Three Silent Weeks

It’s been a while since my last post on this blog. One of the longest gaps since I started blogging some three years ago.

It wasn’t really intentional at first, just a mix of having nothing to say since GW2 seemed to be in a waiting period pre-expansion and then getting sucked into a voluntary challenge in Path of Exile to push myself beyond what I’d previously achieved.

Path of Exile

Turns out that the challenge ended up taking a LOT of time.

It took about a week to hit the first ‘gimme’ milestone, which was to kill a sampling of the different Bloodlines mods and Torment ghosts – ie. the new tweaks to the ruleset that made gameplay feel different from the standard league.

It took me slightly longer than a week to get my first ever level 80 character in Path of Exile, patiently plodding my way through maps and trying not to die (since dying sets you back a good two bars of experience once you’re at Merciless difficulty.)

It took maybe three weeks of even more patient plodding to finally hit all the varied Masters missions that were part of the third challenge. Mostly the issue here was RNG, since it’s RNG to even have a Master pop up in a map, and then more RNG to have that Master give you a desired mission that would tick off one of the checkboxes.

There were workarounds, such as participating in a cooperative global chat set up to share Masters missions, or just repeatedly spawning maps and running through them fast looking for Masters specifically, but I didn’t feel inclined to do those unless really desperate.

Y’see, I figured that I’d be pretty much playing PoE every day for the challenge, so I may as well take advantage of the guaranteed daily mission that Masters in my hideout would offer, plus there was supposedly a 50% chance of encountering a Master per map once I started running maps in the endgame.

The strategy eventually paid off, as I ended up encountering the last few missions needed via dailies and chance Master encounters while just playing the game normally, though it felt pretty dicey for a while near the end when no Master seemed willing to cough up the last few missions needed.

Three challenges done, completely solo, self-found, no multiplayer interaction with others required (since by choice, I prefer to play PoE like a singleplayer game.)

The fourth challenge, though, made me want to pull my hair out.

The task was to kill one of six special bosses – two of which were found in unique maps, two of whom were found in high level 77 or 78 maps, one of whom required four corrupted Vaal map fragments to be put together and the last was some uber demon boss that was reputedly summoned via portals created by killing lots of things in a small space in a map with a special Beyond mod.

The unique map bosses were right out, since I’d have to get a specific map piece, and then use an orb of chance on it, with a super slim chance of turning it into a unique map.

In theory, the two bosses in the high level maps were -probably- the easiest to kill, since they were Piety the Empyrean and the Hallowed Husk, supposedly slightly supercharged versions of the Piety and Dominus bosses in the regular game. The problem would be getting that specific high level map piece to drop, since one starts from level 66 maps and as you clear them, you may or may not get 0-3 map pieces to drop, some of which might be +1 or +2 levels higher, and probably most of which would be even or lower level.

Atziri was the famous boss at the end of the Apex of Sacrifice map, created by four specific Vaal map fragments – which I had, except… I wasn’t at all confident that I had a build that could handle the fight.

I gave it a try anyway, and managed to wipe the limit of six times at the first preliminary pair of Vaal bosses, probably because I didn’t realize and hadn’t mastered the specific tactic of spawning them with a very specific time interval in between, which -probably- caused a lethal combination of near insta-kill laser attacks from the bosses with barely any time to dodge and hardly any time to do an attack (not that I had high dps to begin with.)

It -could- also have been because I was a wuss and didn’t stay in melee range of the bosses, which might cut down on the frequency of the deadly laser attack phases, but also produces an equally dangerous mace tentacle smash. Whatever.

Long story short, not familar with fight = very dead.

It took me a much longer time to accumulate more Vaal map fragments for a second try a couple days later. This time I only lost a few lives at the twin Vaal bosses, and ended up running around in circles for an interminable amount of time trying to get the next set of three bosses down. Killed two, which created deadly patches of AoE which limited the space to run around in and the last blossomed into an insane killer and destroyed my last sixth life (you get six portals into a map and once you die, you use up one getting back into the map.)

I hadn’t even managed to -see- Atziri, who has multiple phases herself.

It seemed highly unlikely that I would master the art of an Atziri kill within the two weeks remaining of the challenge.

The demon boss Abaxoth was -probably- right out too, because I’d encountered a few lesser Beyond demon bosses and they were awfully lethal, but I gave it a go anyway, doing my best to stack enemies and kill them in the same location any time I had a Beyond map mod.

RNG being RNG, I never saw him pop, just a whole bunch of lesser Beyond bosses (which, as mentioned, were already annoying and lethal enough.)

So I changed focus to a more patient plodding towards a level 77 Shrine map or a level 78 Palace map which would contain the buffed Piety or Dominus variant boss versions, while crossing my fingers hoping that Zana, the map Master would randomly supply a lvl 66 Palace map in her daily missions, which is apparently possible.

Two weeks passed, and the level of my maps just held at 72-73.

On the second last day I had to play, I finally popped a level 75 map, which produced a level 78 Courtyard map, which was unfortunately not one I was looking for. Ran the 78 map, which dropped a 74 map and a 75, ran those, got nothing.

On the last day I had left for the challenge, I grimly ran a few more 73s, hoping for some more lucky drops of a 75 map and then maaaybe a 77?

But about halfway through, I started feeling extremely ground down by the grind. I was sleepy, tired, fed up with RNG and I knew I had no more time left as I had to go out of town during the last couple of days of the challenge.

What to do?

I could give up at 3/4 challenges done, call it a good effort and surrender, smacked down by the brutality of RNG and the self-enforced limitations of being solo and self found.

Tons of other players had probably already skated right by 4/4 by simply ‘buying a boss kill,’ which seemed to be the convenient and commonly accepted strategy on Reddit, paying someone to do it for you. But that felt extremely cheap to me and not quite ‘right.’ I’m sure it works for folks who just want the end result fast and convenient and efficient, but part of the fun of the challenge for me is to feel like I ‘earned’ it from my own efforts.

I could -attempt- to hang out on a global chat channel and stare at a noticeboard to see if anyone was sharing their boss kills (either for free, or for payment, or needing help to kill one or whatever) but my readers should know that the thought of partying up gives me the creeps in general.

But but…it felt like such a waste to give up at 3/4 as well.

I guess I should blame sleep deprivation and a brain dulled by repeated grind but it took me a goodly while before another possible option popped into my head.

What if… I bravely took a step out of my comfort zone, pushing myself just like how I managed to get to level 80 and officially into the map endgame, and actually -traded- with another player, not for a boss kill (which was cheesy to me) but for what I really needed, the level 77 Shrine map that I was trying in vain to get RNG to drop?

Sure, that would make it not self-found any longer, but I’m not a stickler on that, and yes, it would mean I would have to *shudder* whisper someone and manually engage in a back and forth trade offer and then physically meet said player in a map to conduct the trade but…

…if I was willing to endure that imagined nightmare, then I’d actually HAVE a level 77 Shrine map and I could actually face the test of killing the uber-Piety myself, solo. If I killed her, then hooray, I get the challenge done. If she killed me six times, then I either buy another map and try again or officially surrender, having -really- given it my all.

Should I? Could I?

How much did that damn map cost anyway?

Some googling and visiting of a PoE trading website later, it seemed like people were selling a map for 20-25 chaos orbs. Dayum. That sounded like a lot, though I could actually afford it, and if one map equated to the last challenge done, that really meant a shiny blue helmet skin for the said price, which -was- worth it to me.

I -really- hated manual trading though, all that whispering of another player, typing and such. There were probably accepted customs and shortforms that I wouldn’t understand and I’d probably act odd, look like a total noob and screw it up one way or another and maybe even get abused or scammed (sorta like a fear of dungeoning, this trading anxiety.)

Maybe a baby step. I turned the trade chat on, just to watch the spam scroll by, and watched a Youtube video about ‘how to trade in PoE’ while brooding over it.

Halfway through, I saw a guy spam that he was -selling- a level 77 Shrine map for 18c (among other things.)

Really? 18 chaos? That sounded slightly discounted. Did I dare to whisper him? Brooded some more, finished the video – which seemed somewhat straightforward, send player whisper specifying what you wanted to buy at what price, have him whisper back agreement or no, meet somewhere, conduct trade…

Maybe he’s already sold it by now after all my delaying. Maybe I should still try. Maybe I should just give up and go to bed.

Then he spammed the same trade line again, with the map still there.

You know what? What the hell. If I don’t try, I’ll always regret it, right?

So I pulled out 20 chaos orbs out of my stash carefully, splitting up one stack of 10 into a stack of 8, and whispered him. (Albeit it took me a while to figure out how to right-click on his name and actually get a whisper chat up.)

Offered him 18c as he had stated he wanted, got a whisper back in reply saying to ‘meet him at his ho.’ Err… I assumed that meant hideout, but how the HELL did you get to another player’s hideout?

*sigh* Time to fall on my sword and play the noob card. Whispered back fessing up that this was my first time (trading or getting to another player’s hideout, whatever he assumed, but both were true anyway) and asked how exactly to do that.

Thankfully, he was pretty nice about the whole affair and explained in clear simple terms how to do so – which mostly gave me sufficient time to randomly click on things to figure it out while he was busy typing (but presumably keeping him busy and not think I was pulling a fast one on him) – a semi-elaborate affair of adding him as a friend on my Social tab, right-clicking on his name and then getting the visit hideout option, though I’m not 100% sure the first part was necessary and it might have been just a failure on my part to right-click the correct pixel that was his name in the chat or something.

Eventually I did manage to teleport into his hideout, where he sent me a trade request with the Shrine map already there. I hovered over it to make sure it was right (ooh, he even made it Superior already, with 20% quality from four cartographer’s chisels) and put my 18 chaos orbs into my side of the trade. Both accepted, and voila, I was now the proud owner of a shiny Shrine map, with a relatively minimum amount of pain.

Well, this was it.

I stepped back into my own hideout, turned off tradechat, blissfully alone once more, used an orb of alchemy on it out of habit then immediately thought, ‘Jeez, should I have done that? Didn’t I just make it harder to run? It wasn’t as if I really -needed- any more additional maps to drop after this one.’

Ran it really carefully, room by room, clearing every single step of the way until super-Piety, spent a LOT of time dodging lightning balls and lightning storms, died once to a freak lightning storm I just couldn’t run away fast enough from, and eventually KILLED her.

poe-piety

4/4 challenge complete.

Then I celebrated by heading back to my hideout and admiring the collected full set of reward skins.

poe-skins

I hadn’t put on the other three yet, because it wasn’t really the skin I’d been chasing, but just the satisfaction of achieving the goals that had been set.

But now, when they were all done, yes, now it was worth donning as a symbol that I’d done it.

poe-skinsupclose

With a great feeling of relief, I headed out from the game and went to sleep, knowing I could head out of town the next day and not still feel tied down or obligated by something left undone.

GW2 and The Curious Habit of Dailies

It was in this last week of obsession with Path of Exile that I actually dropped the habit of faithfully logging into GW2 daily to do dailies.

I just didn’t have time (or sufficient enthusiasm) in the last couple of days to play PoE like a maniac, mapping away for that elusive 77 Shrine map, and still finish dailies in GW2.

With barely a wince, I just told myself that the log-in rewards would keep (in the sense that they’d just start where I left off) and so what, I’d miss a few 10AP here and there, which I’d eventually catch up to one day since I do intend to keep playing GW2 for years and there’s an overall AP cap for how much dailies can earn you (which is about 3 years’ worth at last count, I think.)

It occurred to me that dailies exist in almost every game these days, and that many people (including myself) are skipping lots of dailies, by the simple fact that we’re not actively interested in the game and thus not inclined to open up the game and play it.

They may be great as a sort of bonus reward to keep engaged people actively playing a game every day, but once you fall out of the habit or no longer have the interest, they’re not very effective for getting you back on the horse once again.

(I was probably setting myself up for my out-of-town trip, since there was no way I would be playing GW2 on those days to get dailies either, and was maybe subconsciously distancing myself from it.)

Out-Of-Town and the No-Phone Challenge

Speaking of subconsciously distancing myself from things, it could be that I might have dropped the blogging habit in preparation for this as well.

(Nah, it was probably just obsession with the PoE challenge, which I only finished on the last day I had at home. Zero time for even playing GW2 for half an hour for dailies, so obviously zero time left for blogging too.)

I knew I had an out-of-town trip lined up, a sort of ‘retreat’ with work colleagues, at a locale with supposedly dodgy internet reception. (Turns out most phones worked just fine, as 75% of my colleagues proved, with devices they were glued to for the greater part of the day.)

People were encouraged to leave their phones at home or turn them in to the retreat hosts, to be returned at the end of the couple of days, in a voluntary challenge to wean oneself away from our rather commonplace digital reliance. Obviously, barely anyone handed in their phones.

I didn’t either, but I thought I’d do a self-imposed challenge anyway, for the fun of it.

I didn’t think it’ll be too hard, since I’d already left the iPad at home, which is what I rely on most. (I find a smartphone screen just unbearably small for my eyesight.)

Googling for answers or for random links and connections to thoughts I had would just have to wait. Reading Reddit or blogs and playing game apps would again have to keep for the couple of days. I’d have no digital books to read, but I was going to be busy during the retreat anyway. Most of the office was at the same place, so there were going to be no obligations to check email for work-related purposes. The hosts were taking us around, so no need for GPS map apps.

Unlike many in this day and age, I don’t Twitter or use Whatsapp or feel the constant need to snap pictures of my daily life and upload them to one form of social media or another (which I was mildly amused to see the greater part of my colleagues doing during said retreat.)

Turns out I did just fine, with one small exception to use the phone as a watch and alarm clock (since I brought neither device and I sadly couldn’t go off the grid -that- much, the retreat still had “meet at such-and-such time” requirements which would have been impossible to meet once my colleagues had walked off and weren’t available for consultations about the time.)

I’d really love to say that I spent my freed up time meditating all Zen-like at a higher level of peace and such, but to be honest, the meditation attempts weren’t great.

For whatever curious reason (perhaps the numerous out-of-control mosquitos that were plaguing this tropical locale, perhaps the forced socialisation with work colleagues was draining energy from my introverted self with each passing day and disrupting my calm, perhaps tiredness from one retreat activity too many, perhaps just feeling empty after having just narrowly completed the game goal I’d been super focused on in the nick of time and not daring to replace with anything new since I’d been winding things down and wrapping stuff up to leave town,) all the meditation wound up as mostly staring blankly into space with a total inability to focus on anything but somehow using up an hour anyway.

My mind just wouldn’t work like how I wanted it, and just ended up pushing an ‘off’ button or something.

Oh well.

Guess I’ll work on reconnecting spiritually when there aren’t so many distractions for my noob Zen self to deal with.

I did find it quite funny that people commonly view an extreme (hardcore?) dedicated gamer like me as an addict, yet I did just fine going without for a couple of days, not missing anything because most of the stuff I engage with on the internet and in my games is on my own terms, me voluntarily going to said sites and logging into said games for self-chosen entertainment. None of it is stuff that is pushed to me, forcing me to react.

At the same time, here I’m watching them essentially attached to their mobiles, relying on them for communication (sometimes with people they could just look up and talk with), for taking an uncountable number of pictures (maybe it’s somehow not a real memory if not preserved in high resolution?) and so on.

I can give my games up when I choose to, when I need to, but I would cheerfully pick them back up again when I can because it’s very much a preference, not an addiction.

I’m Back

So now that I’m back in town, home in front of my relatively brand-new shiny swanky computer, I’ve got quite a lot to catch up on.

There’s blogs to read, a game of Swan Song on Twitch to view, Reddit threads to browse, a Steam Rogue-like sale over the weekend that absolutely threatens my wallet and more.

I haven’t decided if I still want to keep playing Path of Exile, there was a Tornado Shot Ranger I kinda wanted to try, along with some other builds that might be possible. In my crazy map grinding, one of the uniques that dropped was a Facebreaker, which is apparently good for an unarmed combat sort of build, which sounds wild.

I’d just been revving up Skyrim the other day pre-retreat, and what do you know, it goes on sale again this weekend and I can’t resist buying all the DLC in celebration of my return.

After two weeks of essentially no GW2, I find that the break has done wonders for my interest levels once more and I’ve been attending Teq as well as Wurm and finding even dailies somewhat enjoyable. I kind of have the urge to play the lowbies of my unexplored classes, but I haven’t quite decided if that’s a goal I want to focus on yet.

Apparently the big news is that there’s going to be a whole traits/specialization shakeup that Bhagpuss has more energy to cover than I have.

Me, I’m somewhat resigned and somewhat eager for the meta shakeup. It’s about due. Things can’t stay the same forever.

Is it going to be a bit of pain to figure out new builds? Yes. But it’s also somewhat exciting, the prospect of new builds and new playstyles being viable or fun to try. *cough burning-condi-retaliation spiritweapons? guardian cough*

Am I rather upset and worried that my current build or playstyle is going to be wiped out or impossible to play with the new system? Yes, very much so. My guardian is currently pulling from four trait lines, and grabbing a lot of adept traits over grandmaster traits. The new system is going to force me to pick three, and it currently doesn’t look like I’ll be able to take all the traits I’m used to, which may be problematic.

On an objective note, it -is- nice that I end up brooding over the fact that I can only pick one of three traits, all or most of which are stuff that I might want, which actually makes the choice meaningful, in the sense that I have to forgo and trade off something in order to have that other thing.

Subjectively, it sucks that I can’t have both, of course.

I’m sure a theorycrafter will get there in the end and figure out which is the best option of the stuff available, for whatever specific situation, and then we’ll have our new meta again and what not.

I suppose we will just have to see how it goes.

I figure the worse case scenario is that I’ll have to switch mains and learn to play another class, if I just can’t get reconciled with however they’ve changed guardians and just don’t feel like I can play my charrdian in an effective way with the weapons and traits that I’m used to. (One is planning to play a sylvari character -and- a charr revenant character through HoT, after all.)

In the meantime, there’s plenty of gaming to do… once I actually manage to decide on what to do first.

Path of Exile: Milestone Achieved, Many More to Go *Twitch* (Pun intended)

Much of the Easter weekend was spent furthering my noob adventures in Path of Exile.

In the span of time a pro PoE player probably takes to get to level 80 (likely in hardcore to boot), I have been slow crawling my way in softcore past my prior lifetime peak of level 66 and moving officially into mapping (and farming, and getting semi-bored out of my mind, and farming some more.)

I’d been entertaining the vaguely optimistic thought that I might go from 62 to 70 on Friday, 70 to 75 on Saturday and maaaaybe 76 to 80 on Sunday.

Of course, I very well knew that a) Path of Exile’s level curve is decidedly exponential – no linear GW2 easy mode here, and b) there was the possible danger of running out of maps for one’s optimal level range, so I expected to not quite make it and possibly need to go another week to finally hit the magic 80.

I end Sunday at level 77, so… not too shabby, considering I’ve never done this before.

poe-library

Fearing that I’d run out of maps too quickly, I spent a while farming in the level 67 Library zone in Act 3 merciless while I was still in the range for it. (+- 7 levels, apparently, so I could theoretically hit 74 before I started getting an xp penalty.)

I also learned that I don’t quite have the mentality for repeatedly farming the same damn map over and over again, because it started getting awfully boring.

If I hadn’t set myself the goal to reach as many of the 1 month challenges as I could, I would definitely have stopped and went to play another game by now.

However, necessity is the mother of all invention. I discovered that I -could- farm quite well if it wasn’t the only thing I was focusing on (perhaps my safe flame totem build was also a bit boring to play, but hey, let’s not knock what was actually working to level me up.)

It ended up being a great opportunity to catch up on all the Swan Song and Mirrorshades roleplays in the other screen, led into being tempted to subscribe for ad-free video-on-demand on itmejp’s Twitch.tv channel, which then meant I needed to -make- a Twitch account and on the side, begin investigating this strange phenomenon of ‘Why would someone watch someone else play games when they could play ’em themselves?’

I’m still working on figuring that one out.

Sure, it’s kinda fun to flip through games on Twitch like flipping TV channels, marveling at how many people are just sitting around broadcasting themselves playing games, but really, I can only last for 15 seconds at best on most streams before I end up boggling at how this disgustingly low resolution stream has several thousands of viewers, or how that streamer’s voice grates on my spine, or how amateur the production values are on that stream, or hey, absolutely nothing is happening on this stream because it’s one of those PvP sandbox games where the idea of someone else playing the game for me -does- appeal… except that it appears to consist of a whole bunch of standing around waiting for something to happen and my attention span only lasts so long.

Well, maybe I should choose games closer to my heart, where I can actually understand the UI and the jargon and where I don’t have to fear spoiling myself.

So I try to watch a few GW2 PvP streams, which aren’t too shabby, except that GW2 is so active combat that my eyes have to stay glued to the other monitor to keep up, and that doesn’t work when I just want something to vaguely glance at while -actually- playing Path of Exile in the main monitor.

Oh hey, maybe I should watch a Path of Exile streamer being all pro in one screen while I noob it up in the other screen, that sounds all meta and stuff… Except that I realize it becomes -doubly boring- to see two little figures endlessly farm loot and xp, and it’s also depressing to see how the ‘pros’ do it – apparently they party up and trade a lot, both things that I don’t wanna do, thanks, and am ok with being slower as a result.

So I’m not exactly learning anything by watching how three people co-op and kill things much faster than my lonesome (I would rather watch them when they are solo racing to learn that particular fast playstyle) which makes this channel worthless too. Bah. *flip*

I end up going for the one type of Twitch content that -does- make sense to me, competitive matches with a commentator, because watching eSports is way cheaper than paying for a cable TV sports channel over here.

It so happened that an ESL Evolve tournament was going on, which was nifty. Here was a game that I know how to play, know how the game is supposed to be played, don’t have the time to play it and certainly not at a competitive level. I still ended up bouncing channels because one of the commentators in one stream sounded like they knew absolutely nothing about the game, which got on my nerves, but it was a great Path of Exile farming accompaniment for a while.

Until the third time I died by accident just standing around and letting a wandering mob beat on me because my attention was riveted on an exciting monster vs hunter play in the other screen.

Bah.

I’d have more use for Twitch if I was still playing A Tale in the Desert, that’s for sure. Now there was a game with hefty amounts of downtime.

I ended up following Youtube links for audio music instead, but that’s another story.

poe-1stchallenge

Somewhen during the weekend of endless farming, I finally caught up with the one last Tormented ghost I needed and completed the first of four challenges. Hurrah!

On Sunday, I got around to setting up a hideout and getting some Forsaken Masters established in my abode for the daily missions, so as to increase my chances at filling in some of the missions needed for another challenge.

I also finally managed to get a first sighting of Zana, the mapping Master, in a level 70 map and quickly ran her mission and got her set up in the hideout.

poe-mapping

Her daily mission was delicious in terms of maps produced. (Beginner’s luck, maybe, but there was a cartographer’s strongbox in the mission and it popped a ton of -admittedly low level- maps.)

A week or two more of this and I suspect I should be able to get at least three of four challenges done.

As for the last, I have no clue if I’ll ever get to high enough a map level to meet one of the unique bosses I’m supposed to kill, or whether I’ll get brave enough and venture in to Atziri – I have one complete map of the four vaal fragments sitting in my stash, but I’m thinking I’d rather hit level 80 first.

I -think- the non-uber version is only level 70, but y’know, it’s a fight I’ve never done and I don’t know how many deaths and re-entries I’ll get (usually 6 if it follows the other maps).

I peeked at a video and it -almost- looked doable, except that I worry that I a) don’t have enough dps, and b) don’t have a good solution to running out of flameblast aoe yet. That video someone was using lightning warp to zap out of there, but it’s definitely a reduced duration lighting warp and I don’t have that gem yet (sad face.)

I’m kinda vaguely entertaining the hope that it’ll drop during my farming and get me set up that way… or I could bite the bullet and send someone a whisper (the horror) or, and this just occurred to me while writing this, I could go check out the possibility of another travel movement gem instead of slavishly following the forum build (leap slam or flicker strike comes casually to mind.)

We’ll see.

Honestly, I’m getting very antsy and kinda want to start another alt (or two or three). I’ve dropped a stash tab full of uniques that look great for leveling, a whole bunch of skill gems that make me want to make a bow character, a lightning tendrils or arc character, but but *twitch* I just need to stay the course a little while more until I hit level 80.

The focus I’ve been devoting to Path of Exile also reminds me that I could be doing the same thing in Guild Wars 2 and leveling and playing all the lowbie classes I’ve been ignoring for a long time. Which I kinda want to do once my PoE stint is done.

Certainly there’s no shortage of things I could be doing until Act 4 in PoE arrives (and Heart of Thorns in GW2 too.)

In other news, they say that Path of Exile is going to get a customizable item filter soon, allowing one to hide junk and highlight desired items in different colors and borders.

poe-itemfilterneededyep

Yep, can’t wait for that functionality.

March in Review

UltrViolet from Endgame Viable planted a whimsical seed when he shared his February Progression Report using a timetracking software called ManicTime.

Hmm… sounds kinda fun, I thought, and decided to give the program a spin for March as well.

The graphs are a little hard to see unless you click and expand ’em, but I’ll try to summarize in text too.

week1

In Week 1, I was all about Minecraft, spending 16.7h that week. A hefty chunk of that was played on the weekend, with around 2-3 hours each weekday, dipping as my interest waned.

The cause of that waning interest? I started playing Grim Fandango (2.6h), having treated myself to the remastered edition as one of my anticipated games of 2015.

On replaying it, I realized that Grim Fandango’s greatest strength is in its audio – the voice actors nail their lines with perfect emotion and the music, while understated enough not to be annoying as you revisit each scene, conveys the mood to that ideal point where your imagination takes over and starts imagining what is left unsaid – the backstory, the sidelong quips that one ends up filling in.

Tim Schafer’s writing, of course, is spot on, with conversational lines speckled with humorous wordplay, but in my opinion, if the voice actors didn’t get it right, one wouldn’t want to select every option and sit through the delivery, grinning gleefully like the skulls in the game.

The remastered edition brings in mouse controls and a radial menu for commands that works decently, to the point where you don’t really notice the controls too much – which is far better than fighting the controls with every step, certainly.

You have the option of ‘tank controls’ too, aka ye olde keyboard operated style, and can even get an achievement for doing that the whole game, but I wussed out of that – it did occur to me that keyboard controls felt a little more immersive though, in that you feel like you’re moving Manny, as opposed to mouse controls where you’re clicking on the screen at one step removed and telling Manny where to go. Perhaps another time.

Guild Wars 2 stayed at a constant 6.5h on essentially standby mode, a half-hour for dailies most days with 1-2h longer spurts when I felt like Triple Trouble Wurm, or caught guild missions on Fridays.

week2

In week 2, Grim Fandango obsession had set in.

Finished it with a further 8.8h, which kinda surprised me at how long it took, I hadn’t realized that it contained so much criss-crossing from scene to scene, looking for one item or another. Guess one blanks out the tedium in one’s memories and only remembers the stories.

Guild Wars 2 had slightly more hours of play (11.1h) this week, mostly via attending a dungeon event on Saturday, iirc, making me stay online for longer.

I started casting around for another game to play, dabbling with the Steam free weekend of X1, X2, X3, X:Rebirth type games (a spaceship trade simulator with fairly non-intuitive controls, though it gets better with the latest Rebirth edition), a bit more Minecraft and the Talos Principle (a puzzle-story game in the vein of Portal with some interesting philosophical themes about God and AI – I’d like to play it more later but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for that week.)

week3

In Week 3, Endgame Viable again showed me the way with a casual post about how he’s started to appreciate Path of Exile as a low-energy game that can be played one-handed.

You know, I said to myself, you haven’t played PoE for a very long time and I can’t really remember why either, maybe GW2 came up with an update that tore my attention away and maybe it was my old computer blowing up and I forgot to reinstall everything that was on it.

Turns out that they were starting a new one-month league quite soon, in a few days, when I visited the website to redownload the game.

Gee, one month sounds like an interesting time period, short enough to focus on (as opposed to the usual three month leagues, which to me is like the normal game, an end point too far away to imagine, I’d probably lose interest in the game first), but long enough that it isn’t a race either (of which I would fail miserably at even being competitive.)

And they were offering cosmetic skins as prizes! That looked actually quite pretty! For tasks that almost seemed achievable by normal people as opposed to only achievable by PoE experts!

Well, ok, when your highest character ever is level 66, level 80 is a bit of a stretch. Killing a unique boss like Atziri is definitely a stretch goal, but hey, people speak of farming her as an endgame task. But 40 of 46 encounters with Tormented Spirits and Bloodlines mod magic creatures sound like one of those ‘play enough in the month to encounter them’ participation prize, ditto 18 of 21 Forsaken Masters missions.

Maybe, just maybe, I might be able to qualify for one or two shiny skins, with a super stretch goal of three or four.

Since the league hadn’t started yet, I thought I might as well get some practice in and try something I hadn’t done before (my old characters had one of those skill points completely reset things, which kinda stalled me on going further with ’em – who wants to screw up one’s build permanently when one can’t even remember much of the game, right?)

Conversation on Reddit was all about safe, easy builds for noobs who wanted to get some of the prizes. Flameblast and arc witch were some of the stuff that was mentioned, neither of which I had tried, but y’know, I had a low level witch I had been intending to make into a lightning throwing character.

Playing with Arc, it was.

She was in Standard league, so what the heck, just have fun, deck her out in some lowbie twink gear and run around. Hrm, this Lightning Tendrils gem seems new (It was. 1.3 update or some such.) DAMN, it hits 4 times and attacks super fast, with almost the same cone area as ground slam. But so so fast, look at my DPS climb.

Suffice to say that was one of the fastest characters I ever leveled, eventually slotting in Arc mid way. She was about level 55-ish when the new one-month league finally started.

10.8h of Path of Exile playtime, with an almost exponential climb in the above graph, except for Friday, which is GW2 Teq-Wurm-guild mission day. 8.7h for Guild Wars 2.

I dabbled with Assassin’s Creed (yes, I am still stuck on 1) too for 2.7h, before getting bored of the repetition for now.

week4

In week 4, I am officially in the throes of Path of Exile obsession with 20.9h.

There are a few weekdays where I’m busy and can’t play a thing, but when I can, it’s full steam ahead in the Bloodlines/Torment league.

Having cleverly outsmarted myself by playing a lightning thrower in Standard, I want to do something else for the actual league.

I decide on another build that looks fairly noob-safe and not really reliant on much traded-for gear (since I really loathe old fashioned whisper trading – talking with people is hard, and I don’t wanna get scammed or have to deal with the potential to be scammed – and would rather play self-found if not given any kind of automation or auction house.)

The dual flame totem blood magic marauder.

I’ve always been wanting to try totems. The description of blood magic has always scared me (spend life instead of mana for skills? wouldn’t I just kill myself spamming skills?) so it seemed safer to follow a tried-and-tested build that can cope with taking that node. Marauder is a comfortable tanky class that I’ve played before with molten strike and ground slam, so I know how to level it.

The build even helpfully provides leveling skill-tree setups, so that there isn’t too much guesswork in which path to go up first.

Best laid plans and all that.

Try as I might, I just can’t get a Greater Multiple Projectiles gem to drop yet, and the only quest rewarded one is via a Merciless difficulty quest. This makes my Flame Totems somewhat wimpier, though I did manage to get my hands on Added Chaos Damage, Fire Penetration and Faster Projectiles.

Instead, I end up leveling with a Searing Bond totem as well, whose Increased Burning Damage support gem helpfully dropped for me. The scaling on this particular skill is quite nuts, being super-forgivable and packing a hefty punch with only that support gem slotted. It does around 2-3x the DPS of my as yet not yet fully upgraded flame totem.

However, I’m not quite in a fully Searing Bond build (which I peeked at and it looks quite different, utilizing Elemental Equilibrium and an ice skill to inflict more flame vulnerability) so I’m still working towards getting the Flame Totems more scary.

Dual flame totems are interesting mobile flamethrowers, but because they don’t pack too much of a punch right now, they take a while to kill mobs.

Dual searing bond totems are amusing. In the words of a Youtube PoE streamer, it is sort of like Spiderman webslinging, where you build up a web of fiery lasers that melt things, and then move yourself around pulling a line of fire across foes. It’s a little more active than flame totems in that you need to be constantly repositioning, but it’s also annoying when mobs ignore your totems because they haven’t been hurt by them yet.

poe_creativity

I end up ad-libbing a curious mixture of the two for imo, the best of both worlds currently. I throw a flame totem down, whose flamethrower projectiles piss off any nearby mobs and encourages them to approach and kill the flame totem. Then I block the path with a searing bond totem to the side of the flame totem.

Now anything that approaches either totem ignites and gets set alight by the searing bond totem, getting constantly dps’ed. The flamethrower from the flame totem is also picking on at least one mob for extra dps.

The best part, anything that approaches me, crosses the last beam and also gets set on fire – which is something you don’t get with dual flame totems.

And if I feel like being active, I can pull the searing bond beam across anything this setup misses. If not, I just stand around and chill for a bit while the totems do the work and replace the totems as they die.

Leveling this character went a lot slower than the arc witch, but I think it’s finally coming into its own. I crossed level 55 the other day (where the arc witch was at) and am now level 60 in Act 3 Merciless, working my way towards the final Dominus.

Playing in softcore for now, since I’m an idiot that tends to die a bunch and I personally like blue over red anyway. Easier goal to possibly strive towards too.

6.4h for Guild Wars 2 that week, a pretty standard ‘waiting around’ sort of pace.

week5

The last week of March is more like a couple of days.

I was off on Monday, which is why Path of Exile playtime resembles that of Sunday, aka insanely obsessed. 18.6 hours and rising.

I also dabbled a little with Alien: Isolation (1.7h) , which was on Steam sale last weekend. Haven’t got very far into it, but it feels a lot like a first-person survival horror rather than a first-person shooter, which has fairly faithful nods back to the original Alien. A lot of sneaking around, dark places and shadows, barely seeing an Alien (except for one part where I was too slow and it came out to kill me for taking my time. Bah.)

GW2 over two days has been 0.5h – super quick dailies and then full steam ahead into Path of Exile.

I expect that it should slow down over the next few weeks, as I’m approaching the area where leveling begins to plateau off somewhat, leaving me trying to figure out the PoE map endgame once more.