Bloggy XMAS Day 14: Community and Me

I’m going to be splitting up my Bloggy XMAS post into two parts.

In this post, I wanted to cover my personal history with gaming communities, mostly to give some context for the following post, on how we can join and form communities.

In college, I was deep into that predecessor of an MMO: the MUD.

  • Schooling overseas, so in a well-populated American time zone.
  • Plenty of free time, with the liberty to cut classes with no compulsory marking of attendance (A boring and uninteresting professor reading from a textbook or talking to the blackboard was easily replaced by actually reading the textbook on one’s own, at a faster speed than narrated aloud.)
  • Alone in a strange country looking for like-minded souls.
  • Strongly introverted.

The perfect ingredients for seeking out and finding belonging in online communities, really.

I’d easily spend a good 12-18 hours a day, just logged into the MUD. (Wandering off AFK to do other things now and then, of course.)

Heck, sometimes I’d even leave the computer on and stay logged in overnight. One’s character would be unresponsive, but one could always scroll back to check what had happened while one was asleep, and one year, I hit upon the idea of making my own primitive chatbot with the basic scripts of the MUD client. A trigger keyword spoken by someone else would produce a string of random responses. It was quite amusing to see others play with and discover the keywords that would produce unique quips, even after they realized there was no one at home.

It should be fairly unsurprising to all that I pretty much ran the full gamut of online community experience during that time.

I joined a guild. (That MUD automatically helped to form sub-communities with pre-existing guilds divided by one’s character class.)

I became a very active and enthusiastic member, participating in every event organized, voraciously eating up advice and knowledge from veterans.

There weren’t quite ‘officer’ ranks in those days beyond Guild Leader, Number One and Number Two, but informally, there were more active people in semi-leadership positions bringing newer folks on ‘raids’ – ‘runs’ in those days, comprising of 3-8+ people. As one gained more experience, I started becoming one of those people.

Being constantly online and presenting as a female character on that particular alt, it is also fairly unsurprising that I started to become a nucleus, a central core around which community or social networks form. (I’m sure you know at least one or two of those folks who seemed to be linked to everyone and know everybody.)

Especially when you mix in an extreme amount of game competency and a willingness to teach (or at least, lead and drag along – I was less mellow in those days) others. People respect game expertise and also want to follow because they either get to learn and benefit or profit without much effort, y’know?

You might expect that eventually, the official ranks followed as well.

And you’d be right.

I don’t think I sought it out beyond the initial application, but just kept being the stellar example of leadership that I imagined that I’d like myself, and just climbed up through the ranks through attrition, as each Guild Leader lost interest in the game or burned out or decided it was time to step down.

Damn, but leading is a helluva lot of work.

I think I lasted a decent amount of time, a year or two, perhaps. I was pretty authoritarian, channeling my best benevolent dictator impression – perhaps inspired by my home country’s ex-leadership. I like to think that I did good during that time.

Inactives that never contributed anything (or indeed logged on) were ruthlessly and regularly purged. I clamped down on stealing from the guild donation vault – stuff that was donated by other members and meant for newbies were being used by some more selfishly oriented members to lazily equip their alts (which were never used for anything that benefited the guild either) and wielded the kick from guild option (called “outcast” in those days) like a banhammer, enforcing rules that had never been taken seriously until then.

The goal, of course, was to form a tighter community of active participants that knew each other’s names and knew they could rely on each other. Social loafing and parasiting was discouraged.

(Yeah, I was fairly elitist in those days too. You were either ‘in-group’ or ‘out-group’ to me. I didn’t care about the out-group, they could go off and do their own things, far away from me. I wanted to cultivate the promising in-group intensely.)

It wasn’t all serious scary business. When I wasn’t being a fearsome GM-like individual (maybe 10-20% of the time, falling to 5% as the guild got cleaned up and filled up with a better quality of people), I was busy being an example of the kind of person and culture I wanted in the guild. Friendly, fun, cheerful, ready to help and respond to anything, with a very hefty helping of the strangely quirky. Kumquats were the official fruit mascot of the guild, fer instance.

At the same time, I guess I already participated in multi-guilding before the concept of MMOs was even formed.

The MUD allowed alts. The alts could belong to different organizations. My guild was primarily a social guild that allowed for aspirations to middle-of-the-road raiding. I wanted more and I knew the culture of the guild couldn’t quite support the high-level stuff (at least not until more people leveled alts of the right class – balance in those days and in that game was non-existent. You just couldn’t defeat certain mobs with all representatives of one class, especially a class with a lower damage skill and was meant to stay at home producing healing potions for other higher-damage classes.)

Naturally, I applied for and got in to one of the premiere ‘raid’ organizations in that time, in that place. Social networking really helped, just like real world job applications, I guess. One of my previous guild leaders was in-game ‘married’ to one of the top players of the MUD. I got to know both of them, and they were my ‘in’ into that organization.

It was a great place. It was a really special organization, formed from a group of people who had broken away from a pre-existing organization and had enough social clout to actually get the imms and coders to create an organization with a new name. (All that stuff was hard-coded, so it wasn’t as easy as it is now to birth new guilds.)

They were fun-loving, but really serious about raids and the cream of the crop – these were players with the oodles of time to run and learn every hard mob, and kill them repeatedly for the good gear that made all their alts big and bad and powerful; these were players who, in their time, had served as leaders of guilds; these were players who read and studied the code of the MUD or wrote item databases for the rest of the MUD to use or knew how to solve mysterious riddles, map changing mazes and ridiculous amounts of trivia about the MUD.

We were, of course, brought together by a certain amount of personal greed. We wanted to kill the biggest and baddest mobs. We wanted no one else to have that level of wealth and to monopolize it all and get richer.

It was the best of times. And the worst of times.

8-11 people cannot sit together in a room (even a virtual one) waiting for a mob to spawn without getting to know each other’s names and socialize and chat.

The culture in those days was to do our best to kill the mob for as many times as there were players, so that everyone would walk away with an equal share of the loot. Mobs would respawn every 15-20 minutes later, or some other set amount of time per area.

(It’s easier for mobs that just need 3-5 people, and a lot more challenging the moment we start talking 8+ people. Someone eventually devised a point system – adopted by others on the MUD later as our members spread it to other orgs – that I think eventually found its way into Everquest in the form of DKP.)

It was also a ton of time spent, and prevented people who didn’t have that sort of time from ever joining the top echelons.

And when there are people and greed and limited loot, there is also eventually drama and fallout.

Oh, I don’t think any of us ever stole from each other. The number of people we’re talking about was just too small for ninja-looting to be successful. When there’s only 300-500 players on a MUD, period, your name will be forever blackened and your reputation dust if one ever tried that. But there was plenty of hostility and rivalry and elitism versus other groups, other organizations.

A divided culture like this only lasts as long as there are enough people to sustain all the little small sub-communities.

When Everquest came out, the MUD lost players to the newfangled graphical interface thingie.

When WoW came out, well… even fewer people stuck around.

I’d burned myself out on guild leading some time earlier. An introvert and a hermit like me just cannot fake it for that long without running out of energy eventually.

I’d burned myself out on leveling more characters in the MUD by seriously overdoing it – the crowning ambition was max’ing out 5 characters simultaneously – I did it, I was really darned happy about it, I used nearly every power-leveling trick there was in the book, and shortly after, nearly every power-leveling trick was nerfed into the ground by an immortal/coder that wanted to close all the bugs (I don’t think that was me though. That coder was intently following someone else to learn what they were doing – the one I’d learned the tricks from, really, and I never abused the worst ones as much as they did,) and I could never get used to the non-cheaty rate of experience gain again.

I’d burned myself out on the slow pace of change. You think waiting for MMO expansions and updates these days is bad? Try a MUD coded by unpaid volunteers. Takes months to change, like, a typo. Take a democratic debate and umpteen meetings to maybe propose that something ought to change, and if the bureaucracy of players who are afraid of change don’t shout the idea down or tear it to shreds, the lack of any actual manpower to code the agreed-on change means that nothing happens anyway.

The names that I was familiar with were no longer logging in regularly. They’d gotten sucked into Everquest. Sucked into WoW.

The community wasn’t broken overnight, but it was never the same as it was in its heyday.

I clung on a lot longer than I really should have, afraid of loss. Loss of reputation, loss of my name, loss of self-image, loss of characters and gear and treasures (stuff auto-deleted in those days if you didn’t log in regularly, it’s not like commercial MMOs these days that keep your records forever.) I spent a long time pining for something that could never come again and complaining to anyone who would listen about the present horrible state of affairs, while not actually enjoying the game I was logging into out of habit’s sake.

But I was running out of people who would listen, as well.

This isn’t meant to be a negative or depressing post, so I’d cut the long story short and say that the revelation finally hit me that I needed to go cold turkey with it all.

It helped that I finally found an alternative game that didn’t follow in the same vein as the fantasy-style vertical progression raid game that I’d already burned out on.

City of Heroes was a great introduction to the world of 3D, with the transient social nature of PUGs that lasted only as long as the game session, and a community that pretty much existed only in whole on a web forum, divided into smaller server sub-communities.

Having burned out from the old game, I went the ol’ antisocial solo loner route on this one, with only a real life friend or two joining me from time to time, minus a couple abortive attempts at joining a supergroup. There just wasn’t any real need to form tight exclusive communities, though I did participate in the occasional fun event brewed up by someone on the forums. Those were mostly one-offs.

Since then, I’ve had plenty of other community experiences.

Many attempts at belonging sputtered out. I tried to join The Older Gamers, mostly for RIFT, and found it a little too megaguild for me, with too many crossover games and too many players a little too casual for my tastes.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but a general lack of focus, and my interest in belonging to the community diminished as my interest in the MMO did.

I joined some random guild in Age of Conan and tried my hand at ‘real’ MMO raiding – which wasn’t perhaps the best place to do it in, given the schizophrenic item stats and lack of researched information on what was effective or no, and my lack of a common raid language given that I didn’t play WoW or EQ but only ‘raided’ in City of Heroes.

(It took us a disgusting amount of tries and total raid wipes, until someone finally realized the off-tank taking one dog add was being a bit too insanely gungho in assuming that they had to stay put in one spot in order to get healed by the bear shaman, and running out of defensive cooldowns too quickly. *ahem, that was yours truly*

All it took was one quick demonstration by the other tank/healer pair that kiting around the pillars was ok and perfectly acceptable, and the problem was solved. The rest of the raid could now take as long as they liked to work on the main boss.

Frankly, I was privately amazed that it took that long for them to figure out what the problem was – or whether they knew and were just trying to figure out a way to tell me. One quick direct whisper would have sufficed.

Anyhow, Age of Conan, and thus that guild, died too quick a death for us to progress any further beyond that. And I was already having timezone clash issues.)

I joined some other random guild for Warhammer and Aion, and mostly found out that I didn’t quite fit into groups of young teenagers or barely twenty somethings that liked to run around in a big group killing other people, mostly by outnumbering them, and getting killed in turn, when outnumbered, with little to no effort at improving this equation as a team or analyzing what went wrong.

But there have also been decent enough successes.

I’ve been neighborly in A Tale in the Desert, where communities are formed in a geographic sense, by the people who settle down next to you. There’s a certain tension still in trying to maintain one’s own separateness and independence from communal efforts, which may eat you up and spit you out with nothing much to show for it besides burnout if one is not careful, but also room for being generous and helpful and becoming real friends with people whose chat or company you enjoy (as opposed to just being polite and civil acquaintances.)

There’s the MMO/games blogging community, which is interesting for being asynchronous. Posts are put up in one’s own time. Posts are read, commented on or linked to by others in their own time. But still the network of recognizable names (or faces/voices) form over time via our shared interest in games and talking about them.

I also think I’ve hit a very good balance in my present MMO, as compared to my two old extremes between being too special on the MUD and being no one special in City of Heroes.

In GW2, I’ve lucked into a small, stable, social not-too-casual not-too-serious guild that I can run with for smallscale WvW. (Dungeons and guild missions used to be possible, but timezone clashes are now an issue, more’s the pity.)

The game’s design allows for a WvW community that isn’t too closed off and elitist, so I can still log into the server’s voice chat and easily find the current big group running at the time to join in to get my zerg on.

Ditto that for raids, with a big enough megaguild that also espouses openness rather than exclusion, which gives rise to a large enough cycling OCE/SEA population and sufficient leadership to actually get stuff done.

Nothing lasts forever, of course, but I’m certainly appreciating it while it does.

My main take-home message from this meandering of my MMO history is that there’s plenty of different styles of community out there. It may take a bit of doing, but it’s possible to find one that can suit you and your needs.

Also, don’t get surprised if it doesn’t last forever. Hell, even many marriages don’t last forever, these days. But appreciate the good moments while they happen.

Then try, try again.

Just Plain (or Playin’) Mercenary Now

gw2-mercenary

It figures. I go all gung-ho and farm Mordrem body parts for two days, because my compulsion to complete was reaching OCD standards… I bang my head against the Dodgy Crowd and Wicked Rodeo achievements more than a dozen times solo, before finally surrendering and looking for extra help in a group…

…and the big plan was to then title the next blog post “Mercenaries of the Silverwastes” and write some commentary on that.

Then Anet pulls the rug out from all of us with the announcement that Living Story will pause for Wintersday break and only resume on Jan 13.

Oh.

Hrm.

That feels like a bit of a letdown. Kinda deflated, really.

I think the biggest problem I have is that the story continuity kinda goes nowhere with this sort of pacing. One needs to have a sort of mini-arc come to a more-or-less satisfactory conclusion, before declaring a break.

One doesn’t just ramp up and build up mystery and suspense, plonk a big cliffhanger of a door in the way and say, well, wait 2, no, it’s 5 weeks now to find out what’s next!

Especially not if you’ve built up the expectation that the story will be explained in two weeks, and then suddenly extend it to five.

Did one really have to wait a week to announce that kind of thing, especially if it’s already scheduled? Just putting the Jan 13 date out there the moment Seeds of Truth launched, to say that it would continue then, would probably have mitigated expectations a little better.

Also, people wouldn’t have looked at the ridiculous amount of artificial Mordrem bodypart grind (two bladder pieces, wtf?) and freaked out.

Honestly, beyond getting strung along with a story that goes nowhere, I don’t have a big issue with the concept of a break for Wintersday.

It’s Christmas season, many people get busy irl, work takes a holiday in many companies, and personally I could use SNOW AND ICE for a while, instead of SAND AND ROCK.

It’s been…what, six weeks of the Silverwastes? There’s a limit to how novel the zone can feel, and as much as I’d really like to see what’s behind the west wall of vines that are ever extending outward (especially with the Shadow of the Dragon-sounding roar that echoes every now and then when you hang out between the Amber and Blue forts), it might do us all some good to have a break from the zone and go elsewhere for a change, before coming back refreshed.

(One will,  however, be a bit pissed story-wise, if we come back to find Camp Resolve strangled by vines. No, seriously, there’s this big giant vine creeping up on the camp here. For weeks. Cos plants grow slow, I guess.

If we can light signal fires to artillery barrage the forts, I humbly suggest that we turn the front part of this vine into a bonfire to signal the big guns to light it up further…)

Oh well.

If anything, it mostly comes as a bit of a relief.

Steam was offering Van Helsing II at 66% off the other day, and while I didn’t pick it up yet (I figure 66% ought to happen again during the Christmas sale, and I’m always hoping for 75%), it did remind me that I’ve always been intending to try out Van Helsing I, which has been sitting in my “to-be-played” list for an eternity now.

So I cranked it up and discovered that action RPGs seem to be a rather good accompaniment to an MMO habit. Quick to start, lots of mobs to fight, interesting skills and build pondering, plenty of loot drops/reward factor, and the ability to just log out and pause everything/put all progress on hold until the next time you feel like playing it.

(Between Path of Exile, Marvel Heroes and now Van Helsing, I’m racking up quite the collection, here.)

Van Helsing is entertaining in the sense that it feels a bit like a cross between a regular RPG and an action RPG. There’s a bit more of a story going on, with quests you pick up from NPCs, and sidequests. Stuff is supernatural-themed and you seem to be a bit of a mercenary hunter with one main plot you’re investigating, but along the way, you do a lot of other things and help various people – standard RPG schtick, really.

You have a nice interaction/banter occuring with your ghost “companion”, which sort of acts like a more elaborate Torchlight pet (she’ll be deadly insulted if you call her a pet, though), that will pick up items and gold for you, and go to the shops to sell stuff, plus a whole lot more besides.

There’s a bit more of a stop-and-start feel to the skills than something like Path of Exile or Diablo (the older versions anyway, I -assume- 3 is similar),  but not as awkward feeling as Marvel Heroes.

The challenge factor is a lot more appealing than Marvel Heroes, in the sense that one actually feels threatened by the mobs and can die to them, unless you do a lot of fancy footwork to kite stuff, or use healing potions and prep accordingly.

So at least I’ll have more time to play that in the 5 weeks that Living Story is more or less on hold.

Wintersday this year is in Divinity’s Reach, so I guess that’s something new and novel, to see the grand city dressed up in Winter finery.

I finally got Wynne’s Locket:

Picked up the Do Not Tread achievement after a lot of practice with Caithe and her skills and finally avoiding getting trampled or charged by acting like a total wuss and single-pulling centaurs out to the edges of the battle to murder, while letting Faolain tank the rest of them. (Stealthing in to rez her again if/when she goes down. Gotta match her for being a manipulative bastard, y’know?)

Was brought near to the point of tears and surrender with the other two achievements, and finally decided to join a group for the Wicked Rodeo achievement, if only to see how different it was when other people got to have their own skills.

It wasn’t a bad time, actually, though we wiped twice. Each go at it sort of showed us a bit more strategy on how we might actually progress with it.

Eventually, we settled on killing the elementals near the sides of the walls, leaving the nasty sand pools there, while avoiding most of the wind walls around the arena.

At the same time, I was playing Caithe, and decided to switch my gear around to 4 parts of Soldiers and 2 parts of Clerics, which made me a lot tankier than my usual Zerker stuff. (Died the first time to too many windwalls, died the second time to stumbling backward into two sandpools and getting conditioned to death with all my movement abilities on cooldown – which was stupid, but look, was avoiding windwalls, okay?)

I could pretty much just sit there and take one of Togron’s normal rock shard attacks without flinching, fer instance.

This also had the added bonus of turning me into a magnet for the elementals, so I could just tap them and bring them to the rest of the party gathering by the walls. They quickly made short work of them while I just spammed 1, afraid to do anything else and then move out of position with the rest of Caithe’s very movement-oriented skills.

The rest of the group was also more mobile and long-ranged, so they then pounded on Togron to bring his hp down while I just sat around at far range attracting his rock shards again, and preventing him from his close-range attack of creating sand pools.

That went really super smoothly, to the point one of the other party members asked if that felt like there were less waves that round. No, we just killed the elementals and worked his hp down really fast. -Really- fast. Cos no one died.

That experience gave me enough encouragement to try for Dodgy Crowd again, on normal, solo. Being really careful with Caithe and putting the eles near the walls before killing them, so as not to make nasty sand pool obstacles for myself.

After a few more times banging away at it, I got it, which makes me happy to feel like I accomplished something.

With that strategy, I might just give Wicked Rodeo a go again solo. Some other time, though.

I did get curious enough to join another group for Wicked Rodeo, this time playing myself, not Caithe. And yes, you can indeed reflect or absorb the windwalls. I got tons of mileage out of Shield of Absorption, and a lesser amount out of Wall of Reflection (problem with reflection is the windwalls will bounce away, so you better be standing in the right place.)

That group was a little less coordinated or organized. I kept mum on the strategy my original group had pulled off, cos I wanted to see what this one would come up with first. It ended up with most of us dead and one person finally managing to stretch it out and solo the last part of it, after repeated tries wiping. Still a viable enough solution, as far as it goes.

And I’m really just quite relieved that I’m done with the stupid Mordrem bodypart grind for now.

I ended up being one of those self-focused leechers for a bit, getting some hits in on a mob and then booking it to another. That’s just how the system is set up, right? It doesn’t actually matter if the bosses die or not, you still get the body parts. I don’t -want- the greater nightmare key reward, it gives glove boxes, which I don’t need right now. I just want -more- body part bags to open so that I might actually get a damned spleen or the second half of a bladder.

So one stops playing the Silverwastes properly, instead taxi’ing like mercenaries for hire into the next Silverwastes instance above 50% completion. One taps the events, does the bare minimum of defence, and runs around looking for lost bandit chests instead.

(Look, RNG and me don’t get along, all right? I’ve opened about 300 of them so far – 159 of them on a dedicated chest farm run – and only got one boots box out of it. On the 300th or so box.

The only good thing I can say is that I’m making quite a decent killing on materials that come out of the champion bags.)

Once the breach happens, hop into the first most-likely-to-die boss that you need (that’s usually Troll or Thrasher), tap it, bail when it feels like you’ve got enough damage in, and run, do-not-pass-Go, to the next boss you need (Husk or Terragriffs) and stay around to kill that (readying up an extractor to click the moment the first one dies.)

That’s at least two parts, and maybe even three, if you get the timings just right.

They might fix it eventually, but hey, not for 5 weeks, apparently. *coughs*

The good news is, I don’t need to do that anymore. I can now stay around like a good person and focus on killing one mob, so that other people who still need the parts can run from place to place.

The bad news is, I’m probably still going to pick an easy mob to kill first and go to the harder ones later.

That, and the fact I’ll beeline for any chest first over actually doing a Silverwastes event now.

State of the Game: Post-Weekend Coverage

“Content” and “chugging” seem to be the watchwords here, through the weekend.

gw2-sw1

Over in Guild Wars 2, I’m noticing increasing evidence of social loafing in the Silverwastes. More and more, people aren’t bothering to work on the entire zone properly, and are looking for shortcuts to the good stuff.

Taxis advertise 80%, 90%, 95% to Breach maps, possibly out of kindness, possibly from enlightened self-interest where more people = more chance champions die and the pac-man maze succeeds and gets everyone more crests.

I posit that there’s both a lack of transparency / visibility as well as a sense of lack of control at work here.

In the Marionette event, it was in a small localized area with one convenient waypoint leading right to all five paths, and people could quickly run to each path and observe for themselves the distribution of other players and if there were enough people that seemed to be taking the event seriously enough for a chance at success.

In the Silverwastes, you don’t know how many people are at Blue fort if you’re at Indigo, for example, or Red, or Amber. You could always ask on map chat, but chances of getting an answer are unlikely.

The Indigo bosses are also somewhat difficult for a PUG map to defeat, discouraging people who actually want a successful Mordrem part extraction from going there. Ditto Red and the Copper husk sometimes, if not enough conditions or damage are in play, or if someone just keeps AoEing all the poison bubbles, causing massive healing to occur.

I mean, I personally make a point of just hoofing it over to Amber and killing the Iron troll. That seems to be the boss that most PUG maps can manage. Maybe Blue and the Platinum boss IF there are enough people hanging out there. If not, better scram.

This turns into a somewhat depressing self-fulfilling prophecy, where only 1 or 2 bosses succeed.

Not that you can really do anything about it anyway, because the Mordrem faction mostly seem to be on a difficulty scale that the under average cannot manage. In nearly every defence or boss fight, there are nearly always about 3-5 dead bodies lying on the ground at any one time, cheerfully scaling up the fight but reluctant to waypoint because it’s so far away.

I’ve honestly given up any hope of teaching where the Silverwastes and Mordrem is concerned (whereas the Marionette seemed to have an embarrassment factor that whittled out those who couldn’t cut it eventually), mostly because I keep thinking of the couple of people that I’ve seen in my guilds that simply CANNOT manage the Crab Scuttle guild rush.

Mind you, we are standing there right beside them, killing off anything threatening we are allowed to kill, looking at their buffs/conditions status bar while in party, telling them over and over in text and in voice to DODGE (at least once) to REMOVE the RED KARKA DEBUFF (or condition) so that they can actually get out of combat to heal up.

I honestly don’t care if they don’t understand the last three-quarters of that sentence. I just want them to press their dodge key once, or even click the yellow endurance bar over their red health pool.

If they do that, the debuff will go away and they will be able to heal up if they just stop running.

Trust me, they never do.

Do they even stop to ask, “How do I dodge?”

No, they do not.

They continue to press down on their W key, running headlong into every trap and crab along the way.

Three seconds later, they’re dead, having run into something, and they have to start again and again, showing no ability to learn from what they stepped in the last time, or willingness to communicate with those -trying- to guide or help them, until they just sigh and go “this is too hard” (if they even dare to speak) and slink and sneak away, utterly defeated.

(Let’s not even talk about how you try over and over to ask them to come to you, see this secret tunnel here? Press F and you’ll skip all the traps in the tunnel ahead. Guess what? They’re downed, in said tunnel ahead, by the time your say chat disappears, having charged in gungho without, presumably, even attempting to dodge through.)

I honestly cannot imagine how these players would fight Mordrem. One charge by a wolf, terragriff or thrasher, and they’ll be downed, having never found their dodge key.

Whatever.

I’m mostly taking the Silverwastes map very slow and steadily, because I suspect it’s going to be around for a while in a similar fashion to Dry Top, where we will keep revisiting the zone with each Living Story content drop.

After all, there’s a lot more Luminescent and Carapace armor locations left.

On the to-do list are getting two more characters through the storyline to pick up the other two weight classes of Carapace shoulders, because spend 1000 crests sounds prohibitively expensive, given how cruddy cooperative crest-earning opportunities are, with the current zone structure.

(It’s not very obvious, for one, as to the best ways to earn crests. I -think- the crest reward at the end of each defense event either increases with time/zone progress, or with the fort’s defense level going up, but I frankly don’t know which is the right conclusion. The removal of loot from the mobs also just encourage tapping the event, and then running off to tag another event, hoping that there are enough suckers remaining around to finish it. This tends to yield a prisoner’s dilemma where everyone defects and ends up worse off.

To most people, it’s all the stuff at the end that yields the best rewards. The breach. The labyrinth. The shiny obvious loot that fills bags. The significant 8-25 size of bandit crest rewards. So everyone tries to get to the end, preferably by taxi’ing, without doing any of the grunt work at the start.)

I have not gotten a SINGLE fang to drop yet, but have about 6-8 tendons from the attempt. With my crap luck using a green extractor, I suspect that I’ll have better luck just waiting for the next update, then using a white extractor to choose a fang later.

On the bright side, a carapace glove box dropped for me while opening up the Greater Nightmare key chest in the labyrinth, so I’m 2/3 of the way there. I -could- spend 1000 crests to get the last weight class, but I’m sitting on it for now, sorta hoping I’ll get another lucky drop while trying to farm/grind up the other things.

Plus I need to get around to the ‘hardmode’ achievements in the Living Story for the Plague Signet.

Marvel Heroes is putting me into all sorts of interesting dilemmas.

I logged on today, and saw the announcement that they’re doing some kind of Black Friday sales.

Apparently the first sale which I missed, was a 15% or so increase in cash shop currency for the real money you pay. That’s always a nice enough offer to catch, if you want some game’s cash shop currency.

The current sale, takes 25% off the price of all the heroes, and throws in a random hero box to boot. So you get to buy a hero for cheaper, and then get another random hero (or a repeat of your existing one, which has some kind of endgame bonus, I think.)

This was, of course, somewhat tempting, even for miserly old me. Nor would I really begrudge Marvel Heroes 5 bucks. They didn’t pressure me into it, for one thing, making me feel like some kind of second class citizen for not subscribing or whatever.

I did a quick back of the envelope calcuation. $5 plus the 250 free Gs they offer you to sweeten the deal is enough to get pretty much any hero I’m interested in, but with some stuff left over.

$10 is even more interesting, because I can pick up a 325 and 675 point hero, and presumably get two chances at random heroes.

Except I’m not sure if I begrudge Marvel Heroes $10. Is it a $10 game?

At the moment, my experience says no. It’s more a $5 game.

Part of the frustration is that I have just been perpetually moving around trying to find a sweet spot for combat and experience.

The last two days, I’ve been trying to get through the storyline, which is at least mildly interesting in a cartoon plot sort of way, but I’ve been forced t o wade through thousands of grey-con mobs to do so.

This is utterly boring. All I do is press F to Osmium Charge (aka a leap skill) my way through the maps, ignoring all the enemies that do zero damage to me, and give me no experience whatsoever, and tend to just fall over and die if they happen to be under my landing zone. It doesn’t even feel visceral when they die, so it’s just me going “clong clong clong”, leap frogging through 1/4 of the screen at any one time, wandering the map until I find the correct exit to take me to the next stage.

Or until I run out of spirit (aka mana), then I stop being able to leap for a while and have to run for a few seconds while it regenerates. Then clong clong clong again to the next point.

I really really miss GW2’s scaling.

Why am I so outleveled, by the way? Three days before, I was running around in the Midtown Manhattan instance, while there was some kind of double xp thing going on. That felt like an Edge of the Mists map, in the sense that it’s a farm map used by veterans to very quickly power level their alts through.

It was fun for a while, but then got repetitive.

So I tried going back to the storyline, to find everything grey to me.

Gah.

I have yet to figure out the art of matching myself to a zone appropriate for my level. It doesn’t help that I don’t have any waypoints or am gated from it until I finish the prior zone, I suppose.

Still, word is that they will be repeating ALL the Black Friday sales on the actual Black Friday weekend.

Add on an extra 150 Gs from the first sale, to the free 250 Gs, and we’re talking the ability to pick up potentially three heroes, and get three randoms. For 10 bucks. Dayum. That’s pretty tempting, all right.

I… just need to figure out whether there’s actually something fun to DO with all these heroes first.

I am pleased to announce that I have graduated from Prison Electrician to Prison Architect.

For realzies.

prison-architect1

Probably still not a very -good- one, but at least I figured out the art of putting capacitors next to the power supply, and even roughly how to ‘read’ the power supply.

Each capacitor appears to increase the ‘grey’ bar on the power supply, and the red stuff seems to indicate total amount of juice being used by the circuit.

With that finally working, I could actually start making other rooms.

It’s a really cramped canteen and yard for now. And the shower pretty much floods most of the time (had to install wall and doors there in a hurry to at least stave off -some- of the water.)

BUT I managed to finally read my reports and figure out “grants” which are like quest-giving missions to supply you goals and more importantly, advance cash, for accomplishing those goals.

I also figured out how to shut off prisoner intake, so that I didn’t have to deal with an onrush of prisoners every morning while trying to just figure out how it all works.

Slow expansion plans are in the works.

As well as trying to figure out how to get my prisoners busy actually -cleaning- the jail, rather than dirtying it up.

So far I’ve had to hire two janitors as a stopgap measure, but I’d really like to make them clean instead.

At least they’re mostly well-behaved so far, because my prison ain’t very securely built to begin with.

pw-mr-man

I -am- watching Mr. Man rather closely though.

They say he’s a volatile sort.

I’ve also popped my head back into Agrarian Skies.

Earlier on, I took a vacation (of sorts) in the Crash Landing mod, but frankly, didn’t quite know how to share my experiences with it because they mostly consisted of dying in various hardcore permadeath world-delete fashion, until I figured out how to get Sync shells working and make clones of myself…

…which then consisted of me dying in various cheap fashion (usually from spider attack from behind or above) and getting resurrected…

…while manually creeping a basic cobblestone tower/bridge/walkway structure towards the nearest city, because I was scared of walking through the dangerous desert.

(Explored one building or two, after that, found mostly nothing but various causes of death over and over, and got quite tired of the mod. One -was- hoping to find pieces for a smeltery, but it was looking like less effort – if more grind – would be involved in slowly melting down pieces of stone in a crucible for seared stone to pour over brick to make one seared brick.)

Agrarian Skies is a little less brutally hardcore, in that it doesn’t penalize you with multiple deaths, and everything is a lot more under your control, since you pretty much get to design your base and set your light levels and where mobs will or will not spawn. (Mostly “will not.”)

The inspiration has been googling up “modern homes” in Minecraft and seeing some really lovely building designs by people far more talented than I at this building thing.

I’ve always wanted a bigger and prettier house/base in Agrarian Skies – just never quite figured out how to get around to it or where to start.

The concept suddenly came together.

Try to make a modern house exterior, and pair it up with functional insides that use the ME storage system and have room for more industrial/machine/automation expansion.

Much more easily said than done, of course.

Not only do I have to find some nice smooth colored blocks with which to put the exterior walls together, I also need a cobblestone island / foundations -large- enough to support such an expanded base.

I couldn’t take the thought of putting together any more cobblestone islands block by block manually, so I decided it was time to get a Builder’s Wand.

That’s 8 diamonds.

That’s a LOT of gravel to sift.

I ended up digging through all my stuff and sacrificing 6 diamonds to make three more autonomous activators, so that gravel sifting could go faster, increasing my rate of diamond gain in the long run.

I also needed dirt to create grass to put on top of the cobblestone island foundation. Wandering over to my composting barrels, I found zero dirt. Which led to another period of growing oak trees for leaves to put into the barrels once more.

While that was going on automatically, it was rather obvious that all that gravel sifting was causing a backlog in terms of ore starting to clog the hopper and collection chest. So there was a need to start processing ore into metal too.

Before I knew it, a couple hours had gone by again.

Well, that’s Minecraft for you. Maybe some day, I’ll have some semblance of a modern house to share.