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I was really curious about how the new ray traced shadows in WoW would work and… They are Not Good.

Walk over to what should be a light source – a brazier – and somehow shadows are being cast TOWARDS the light source. Run around indoors to various light sources and my shadow never changes direction; seems like it’s using a universal light source that’s the same as whatever is outside.

On top of that, it is a HUGE performance hit – went from 100-120 FPS on a 3440×1440 display with all settings maxxed to around 55-75 FPS when ray traced shadows were turned on to high and while if I looked really closely at shadows I could tell a difference, the fact that they didn’t bear any relationship to various light sources makes it a no go.

I’d gotten a little spoiled by Blizzard managing to do some reasonably seamless patch days and a couple of expansion launches that were relatively OK. This was definitely not one of those relatively smooth launches!

Rather than talk about what went badly, though, I’ll talk about what went great, from a multi-boxer’s perspective. Full disclosure, I didn’t actually multibox last night because it would have been an impossible combination of luck and connectivity that would let me make 5 characters on any server, but I did group with someone else, and that was kind of like multi-boxing…

The new starter zone is kind of fun, and all the quests can be done in a party, and I think all of them are boxer friendly. Even with the rush on launch night, I never had to wait more than a minute for any of the kill a specific person quests to show up, and there weren’t any annoying gathering quests. There were a couple of “demonstrate you can do a thing” quests that MIGHT not work for boxers, but I think it was pretty solid.

The level squish felt weird – numbers go down!? – but when I logged on to one of my hunters I was still about as powerful as I had been before and was able to complete a few world quests before the server died and I called it a night.

I like the changes to heirlooms – they still scale as you level, and the set bonuses that let you regen faster, get a fun effect when you level and make rested XP a bit better are nice. Even with all the server nonsense going on and playing in a new zone, and most of my addons not working, I still got to level 10 in about an hour.

The one thing I was most interested in – changes to the engine that would use the ray tracing capabilities of my 3090 RTX – I wasn’t able to actually do because, shame on me, I hadn’t updated to the Windows May 2020 patch, which was required. That said, I noticed that with one character the memory usage and GPU usage were about the same as it had been prior to the patch, so I’m reasonably sure the performance will be about the same once I’m multiboxing.

I’ve been playing WoW since launch, and while I’ve taken breaks from time to time, I’ve never missed the start of an expansion. While I’m not the fastest to level to the new cap, I tend to be goal oriented in general and try to get to max level ASAP for… I guess no particular reason beyond just getting there.

Another thing I’ve never really done all that aggressively is made gold – there was a patch during Cataclysm where I spent maybe the first 2 days after it dropped as an auction house baron for the gem market, and made something like a quarter million cold, give or take, but that was insanely boring.

For this expansion, I plan to mix my leveling and money making – for the first couple of weeks during the expansion I’m going to just have my Horde and Alliance druid teams run around herbing and mining their brains out while I listen to music or chat with people in Discord. This will let me get XP from all the gathering, map and explore the whole world, and hopefully make a couple million gold on both factions so I can just quit worrying about gold for when I make new teams and need to get them bags and advanced flight.

My Alliance druids are already at 120, and once pre-patch rolls around I’ll finish leveling my Horde druids – all High Mountain Tauren for maximum gathering speed with the glove enchants – and be ready to rock!

It’s been an insanely long time – several years, which is hard to imagine – since I wrote about multi-boxing. Just because I haven’t been writing doesn’t mean I haven’t been running around Azeroth blowing things up while rolling 5 deep, however!

In the time since I last wrote, Legion has come and given way to Battle for Azeroth, and now it’s almost time for Shadowlands to launch! A quick summary:

Legion was fine. It was pretty fun, I liked the introduction of Allied Races, though the handful they introduced were not particularly thrilling. Boxing was pretty easy in it, and really the main thing I’ve taken away from Legion is that “I wish there were more frequent invasions because leveling is a slog.”

Battle for Azeroth is pretty OK. I like the Island Expeditions and am bummed they didn’t keep scaling them up to keep them relevant. I have a weakness for gnomes, and Mechagon was pretty fun the first time through, and I’m happy I have my Mechagnomes unlocked. The Horrific Visions were really fun – one of the things that seems to happen in WoW, and especially when you multi-box is that things go from being crushingly difficult or impossible to trivial very quickly when you either get some gear or figure out strategies. The visions were the first time where I felt like I was able to feel like I was progressing in a number of ways that were more subtle. The other big thing for me was having to figure out how to do dungeons with druids who weren’t all Guardian spec, and really discovering my love of Beast Master Hunters.

I have no information about Shadowlands – and I’m trying to keep it that way, as much as I can. I’m pretty sure we’re all dead in it, or something? They’re bringing back some abilities? I do know that it’ll be more demanding on my hardware, though, and for that reason (ok, and a bunch of other reasons, but it sounds much funnier if I say it’s just for WoW), I’ve built a new beast of a PC!

My old machine was not bad:

  • 6 core 5930K Haswell
  • 32GB RAM
  • 2x 1080 GTX (sometimes in SLI, sometime doing other dumb stuff with them)
  • 2x 4k@60hz displays

The card struggled with the 4k displays, naturally, but some judicious tweaking of graphics settings in WoW let me box with some acceptable enough framerates, albeit fairly low graphics settings.

My new machine is, well, ridiculous:

  • 16 core Ryzen 3950x 16
  • 128 GB RAM
  • Same ol’ 2x 1080s, which I will “soon” be swapping out for either a 3080 or, if the reviews show it beats the 3080 by more than 25% in performance, a 3090
  • 1x 3140×1440@120 hz display – less real estate but my god the graphics are smooth!

I also moved from a SATA 3 SSD to an m.2 nvme stick and that’s been a really nice boost to speed as well.

In addition to being stupidly overpowered for any boxing I’m going to do, this has been used for things like running a few private servers for lost and lamented MMOs as well as my ongoing efforts to meddle with machine learning. It also doubles as a heater during winter.

My teams are ready for Shadowlands, and I’ve got the hardware to let them off the chain!

I got my paladins to 70. I’m now going to let them get rested XP so that I can spend as little time running Wrath of the Lich King dungeons as possible; I’ve done them to death and beyond. If I can do 3 levels a week on them, that would be 10 weeks before I get to Legion stuff. That’s a slog.

Butm at least I can switch off with my Demon Hunter group! As soon as I dinged 70 I got to work building that team. The starting area was surprisingly painless to multi-box. Everything was boxer friendly, all of the bosses were trivial with 5 tanks blowing them up, and I got through in about an hour, with much of that time spent tweaking things.

Getting their artifacts wasn’t bad – I had to take about 10 minutes per just quickly getting their glaives, since those are of course scenarios. I got quicker as I ran through it each time, figuring out what I could skip, how much I could tank, etc.

The real slog so far has been the Stormheim scenario and the Exodar stuff. I figured I might as well rip the bandaid off as quickly as possible, so I got all of my team through Stormheim and the Exodar back to back. Holy crap but those are annoying and take much too long. I won’t mind that my paladins will need 10 weeks or so before I get there because that’s about when I’ll be willing to run them again.

Fun thing with the DH team is that I made them all miners and herbalists, and it really is nice to be able to multi-tap nodes. I haven’t set anything fancy up to make mining and herbing easier, I’m just shifting from window to window and clicking on a node. At some point I’ll spend some time on that, but for right now it’s no big deal. Even that seems pleasant compared to that annoying Stormheim intro and having to once again find out that the Prophet Velen was a pretty crap dad and also not so good with the prophecy stuff.

But I will be.

Once I get my 5x Protection Paladin team to level 70, my plan is to let them gain rested XP while I level up a team of 5x Vengeance Demon Hunters (yes, I loves me some tanking). I figure I can switch between the two teams to keep things fresh.

Vengeance might be a bit tricky – there’s a fair amount of movement needed to play it well, and that’s always challenging for me. I’m not sure on professions yet – I might also make them gatherers, because gold is good, and they can feed my other characters who have crafting professions.

Huge good thing is also going to be that by the time I get that team started, 7.1.5 should be out, which means I’ll get 15 ranks worth of Artifact Knowledge, which should let me quickly get them up to snuff.

I’ve decided to dust off my multi-boxing skills and start tinkering about in Legion. Right now I’m leveling a team of Paladins, all Protection Spec, with full heirlooms.

So far the team is level 55, entirely through dungeons once I hit level 10, and it’s been smooth sailing through everything. Trash melts between Avenger’s Shield, Consecration and Blessed Hammer. The self healing from Light of the Protector is great, and Flash Heal can deal with spikes. Having 2 cooldowns to use to reduce incoming damage helps on some boss fights.

My set-up this time around is dead simple – I’m using ISBoxer for key broadcasting. I have a main attack sequence which is just alternating Blessed Hammer and Shield of the Righteous, and then I have all my other abilities being fired off as they come onto cooldown. The priority I’m using is Avenger’s Shield->Judgment->Consecration->Light of the Protector->Main Attack.

My plan with the team is to level exclusively through dungeons until I get to Legion, at which point I’ll mix dungeons with questing, since that’s essential for class progression. Also, at the point I get to Legion content, I’m going to make everyone a miner and herbalist, since you can multi-tap nodes now.

I’ve been extremely busy so haven’t updated much of anything.

Now that I’m back again, I am still trying to figure out how to get this stupid YouTube Feeder plugin to work, as well as a few other transitional issues that came up when I moved to this different hosting situation. Bleh!

I figure a Tuesday downtime is a good time to take a pause and throw out some feedback about Mists of Pandaria.

Now that I’ve had a bit of an opportunity to play around in Mists of Pandaria – questing, running dungeons, doing professions, starting some Monks – I can report back with a bit of experience about the game and how it’s changed for multi or dual-boxers, rather than just my speculation as before.

What is GOOD:

– Questing is, by and large, the same now for boxers as it is for single players. There were a few quests in the Pandaria zones that didn’t work properly for boxers (wouldn’t update everyone) but those seem to be getting fixed. The only quests that now aren’t easier for boxers are the gathering quests where you have to interact with a sparkly – those you have to do for each member. I consider that a small sacrifice, as every other kind of quest is super easy to do thanks to having a whole posse. Kill quests have gotten much harder for single players. Additionally, some quests require you to interact with an animal to gather them – there’s one for snagging dragonflies, for example, and if you target one and then have your whole team assist and then interact with target EVERYONE gets one.

– The instances are, so far, exactly as I thought – Blizzard learned their lesson from Cataclysm and have seriously toned down the difficulty of normal dungeons and heroics. Mechanically, there are not many “If you mess up this one mechanic you will absolutely die instantly and cause a wipe” things going on. The closest I can think of would be in the Temple of the Jade Serpent where the final boss throws a curse on you that will kill your party if you don’t dispel it within about 5-10 seconds or so. But it’s telegraphed and extremely easy to remove, so whatever. If you want a challenge, do challenge modes – for everyone else, normal and heroic modes are just fine.

– The professions! They’ve retrofitted the whole “get multiple skillups from one combine” mechanic into some of the older professions which has taken a bit of the grind out of them. Enchanting, Tailoring, Inscription and Alchemy were trivial to level and Cooking was basically just “go to Halfhill, get 535 cooking in no time.” Gathering is easy since there’s just SO MUCH STUFF and it respawns quickly.

– The zones! They’re GORGEOUS! The NPC’s are funny! The quest text is worth reading! The phasing isn’t nearly as bad as it was in previous expansions!

– The whole “multiple ways to level” thing has really come of age. My druid (solo boxer) character managed to get halfway through level 87 just by gathering herbs and ore and doing archaeology. My Horde team is leveling through questing and dungeons, while my Ally team will level, I think, entirely through dungeon runs. You could do this kind of thing previously, of course, but now it feels a lot more like either way is a completely valid choice, instead of one being clearly super fast with the other being a grind.

– Gearing up! My Alliance team was in crap gear but thanks to the vendors in various zones they are now at least not suicidally poorly geared. A good thing.

– Two Moons! A central city for each faction and there’s everything you can want – portals are back, there’s an engineer auction house just so I can feel superior, and so on. It’s also quite lovely.

– Most of the talent/spec system changes! Everything I want is baked right into my spec, and when it comes time to pick talents I have a choice. How awesome is that? Same for glyphs.

– AoE looting is the bomb diggity, as my goblin friends might say.

What is BAD:

– Questing! Overall it’s good, but there are some bad issues with glitches in quests that you’ll run across. It feels like these should have been handled in beta.

– Some professions! Ore is hellishly expensive since it gets used by 3 professions vs. herbs which only get used by 2 professions. Some professions have a super easy path to level up, but Blacksmithing, Engineering and Leatherworking seem to be a bit less easy to skill up. I’m calling these “bads” not because they are horribly grindy, but just because they are annoying compared to the easy professions.

What I’m on the fence about:

– No flying. I like flying because I like just going from point A to point B really fast when I know exactly where I want to be and I don’t want to stop on the way. On the other hand, I don’t mind not being able to fly that much (and I’ll be able to fly again at 90) when I’m constantly stopping to do quests, gather herbs and ore, etc.

– Some of the talent resets irk me. My paladin, for example, gets Heart of the Crusader so I’m faster than my team and now can’t be mounted and still drive from my tank. That bites. I hope they allow me to turn it off or share it again.

For the last week or so I’ve been getting a pile of Error #132 crashes when my team has gone into instances – from looking at the logs it seems like VuhDo is not working correctly, which started just recently. When I have VuhDo in, some of my team will crash every time I run a dungeon. When I have VuhDo out, no crashes.

I’m attempting to fix this now by modifying Pitbull and then adding Clique to let me mimic the functionality of VuhDo. While I’m at it I’ll be re-doing my UI entirely to take a lot of what I consider the clutter out and leaving me with a lot more of the pretty on-screen. A fun little project, and I’ll post screenshots as I make progress.