2014, A Retrospective – Part 2


So what else happened in July besides a whole lot of blogger XCOM?

The Living Story Season 2 opens in GW2 with the Gates of Maguuma.

Right off, I take to the Story Journal like a duck to water. Maybe it’s just Guild Wars 1 nostalgia, but for those of us used to the older game, story is supposed to come in chapter-like chunks in private instances where Randomname the Ranger and his mapchat spamming friends can’t interfere with one’s immersion and interaction with story NPCs.

Besides, this means other players can experience the story at their own pace and time, which is always good for encouraging others to join the game at any time and not feel like they’ve missed out forever and have nothing but the current seasonal content to do.

There was the Dry Top zone, that steadily opened up fortnight after fortnight.

I indulged in a modest amount of farming, but didn’t go overboard since it was essentially a permanent zone. (Still working on all those Ambrite weapons to this day.)

The World Cup happened, apparently. I have forgotten, but for this post I made comparing soccer, football and the MMO trinity. Yeah, I still don’t know where I was going with that ramble.

And I spectated the DOTA 2 International, because the pros have a lot more time to play one game very well, and me, I just dabble, doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

It was a pretty good July though, until the slight letdown with the next awkward Living Story transition that attempted some open world aspects, which promptly broke down.


In GW2, there was Mawdrey, and the resulting Orr deforestation in the pursuit of the shiny Bloodstone Dust chomper and backpack.

Blaugust was revving up, but I was mostly busy mucking around in my personal instances chasing achievements and doing just fine at a less intense blog posting pace.

I did, however, write some general topic articles inspired by the communal productivity surrounding the Blaugust event:

  • MMOs are Dead, Long Live the Multiple MOGs – I get a terrifying amount of hits to this post to this very day. For whatever reason, there appears to be a lot of people either wishing for the death of MMOs or seeking confirmation to their demise or something… (Look, guys, just google “FPSes are dead” or “RTSes are dead” or “adventure games are dead,” you get the same stuff! Someone’s burned out and no longer interested in the genre, is all. It’s OKAY to change games. There’s no “till death do us part” vow involved.)

I also play the heck out of Path of Exile, since it launched its Forsaken Masters expansion, albeit at a super casual level.

The end of August marks a bunch of shitstorms that enveloped the GW2 Reddit for a while, most of which I avoided commenting on, because I just couldn’t muster up any indignation one way or the other. Too damned busy actually playing games here (and woirking on a sekrit project.)

I did defend the New Player Experience, since I do think it smooths out the learning curve for the group of people that need direction (and there’s so -many- of them.) Whatever gets us more newbies attracted, then attached to the game is good! Even if they have to try it out multiple times before it finally clicks!

And finally, I launch my secret project, still super rough around the edges and due for a version 2.0 some day: The Beginner and Intermediate Player’s Guide to Movement and Combat in GW2

Call it my sneaky contribution to the new player experience.

I actually forget which post and which comment started it, but the gist was that it looked like a lot of players didn’t even know -why- they were stacking in corners or how to move appropriately to break line of sight and pull mobs if something went wrong at the beginning of their ‘stack here’ strat.

Probably no one had ever bothered to explain the basics to them, the very foundations of movement and positioning, and what things like ‘kiting’ or ‘LOS’ were. The stuff and jargon MMO regulars automatically know from prior games… except GW2 is meant to also attract people who have never played an MMO before.

How many will actually find it, or bother to read it? Don’t know, don’t really care. Can’t save ’em all. Still going to meet players in-game that’ll turn your hair white.

But at least it’s out there now… so individuals who do care about getting better might find it, or have the link shared with them by others who care to help them.

It hit 3,801 views in August, and has an average of ~500 views every month, so -somebody’s- reading it anyway. If it helps one person play better, t’was worth the effort. (And hey, shameless pageview accumulation is good for my blog and my ego!)


Day 1: Computer troubles. Serious computer troubles. No gaming. Much troubleshooting.

It takes a good part of the day to finally narrow down the troublemaker as the Creative X-Fi card that just decided out-of-the-blue no-driver-change-or-anything that it would hang the entire operating system. Repeatedly.

I eventually yank the entire card out after a week of intermittent troubles and fall back on the built-in Realtek audio on the motherboard.

The big anticipated feature patch hits GW2, bringing the NPE, collections and a whole bunch of other changes.

That month, I am mostly all over the place like a squirrel, but end up sucked down the rabbit hole of Minecraft: Agrarian Skies.


October brought Bragtoberfest, the one blogging community event this year I managed to find sufficient time for proper participation, rather than just cheering from the sidelines.

I play a hefty helping of games that month, many in tandem with other people, who have all met online at a scheduled time expressly for the purpose of playing said game. This is a rather new and enjoyable experience for a grumpy hermit like me, even if I do lose some sleep over a couple of weekends and draw the line at Twitter. We play Strife, Path of Exile, Team Fortress 2 and Killing Floor.

We also play a few other games asynchronously, using blogs and Twitter to share our experiences – such as AxonMountain and some Orcs Must Die / Defence Grid.

Along the way, I’m chugging along in Minecraft and faithfully doing dailies in GW2, but there’s really nothing to write home about logging in for 15 minutes to do Daily Gatherer, Daily Laurel Vendor, Daily Kills and so on.

At the end of October, I bow out of most gaming and blogging to play the best game ever: Building mah shiny new computer.


Too much shiny. Too little blogging. That seems to be the story of this month.

When my luxury purchase of a GTX 980 graphics card finally arrives, I’m like a kid that hasn’t had sugar in three years suddenly let loose in a candy store with pocket money to spend.

GW2 is cranked up to high settings and everything becomes eye candy. I go after FPS games that would have previously brought my toaster to its knees, like Natural Selection 2 and Evolve. I’m just trying to play all the things – Prison Architect, various Minecraft mods, Marvel Heroes, GW2’s latest story drop that brings the Silverwastes zone (with all the attendant grind) with way too little time.

I do manage two philosophical response posts about PvP and PvE – why it’s in our best interests to get along, despite differing tastes, and trying to break down the terms PvP and PvE into more useful differentiators of preference.


The last month in 2014 brings the Seeds of Truth update to GW2, aka EVEN MORE GRINDING. Oh yes, and there’s a pretty jumping puzzle too.

Well, I guess we’re all grinding away in our respective games, be it Warlords of Draenor or otherwise. That’s a seed of truth too, I would surmise.

I have wound up stumbling my way into a perfectly balanced triumvirate of gaming: GW2 + Minecraft + Random Singleplayer/Steam Game holds my attention perfectly. So perfectly that I sometimes forget to blog about what I’m doing, and sometimes I still think you guys don’t really want to hear about the 30-60 minutes of doing my dailies in GW2.

I get in one more community participation event post with Bloggy Xmas – broken into two parts because I’m longwinded as hell when I get started.

  • Community and Me” is just me rehashing my old history and getting a little maudlin about old communities.
  • Community and You” is the main inspirational message to those who miss old communities and yearn for new ones. Step up. Join in. Lead. If you don’t want to lead, be the Second Man. If you still don’t have time for that, be the umpteenth follower, but join in regardless.

As Izlain and Belghast and a number of other blogs are recapping and recounting, 2014 was the year this little part of the internet figured out how to become more interrelated and create a sense of community – one overall arcing ‘blogging’ community containing lots of smaller sub-communities within.

And that’s a good thing too.

P.S. I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to also share what else happened in December that never made it to my blog.

First, the ancient 5.1 speakers and subwoofer started to give way, with the power cutting out every so often (mental note: Buy new 5.1 speakers for Christmas. T’was easier listed than done, mind you, 5.1 speakers appear to be way out of fashion now. Took me a while to find new ones.)

Then on the 19th of December, the unmistakable scent of burning electronics engulfed the room as the power supply of my old toaster of a computer finally reached the end of its lifespan. *bows head in respectful moment of silence*

The good news is that the old hard disks didn’t seem to be too affected by the blowout and I managed to salvage all the data onto an external hard disk.

The bad news is that I’ll have to locate and transfer saves if I should ever want to play stuff I was halfway through, and I’m a very lazy person when we come right down to it.

The fate of the rest of the components is still unknown, pending more free time to check them out. They’re so old, it’s hard to muster enough enthusiasm or energy to do so. One has already written them off in my head, so to speak.

Oh well, at least I successfully transitioned to the new rig before that happened.

2014, A Retrospective – Part 1

Time really flies.

I find I’ve almost forgotten what happened at the start of this year, if not for my blog posts that handily provide a historical chronicle of all the things I was up to, gaming-wise.

In retrospect, the absolutely-non-Chinese phrase “May you live in interesting times” certainly applies to my 2014.


After taking a good couple of weeks off for spring cleaning, I dived back into GW2 to find the Marionette and Triple Trouble Wurm upon us.

One went through a whole gamut of emotions on discovering “raids” turning up in one’s previously raid-free game – from pissed off and depressed at the general populace’s inability to learn quickly, sheer boredom at all the waiting involved before the grand fight and feeling a great loss of control when it comes to relying on random strangers to -not- be stupid, to getting almost compulsively addicted to a small slightly-more-elite (if self-selected) community of compatriots who suck a lot less than random strangers.

After more or less coming to a compromise, if not quite coming to terms, regarding my philosophy of finding raids inherently exclusive and being very allergic to them, I more or less rationalize that they are more or less “okay” in a game which doesn’t have vertically progressing stats on gear, nor exclusive highly desirable rewards coming from only one boss, nor the ability to restrict one’s team to an elite few in a separate raid instance, and more importantly, contains a raiding community large and inclusive enough to leave the door open for newcomers without ridiculous prerequisites and willing to teach others what they know.

In the spirit of this ‘willingness to teach’ and ‘share info with others’ (and also a certain amount of enlightened self-interest to get my Marionette achievements,) I dash out a Visual Guide to the Marionette’s AoEs and contrary to my personality, attempt to promote the hell out of it on Reddit to get as many eyes on it as possible.

Not only does this work, I end up quoting Portal to myself, “I’m making a note here: Huge success” when I look at my blog stats. The page hits over 4,444 pageviews in January, blowing my previous 2013 hit on Liadri (at a mere 2,711 views in the month it was released) out of the water, and I realize that I don’t actually have to do anything else in 2014 – I’ve already topped myself and can sit back, rest on my laurels and just blog about what I feel like blogging about for the rest of the year.


Edge of the Mists launches in GW2, an absolute non-event for me. It is so utterly uninteresting to me that I utterly miss predicting the potential popularity of it as a karma train leveling map.

I was far more interested in knocking out my Rodgort. Hurrah.

We also break for a quick philosophical interlude analyzing the watchwork mining pick, something I have to consider myself fairly spot on regarding the price of its advantage. Sprockets did indeed rise like toxic spores to around 3 silver plus, and I -did- buy the pick and get about a rare’s worth of silver daily from it. I suppose it balances itself out in the end because I don’t camp world bosses, which would also net others a rare, or PUG dungeons in that time (which would net about 3+ rares’ worth of gold).

Then we say our last goodbyes to Lion’s Arch.

And spend the last part of the month witnessing the best and worst of human nature in a crisis, artificial it may be.

2014 is also the year my old toaster of a computer slowly but steadily starts to break down, beginning with a totally avoidable accident with water into a keyboard.


In March, the Battle for Lion’s Arch concludes with a rousing fight/raid against Scarlet’s holograms.

The wardrobe and account-bound skin saving gets launched, to the immense glee of the fashion-conscious everywhere, and I reach a certain point of no return with GW2 – in a way, it’s a point of maturity in my mind, though it ends up being annoying in terms of having no conversation topics to write about.

It’s the point where I kinda feel that GW2 is -there.- It’s a mature game. I’m mature. I don’t have to spend my every waking moment promoting or hyping this game or feeling super-insecure because omfg, someone dared to say they hate my game on the internet. Yeah, whatever. Don’t play my game then. We have a lot of other people joining or quitting every damn second of every day. I trust that those who like it will stay. Those that don’t, won’t.

It has a good niche (as in pretty much second or third most popular MMO after WoW, depending on whose approximate metrics you’re using) as being a ‘different’ game for those who are tired of the standard MMO model, so it makes a ton of sense that those looking for the vanilla model will find that GW2 won’t give them what they’re looking for.

It’s going to receive a ton of criticism and some praise from pretty much every and any angle, and I found myself running out of new things to say about topics that are going to be rehashed over and over, or experienced in similar ways.

In the same month, I cast my eye around at other games and end up dipping a toe back into Minecraft (now with added mods!) with the Hexxit modpack. (I did, in fact, get my gold chocobo and flew it around visiting random things that caught my eye, but never really found anything more interesting to write home about. Flight sorta killed the mystique of the world.)

There was also a Landmark visitation, courtesy of Isey‘s free key, some dabbling around, with the main question bubbling up on “What’s the point of Landmark, again?”


I wound down quite quickly in Landmark after that, finishing up after following through some voxel tutorial videos and deciding that this ‘art’ business of working for free for SoE in exchange for ‘fun’ wasn’t quite for me. I intend to take a peek back in at it at some point, especially now that I have more of a monster rig that presumably won’t send me falling through the void at 5 FPS every so often, but I think the longer development time it has before I do so again, the better I’ll look upon it when I pop back in.

In GW2, April brought bobbleheads!

I also fritter around a lot that month, venturing to WvW and EoTM on my thief (where I figure out that EoTM is easy mode WvW for staunch PvErs), wallow around shamelessly stacking sides in hotjoin PvP, experimentally level my engineer in ‘normal map exploration’ fashion by killing all the things while going from point A to B and reach a perfectly average and normal 1 level per hour base rate (if you can’t seem to reach this pace and aren’t intentionally slowing yourself down and actually want to level fast, something is WRONG with what you’re doing.)

Then another feature patch hits, fucking up traits everywhere (many I still haven’t gotten around to unlocking, luckily most of my characters were pre-patch and grandfathered in) and the megaserver rears its ponderous head.

In retrospect, I suppose the megaserver is a necessary evil, so that newbies can join Tyria and feel like they’re in a bustling world, but I do still miss my server communities. I still don’t want to say anything about traits because I haven’t had much experience with them beyond them serving as a goldsink when I power leveled a new character to find that “AUGH, nothing’s unlocked yet. Eff it, where’s my guild bank, lemme just toss some gold at this problem. There are only a few traits I need for this meta build anyway.”

The singleplayer game of the month was Sleeping Dogs


…which stretched into May, and received my final evaluation of “Enjoyable. Worth experiencing.”

I wrote (or more appropriately, “assembled”) a poem during the Newbie Blogger Initiative that I was pretty proud of, especially the screenshots. It helped me reconnect with some of the things I really loved about GW2, despite some of the aimlessness and lack of goals or sense of ‘feeling’ I’d been feeling a lack of, once the first Living Story concluded.

Then I go on a game-hopping vacation, with the shortest trial of Wildstar ever, just long enough to play in Stormtalon’s Lair and PUG a few group fights in various instances, before deciding I still can’t do these vertical progression stat games which turn me into even more of a misanthrope.

I take Neverwinter for a spin, long enough to realize that its combat puts me to sleep and end up in a decent amount of love with Path of Exile. Guess I found my new “singleplayer” (*ahem*) game of the month.

The Boss Blitz hits, back in GW2, with Wildstar-like telegraphs everywhere (hooray, orange circles!) and I wax rhapsodic about frustration and human reactions to it while the whole community sloooowly adapts and learns just how to deal with this new situation presented to them. Two days later, the beginnings of hope and a few less chicken-running-around-with-head-cut-off fight participants.

The big surprise for me in May was a chance City of Heroes blog post response that got linked by Missing World’s Media’s Facebook page.

2.5 Things City of Heroes Did Wrong became an overnight hit, laden with controversy, fueling a boatload of comments from some very passionate people. Me, I wound up laughing to myself all the way to the stats bank with 1292 pageviews that month. Absolutely unintentional, I dashed off the post as a mere -response- but I guess I hit something core and fundamental, given that there seemed to be two main groups, one with some amount of agreement and one in complete disagreement.


In June, the bout of mild boredom burnout had all but subsided. I was happy.

The Labyrinthine Cliffs has that effect on me, I guess. Such gorgeous landscapes and lighting. I spent a day or two ostensibly playing GW2 and mostly taking Labyrinthine Cliffs screenshots for posterity. (And a good thing too, given GW2’s propensity for explosions and destruction to move the narrative forward.)

The new Living World Story Journal was announced, I got a Chaos of Lyssa recipe to drop, I even wrote a short story about my Ash Legion engineer – the technical construction of which I am quite proud of. It is absolutely intentional that there is some conflict in every scene/section, two characters want something different, who gets their way? I can be prone to forgetting the rule of conflict, so this was a good writing exercise that actually yielded something complete.

I made fun of Wildstar’s 12-step raid attunement program in a short throwaway post, which helped to spin off other blog responses and aided their comment-and-pageview-collection efforts.

And then went Steam Summer Sale crazy.

It was a really good haul and I actually got -most- of them played before this year’s Winter sale.

Tried Monaco, State of Decay, they were so-so. Played through Shadowrun: Dragonfall and enjoyed it. Gave Don’t Starve: Reign of Giants some fair enough attempts (that usually ended with my camp going up in flames from a giant Dragonfly in Summer, and losing the willpower to continue further.)

The Wolf Among Us was one of my surprise hits. Highly recommended. Great story, great atmosphere, great setting. Ended up reading the Fables comics due to it.

XCOM was the other game I thoroughly enjoyed. That spun off an extended Let’s Play series using blogger names that began at the end of June and pretty much extended all the way into July.

(I’d love to get back to this at some point, but I wound up distracted for a couple months and now it’s going to take a little longer to get back to it, if ever… for reasons which will become clear when I hit the month of December in retrospective.)

GW2: If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again… But Also Pause and Think…

The Mystical Mesmer’s latest tales about miserable failure and continuous improvement makes me grin wryly and nod.

While I have chosen to wuss out this time on the Winter Wonderland jumping puzzle (hate the exploding presents – that stage is too competitive for me. Apparently the first to jump triggers the explosions. I am never the first to jump since my latency is usually higher than anyone in NA, so I end up waiting and waiting, and folks just pile in behind me and I never get to jump. If I just go YOLO, and jump, chances are likely I’m going to fall behind and fall through the gaps anyway), lately, I’ve found myself suddenly addicted to Unranked PvP.

T’was a curious conjunction of events that led to this.

First, there’s the new PvP dailies.

I’m usually game to get the easiest one or two, in a single match or two. That broke the initial barrier of venturing into the Heart of the Mists.

Secondly, there’s the utterly disgusting low chance of popping anything good with the Wintersday presents, coupled with guaranteed rewards in the PvP Wintersday track.

RNG and me do not get along. I -still- haven’t popped more than one carapace boots. When a precursor dropped for me last year, it was naturally the cheapest and most unwanted one, Venom.

All my Wintersday stuff this year has been bought. 15 gold for a Magnanimous Bell versus 500 ugly sweaters? Here, take the gold. I get 3-5 gold off the TP daily anyway. Collection starter items? After opening some 100 presents, I still hadn’t got one of them yet. Whatever. TP. Less than a silver.

The only bonus was that I’d apparently gotten all the Endless tonic recipes memorized last year. So I just paid 25 gold or so to Miyani (such goldsink this season!) and crafted stuff to turn into a dancing gift-wrapped box.

As for the Rime-Rimmed Aquabreather… what, rely on RNG to give me one? That’s never gonna happen.

I’d pretty much given up on it when a chance Reddit thread pointed out that the Ultimate Wintersday Gift in the Wintersday PvP track contained a guaranteed aquabreather.


(Also drool-worthy are permanent finishers as a choice. DAYUM. Those are worth GEMS.)

That was a pretty powerful motivator to seriously consider progressing on the PvP track this Wintersday, especially since the new Unranked arena provides a middle ground between meaningless deathmatching in hotjoin and the super competitive leaderboard climbers in Ranked.

So I broke out my usual ‘safe’ PvP character, my ‘bleed everything, not pro enough to be a terrormancer’ condi necro – whose build I shared with Missy Mojo some time ago and queued for a couple of matches.

Almost immediately, I realized I was in some serious trouble.

It may be that with the number of matches I had on my necromancer belt (290+), the matchmaking was bootstrapping me up to face a higher class of player. Fights on point were hard as hell. The scores for most matches were in the 475 – 500 sort of range, both ways, win or lose… except for the ones that had a premade team wiping the floor with us.

Yet since I was solo queuing, there was no guarantee of receiving any help if I ended up facing a 1 vs 2 on point – my necro can’t run, it can only just stay there, last for a while, and then die horribly.

Worse of all, I had my eye on the grind. I wanted the PvP Wintersday reward track to go up! Winning gives 1500 rank points! Losing only 500! Aaaargh!

I was stressing out a bit too much and taking things way too seriously, since this was my ‘serious’ PvP character, the one I use when I “want” to win. Some of us are prone to obsession in very unhealthy ways, and I knew this was a danger sign. My usual solution is just to play a few matches each day and not worry about it, but but… that is counter-productive to actually getting a rime-rimmed breather! How to resolve this?!

The solution came in the form of a PvP daily the very next day.

Win a match as a Ranger, they said.

You know, I said to myself, I have always been intending to learn how to play another class in PvP.

This would be a great opportunity to stop being lazy, look up Metabattle and copy a PvP build on your lowbie ranger and learn how to play it.

My lowbie ranger, by the way, is merely level 39 or so, a good chunk of that being a level 20 scroll of experience. I have pretty much never ventured beyond Brisban Wildlands with him in PvE. I barely knew how all his weapons operate. Still can’t tell you without reading the tooltips what a good chunk of them do, as opposed to say, knowing by heart guardian or necro skills and able to play them on sheer muscle memory.

Knowing full well my lack of ranger ability, my expectations of success didn’t so much lower as become nonexistent.

This turned out to be remarkably FREEING.

Y’see, there were two ‘meta’ builds available on Metabattle.

Like a masochist, I avoided the obvious easy one – ie. Power Ranger. I’ve seen that one in action. They stay back, snipe a lot and are terribly annoying, but aren’t terribly helpful on control point capture unless they really know the map and have mastered positioning well. I figured I could experiment with it another time.

The other was Condition Survival. Gee, that sounds a bit like my necro. Stack bleeds, be bunker-y, seemed like familiar ground to go with.

So I faithfully copied the meta build, barely understanding what eveything did, slowly reading each skill and trait as I slotted it in.

OK, I said, for my first few matches, I am not even trying to win, I am just going to figure out how it all works and gels together.

(As for why I didn’t do it in hotjoin, don’t make me laugh. The amount of side switching and stacking means you never get 1 vs 1 or 2 vs 2 matchups that really stress test your build – all you normally get is zerg or be zerged. Also, I was keen on seeing if the matchmaking was intelligent enough to detect that I was on a class that I’d never used in PvP before and match me with closer inexperienced equivalents.)

A few matches were actually won, but I suspect I had very little to do with those beyond the odd assist or two.

The bulk of it were losses as I ran around, noobing it up, seriously stress testing the survival abilities of the build while trying to figure out how to actually hurt anyone with it.

Survival was actually good, but I was fairly dismayed to only hit 6-10 bleeds on average on most people. I just couldn’t seem to get behind them enough, and their natural reaction is, of course, to face their opponent.

It must be my inexperience, I kept thinking, I just need to figure out the rotation and get better at execution. The only way to do it is practice. So keep pounding that Next Matchup button and keep going! Each loss is still 2% on the reward progression track!

And I had a more immediate improvement goal to keep my mind occupied and off the fact that most of the matches were losses. The goal: Get better at playing ranger. Actually progress to ‘passable’ and maybe even win a 1 vs 1 matchup.

(I was also supremely curious to see if the matchmaking would adjust, and see “oh, this fail ranger has lost like 8 matches in a row, let’s match him with equally horrific players…”)

It turns out that a losing streak makes it very hard to judge the quality of later matches, as the level of overall cooperation from players on your team seems to drop as well. (Makes a certain amount of sense that soloists who can’t seem to figure out map mechanics or the fact that control points are important for score would be in a lower bracket.)

What ended up deciding which team would win seemed to merely be luck of the draw, as in, which side had more randomly sorted players who understood teamwork slightly better than the other team.

Eventually, the streak of losses got to me and I actually paused to think, rather than just hitting the ‘Unranked’ button and leaping right into the next match.

I was aware that I wasn’t playing at a similar level as I could have on my usual necro. I just wasn’t winning 1 vs 1s consistently enough. Hell, I just didn’t seem to be doing any significant damage in any fight. 5-6 bleeds is nothing.

I knew from prior fights with the necro that I’d encountered a lot more dangerous condition rangers who could stack 18+ bleeds with seeming ease, tossing them on even as you cleared them.

Maybe I’m just not getting the movement and rotations of condi survival correct, I thought. Maybe I should check if there are high-level PvP pros whose movements I can try to emulate more. So I googled for “condition survival ranger.”

Turns out it wasn’t a terribly popular build and I couldn’t really find videos of anyone using it at a very high level (might be just my google fail)… but I did find one video which suggested some condi survival variants that weren’t at all traited like the one I found on Metabattle.


Maybe, just maybe, I should stop assuming that I am too much of a noob with ranger to tweak a build and actually take some time to -read- my other traits and try to craft a build (or at least tweak the meta variant more to my liking) like what I did for my necro?

Problem 1: I am simply not getting enough bleeds onto my opponents.

The video I found suggested two solutions. Sharpening Stone the utility skill, as well as Keen Edges – a trait in the Power line that fires off a Sharpening Stone when someone hits 75% threshold… You know what, I don’t have enough bleeds… I’ll take both.

What to give up? At my low level of play, I wasn’t facing enough condi pressure to really worry about having my pet take all my condis… besides I rather not have my pet dead all the time. I’m already running a trait that clears 2 condis with each Survival skill used. So I just pressed the “subtract” button twice and added 2 to the Power line to pick up Keen Edges.

As for the utility skill, I just didn’t think I was using Signet of Stone appropriately at my level of play. Being invulnerable to damage is nice, for both me and my pet, but if I’m getting focused to the point that I need to pop it, it’s like a 4 vs 1 fight because all my other teammates have already died. Not very useful ultimately. So what the hell, less toughness, more pewpew. Bleeds, anyway.

Problem 2: I just can’t seem to figure out how to operate this stupid dagger offhand.

Pressing 5 may or may not land some miserable amount of bleeds on a player. I couldn’t ever seem to get close enough to land dagger 4 properly. Not that a bit of poison seemed to be doing that much either.

Well, Metabattle also suggested a torch offhand variant. Maybe I’ll try that. Seems to be some burning, and a fire field. Fire fields are always good, I could maybe shoot through it for more burning or something…

Problem 3: I am just not getting any mileage whatsoever out of this stupid spider. I lose track of it more than half the time, it never seems to immobilize when I want it to, or be in range when I need it to be.

The wolf was ok. It acted like how I expect a ranger pet to act, running into melee range, getting into people’s faces, and I actually managed to set off its fear once or twice.

So… eff the spider. New pet.

I really have no clue here… but you know what? I need more bleeds! And I’ve seen my guild leader (who mains a ranger) use birds before! They do decent slashy slashy damage, I think!

So I looked through the whole stable of pets and found a hawk with lacerating slash for even moar bleeds.

And because I really wanted a theme going here and wasn’t getting much mileage out of the Sigil of Doom’s poison anyway, I put a Sigil of Earth (60% chance of bleeding on crit) and a Sigil of Geomancy (apply bleed to anyone near you on weapon swap) on BOTH weapons.

If I sit on a weapon and autoattack, I want it to apply bleeds.

If I swap a weapon, you got it, it’s gonna bleed anyone near me – maybe I’ll -actually- get it to land on someone now that I don’t have to remember which weapon to which weapon switch applied the bleed. (Dat’s too high level for me.)

The difference, when I got back to queuing for matches, may not have been night and day, but it was certainly more like dawn with clear skies versus a depressing foggy London evening.

Suddenly, I was stacking anywhere from 10-18+ bleeds.

Apparently, people panic when they suddenly get too much bleeding on them and turn away from you, causing even more bleeds to stack.

The amount of bleeding I was putting out was giving me a LOT more confidence to dive in and take on 1 vs 1s (or even 1 vs 2s), allowing my 900 range shortbow and axe to connect more consistently, and even get into near melee range to land guess what, even more bleeds, and here, have some cover condis like chill and cripple to boot.

I got braver and launched more Entangle elites, and discovered that torch was in fact a dream weapon. The fire field appeared to do a decent amount of damage to already wounded inviduals. Not only did it make thieves more reluctant to close in and melee when a circle of fire erupts under their feet, I could basically recreate a City of Heroes fire tank farming scenario where they would immobilize a bunch of mobs and then place a bonfire on them.

This created a catch-22 situation where my opponent first had to deal with the distraction of getting a ton of bleeds, then suddenly halted in their tracks with a Binding Roots entangle (which they’d either have to break, or react fast enough with an appropriate condi clear or movement skill) and while they were still trying to execute that, here’s a bonfire merrily ticking away under their stationary self to worry about too.

Not many get out of this without falling over downed.

Also, I could just dump a fire field on demand onto a thief’s shadow refuge, where previously I’d lose target and look around helpless, or drop a fire field on a downed person to keep them down while messing around with a second player.

The bird, meanwhile, seemed to be a decent enough distraction that got in people’s faces and chased them around, so that was good too.

I started winning a decent number of 1 vs 1s – which in my book, is a good enough basic yardstick to measure a build against and not find it wanting.

This then means that if I wander over to a point where a 1 vs 1 is already taking place, I can expect to actually apply enough pressure to quickly down the opponent, instead of getting bogged down forever in a useless 2 vs 1 fight in which we lose pretty much every second that person keeps two people occupied playing with him and not killing him.

Again, queuing for matches became interesting, regardless of the final result.

As I kept playing, I started developing a bit of a theory of sPvP matches. Imo, some games are just lost games, where the other team is patently more organized and better than your team.

If you get out-rotated from the beginning, where someone just barges into your home point and successfully prevents a fast capture of that point, while his team caps their home unmolested, and the teamfight at mid is being held off equally, or worse, actually LOST by your team, you pretty much know that your team cannot match theirs in a teamfight.

(There was one highly memorable and embarrassing match where I actually managed to lose a 1 vs 1 on home against an ele, while watching our invader to their home lose his fight to the home defender, and then got to watch the 3 in the middle wipe within split seconds of each other. Result: 5 people respawning, 3 control points in the other team’s favor. WELL. So much for that match.)

For whatever reason, I totally don’t mind it when I’m on my ranger.

It’s like the ranger has been designated in my mind as my ‘play for fun’ PvP character. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have high expectations on a ranger I have zero PvE experience with. Maybe it’s just that he’s a roly poly asura and you can never be serious while an asura cavorts around on your screen.

I just chalk it up as, ok, forget the match result, time to wander off to a point that doesn’t have anyone and hope I draw 1 or 2 opponents to practice my 1 vs 1 or 1 vs 2 skills on. These give me little mini-successes, even if the match is a total wash in terms of score.

If I do end up drawing 3 or 4, then urm, practice like hell my juking and dodging and evading and running around obstacles and rolling off from heights and changing the Z axis as much as possible before I die horribly. Who knows, maybe it’ll actually help my team get some score elsewhere. (If the team really sucks, then usually not.)

But in general, I’m feeling the tide shift back to a more balanced 50/50 win-loss ratio, and that suggests I’ve actually managed to get the build to a point where it’s no longer a detriment to the team.

And some days, the shoe is on the other foot. This was a patently won match, where everyone on the team
And some days, the shoe is on the other foot. This was a patently won match, where everyone on the team was winning their matchups consistently against their opponents. I ended up running sentry circles around the outside of the clock tower – a place I’ve never really had opportunity to go to before – just watching the fights at both ends – having frightened away 3 individuals from coming back to mid with 1 vs 1 kills – feeling like rotating to any other point would just be too much salt in the wound.

All that match repetition while learning the ranger has also caused me to look upon sPvP as something akin to a TF2 match or any other FPS match, where you just play and restart, play and restart, some you win, some you lose.

The Unranked category is a real godsend for me as I can treat matches this way without worrying that my carefree, casual attitude is fucking up someone’s leaderboard ranking.

The amount of toxicity that I’ve seen is also pretty low.

Haven’t had any whispers directed at me yet (though I’d pretty much just block and ignore, since I staunchly say a total of zero words in PvP all the time. Typing equals can’t fight, y’know?)

Generally, the only thing I’ve seen is a couple people passively-aggressively venting about a miserable team over map or teamchat. (Since they are no doubt part of the problem, I can’t really take their complaints seriously. 😛 Just bad losers being bad losers.

Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, looking to score just -one- kill so that I at least look semi-dangerous, or a decent enough challenge.)

Listmas 2014: Games I’m Keeping An Eye on in 2015

I usually don’t do this looking ahead to the new year thing.

I’m pretty cynical about games never really hitting their proposed launch deadlines – and if they do scramble to hit it, it ends up a buggy unplayable mess with little resemblance to the much-hyped and highly anticipated thing in one’s head that one has been working oneself up into a lather for.

Something feels a little different about next year though.

It doesn’t seem like it’ll be a good year for MMOs, but there are actually games I’m anticipating, among a plentiful crop of releases, which is rare for me.

(I’ll skip the usual sequels in my personal list, like Witcher, Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto and so on, mostly because they are all -huge- games and I’m still guiltily backlogged on the originals. Picking them up for $5 two to three years down the road is more my cup of tea.)

The Rare Gems I’m Anticipating in 2015:

1.  Evolve

I honestly don’t know how much personal mileage I’m going to get out of this game, but since the Big Alpha, it haunts my dreams. The concept is phenomenal, the graphics are gorgeous, and browsing the Turtle Rock Studios’ forums reveal some really dedicated active devs and that boatloads of work have gone into refining and iterating this game.

I have a feeling it’s going to be the rarest title yet – a game that I’m going to be paying full price for, pre-launch, because I want to play it immediately, with the launch crowd, and I want extra cool monsters.

Just holding out for the next beta before making my decision.

2.  Batman: Arkham Knight

Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are among that rare breed of games that I’ve actually completed, start to finish. Arkham Knight is the last of the trilogy. ‘Nuff said.

(I am still waffling about Arkham Origins. It strikes me as a space filler that another studio was tasked to get done. But well, maybe when it goes on 75% off and I have nothing better to do.)

3.  Mordheim: City of the Damned

Games Workshop. Fantasy Necromunda. For the computer, without having to buy and paint miniatures. If I wasn’t so cheap or repulsed by the Early Access concept, I’d already have picked it up. But nah, I’ll wait for it to launch, after more eager fans have rooted out bugs for me.

4.  Grim Fandango: Remastered

Unless it turns out to be an accidental buggy mess of non-functionality after porting from PS to PC, it’s hard to see how this one can go wrong.

The story is a classic, I’ll be happy to play it again without having to root through dusty archived CDs, and updated graphics will make it easier on the eye. Can’t wait to see Manny and Meche and Glottis again.

Possible Stinkers / May Not Even Come Out in 2015, But Intriguing All The Same:

  • No Man’s Sky

Space exploration and survival on procedurally generated planets. The concept’s not really new (see Mirrormoon EP, for example), but just as intriguing. Plus points for No Man’s Sky: it’s a lot prettier than most.


The big question on my mind: is there going to be an actual game? Are people going to get lost and directionless after a while, or bored because 9 out of 10 planets are uninteresting rock?

  • Minecraft: Story Mode

Telltale Games takes on Minecraft? Really? Wtf?

Can they actually tease out a narrative that people will be interested in, given that Minecraft is more the king of sandbox stories and little personal tales?

I mean, all I really want is a resolution to Shadow of Israphel, and I’ll be happy puttering about on my modded Minecraft making up my own narratives.

But, y’know, it’s Telltale Games, so I’ll keep a weather eye out all the same.

  • Warmachine: Tactics

Reports from Early Access are not terribly promising. They speak of bugs, wonky control system and flawed AI.

Still, it’s another miniatures turned digital game, and I’ve always wanted to play Warmachine. So KIV and see if they can fix it sufficiently before it actually launches.

  • Torment: Tides of Numenera

I really want to like the hopeful successor to Planescape: Torment.

I picked up the Numenera tabletop RPG series from Bundle of Holding earlier this year (they’re conveniently holding a reprise sale currently!), after listening to a Rollplay of it, and was quite impressed with the setting.

It’s a sort of Jack Vance or Gene Wolfe-inspired far future earth environment, in which multiple ages of man and possibly alien civilizations have gone by, accreting strange and unknown artifacts known as Numenera in buried ruins. A sci-fi, fantasy, post-apocalyptic setting all-rolled-into-one.

The game now… who knows if it’s any good? We can always hope. And see how the reviews turn out. Shadowrun, at least, didn’t turn out so bad.

  • Pillars of Eternity

The sister Kickstartered game, also powered by nostalgia – this one claiming inspiration from the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale series of games.

Ditto the who knows if it’s any good line. Just watch and wait for now.

  • Warhammer 40,0000: Eternal Crusade

I really want this to be good. It’s freaking Warhammer 40k, after all.

I threw in for the Founder’s Price because I’m just a silly fan.

I suspect it will only be passably decent at best, to be honest.

And I seriously worry about ping and latency issues making the game unplayable for me.

But you know, it’s Warhammer freakin’ 40k, and if all I get is something similar to the City of Heroes character creator where I can dress up Space Marines in neat chapter colors, then I guess I will be a content enough sucker.

Here’s hoping that I can at least get a few hours of shooty fun out of it.

So that’s the batch of not-quite-all-the-way-mainstream games I plan on keeping an eye on in 2015 to see if they release and if they’re any good.

What’s on your list for 2015?

Listmas 2014: Random Things You Can Do in Don’t Starve Together

The more the merrier! Or more mouths to feed....

1) Die promptly to darkness due to Steam chatting with a friend.

2) Resurrect as a lonely ghost and go exploring.

3) Discover you can turn pigs into werepigs. Including guardian pigs. Who will promptly fight each other.


4) Give in to your inner pyromaniac by haunting trees.


5) Admire the fruits of your ghostly labor. Just a perfectly, totally normal tree carcass on the left there.


6) View the aftermath of mating beefalo herd + frog ponds as not a bonanza, but just enough to feed all the hungry mouths at home for a few days.


7) Spectate a beefalo shaving attempt gone horribly wrong, knowing you had no hand in it this time!


A big thank you to Syl and her friends for hosting the server and graciously welcoming the lil’ robot onto their world.

(Disclaimer: Experimental ghostly antics were explored with a PUG server, though with the amount of -intentional- forest fires started, who’d really notice one more?)