State of the Game: Requires Further Study

It’s funny, but I’ve been playing three games lately that I’m struggling to find something to say about them.

I just feel like I haven’t played them long enough to really get a handle on them to talk intelligently about.

Guild Wars 2

The latest content drop has been criticized for being short.

I can’t help but think that some of that is possibly intentional, in a “I notice that they’re tending to have each phase of the Living Story extend out to a month” fashion, so something big happens in the first two weeks, and then a smaller change occurs in the third and forth weeks to keep the more active players’ attention, while giving those that can only sporadically log in some chance to catch up with the content.

Then again, to me, each Living Story patch doesn’t -just- consist of one ez-mode play through of the instances for the storyline. That’s the first thing I do, yes, but not the last.

There’s the open world content.

Just like in Dry Top, each patch needs to have some kind of impetus pushing players to keep doing the zone of the month, so that other slower people still have a chance to see that zone active. Putting the carapace glove reward in the zone itself does that, despite cries from people who’d rather have the easier option of running through the story multiple times to get it.

Personally, I still haven’t got enough of Silverwastes yet. I’m still craving -organized- Silverwastes. I managed to catch a TTS run on the very first day the content dropped and I was so happy with the whole experience. Folks divided out quite naturally to each fort, supply bulls got run, and yes, all five bosses died.

There was even time for hilarity and a little more unoptimal behavior by getting an entire bunch of players to turn into mechanical devourers and tour each fort killing stuff as a giant scorpion army.

It was kind of surprisingly effective, -when- we finally got to a location (the damage on both the melee and range attacks are pretty sick), though travel time was somewhat prohibitive when trundling around as a big zerg of scorpions. I can easily see that a few mechanical devourers stationed at each fort would really help with the defence.

Plus, since gold and silver terragriffs usually end up running short on dps, they managed to coordinate the portaling of a bunch of devourers into the breach. I wasn’t there, but I hear that was pretty much the fastest anyone had seen the two terragriffs go down.

However, general PUG interest in Silverwastes seems to be slowing down somewhat, given the emptier zones I end up randomly zoning into. Organized attempts at Silverwastes are few and far between (during the times I’ve been playing anyway. SEA to EU prime times, which might unfortunately be the not so great times) and it’s been kind of depressing to see zones that do badly, when doing well is a little more rewarding.

(I suspect that many have not even seen the successful reward, so they have no motivation to care or try. Killing 5 bosses, by the way, gets you a greater nightmare key right off the bat. Running around to assemble one from 25 smaller pieces in the maze is just a supplement.)

Probably like everyone else, I end up comforting myself with the fact that the maze will open up regardless of how cruddy players are at the bosses, since that’s beyond my control anyway, and I just go in and run around and play pac-man. Which at least solely relies on my individual capacity of observation and reaction to get some loot rewards.

The players with lesser skill end up paying more in terms of waypoint fees, and time penalties from death and respawning (though at least repair costs are free now, and so the death penalty hurts a lot less), while the savvy figure out strategies to extend their survival time. In a way, it’s nice to see stealth valued in an activity, just like healing (of dumb crippled NPCs) and control/interrupts (of nastier enemy NPCs) had their time in the sun.

I’ve been playing on my guardian, which unfortunately doesn’t have that ability (though I did manage to jump with perfect timing into a thief’s shadow refuge once, just a split second before it went down) so one has been forced to develop other tricks. Been getting a lot of mileage out of my standard swiftness-prioritized open world build – reduced recharge on shouts, retreat and save yourselves always on the bar. It’s not constant swiftness uptime, I’d need to swap a staff in for that – which I maybe should – but it’s certainly quite a lot of speed for those times in between glowing ball form.

Then there’s actual observation of the minimap to see where the wolves and the next glowing ball are going to be, and impromptu planning of which direction to head towards, and even -pausing- to let a wolf run past, or hiding out in a corner for a moment, or changing Z-axis by hopping up or down a ledge, forcing a wolf to run the long way around. All little movement and positioning tricks to let one get a headstart on a wolf, long enough to get to the next glowing ball for safety.

Then in times of desperation, there’s the dodge roll evade. Wolf is on a heading straight for you. Keeping your absolute cool, you head straight on for it, and with perfect timing, you dodge roll forward and time it such that it will lunge at you right when you’re in the invincibility frame and get an “evaded” message. By the time the wolf finishes up its animation, you’ve already swiftness jogged past it and are just a few feet ahead, just barely enough time to grab a glowing ball and be safe once more.

And you know, there’s an old survival of the fittest joke that says you don’t have to be faster than the bear, or the sabre tooth tiger. You just have to be faster than the last guy that’s also running away from it. Happens in the maze over and over. :P

Sorry, bud, no hard feelings, but the time the wolf is spending gnawing on your guts is valuable time for me to scoot. (You’ll benefit in the end when we all hit Tier 3 and get the shared group reward.)

Finally, there’s also the hardmode achievements for the storyline that I also would like to do before making a judgement on the patch entirely. I hear that the flying boss fight becomes rather challenging indeed in challenge mote form. Haven’t had the time to get around to it yet. Until that’s done, I can’t say I’m done with -all- the content of the patch, to be honest.

Marvel Heroes 2015

On a whim, I’ve gone and installed this freebie on Steam.

I’m like level 25 now, and I -still- don’t know what to make of this game.

If people think the new player experience for Guild Wars 2 is confusing, they should maybe have a look at some other MMOs on the market these days.

Oh, the gameplay in MH2015 itself is ridiculously straightforward. It’s a Diablo-lite. Move around by clicking with a mouse. Left click to attack, right click to strong attack, use some MOBA-like bound keys to do different skill attacks. You can swap them around and customize your skill and keybindings, though I still haven’t settled on or decided on a good arrangement yet.

Part of the trouble is the default difficulty level. On the storyline, at any rate. It’s piss-easy. It’s so easy that you can pretty much get away with left-clicking and things die. It’s so brain-dead, I’m left wondering, people actually like to play games like this? Just to get a sense of pretend-butt-kicking, I suppose?

I finally unlocked heroic difficulty at level 25 the other day, but haven’t figured out if it’s advisable to swap over for a better experience or not. Or whether one is expected to run through every difficulty level, like Diablo or some such, in order to get all the “required” rewards.

I poked my head into some challenge instances, and wow, those felt a little more different. I was actually getting hurt, for example, and needing to heal up. Things took more damage to kill.

However, the difficulty seems to be of the numerical variety. As in more hitpoints to punching bag away. Need more and better stats in order to be able to withstand the damage dealt.

That sort of difficulty is mostly combated through a) theorycrafting of builds – which I don’t really have the motivation for right now – and b) an endless search for better stats through loot drops. Such hamster-wheeling has always seemed a little shallow to me. I’m not really much of a vertical progression person.

I’m left with rather awkward feeling combat. You get rooted while firing off certain skills to let the animations finish, which produce a start-and-stop effect that doesn’t feel as good as your regular fast-paced action RPGs like, fer instance, Path of Exile (and I presume, Diablo and Torchlight too, though I haven’t played either in recent experience to say for sure.)

Then there’s the loot and presentation of content itself. Now -that’s- confusing to a new player. What are all these game-specific terminology? What’s Team-Up somethingamig for? What are these relics I need to collect a thousand of for? (Boy that seems grindy, a 1000 of something.) Credits, Gs, eternity splinters and more. What the hell are all these currencies for?

I get crafting material drops mixed in with gear drops. The crafting quest is a super simple basic one that just leads you to the NPC and makes you do one thing, and I haven’t had the patience to look over the rest of the vendor yet.

I get all rainbow colors of gear, white, green, blue, purple, yellow and even a brown unique. I presume the yellow and browns are keepers, and maybe the purple is decent enough. There’s a million and one different kinds of stats on them, affecting skills and other things, all of which I don’t actually grok what they’re for or what I should be prioritizing.

And what am I supposed to be doing with the rest of the ‘junk’ items? Leave ‘em on the floor like standard Diablo-likes? Or do I cart them over and sell them to a vendor for credits? Do I even need credits? Do I “donate” them instead to raise the vendor level? Which vendors are important to raise first? (I eventually ended up skim-reading a guide which pointed me to unloading this stuff on the crafter and enchanter.)

I suppose learning these things come with time. I suppose Guild Wars 2 jargon might be just as confusing to a new player. (Though in GW2, you can’t permanently fuck up anything by just trying it out.)

I’m not really complaining about any of it, just commenting on the first impression experience. I mean, I’m still logging into Marvel Heroes daily, since they have a very cute reward system for encouraging daily log-ins, and it’s moderately amusing to just jump into the Midtown Manhattan instance and hit stuff for a bit. Very nice rate of experience gain and loot, and sort of recreates a street-sweeping experience I’ve missed since CoH was shut down (though the same instance gets really repetitive after a while.)

It’s perplexing to me that the new Industry City patrol zone that they’ve been promoting, doesn’t have the same experience gain or fun factor as MM. How are you going to persuade players to leave the ‘farm’ zone otherwise? (I hear they just patched it yesterday, so maybe they’ve tweaked a few things since, but… yeah.)

I just keep plodding on for now, wondering if it’s ever going to get any better. And whether I’ll actually be able to learn/experience anything significant to blog about. Or if it’s just going to be something along the lines of Neverwinter – click to hit stuff, see stuff die, get artificial number increments and pretend-shiny loot drops and rank up in “tier” or “gearscore” sufficiently to hit other stuff and see those die.

Prison Architect

I bought this a while back.

Started the game, went, OMG, it looks like something out of the Dwarf Fortress genre where you’re going to have to build and plan an entire building/base from scratch… looks interesting as hell, but I don’t have the time right now, and then quit right out.

Tried it again recently, and I haven’t got much furfther than the very basic tutorial and struggling on a basic base.

At the moment, I’m more playing Prison Electrician, as the entire electrical circuit / power supply aspect is causing me a massive headache.

My prisoners are just hanging around in pitch darkness while the Power Stations trip a fuse every time I start them up.

There’s just not enough proper feedback as to what I’m doing wrong with them at the moment.

This is something I personally think they need to work on eventually, though I’m aware it’s still in perpetual Alpha or whatever.

Through a lot of wiki’ing and reading, I finally figured out that connecting two power stations on the same circuit is a no-no. So is having the electrical current take two paths and run into each other, producing a short of some kind. Or something of that ilk.

So I tried to make just one Power Station supply one part of the prison and just one straight line electrical cable extension or two, at most.

Except now I’m running out of juice from the Power Station itself, apparently, and have to add on capacitors for more juice.

Except I didn’t give enough adjacent room to put capacitors all around, and can’t figure out how to move the Power Station beyond just destroying it and building a new one in place.

And apparently kitchen equipment like a fridge and cooker take up an extreme amount of juice, and this is causing my Power Station to flip out and trip back into darkness. Like I would be able to tell, since there is absolutely no numerical feedback of any kind as to how much juice the Power Station is producing and how much the other equipment is taking up. (I thought stuff like this was basic to games like SimCity and so on.)

And apparently, I just learned from reading a guide that the capacitors shut off and have to be manually turned on the moment the power trips.

Which maybe explains why I don’t have enough juice in my previous attempts.

I’ve still yet to try this new strategy out, but man, talk about a whole lot of unnecessary busywork.

Due to this little hitch, I haven’t even had enough gameplay time to actually go about playing with the prisoner and other aspects of Prison Architect yet. I’m sure there’s plenty of depth and fun stuff to talk about… assuming I can get through the basics eventually.

Time to read and watch more wikis and guides, I guess.

GW2: Echoes of the Past One Week In

Whoa...most colorful rabbit hole ever...

charrnobbing

One week in, it’s hard to know what to say about the latest Echoes of the Past update.

Is it good? Yeah.

The storytellers have learned that a great many GW2 players are highly nostalgic and greatly fond of the old lore, and have shoveled it in, in spades.

Speaking of digging implements, there was a slight bug/miscalculation, but benefiting the players this time, of just how cooperative players can be when induced with ‘everyone gets more free loot’ rewards.

I didn’t quite get to partake of the crazy chest farm as much as I’d like, before it got fixed, but I did find the time to stay long enough one night to get 95 champion bags or so, and got two Bonetti’s Rapiers out of it, one of which I kept for my own collection, the other I sold on the TP for 23 gold.

Good enough for me. With my kind of crappy earning power, that’s a pretty significant bonus in my book.

The rest of the time has been spent getting around to finishing up Dragon’s Reach Part 2 achievements, along with the recent Echoes of the Past ones.

It sort of reminds me of playing the original Guild Wars in a way – plenty of things to do, but in your own time, without having to worry that it’ll be gone for good.

The mechanics used in the instances and the new zone have been rather refreshing, and pretty creative. I like the direction, though I do think some of the feedback and signposting can be a little more obvious now and then.

For instance, I ran around attempting the Facet of Darkness achievement more than 3 times, because I plain underestimated the size of the vortex explosion’s effect. I was indulging my tanky instincts, letting the facet walk over close to the vortex before triggering it, and it just wasn’t covering the distance fast enough to kill itself in 15 seconds, leaving me somewhat perplexed.

A bunch of friends who are a lot more open to reading Dulfy than I am, essentially called me an idiot over party chat and said to read Dulfy and AoE all the things. Like with a guardian’s biggest cone attack ever, the lootstick staff.

Sure enough, even with the facet pretty durned far away to my eyes, I just went and lootsticked all the things like blowing up volatile blossoms in TA, and voila, it fell over and achievement done.

Huh.

I guess the size of the boon-stealing AoE white circle had sort of conditioned me into thinking the explosion radius was also going to be around that size. Little did I know it was actually a LOT bigger than that.

A more visible explosion indicating said radius might have helped me read that mechanic better, fer instance.

These are just small nitpicks, though. By and large, much of it seems fairly well designed, with step-wise tutorial mobs of a sort that build up to the final boss.

vines

Playing in the Silverwastes has been moderately fun.

I’m actually keen to play the zone properly, in an organized fashion, but so far I’ve been pretty disappointed at the times I’ve been logging in. Organization has been lacking so far.

Players haven’t really been distributing themselves well to each fort, nor do they seem very inclined or motivated to cooperate or coordinate.

The supply bulls are pretty important to run, but usually only a few to zero heroes will take on the task of escorting them over.

And to make matters even more depressing, even if said sacrificial heroes actually bring the bulls and upgrading the fort’s defences, many of the players hanging by the forts staunchly ignore the fact that they can use siege to help the defence, preferring to autoattack and then promptly fall down and require a rez when something (a terragriff, a wolf, a troll, whatever) charges them.

How hard is it to figure out tactics vs Mordrem mobs?

Terragriff charges – dodge sideways.

Wolf pounces and does nasty damage flanking – face wolf all the time,  have mitigation like blinds, blocks, evades, invulnerables, etc.

Troll throws insect swarms – keep moving, dodge aoes, and if you get the target over your head indicating you’re now the aggro target, guess what, you can actually bring the insect swarms to the troll so that they attack the troll.

I mean, the only thing one may have an excuse on is versus husks, which are high toughness and mostly vulnerable to condition damage, which understandably, one may not have appropriate gear to do so.

Anyway, the playerbase seems too distracted by the prospect of bandit chests or hunting the elusive legendaries to attempt the zone properly for now.

I’m more or less content to wait until things develop to the point where more people are compelled to seek organization.

As I mentioned in a Reddit thread a while back, I can’t help but think that the three straight lanes on the west side of the map, and the glimpse of the strange plant-like thing (not going into more specifics to avoid spoilers) in the Living Story episode, suggests that there may very well be a phase 2 to this zone later on, unlocking in a similar fashion to Dry Top.

If there turns out to be a big raid-like boss (and unique desirable rewards) at the end of this fort defence and breach attack of five champion bosses, well, then -maybe- some groups will eventually be inclined to get together in a map, divide themselves properly to the various forts, dedicate groups of supply escorters, and so on. -That- would be fun to participate in.

In the meantime, I am just gonna waffle around like everyone else, randomly picking a fort (probably an easy one, like amber, where nearly everyone congregates), doing the events there – maybe deigning to bring a bull every now and then so that I can tag more events, and so I can get away from the masses at the fort and indulge my solo preferences – jump into the breach, defeat one boss, and then grin wryly and chuckle as one of the Terragriffs fail to get killed, or the Husk doesn’t die because no condi, or some fort was left bereft of people and so no one went in, or whatever.

Whatever, indeed. It all builds up token rewards anyway.

I think it’s just a matter of time.