Vocola: Part 1 – The Basics

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is impressive software. It’s recognition accuracy is excellent. However, to unlock its full potential with macros and complex commands, you would have to purchase the Professional version for around $500, putting it well outside of the reach of many gamers. Thankfully, third-party software called Vocola can be used to replace — and in some cases, improve upon — the functionality missing from the Home and Premium versions of DNS.

Written by Rick Mohr, Vocola is available in two different versions: Vocola 2 works with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, while Vocola 3 was developed for Windows Speech Recognition. The syntax is slightly different between the two, but there is a primer of the differences available. (In most cases, you can use the same commands in either, but I will endeavor to point out the exceptions.)

Download and installation instructions: Vocola 2 | Vocola 3.

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Annotated Map of the Dreamgrove

I don’t know about you, but I have been frustrated at times, trying to find specific NPCs and places within our new Order Hall, the Dreamgrove. Well, wander no more, dear reader. I have created an annotated map of significant persons and locations to help. I hope that it will be as helpful to you as it has been to me.

Annotated Map of the Dreamgrove
Don’t worry about bookmarking this post; the full-sized map is available as a menu item above!

Healing by Numbers: First Impressions

I originally wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, once the site domain name was registered, but WordPress wasn’t yet installed. I wanted to capture my immediate thoughts after my first experience healing a (non-heroic) instance without the use of my hands. In roughly chronological order they were:

  1. Now that he’s hit the level cap, Mr. Phae really wants to start instancing. I spent 3 hours today writing and testing macros, but I’m just not sure if I’m ready. Isn’t the best way to test code in production? Field test!
  2. I should probably do a random LFG through the group finder, but I think I’d rather kill my friends than perfect strangers. Let’s invite guildmates. They, at least, are stuck with me.
  3. Random Dungeon Finder says: Darkheart Thicket
  4. My auto-follow command uses my currently set focus. Should that be the tank? (In retrospect, no, it should not have been the tank.)
  5. Oh God, he pulled. Okay, what do all these buttons do again? Oh, that’s right I don’t use buttons.
  6. *awkward silence* … “Rejuvenate …2! Uh…. Also Lifebloom! I mean Bloom! Uh … I mean Bloom 2! GAH!! WILD GROWTH!!”
  7. Our Demon Hunter tank is great. He’s making me look almost passable.
  8. No, Mr. Phae, you cannot blow your entire mana pool in the first 10 seconds of the fight as an Arcane Mage and ask me to give you Innervate. None for you!
  9. Okay, I’ve got this … “Rejuvenate 2… Bloom 2… Grow 2… Essence!”
  10. Look at me!! I can run with my head tracker and still heal with instant-cast abilities! Hahaha!! I am the T2000! Except not evil or sent from the future or in shape.

The best part of the night had to be the Dresaron fight which, as you may remember, includes an AOE pushback called Down Draft. Previously, I would have struggled to move and mouseover heal, but I was able to use my autorun command, steer with my head tracker, and continue healing my group with instant-cast abilities until it subsided. It felt … strangely epic. By the end of the instance, our group had only a single death (I think due to a group member standing too long in a ground effect). Heroics will undoubtedly be a big step-up in challenge, but normal instances seem completely feasible!

Getting Started with Voice Recognition

A vital component of playing hands-free is some form of voice recognition software. To fulfill this need, there are two major players in the market: Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Windows Speech Recognition. While the former promises greater accuracy, the latter is included free as part of the Accessibility Features of any recent Windows operating system. (Note that there is a version of Dragon for Mac, but I have no experience with it and can thus not give my recommendation.)

Dragon NaturallySpeaking

There are actually three different versions of Dragon 13 available: Home, Premium, and Professional. For a comparison of the three different versions, you can see this PDF from Nuance. At nearly $500, Dragon Professional has the most advanced features, including the ability to write complex macros and commands. However, thanks to the free third-party software, Vocola — which I will show you how to use in a future post — you can get away with a copy of Premium, possibly Home (which I have not tried — YMMV).

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Hello (Again), World

Hello, and welcome to the Dreamgrove, a blog dedicated to playing a Restoration Druid in Azeroth … without the use of one’s hands!

I first created Phaelia after being initially enamored by the cinematic in which the Night Elf Druid morphs into Cat Form. Unfortunately, neither the Feral and Balance specializations appealed to me, but I loved the feel of Restoration. I had previously played for years as a Ranger in EverQuest — a much maligned and often underperforming DPS class — and was eager to play a class or specialization that would always be wanted. I played for several years before founding Resto4Life.com in 2007, which I authored for just over two years before the impending arrival of my son (for whom the Phaelia’s Vestments of the Sprouting Seed were graciously named) prompted me to take a long break from blogging and gaming altogether.

I would visit Azeroth intermittently over the next few years, but was unable transition to playing regularly. A year into the release of Warlords of Draenor, our little Sprout was old enough to play a character of his own, making World of Warcraft an activity we could enjoy together as a family. Mr. Phae and I helped him to level a Worgen hunter of his own, all the way up to the level cap. This is no small feat as the majority of conversation seems to revolve around determining what happened to his pet and where he has run off to now.

After only a couple of months raiding in Draenor, a project deadline at work caused me to have to put in longer hours and greater amounts of typing than I was accustomed to. The two activities combined caused me to develop pain in both of my wrists and forearms. Because I had previously suffered from similar pain years earlier – pain which had resolved itself without too much difficulty – I didn’t think much of it. I began icing my wrists at work and during raids. When it became apparent that I wasn’t healing on my own, I spent several hundred dollars on ergonomic equipment which, although seemingly helpful at first, soon proved to be ineffectual. As my condition worsened and because my career depends upon the use of my hands, I was forced to give up all recreational computer use.

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