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.

January

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.

February

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.

March

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?”

April

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

May

…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.

June

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.)

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