Three Silent Weeks

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

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

Path of Exile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should I? Could I?

How much did that damn map cost anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, this was it.

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

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


4/4 challenge complete.

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


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

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


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

GW2 and The Curious Habit of Dailies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out-Of-Town and the No-Phone Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh well.

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

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

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

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

I’m Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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