State of Mind: Scattered

Why, yes, today's guild missions are brought to you by Skittles.

I’ve kinda been all over the place in the last few days. Yes, even in my gaming and entertainment leisure time.

Kingdoms of Amalur went on Steam sale over the weekend, and I couldn’t resist picking it up and trying it out. It’s… kinda ho-hum. It looks pretty and decent enough. I was kinda expecting something Skyrim-like, but got something a touch more generic. The NPC interactions are all voiced and functional, but it weirds me out that they all seem to be giving me one generic response treating me like a human even though I chose to play an Alfar – eg. they stand around telling me all about the Alfar like a narrator, sometimes putting in their snide opinions about the race, while I’m standing over here thinking, “Don’t I look like an Alfar to you?”

Combat is third-person console action-like, a little bit Dark Souls-ish but probably a lot easier, with blocking and dodging and all kinds of weapons that you can eventually unlock combat combos for and stuff like that. There’s a certain slickness of presentation – eg. combat moves can be reviewed in a separate menu page which even kindly includes a short embedded video of what the move looks like when performed (very nice, more games should do this a la DOTA 2, etc.), the manual itself is integrated into a menu page for you to review if desired.

And there’s also clunky aspects, like promptly overloading myself when I unwittingly took stuff from a chest in town that was apparently extra weapon/armor DLC and me not being able to figure out where there’s a house or stash to put them in again… The quests are not especially thrilling me, they remind me a bit of a soulless typical MMO – lots of errands, little choice about how I can react to them or roleplay (if the quest suddenly decides you gotta kill these people, then you gotta kill the targets it wants you to kill, unless you don’t do the quest at all and don’t get the xp), and I don’t even have the fun of socially interacting with other people to boot.

We’ll see. It’s not a -bad- game per se. It just seems like I had slightly different expectations of what it could give me, going in, and I may have to turn to another game to get it, while playing this game for what it is, at a later date.

I’ve been sneaking in daily missions in Path of Exile. It’s about all the time I can spare for it at the moment.

I have a sudden urge to check out Marvel Heroes, but I’m really just too scattered this week to manage it.

A chance comment some time ago got me thinking about Babylon 5, and I decided to start a marathon session of it alongside my gaming during the more meditative, mindless moments. Also taking advantage of this to backup my DVDs into digital form – already had one minor scare when I found scratches on Disc 4 of Season 1 and it seemed unplayable in the DVD drive. Had to give it a mild polish with, of all things, toothpaste – making tons of smaller minute scratches to polish down the big one sufficiently to be read. Just starting Season 2 now.

There are more than a dozen things I could be and am sort of kinda maybe want to be doing in Guild Wars 2.

I’m not quite at the ‘overwhelm’ stage of can’t cope, but I’ve been distinctly squirreling all over the place in the last few days just unable to concentrate or focus much or decide on a direction.

  • There’s a nagging reminder in the back of my head that I need to update my guide and take out FGS references and clean up a few paragraphs that are unclear or slightly off course, now that the feature pack is out.
  • There’s my regular iron ore or platinum ore node runs. It’s a decent way to make pocket change off the dungeon runners, since I really don’t have the personality or playstyle to do 5-6+ dungeon runs a day. (It’s entirely possible there are crafter and TP middlemen in there as well, as the gold generated by dungeon running somehow filters down to the other player types through the TP.)
  • There’s another nagging reminder that I haven’t done a thing about the optional achievements for not-quite ‘hard-mode’ Living Story challenges for Dragon’s Reach Part 2.
  • There’s finding the time to attend TTS Teq or Wurm runs.
  • There’s finding the time to do some WvW – I hear there’s a tournament going on. Personally, I’ve been super grateful that the required participation this time around is only 5 events.

Mostly because I’m still having periodic driver issues with my X-Fi soundcard. Every now and then, while in GW2 and someone constantly talking over Mumble, a magic frequency or pitch will be hit, or the card just decides it’s had enough, or there’s a memory leak, or the driver just decides to malfunction, or I DON’T KNOW, the whole damn thing will freeze my computer for good. Cue hard reset, cue a lost place in WvW and no mood to continue because the continuity of whatever urgent battle there was has just vanished, cue an undetected soundcard on reboot, and about 15 minutes of Driver Sweeping all traces of the soundcard driver off my system and reinstalling the exact same drivers again.

It will then promptly go back to working for an unspecified period of time, playing MP3s, movies and VOIP with no issues whatsoever… UNTIL¬† IT DECIDES TO DO IT AGAIN.

The good news is that it’s looking likely that I’ll have accumulated enough spare budget for a new computer sometime in October *crosses fingers, hope I don’t jinx anything by saying it* and I might be able to finally stop playing on a toaster run by PotatoOS and relegate this box to being a secondary system.

It does mean that I need to factor some time in the next few weeks to research current computer hardware options for putting together an affordable dream computer. While pleasant to look forward to, it -is- another fairly big project on the to-do-sometime list making me even more scatterbrained, having too many choices of fun pleasant things to do with leisure time.

  • Back in GW2, there’s wanting to take advantage of the new money-making opportunities from the collections that just launched and changes to certain classes making certain gear suddenly more desirable, plus WvW tourney being in effect. Not going to specify more than that, since I don’t want my targeted niches to close too quickly, but let’s just say the prices of certain things have shot up to amounts that raise my eyebrows and have me going, “Oh man, I would SO DO THAT for 15 minutes over 15 minutes of CoF ad nauseam and get the same 1-2 gold from it.”
  • On a related note, camping out in the Font of Rhand also seems to have developed into a popular activity. I think it’s awesome, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I really enjoy that minidungeon and wish more people knew about it / experienced it. Well, these days the rewards seem to have become worth it for folks to portal others in, even. You get a daily rare on killing Rhendak, similar to a world boss. And with each new character, a daily chance at opening his chest, likely for blues and greens, but you might get a rare and maybe even the Chalice of Rhendak for the Treasure Hunter collection. There’s also trying to get him to cough up his exotic ring…. that’s going to take a while. He takes 10 minutes to respawn, which seems like a fair enough respawn time – I’ve been getting through quite a few Babylon 5 episodes while cycling through spare characters.
  • I’ve completely wiped out my fractal relics from making Mawdrey II. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m on the lookout for jumping into -some- fractals to get relics accumulated again.
  • There’s the dungeons collections, which I’ll probably never get in a hurry, but I wouldn’t be opposed to getting some more tokens whenever…
  • Oh, and there’s my new charr mesmer who’s level 24, just shy of my stagnated human mesmer at level 26, who seems more promisingly fun to level. Sometimes it’s really about looks and feel of your character, I guess. I’d love to get him back into leveling and map exploring… except I seem to have gotten stuck waiting for the buggy mines in one of Diessa Plateau’s hearts to be fixed (can’t interact with them) and have somehow ended up camped out in Rhendak’s underwater chamber after chowing down enough skill scrolls to cheat my way to getting Portal on the utility¬† bar.

Yeah, I think you get the idea.

There’s plenty of other RL stuff that I ought to be getting done somewhen as well.

I think I’m eventually just going to have to sit down, sacrifice an hour to make a list and prioritize one thing over another, but yeah, squirrel mind is being squirrely at present.

I expect blog posting and updates to be fairly squirrely for the next week or two too.

GW2: First Thoughts on the Feature Patch and the New Leveling Experience

Truth is, it’s going to take me a while to absorb everything that just came down in a big info dump in the Game Update patch notes.

I haven’t quite made it through all the profession changes yet, just sort of went through the guardian notes that are my primary interest and glanced at the rest.

collections

The Collections are interesting, if a tide underwhelming at present. I’d been under the impression that many little tchotchkes would become easy collections to get some achiever dings over – things like food, or drinks or bags of loot.

Instead, the only fun one seems to be the junk collector with the Honorary Skritt title and the rest look a little more laborious. There’s -some- food, but only steak so far. No burgers, no pizza, no soup or vegetarian collections or stuff like that.

There’s certainly potential to expand, and I hope it will soon(TM), but at the moment, I’m finding it more attractive to offload some of the named exotics I’d been hoarding in the bank, wondering if they’d ever turn into precursors – looks like they won’t, but at least they’re collectibles now – at the currently inflated prices.

combatlog

The Combat Log is something I’d really like to gush over.

I think it’s gone unnoticed by many, but it’s actually USEFUL now.

The color scheme used in the combat log is a touch eyebrow raising, but sort of oddly reminiscent of oldschool MUDs where stuff is color-coded with a bunch of esoteric meaning. Presumably, since only those interested in the technical and numerical stuff would ever look at it, it’s ok.

Purple is being used for condition damage and orange for direct damage and green for healing, as far as I could tell from a quick glance at it.

All the condition damage is being reported *swoons in ecstasy* and even my clone damage from exploding was captured, so I presume other professions’ pets are also getting logged. That’s really really sweet.

I don’t know if someone will figure out a way to parse this yet, but there’s at least some -clear- data here.

One still can’t see other peoples’ damage and so on, which I think is for the best, since that might lead to comparisons and exclusion, but in the interests of -personal- improvement or optimization/efficiency, this is at least a tool that can actually be read and used now – rather than having to video record stuff and manually count white damage numbers and guess at other things.

The Miniature changes are surprisingly underwhelming for now.

I bound a few of my favorite minis that had been sitting in my bags, but was mildly dismayed to see that it was likely going to be hidden all the time (even from me!) on my toaster settings anyway.

Considering how I normally struggle with frame rates, perhaps it’s for the best that I don’t even see my own puppy following me most of the time. (Though if I’m alone and wandering the open world, even if the map is crowded, you’d think I ought to be able to see my own mini until I walk into the equivalent of world boss or WvW zerg congestion on my screen.)

The Trading Post changes have been mildly disorientating.

I’m not sure if it loads faster, and I kind of miss the tab that was just for taking items away from the TP. Right now, I have to load the whole damn TP and extra info just to collect some money, feels a little more clunky in that respect.

I haven't sold a Foxfire Cluster in forever, those are definitely NOT "my latest trades."

I haven’t sold a Foxfire Cluster in forever, those are definitely NOT “my latest trades.”

I -do- like the new filters, though it takes a bit of getting used to, after you’re accustomed to the old way of doing things.

Searching for armor my new mesmer alt could wear, within his level range, and with some Power on it, was a lot smoother and gave easier to choose from options.

The new filters are nice.

The new armor filters are nice, as sifting through on my guardian demonstrates.

But then again, I tried to type “Superior rune of the flame legion” into the search box and ended up cut off before being able to specify “flame legion” – which led to a whole bunch of other superior runes displayed.

Instead, the right keywords to use are “sup rune flame” or something oddly truncated like that.

That character text limitation is a little annoying to work around.

selling1

-Selling- things feels like one has to absorb a lot more info than before.

Having to drag a slider bar when one could previously just click a button to sell all is a step up in annoyance.

Sure, you list both fees now, but you don’t even helpfully provide a net profit summation, so now we’re expected to mentally subtract both fees ourselves. I think it’s -far- more likely that more people will be deceived by the total price and continue to pay TP tax without realizing it.

It’s more than a bit annoying to see that only the last 5 prices are visible at any time and that you have to scroll down to see the rest.This is a lot more game-able than the old system which let you see more prices at a glance, -if- you looked up the buy prices. Many won’t bother to scroll down. Expect traders to put up little honey traps in groups of 5 to knock the old prices off visibility.

selling2

Take, for example, this random rare dagger that drops as random loot.

The first trap is easy to spot, someone posted one for 64.46 silver when the rest are selling at 66.46 silver.

selling3

If you take the trouble to scroll down past the 66 silvers, there’s a jump that’s almost invisible here, between 66 and 69 silver.

It is entirely possible that someone may buy up daggers up to this price on a fairly regular basis and that if you post this dagger for anywhere 69 silver and under, it’ll sell. How many people will be bothered to look through this, scrolling through a pathetic 5 prices at a time? Much less than before, I suspect. Expect lots of lazy selling at whatever minimum is offered.

I don’t know if all the changes really made anything clearer or not, it just feels like there are different places people will get caught out, and different places wily traders can come in to profit from those too lazy to work it all out.

And finally, the New Player Leveling Experience.

I’m not really radically against it, like many screaming over the forums and on Reddit.

I took a new charr mesmer up from level 1, playing through like a complete newbie, up to about level 9.

The tutorial tips that show up seem to be quite explanatory, with the option of leaving it up or quickly closing it via pressing the ‘X’ for close window. This catches that group of slower tactical learners who want time to read through instructions over just jumping in and doing it.

The leveling experience at low levels does seem to have been sped up slightly, which means that those used to the game can very quickly speed through the most limiting and annoying ‘locked weapon skill’ stage past level 2 and 4.

In truth, the only time I really chafed at the weapon skill lock was when I was trying to tag mobs in a crowded Defend the Armory from Flame Legion event, which had somehow attracted a good seven veterans or so – presumably in search of the new hearts. Only having mesmer scepter skill 1 is NUTS, it is so SO SLOW when you’re trying to tag or cleave as many things as possible before all these crazy exotic-geared 80s blow everything up. I got about 2 of every 4 mobs that spawned, if I was lucky.

I was really happy to finish that heart and get the event xp and then run as fast as my little clawed feet could take me out of there and go back to slowly and methodically single-targeting random mobs to death.

Going from heart to heart following the content guide did offer a more streamlined experience than previously, rate of experience gain included.

The profession loot seemed to be working for me, as I got a number of white and blue drops that were usable upgrades. Some +Power clothes that I could wear, and very attractively, new weapons like a sword, pistol (level 2, but not usable until level 7 when offhand unlocks, *gasp*), a greatsword and a staff.

Since I was getting bored out of my mind with the slow rate of the scepter autoattack – but the torment isn’t half bad if you can successfully block with skill 2 and layer 6-7 stacks of torment on , and the skill 3 confusion stacks are SICK, thank you combat log – I took advantage of this to swap and try out the other weapons, presumably as intended, though lord knows if new players will figure it out if it isn’t spelled out for them too.

Plains of Ashford apparently had two new hearts added to it. My memory isn’t the best, but it appears to be the cows immediately next to the starting drop-off point and the skritt/cannon area, which I did always think was a little weird that the area had nothing but a skill point and a dynamic event up there.

The clarity and fanfare with each level up does feel more pronounced now.

Can't you just hear the guitar riffs? It's as if a dev said, "Not rewarding enough, eh? HERE!"

Can’t you just hear the guitar riffs? It’s as if a dev was thinking, “Geez, they keep saying it doesn’t feel rewarding enough! Well, fine, HERE!”

Around level 9, I started getting a bit restless with the pace and took a break away from the content guide, heading into the Black Citadel and for the nearest Trading Post. Why they removed the handy one near the starting drop-off point is beyond me – too confusing for newbies? A little subtle proding to veterans seeking convenience to pop one if they want to use one, maybe?

There I grabbed all the usual twink gear – the cheapest +Power stuff at the off-level of 6, minor runes of +Power and level 10 +Power jewellery, wandered off the beaten track to hit a few yellow mobs and push myself to level 10.

Then I went through the Personal Story in a big chunk and rather enjoyed it. Mobs stayed at level 10, even as the Personal Story completions were awarding XP and pushing me through the levels, so things felt more doable and there was less of those old ‘stuck’ points where you were facing a +3 level challenge and unwilling to go off and get more levels before coming back, leading to repeated deaths and restart at checkpoints. I was level 12 by the time I finished.

Considering that I hadn’t even map explored through half of the Plains of Ashford, -HOPEFULLY- this will finally stop those ridiculous complaints of “help, I’m underleveled and have completed my starting zone” and the equally ridiculous advice to jump through portals and map complete another race’s starting zone to fix that. HOPEFULLY, newbies will find themselves level 15 at the point they’re really supposed to transition to the level 15-25 zone.

The one thing I did find a little disappointing was skill points being pushed so far back to level 13. This invalidates a number of skill trainers in the starting zone, which give you the “successfully passed” message and is somewhat disorientating, especially when you realize later that you’ll have to retrace your footsteps -back- to them to get SP. That’s… more than a bit weird.

So far, so good, I guess. I got to level 13 in a couple of hours, which -seems- like the pace that newbies would expect.

The biggest mixed feelings I get from this new player experience is the distinct sensation that we’ve moved over from stressing an Explorer experience to focusing on an Achiever one.

Personally, it doesn’t disturb me too much either way because I have tendencies in either direction. I can adapt to Achiever signposts if a game chooses to go that way, and I can jump into a sandbox with the best of them and explore and go read third-party wikis and websites to figure out what to do next.

I’m an EASK, after all, both playstyles are my primary and secondary, and I’m also strong enough an Explorer to figure out how to set the defaults back to the way I prefer it.

I mean, if I really let my inner elitist speak, I’d say, “If folks aren’t Explorer enough to figure out how to shut the upper-right compass off, then they’re the subset that the straightforward little arrow was meant for.”

That was the FIRST thing I went for, when I logged into my level 80 main and went, OMG, what is this awful thing in the corner, TURN IT OFF, TURN IT OFF.

So I brought up the Options menu, read through stuff, saw the new “Content Guide” drop down bar option, and promptly set it from Default to Off, glancing through the other options in the process and thinking, ok, those might come in useful when I’m leveling a new alt or going on focused map exploration. (It -would- be handy if we could set it per character, and not a one-size-fits-all account setting though.)

Then I went for my regular jumping puzzle visit, popped an Enchanted Map piece, went “Kewl, a sekrit to explore!” and promptly ran around visiting jumping puzzles I hadn’t visited for a long time, hoping to pop another map piece. Somewhere in Diessa Plateau, I overheard mapchat complaining bitterly about compass arrow, how it was hand-holding and so on, while another person asked if it was possible to turn it off, and the complainer went ahead and said something like, oh, I don’t think it’s possible until you hit level 80 or complete the Personal Story or something.

Rolling my eyes with the utter INCORRECTNESS of this, I had to speak up over mapchat and pointedly “handhold” the map into looking at Options => Content Guide, whereupon they realized, OH, we -can- turn it off, after all, while other people went, oh, these other options might be useful for map exploring, etc.

PSA: You can turn off the compass or content guide via the options here!

PSA: You can turn off the “compass” or content guide via the options here!

No, really, some things -aren’t- obvious to everybody, and I don’t see too much harm in clearly spelling it out for them if they require it. The clearly demarcated dodge tutorial, for example, at least ensures that more lowbies will figure out that they do have a dodge button. If that’s what they need to learn, so be it.

The only sadness I get is that it’ll be a bit trickier to guide an Explorer down this Achiever centered road now. Gone is the “world is completely open and ripe for the plucking” feeling from having weapon skills unlock from use, from having a wealth of skills and traits and options at an early stage. What is “overwhelm, too many options, too little direction” to an Achiever or a newbie is the “world is my oyster, ooh, so much complexity and depth” discovery feeling for an Explorer.

We somehow have to get the message out that it’s still going to be okay to turn off the Content Guide and strike out cross-country, immersing into the world, poking one’s head into every nook and cranny.

I know I will, on my other alts when I want the exploration and world immersion feel, but I’m used to the old way of doing things and can figure these things out for myself.

Maybe I guess it’s better to trust that the Explorers will know how to tweak settings to match their preferences over the Achievers. Maybe.

Did we want to risk losing the Explorer cohort in favor of the Achiever crowds? I guess one subset pays better than the other? Or many of the Explorers are already here and past the lowbie experience… the novelty of new content is still pretty far away in November, though.

Dunno. Certainly there’s still one thing Explorers can explore. The entire new level up system, its rewards and the whole ‘feel’ of taking a character through it.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see on how it plays out over time, once the knee jerk reactions to sudden change are done.

GW2: Speak of That Devil Spider…

yessss

Yesssss…

I believe this was promised a little while ago (aka yesterday.)

Figures, it takes a little public rant about it to finally get it done.

My previous thoughts on tactics had been fine, it was mostly just all in the execution.

Essentially, after getting repeatedly pwned in the cave, I pulled the spider out to use the handy dandy protruding corner of rock.

diespiderdie

This blocks a fair amount of its normal pounce attacks and its web pull, though it -will- chase you around the corner, so you always have to keep moving to the other side and back again.

Its egg spit will go right -through- the corner, just like your own cleave attacks, so there’s no rest and relaxation (or exploitation) going on here.

When it lifts its abdomen, block or dodge the egg spit (or be not in the path of its frontal cone) to prevent an uncontrollable swarm of spiders + veteran spiders from showing up.

It will also use an immobilize, which pulses at least twice and can be quite a pain to condition clear if you press the buttons too fast, and tends to egg spit right after that, while you’re all tangled up in the immobilize trying to clear it and unable to dodge.

What really helped me was thinking BLOCK first over dodge.

By prioritizing focus 5, retreat, and F3 virtue aegis, there were a little less accidents of the “oh god, dodge, wait I didn’t dodge, I’m stuck, and now it just hit me with a really painful egg spit, how to heal now, panic!” variety.

There were still times when all blocks hadn’t recharged and it was a matter of life and death dodge timing, but less strenuous compared to before, and signet of respite heal was able to keep up with the occasional inescapable accidental egging.

To get rid of the immobilize, condition clears were prioritized – smite condition and purging flames, and maybe focus 4 if it could hit.

A lot more condition clears really couldn’t hurt, but my attempt at excessively retraiting to pure of voice didn’t help the first time, and I went back to my old selfish zerker build and managed it, so welp, whatever worked.

Now all I have to do is keep trying to repeat the same feat every time I visit for rich platinum veins…

That -might- be a little trickier.

Well, -some- day, I’ll not be afraid of the itsy bitsy undead spider any more.