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.

GW2: Heart of Thorns Beta Sneak Peek / Test Thingmajig Thoughts

beta_wyvern

Brought down a wyvern out of the sky with about 8 people or so.

Felt pretty good.

Oh yeah, we killed it too, but that was only a matter of time. (S’ good no time limit.)

The defiance break bar felt quite good. Seemed like it would take about 5-6 people’s coordinated cc within a fairly short (5 seconds?) period of time to successfully land.

At first there was only me and another person landing cc at most.

Then I decided that everyone else hadn’t read the skill bar for their revenants (understandable, my eyes were glazing trying to make sense of their utilities and I told myself, meh, will learn it as I level the real one when the expansion hits) and outright announced which skill to use.

It took about 5 more break bars of practice, with one or two more people catching on each time, but as the wyvern dropped to about 1/4 health, we finally managed ONE coordinated cc spike. Just the one, but it was rather satisfying to see it crash out of the sky instead of flying off and coating the platform with flame.

I figure it’ll only be a matter of time before people learn. Seems learnable. And if it doesn’t work, it’ll just take slightly longer to succeed, is all. (For this encounter, anyway.)

Pretty small test area for the beta, but what was there felt overall good and tight.

beta_masteries

Masteries were there with readable tooltips.

It -did- take me a while to figure out where they put it, since I kinda skipped over the first popup tip.

Went through the hero panel with no success, becoming more and more perplexed until I finally spied the unfamiliar symbol in the lower right hand corner of my screen. Clicking on it pulled it up.

Revenant was on show with limited traits and weapons and stances (looks like the heavy armor equivalent of engineer and elementalist complexity, if you ask me, and I think it’s a class I will probably be more inclined to learn over the other two.)

Pretty wild skills overall. A ranged hammer and a mace/axe that felt melee-ish. A lot of rectangular line-shaped skills. Some kind of stored up energy system for utility skills and elites rather than the usual cooldown times. A ‘resistance’ buff that makes them ignore conditions for the duration (“Nooooo,” scream my condi PvP builds) and a lot of condition/boon manipulation possibilities, I think.

One ‘Adventure’ was on show, where you run around with a flamethrower and torch vine tendrils and try to reach bronze, silver, gold target numbers for doing it good, better, best. I managed bronze and unlocked a mastery point, so that’s one option for masteries. Seemed like a solo style scoring affair at first glance, not 100% sure. Might be a minor social issue of “you took my mob spawns!” if so.

beta_gliding

The only thing that I wasn’t 100% impressed with was gliding.

I didn’t like the delay between leaping off something, falling screaming a certain distance before the option to “Press Space to Glide” came up. I’m not sure if it’s a ping issue (~230ms, for the record) but I fell for like several character lengths (heights) before I could press space to trigger the gliding. That feels very awkward, compared with my memory of how smooth it was in Aion.

The glider also looked remarkably lame. Like I grabbed a pink flower to fly or something – too curvy, I kinda had the expectation that gliders would be more aerodynamically streamlined with straight lines…

Once the glider had taken hold though, the actual gliding experience felt ok.

Caught an updraft once during the wyvern fight (had to get out of combat to switch weapons) and that worked as expected. Fly into it with glider, thing lifts you like an elevator (or one of those aetherblade bounce pads, but slightly slower and more controlled) and you can glide out of it as desired.

Besides that, everything else felt decent. The one event chain that was on display worked. Fight a bunch of mordrem vines and stuff. Fight a bunch more mordrem while carrying bombs to blow up something. Lazy people who refuse to carry bombs can hang way back in a separate event to snipe mobs with a seriously overpowered sniper rifle, assisting in the otherwise highly tedious killing of Mordrem husks that get in the way of the bomb carriers. Succeeding let you board choppers to take out ze wyvern.

beta_crash

Very little need to comment about the scenery. All well done, aesthetically spot on in the usual ArenaNet style. Jungle definitely looking to be quite vertical, did quite a bit of accidental (then purposeful) falling and getting out of the beta testing area via gravity and getting forcibly zapped back to starting point as a result. Presumably will be even MORE vertical when the real thing hits.

Can’t wait.

(In the meantime, I need to get around to a post or series of posts about what I’ve been up to the past week or so, but bah, busy busy busy.)