards?

Here’s what I mean in actual gameplay.

Say you’re playing multiplayer, with strangers from the lobby or with friends, maybe a Destiny style game that has gear loot drops. Good stuff that is hard to get, your infamous rare ‘purple drop’.

The five of you are working together towards the common objective, go through this terrain and avoid or kill the trash mobs, get to the boss fight, down the boss and then pick up the flag/salvage the wreckage and extract to the starting point to finish.

But as your group is working through the trash, player A gets a pop-up window only she sees, saying ‘Bonus Objective – kill 10 trash mobs in 30 seconds or less within the next two minutes for epic weapon reward.’

That player, and only that player, now has a choice to make. Ignore the bonus objective that has a timer ticking and miss out on that oh so tasty chance at good loot… or go for it.

The danger to this objective is that it would be tuned so as to achieve it, you would have to ignore smart blocking and cover mechanics to go full rambo run-and-gun. You would have to push like an idiot to get that many kills, exposing yourself to enemy fire and risking your entire team getting wiped as you break cover. Risk vs reward, and only you know what is happening. Unless you are on voicechat and choose to share the news of your opportunity. And what makes it so enticing is, even if the team wipes, if you completed your objective first, you got that promised piece of loot.

Or another scenario. You and your group have made it to the boss fight, you’re taking it down, and at the 15% health mark you get a popup window, ‘Bonus Objective – Kill one member of your team to gain +50% chance at Legendary drop.’

Do you do it? Do you swivel around and kill a teammate at the tail end of a boss fight, making the whole thing even more difficult for everyone and screw your partners over just for a chance of better loot?

Mid-game bonus objectives to introduce a sense of randomness, to force you to make real decisions on the fly balancing risk vs reward, with enough of a variety that you can’t easily game it. And the point is to simulate the human element, the truth that you can’t ever really know the mind and heart of the person you’re with. You have to trust them. And to make trust matter, there has to be a reason for someone to be tempted to break that trust.

They don’t all have to be designed to screw over your teammates.

There could be objectives to fall back and ‘take 30 seconds to rest’ while engaged in combat or advancing through terrain, something that can provide a small disruption to the rest of the group unless they are well coordinated.

The point of all of these is not specifically to encourage players to troll a group, although that could be the result.

As I said, the point would be to introduce the human element that is present in all real life events. That randomness, the unpredictability of human nature under extreme stress.

The teammate with a sudden case of nerves that freezes in combat, the kill-crazy idiot that loses their head and forgets to duck, the buddy that runs too hard and has to catch their breath right when things go bad. The team mates on a heist that at the last minute turn on their partners to try and take the loot for themselves.

The team member that sees a friend about to take a rocket to the face, and leaps in front to take it themself, sacrificing their life for their friend.

Greed. Fear. Rage. Protectiveness. Caution.

In a video game where your character suffers instead of you, you the player in control may not feel the emotions your character would in that situation, but mid-game bonus objectives could entice you to ACT as if you were suddenly influenced by strong feelings.

To your fellow players, the effect would be as if you really did crack under pressure or flee the fight, or go nuts and walk into the open like Kurt Russell in Tombstone.

It’s a half an idea at most, but there are bones in it that I think could be fleshed out into something pretty damn fun, especially in a team based multiplayer shooter. Even among friends using voice chat together and able to warn each other, it would add a level of tension and suspense that would be an interesting addition to a game.

Okay, so here is where I hit publish, and someone tells me it’s already been done and by who. In a world with this many imaginative gamers, the possibility I came up with a new idea is ridiculous. But what the heck, I am enjoying imagining the possibilities to spice up my games.

Give me your feedback, what do you think? What kinds of mid-game bonus objectives do You think would toss a group a curveball in a fun way?

Storytime: What Goes Around Comes Around


I have something to share I really enjoyed, wanted to end the week on an up stroke.

The company I work for is pretty sizeable, with many branches spread across four states. With all of that, it’s family owned and still has that small ‘everyone knows everyone’ feel to it. Most everyone here was here at the start, when it all worked out of a small office in a strip mall.

What I guess I’m leading towards is that, while we work our butts off and get things done, and people are respectful to each other, there is an underlying relaxation among those of us that have been here a while and know each other.

Another important point is that my office is in what you’d call the ‘head shed’ or the corporate area. We’ve got sales outlets and repair facilities and stuff here too, but this is the location with the upper management, such as it is. You know, CFO, CEO, HR, etc. In fact, my office shares a wall with the HR office and if we talk too loud in here, she’ll hear it pretty easily.

So, all that out of the way.

We’ve been expanding my department, growing, working towards tripling our current workforce. Part of that has been hiring and training a new salesman, and now adding on a personal assistant for me.

Part of explosive growth means I’m up to my ass in alligators. I am what you call a single point source of failure. If I go on vacation, people shit themselves. I know most of you can relate to that.

So, instead of training my own personal assistant, I trained the new outside sales guy last month, and now I’m having HIM train my new assistant. They’re next to me though, so I can chime in with the view from above on why he’s being traing to do the stuff Kyle is showing him.

I know this may surprise you, but I’m both a bit of a smartass and a practical joker. I know! Crazy, right? I know I’m pretty uptight and all most of the time here, so you probably didn’t know I could loosen up around the office.

Turned out the salesman, Kyle, well he can dish it out as well as he can take it, and he’s a good guy, so we been messing with each other ever since he came onboard. And the new guy, Curt, he’s all right, he does seem a little high strung but he is the FNG so he’s been taking any good natured ribbing in stride. He can dish it out as well, but he’s so swamped trying to learn a million new systems that he is always walking around in sort of a mid-level panic attack. Kyle tells him that the last thing he needs to do is drink coffee, but hey, who among us can be the one to toss that stone?

So here we are, three of us in my office, with Kyle the sales guy hovering over my new assistant Curt’s shoulder, pointing out stuff like computer systems, contact lists, quoting and, oh yeah, our phone system.

We have this interesting phone system just got added earlier this year. We’ve got digital phones at each desk, and each computer has an app called the Shoretel Communicator which will let us answer our phone, get voicemail messages, forward voicemails to other extensions and all sorts of stuff right from the computer screen. I don’t even need to touch the phone.

This new phone thingie also has a built in Instant Message function. You can call up the app, type in an extension or an employee name, and pop them an internal IM to their desktop. never use it myself, I’m more of a call guy, because if I send you an IM, how do I know you’re at your desk to get it?

So I know what it is, but I don’t use it, and to be honest I don’t know anyone that DOES use it for anything at all except for personal bullshit gossip, and even then I ain’t in that loop. Ain’t nobody got time for that at my desk.

Earlier this week, my boss takes off for Florida to go visit with some vendors, get a free hat, maybe shoot a round of golf. I’ve got Kyle working with Curt and out of my hair so I can try and stay in front of the leading edge of the emergencies that come in every day. “Oh my god my crane is down, what do we do?” “Just take a deep breath, relax, I’ll move some things around and have someone there to fix it in about half an hour. Cool?”

So there I am, plugging away, and an IM window pops up on my screen showing “Curt says; SUCK IT FU&*#^$&”.

I look over and there the two of them are, giggling and pointing fingers at each other. Curt says “Hey, I didn’t send that”, and Kyle points back at him “Well I can promise you I didn’t type it!”

Turns out Kyle is showing Curt the IM part of the phone system, as a joke Curt typed that in to my name, and then as he reached to backspace it off, Kyle reached his gorilla arm around and slapped the Enter key on the keyboard numpad and sent it.

So Curt is freaking out, the two of them are pointing at each other, and I say, “Oh yeah, if that’s where we’re going with this, I’m going to get HR involved.”

And I click the little ‘add a person to the conversation’ button on the IM, type in our HR manager’s name, and hit enter.

Moments later, the IM window on both my and Curt’s computers adds a notice that HR has joined the conversation… and that means she got the entire conversation window.

Curt… Curt just freaked. As Kyle dissolved in laughter mixed with gasps of “ohmigod you didn’t just,” Curt leaped out of his chair and away from the computer, recoiling in fear like a rattlesnake just popped it’s head around the monitor stand.

He’s just losing it, I thoght he was stroking out right there, so I closed the window on my desk closing the IM session, and reassured him there was very little chance HR would have seen it. it’s all good, I’m sure it’s fine.

Curt is still standing there in a panic attack, breathing heavy, saying “OMG I’m going to get walked out of the company, I can’t believe you did that.”

Now, I’m laughing too hard to really reply, but Curt went to get more coffee and Kyle sat down and got his laughter under control.

I gave it enough time for Curt to come back and Kyle to get tucked in next to him going over something else, and then I quietly got up and walked on over to the HR office, poked my head in and said, “Hey, did you happen to see a pop up IM window a few minutes ago?”

Lori looked at me and replied, “Yes, but I don’t know what that was about.”

So I explained. In detail. In loving detail. The whole story.

So she lost her shit too, then she got her ‘I’m professional, no really” face on, and walked out of her office.

I’m still standing there in the corridor outside my office when I hear her walk in and annouce, “Okay, what exactly is going on in here? That was completely inappropriate in the office.”

Now Kyle has enough of a clue to start asking her if she’s serious, halfway laughing and halfway worried, but Curt went from gently vibrating to over the edge freaked in point two seconds.

Lori played it perfectly straight as long as she could, coming down on them like a ton of bricks, denying I’d said anything to her and approaching it as if she was at her desk when the “SUCK IT FU&$^%*” IM popped up and she was now investigating.

So BOTH Kyle and Curt are now losing their shit, and I’m out in the hallway and i just cannot control my laughing. I thought I was going to pass out, I was laughing so hard.

Lori finally couldn’t keep it going and broke in laughter, and i went in and we calmed Kyle and Curt down somewhat.

Curt needed a bit to climb down off of the ceiling, but eventually I think he was getting back down to normal. Somewhat.

I immediately follow up by texting my boss, who is on a plane somewhere winging his way back to us, and let him know that there are high tensions between Curt and kyle in the office. I think they’re having some seriousl personality conflicts.

Then about half an hour later, I text him again telling him there is no longer an issue, that HR had to get involved and Lori straightened everything out, but my boss should probably find out what HR had to do by calling Lori when he landed.

Shortly after his plane landed, I get a panicked text from my boss, now he’s freaking, what happened, did Curt quit? Did Kyle quit? What’s going on?

I repeat my text saying he needs to call HR, no I’m completely serious Lori had to straighten it out.

Now, I know my boss. I know HE’S now freaking out.

I walk around the corner to the HR office, just in time to catch Lori fielding a call from my boss.

And he was taken like a suckerfish, hook, line and sinker. He bought the whole thing.

By the time the real story was shared with him, my boss was about ready to piss his pants in panic over trying to fill TWO sudden vacancies just when both of them were about ready to be kicked out into the real world and make some money.

Then came the capper.

Since today is Friday, it was the FNG’s first payday with a real physical check.

So when Curt came in to the office, he found a paycheck in a white envelope waiting for him on his keyboard, with a note from HR telling him it was his severance pay and to clean out his desk.


I think a lot of important training got accomplished.

In a very short period of time, I managed to teach both the new guys and remind my boss what will happen if you fuck with me.

Also, I taught a very valuable lesson on the importance of logging out of your desk when you step away, because you really don’t want anyone else to be able to send message from your keyboard.

Like, you really don’t.

Now I get to wait and watch for when some or all of them try to get me back.

Hey, if you can’t take it, don’t dish it out, right? I can hardly wait to see what they come up with.

Best pack a lunch, me boyos.