To give credit where credit is due, the cinematic cutscene folks have completely outdid themselves yet again.
If there is one reason to get the Thaumanova story mode over and done with, it is to go back into the fractals and see the unskippable cutscene which pops up when anyone new enters the fractals for the first time.
It may be unskippable, but it is glorious and gets the heart pumping.
I’ll be happy to keep watching it every now and then, and I suppose it also gives you a warning that someone in your party is new to the fractals and should be communicated with (assuming the PUG reaction doesn’t evolve to immediately quitting after the cutscene is over.)
There is more storytelling and pacing in this cutscene than the entire Thaumanova Reactor fractal.
Some choice moments frozen in time:
P.S. The lack of a waypoint in the story mode of Thaumanova appears to have been fixed via letting the whole party respawn once -everybody- wipes.
P.P.S. The pacing is still a piece of buggy shit as we managed to trigger Scarlet even before all colliders were turned off.
At least this time with a lot of “guidance” from me, ie. supplying tips like I was reading from a third-party walkthrough, my guild group minimized the arbitrary deaths from discovering stuff on their own (not my preferred style of play at all but faced with the alternative of having to completely wipe…) and we managed to insert two cooling rods where they were apparently supposed to go first.
But Scarlet turned up even before we triggered the last collider. Ridiculous, really. The design team needs to take some tips from previous dungeons like AR and MF about shit that is supposed to happen in proper sequence and blocking off access through impassable walls, rather than total party kills.
P.P.P.S. It turns out that my first PUG did indeed boot us out of the instance before it was over. We missed the completion reward of 13 silver that time. (How impressive. Not.)
Thank god for guild groups that hang around examining merchants for any changes, thus giving me enough time to view/screenshot all of the Dessa/Ellen Kiel exchange and for that completion thing to pop up.
*verbose narration by two garbled voices talking asura-speak over each other*
*insufficient time to read wall of text in between extreme amounts of fire and hacking away with swords and axes*
Something about cores and colliders.
Bouncy eventual death in between trying to figure out a maze, a safety shield’s skills and repulsor bolts while typing and communicating one’s discoveries to the group. Failure to break through the barrier with anything because the group had evidently taken a wrong turn and missed a console somewhere.
In between logging in and logging out (thank you, no waypoint) and being rezzed not by one’s group but by the kind souls outside the Fractal of the Mists portal in LA, some guy says he found the console and clicked it, and some other guy says he did something else and the barrier vanished, and anyway the UI in the top right hand corner has ticked off complete. I walk back in completely none the wiser as to what just happened.
The group is busy recreating some tableau of Inquest asura in some manner of distress via Panic and Vomit buttons, though I’m not sure if fire or radiation was supposed to be the cause, and what in the world caused it anyway?
In between trying to experiment with the same thing and read tiny tooltips on tiny icons while one’s hp steadily drops to nonexistence and dash out to safety before dying (wherein the tooltip disappears), most of the party wipes on the ground. I manage to warbanner one, ponder the wisdom of stopping to rez a second, (the warbannered one falls over and dies before he gets out to safety), roll out to safety, and then think “fuck it” because everyone else has logged out already to “waypoint.”
I indulge in a solo experiment to test my understanding of the tooltip I read in 5 seconds, spam 1 and do my best to race solo across a ton of fire fields, pause long enough to try and get my bearings and see that there is a barriered console and two orange gear somethings on either side of the room, and then fall over with the realization that having healing signet slotted instead of a big burst heal might not have been the best strategy here.
While pondering if the coordinated group strategy might be best to have people spam heals and run together, and if all members spamming 1 would buff the group together, I hit vengeance and almost get to one orange gear marked -something- (console? door? who knows, it was unlabeled..) Then I drop dead.
This strategy goes untested because the party decides to investigate the other room with the orange boss monster label on the minimap, and something about Subject Six pops up. Various narrators mention something about slime, but no one hears it because everyone is busy dodging the huge shower of projectiles the giant green slime in the center of the room has decided to throw.
Oh, and something about little oozes healing the big one. Right, kill small oozes, we can handle that…
In between my experimentation with being completely unable to knock back little oozes while killing them, I look up to notice that a good half of the party is falling over and going “wtf.” Enter lots of rezzing while trying to figure out exactly what other mechanics the ooze has.
It takes the rest of the fight to figure out that keeping at extreme range avoids most of the projectile shower (plus a wistful internal reflection on not having any classes in the group with reflection skills), and that we should not let the slime get to a stack of 20 whatever-it-has, and that those 20 stacks of something build up when it is being attacked while blocking, and that those stacks build up really quick due to whichever someones are slow to react and keep autoattacking (I don’t suppose the ranger’s pet being hard to control would have helped, I’m glad I didn’t bring my MM necro).
Anyway, the ooze dies.
We get back to the center. Scarlet.
Halfway through her monologue, which I was listening to, mind you, some other guy in the party decides he’s bored and clicks the console panel.
We are now treated to a jarring display of multiple voices talking over each other, pursuing two separate subjects, neither of which is coherent anymore.
Three people get to wait for the two of us who actually lingered behind to try and make head or tail out of what was being said, and an impatient “dudes, press the switch” pushes us into pressing the switch.
Enter another gimmick fight with disappearing platforms, wherein a missed step = instant death and where the rest of the party has no way to revive you, which isn’t exactly the kindest way to learn a new fight for the first time.
I’m the second casualty because I dared to experiment with meleeing the boss while I saw that the aggro was on some other guy running in large circles on the outer platform. Except something happened, whatever it was, one has no clue, and in between a whole bunch of bombs and projectiles being shot out by the boss, the platforms near me started to disappear and I was one centimeter away from being out of the danger zone when I suddenly turned up dead at the boss’ feet. Latency, I suppose.
That and I saw the guy with the aggro dart out near the two of us that died, so he may have gotten too near while we weren’t paying attention.
I get to watch the other three kite the boss around for about half his hp before an accident takes out one, and then another, and then the last wipes.
We “respawn” via logging in and logging out, which makes the wait time quite annoying as each person has to zone in and find their way back.
This time, the agreed on strategy is everyone kites and range attacks and stays far far away from each other. I get to watch two other guys die and turn up at the boss’s feet, while I stay at long range like a giant furry chicken and run in constant circular motion plinking away until the boss dies.
One short cutscene later, we are greeted with this sight.
If not for someone in the party having the foresight to bring along a revive orb that they happened to have, we would have all gotten screwed out of the rewards in the chest.
We walk into the light to end up back in the fractals lobby and pause for a couple minutes to bitch about what just happened and debate on whether it was intentional or a bug.
Out of the blue, literally -minutes- later into our discussion, Dessa starts up talking and then Ellen Kiel starts to talk and as -some- of us are still listening and screenshotting this conversation, we are booted back into the loadscreen and kicked into Lion’s Arch with two members of the party gone.
The three remaining members are left still trying to decide if the entire story mode was over and whether the conversation ended at the intended stopping point, or if one of the impatient quitters was the instance holder and booted us out before the story was over.
I’m really left none the wiser except Scarlet did something and I guess the reactor blew up? I have no clue where we come in as Inquest.
I would have been even more lost if I wasn’t at least smart enough to attempt the story mode initially by myself – which at least let me talk to Ellen Kiel before entering the fractal, and examining the initial layout of the reactor.
Unfortunately the aggravation of having to clear four veterans a spawn and dying meaning logging in and logging out ended that attempt at soloing after a while.
This is why story is much better told via a scaling instance that can be entered solo to progress at one’s own pace.
I get the feeling that the new fractals were created by a group that were more impressed by the new mechanics for a boss fight that they thought up and for new puzzles to challenge a group than being concerned with any sort of storytelling or proper pacing.
Except group challenge is not inevitable death if you don’t magically know the right gimmick solution to taking out the boss either.
Not everyone runs in a regular group connected by voice chat either, which is the distinct subtype I keep getting the impression they’re trying to make fractals for.
All in all, first impressions: Not impressed. Clumsy. Shoddy. Buggy and insufficiently quality tested.
I’ll have to save lore discussions for later after having gone through it a few more times via random fractal rolls, I suppose. Assuming I can put up with it for that long.
In my usual vein of being hopelessly uncool and highlighting things a year later that probably everyone has already heard of, I just discovered a crazy good Portal 2 machinima / animation / music video by a very talented Youtuber named Harry101UK.
It’s entitled, If I Were A Core:
(It does contain some spoilers for the story of Portal 2, in somewhat disjointed form that you’d probably won’t be able to piece together wholesale if you haven’t played the story through, but bah, you should watch it anyway and then take it as inspiration to finish the bloody game.
Or buy it, then finish if you’re even more hopelessly uncool than me.)
Especially if you’re interested in gender issues and role reversal like many recent debates about perceived sexism in games have revealed many gamers to be.
(The latest controversy appears to be some very hasty and curt ending comments from Blizzard in an interview running out of time, about hypersexualized female outfit designs in MOBAs, which can either be construed as demonstrating the fairly male-centered mindset and possibly chauvinistic culture that may be part of their company…
…or being hopelessly taken out of context when the poor guy was just trying to end the interview quickly in response to the PR people while the other guy was hounding him like a paparazzi intent on getting something juicy.)
And when you’re done reflecting on the differences between boys and girls and coming to your own opinion about them, you can pop back to Harry101UK to check out his team’s submission for the annual Saxxy awards, a film competition run by Valve for films made in their Source Filmmaker program.
Which is a ridiculously GOOD Team Fortress 2 piece, entitled Lil Guardian Pyro, that is probably up to Pixar standards.
(Oh, and this is actually recent. Uploaded a week ago or so.)
Liore of Herding Cats notes in an interesting post that the Moms of Azeroth appear to be typecast as baby-making machines, appearing long enough to pop out a famous heir and getting shunted back out of the spotlight.
Or they become drama engines, fueled by a tragic death that conveniently removes them from the story while leaving their offspring motherless and bereft of a functional family unit.
Automatically, I think about the game I’m playing. Are there any famous mothers in Guild Wars lore?
This is, of course, a game that has had some criticism thrown its way for the efficiency of materials usage in female light armor designs (ie. very little cloth or leather required.)
Would their character stories potentially be any less sexist?
On the surface, looking at the famous characters of Destiny’s Edge, it’s hard to say. No one mentions the mothers of Zojja, Rytlock, and so on. We know Logan has had a famous great-great-however-many-greats grandmom in the form of Gwen, is about it. Those NPCs may as well have sprung up from the brow of Athena for all that their mothers are referenced.
(The Sylvari as a race, are right out of the runnning, of course, since they don’t have mothers per se. The Pale Tree is as close as it gets, and she’s more of a… steward, caretaker, guardian figure?)
Then again, is it simply a case of being too ordinary an origin and unnecessary to trace back and mention the lineage of every famous character?
On further deep thinking, I managed to locate a number of notable mothers in the GW lore.
(Spoilers for one part of the Vigil storyline follow.)
Her son turns out to be Ajax Anvilburn, the leader of the renegades disrupting the human-charr peace treaty talks near Ebonhawke. That relationship is buried rather abruptly when she gives or approves the order to protect the talks at all costs, including over the dead body of her son.
Who’d have thunk? A mother that thinks some causes are greater than flesh and blood, and willing to make sacrifices for it. “Like many in the legions, Ajax never looked beyond the charr. I will grieve for my son, but I will not look back.”
(End of spoiler.)
Moving back in time to Guild Wars, we have a non-human mother, Glint.
Considered a dragon back in GW1, but apparently an enslaved champion of the Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik, she has a long history of being a mover and a shaker, heavily involved with the GW1 player heroes and then with Destiny’s Edge up to the point of her death.
No disappearing out of the spotlight for this mom.
In GW1, players had a challenge mission to protect one of her offspring, a baby dragon. It’s rumored that the child may have been hidden and still lives to this very day – a lore thread that should be pretty promising if ever picked up again (assuming that joker Scarlet doesn’t get her hands all over it.)
And finally, back to humanity and the most famous character in GW lore, Gwen.
The girl we see grow up from the ashes of a charr invasion and get romantically involved over the course of one game and three expansions. We know, of course, that she marries Keiran Thackeray and spawns a whole line of descendants down to the current less-than-impressive Logan, so she’s technically quite the uber-mom.
Sarah:“Husband? By the six! My little girl is all grown up now! Keiran is it? Come, come, tell me about yourself. I want to know everything!” Gwen:“Everything mom? That might take a while.” Sarah:“Sweetheart, I’ve got all the time in the world.”
Now that’s one mom you’re not going to get away from in a hurry.
Those are the major moms that I can think up offhand in the Guild Wars universe.
(Not to mention, the good souls working ArenaNet Support who swiftly responded within a day – during the weekend – and managed to fix the issue of code and account region not matching by manually applying said code to my account.)
I’d only been procrastinating on painting miniatures for merely ten years now, so of course step one to getting back into the habit – decide to model and paint up a golem for the competition with a two week deadline… for fun!
Some GW2 wiki research on golems produced a very nice concept art of a giant golem.
I doubted I had enough “green stuff” Kneadatite epoxy putty left in the house (the usual substance of choice for miniature sculptors of the Games Workshop/Reaper Mini backgrounds), nor its workability after a decade, so of course it became a big craft experiment into the world of air-dry modelling clay, which was way more easily available at a neighborhood book/stationery store.
Except they didn’t have any white color in stock either, so I had to settle for peach.
Fortunately, asura aesthetics tend toward the geometric, which make things a lot more achievable for an amateur just enjoying the feeling of getting hands all gunked up with clay and shaping stuff.
Make a rectangular cube here, a ball there, a triangle or a pyramid elsewhere… Let it dry a bit. Then try to stick them together.
Curse and swear when things don’t.
Cudgel brain for solutions and resort to grabbing some wire to thread the shapes through and pin one to the other.
In retrospect, I’d make a more proper armature next time.
But for what was essentially a prototype of a prototype, just an idea simmering around in my head, the discovery process was pretty fun.
(I did have to resort to the ol’ rock trick to stabilize one super-heavy arm though.)
Several days of shaping and drying later, it was time to work out the painting kinks with a much larger surface area to practice on than a normal mini.
Step 1: Priming
The really amazing thing is that both my black and white paint-on gesso primer and my Vallejo paints were doing just fine after so long a time of being ignored. (Go go air tight containers! Betcha your spray primers and cruddy Games Workshop paint pots can’t match that.)
Black and white priming is a variant technique that I experimented with and found I liked (thus avoiding the holy war of solely black primer vs white primer.)
Priming black gets black into all the deepest shadows, and with my particular brand of gesso, goes on more smoothly than white.
The problem is that subsequently painting colors on top of such a black coat takes forever, especially if you use thin coats of paint or your paint tends to translucency. Colors tend to be more dulled and less bright than applied on top of white primer.
Enter the drybrushed white primer on top of the black primed layer.
I was a little rough with the drybrushing on this big model, as most of the surface was meant to simulate stone anyway.
(So rough the right arm fell off. Cue hasty ball of clay propping up the re-attached and heavily superglued limb into position.)
The idea of drybrushing white primer is to lift out all the surface detail (which would be there on a less amateurishly sculpted model) while leaving black in the crevices, giving some instant contrast.
Step 2: Basecoat
In this case, I did end up obliterating most of the primer contrast when I added the grey basecoat since it was more of a slapdash preliminary test of contrast.
You may notice I smear a lot of paint on the supporting paper.
After learning one too many times the hard way why one should not apply an unknown glop of paint directly onto a model, it’s just a habit I developed to test how much paint is loaded onto my brush.
(I find tissue too absorbent for this, and while testing it out on one’s nail or thumb does work, it nets you a lot of strange looks later when your thumbnail is streaked with multicolor acrylics and is a bitch to scrape off, even with soap and water and plenty of scrubbing.)
Step 3: Wash (Shading / Color tinting)
It was a little too grey, so instead of simply washing with a darker grey to add shadows, I opted for a thinned down layer of brown and let it pool in the recesses to simulate more of a dirt / granite look.
Step 4: More Painting Steps Combined into One
The lighting is a bit bright in this shot, but lighter greys were subsequently drybrushed in layers to create a more ‘rough stone’ textured look.
The brown wash got added to the untouched black-and-white primed rock and turned it fairly interesting and differently rock-like right off the bat.
A blue basecoat was applied to the cubes that were going to be ‘power crystals.’
While I was now more or less satisfied with the ‘stone-ness’ of the main body parts, it was becoming obvious that the model was too big and low detail for a simple wash and drybrushing to provide sufficient contrast.
Step 5: Layering – Shading to Highlighting
Enter a slightly clumsy recollection of a more advanced painting technique.
Layering involves thin layers of paint, applied more carefully than washing all over the model with a thin layer of paint or drybrushing across the entire model.
Shade is applied in areas which are likely to be in shadow. In this case, a thin layer of black paint was used – note the translucency. The basecoat color (and my painstaking stone texture) is meant to still show up under it.
Then from black, we go back up to the basecoat grey, a thin layer again, to blend with the shadows and smooth out any clumsy brushstrokes of black that may have gone in places not meant to be black.
A little white is mixed with the basecoat grey to get a lighter grey color as the first highlight.
This is where the magic starts to happen after all the previous patient steps. The highlight is applied on all the raised areas where one would expect light to hit.
And you can start to see the forms take on a more defined look with contrast that wasn’t there before.
We push the contrast even further with one more layer of highlight, grey mixed with even more white, and add it to the very tips and edges.
Really dedicated painters do even more layers for the smoothest blends. I could have done more smoothing of the black and grey parts, for example, but I was already getting too excited and eager to finish.
Power crystals were highlighted up in the same manner and I was happy to call it done. For now.
The photos were duly submitted along with the design idea, a siege golem specialized for that last bastion of WvW – fortified walls.
Trebs take forever. I overheard a guy wanting a siege tower to roll right up to the walls and unload the zerg off. Well, who needs those when this beaut could stomp right up and tear that frickin’ wall down?
It needed a name just like the Omega Golem so that “OMG OMG OMG” would be a great abbreviation for when folks see a bunch of either golem trundle up to their keep.
Thus, the Omicron Golem was born.
And I had just the right Asuran designer for it too.
Greetings and salutations!
Fortified walls in the Mist War get you down? I bring to you the next evolution of siege golem, just as game-changing as the Omega Golem from an Alpha.
The Omicron Golem is designed to tackle what the Alphas and Omegas cannot, the solid stone and metal structures of a keep left too long in enemy hands. Why endure primitive bookah technology like catapults and trebuchets pounding away for eons when you can roll up in air-conditioned comfort and direct the Omicron to deconstruct fortifications just as rapidly as Omegas on gates?
Inspired by a historical image discovered in an old abandoned asuran lab, and re-utilizing salvaged Inquest technology for better purposes, this new design marries the latest in eco-friendly thaumafusion power crystals with the robustness and longevity of a proven golem construction material: granite.
It is eventually biodegradeable, but will last you centuries! (See footnote 1 in small print.)
Its four-legged chassis is able to navigate rough terrain where wheels or bipedal models may operate at severely reduced efficiencies. Its three-digit hands are numerically efficient, with each digit able to rotate independently and form a claw or hook as required for grasping material or a shovel for earth-moving. Its camera and vision functions are programmed for wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum from infrared to x-rays to best determine optimal areas of weaknesses to attack a fortification.
An add-on purchase can be made for lens crystals and arcane mirrors that generate a defensive laser beam from its eye. Other optional add-ons include cushioned seats for asura and bookah sizes, an audio-generator that automatically provides music for optimum relaxed alertness or aggression as the situation dictates, and an excellent espresso machine.
No sentient creatures were harmed in the making of this golem.
Yours truly, Shudd Genius Inventor, Pact Commander, and the distinctly better half of Shudd & Shodd’s Agency for World Domination
1: Claim does not apply in eventualities such as hostile acts of the enemy, civil commotion, sabotage, or other unforeseen acts of gods. Fire, flood and earthquakes may increase wear-and-tear and induce diminished operating lifespan.
I’m really glad Gazimoff liked it, because now I have a virtual mini to go with the RL one too.
Mr Sparkles is absolutely awesome.
And this guy fits in the palm of my hand pretty snugly.
P.S. World domination plans are coming along nicely, says Shudd.