“Ongoing Games” and the Shifting Zeitgeist

Way back when in 2013, when I first started this blog, I thought I was being very clever in naming it “Why I Game.”

Surely, said I, my interests would change as the years passed, but I would never tire of “games.” I didn’t even narrow it down to video games, giving me broad enough scope to branch to tabletop RPGs, board games, card games and what have you.

On one hand, I was right enough, in that I’m still thinking about, reading about and otherwise involved enough in tangential game communities to qualify as still interested, if not obsessed.

On the other, I’ve been feeling a kind of change on the winds, a shifting Zeitgeist where -watching others play-, a spectator sport, has become more popular than “actually playing vidya games.”

On the reading list is “Watch Me Play – Twitch and the Rise of Game Live Streaming” (a creative commons PDF is available here) by T. L Taylor.

I have not been immune to the phenomenon. Lately, a weekly ritual has developed where I -must- sit down every weekend and enjoy an episode of Critical Role’s second campaign with the Mighty Nein.

In one of the Talks Machina discussing a live show of theirs in a theatre (or a tangential article or discussion around that – I cannot remember and the levels of meta discussion escape me), someone mentioned the term “stadium gaming” in reference to how D&D has had a resurgence of popularity, thanks to Twitch / Youtube and the many many players who choose to stream or otherwise publish their gameplay for others to spectate.

I’ve found that it’s oftentimes faster, cheaper, easier to watch someone play through an entire computer game. I don’t have to do any of the dying and repetition, my wallet breathes a sigh of relief, I get to see the streamer’s reactions and read comments from the peanut gallery that is the Twitch audience as an added layer of meta-discussion.

(Granted, I’m usually involved in some other kind of grindy gameplay activity in a computer game while doing so – some mindless farming, something on repeat to have a chance at a lootbox opening, something accumulative…)

Recently though, the fact that I’m doing so is making itself more obvious to me. Yes, it is a choice to do so. Yes, I am choosing to do it because I want some kind of shiny at the end. Yes, I know it is kind of a shallow goal. Yes, I am choosing this shallow goal for now, over other things I could be doing.

I acknowledge what I am doing – sometimes I go through it to get to the other side, sometimes I decide it’s not worth it for now, but I’m increasingly aware that I’m choosing to engage in a “meaningless” activity that only has the meaning I choose to imbue it with. (Which could be said of practically everything in life. Not judging in any way. Just commenting that I’ve been increasingly more ‘meta’ aware on a grand scale. Of.. everything.)

That level of awareness has been bringing a kind of.. equivalency to all my gaming.

Last month, I was heavily into the Blight League in Path of Exile and went all the way to lvl 94. (95 just escaped me, I kept dying.) I killed Shaper and high tier Elder for the first time. My summoner build deleted Atziri multiple times, but I couldn’t quite grind enough of her in SSF to collect enough Mortal fragments for an Uber Atziri go. Uber Elder also escaped me due to difficulty collecting enough T16 maps in the time I had left. I passed up practically all of Warframe to do so, and mostly treaded water in GW2.

On the tail end of that, I got a little bit antsy and branched out into assorted bits of games – a little Firewatch (still not quite getting into it), some Choice of Games interactive fiction, taste tested some “to try playing eventually” games in my Steam Library like Mutant Year Zero and Smoke and Sacrifice, dabbled with Breath of the Wild on the Switch and realizing I’ve forgotten everything and decided to restart completely – not quite finishing or even beginning anything.

Just recently, I’ve done a u-turn into Warframe, deciding to crack open some relics I’d accumulated chasing older Prime warframes to complete the other still available Primes that I didn’t have yet, eg. Atlas Prime, Mesa Prime, Zephyr Prime, Limbo P, Equinox P, et. al. I have not yet made my Railjack. Apparently I have exceptional timing because the Empyrean update just hit – not that I’ll be getting that much out of it until more support for Solo playstyles comes along in 2020. So I’m working on my relics first.

I’ve been eyeing the new Metamorph league in Path of Exile, half tempted, and half askance. Repeating what I just did in Blight seems a bit too much like more of the same. On the other hand, I have been wanting to try a poison build, and if I blend it with bows, it might feel different enough? We’ll see.

Ultimately, all the gaming above feels… equivalent. Not quite “the same,” but more along the lines of “we are choosing to color within these lines for now, and we might do something else later.” We are choosing to do X, we are temporarily suspending disbelief and agreeing with the goal of getting to Y level or obtaining Z reward, we are repeating ABC motions to do so. It is neither good nor bad. It’s not exactly tedious; it’s not exactly fun. It is how it is.

It’s not addiction. If I wanted to, I would stop and do something else. Which I did, for a time, reading some digital comics, magazines and library books, sculpting and painting up a mask for a costume party, killing time on Reddit and watching a lot of Youtube/Twitch videos. It’s just… something to do. I guess. It all feels… equivalent.

I happened to be available the day of The Game Awards to catch it live(streamed.)

Two things struck me after watching it.

One, the term “ongoing games.” Unlike Endgame Viable, I didn’t think “ah, so that’s what we’re calling MMOs now.” I thought, “oh, so that’s how broad we’re going now, games as a service, where a Call of Duty multiplayer, Dota Underlords and an MMO can all be lumped into the same categorical boat, because the defining characteristic is that the game keeps on going and doesn’t stop.

Then I started to wonder about my relationship towards said “ongoing games.” Individual games themselves might continue a lot longer than my engagement with them. This is fine for drop-in, drop-out playstyles and games that support that. I could be pretty happy for the next ten years playing a couple matches against AI per month for Underlords in supremely casual fashion. I seem to have negotiated my seasonal relationship with Path of Exile and Warframe fairly well.

GW2 as usual is in a fog of perpetual confusion – the last survivor of a hardcore persistent world playstyle that I no longer intend to renew with other games, but still clinging on because of social ties and a “why not, while it lasts” mindset.

Which brings me to the second revelation the Game Awards provided. I’m having a lot more fun watching the game trailers than anticipating playing the games themselves.

Amazon’s New World trailer looks exciting and cool. (No Anet marketing problems there.) The music is nifty enough that I go looking for the source.

I sneak a peek at old alpha New World gameplay online and my excitement starts to chill out just a little. Mind you, it’s not horrible and the UI looks pretty damn polished for an alpha. I understand immediately what I’m looking at – a kind of survival crafting sandbox.

I think there will be a fair enough subset of players – often male, often livestreaming on Twitch, often with enough time to build and form large networked communities – who will get pretty good gameplay out of the game. Similar to all the other games out there from Black Desert, ARK, Conan Exiles, Sea of Thieves, Fallout 76, Citadel Forged with Fire, whatever.

I predict I’ll get the most kick out of the game by jumping between streams and watching for brief intervals different players living their different lives. Certainly, I myself have neither the time or inclination to invest in either commitment to a en masse guild or play a scrappy lone wanderer evading all forms of potential hostility. All power to those who do.

Then there was Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2. Holy, that was a good trailer. Got the emotional blood roiling.

Me, I’m still working on Hellblade 1. I got up to the first scripted fight, and decided I wasn’t quite in the emotional frame of mind to offer up sufficient suspension of disbelief and willing immersion into the character. Kept it for another time. Not sure when that time will come. We’ll see.

The Wolf Among Us 2 was optimistically promising. Loved the first game. Will the second live up to it? Only time will tell. Not getting riled up about it yet.

Final Fantasy 7 remake looked good. Definitely getting some of that action when it finally arrives. Possibly NOT at day 1 launch full price being that I’m a cheapskate. But eventually.

The Godfall trailer was… intriguing. I almost thought Hellblade London on seeing the armored knights. Presumably no one wants any of that tarnished reputation near a new game, but it’ll be cool to have some of that thematic flavor as inspiration (and feel free to drop -everything else-.) Nothing else more concrete was shown, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see on this one.

Weird West was mildly interesting. I almost thought it was the Deadlands computer game – which I thought was in development, but my Google fu reveals nothing, so I may have dreamed this up somewhere, possibly confusing one Critical Role announcement with another. Maybe it will be Deadlands in all but name and licensing. Who knows.

Magic Arena had one announcement or another. Chalk up one more game I maybe should try to play but probably don’t have time. Magic Legends is some kind of new MMO based in an M:tG world. I think MMO and I just feel like groaning, so I guess we’ll wait and see if there is any innovation on that front based on their colors of magic, or if it’s just going to be more holy trinity, more raids and more levels.

So it goes.

If I don’t like one game, I’ll just play another. There are -so many- these days anyway.

I have been collecting free games from the Epic Store like candy. (The Wolf Among Us is currently available and if anyone hasn’t played that, it’s literally a steal.)

I’m still mildly grumpy that I missed the week for The Messenger, the one game I didn’t own in a sea of games I already have elsewhere, but eh, if it doesn’t come out in a Humble Bundle/Choice/What-Have-You next year, I will be exceedingly surprised. There’ll be another chance for it. In the meantime, I have a million and one other platformers that I’ve never gotten around to either.

It’s all…equivalent, in the end.

I don’t like that social game, but maybe you do. It’s cool, I’ll watch you stream and play it. For a while.

You don’t like that solo game, but maybe I do. It’s cool, I’ll play it myself. For a while.

“Ongoing games…” Hmphh.

The games might still go on, but these days, I’m not sure I’m interested enough to be there every step of the way.

5 Games? Feels Like My Life Nao…

I find it sad that my first reaction to seeing this blog topic across the various blogs I read is, “Isn’t that what I’ve been mostly doing this year?”

The first four drifted across the consciousness super quickly:

  1. Guild Wars 2
  2. Warframe
  3. Path of Exile
  4. Minecraft (with all the mods and modpacks)

They’re the primary games I’ve been playing for the past couple of years. All of them are huge, have tons of things to do, and most importantly get updates or can be modded to create novelty and variety in gameplay.

(The first a little less so these days, and threatening to fall off the listing, but since I’m still throwing two days a week into maintaining social connections in a static raid, I feel obliged to acknowledge the time/effort investment still ongoing.)

The fifth proved a little harder.

Honorable mentions go to Tales of Maj’Eyal, Terraria, Hitman, which were all considered for how much -game- and variety/freedom of choice they contained therein. Don’t Starve was just a hair shy below the above list.

Also flashing across the mind were Total War: Warhammer 2 and Middle Earth: Shadow of War for both being huge monstrosities that I had vague ambitions to play in more depth – an uninterrupted year sounded about right – but I quickly wussed out at the daunting prospect.

Ditto Monster Hunter World – I bet thousands of hours could be sunk into all the weapons but actually killing monsters on repeat loop in the way MHW does it might not hold my attention that long. Then again, maybe it would, except that I rarely have uninterrupted hourly chunks to play it to any real depth right now.

I finally had to honestly admit to myself that I’d played barely any of the above this past year.

Instead I’d been playing Pokemon Go and Harry Potter Wizards Unite with relatives on mobile, and attending monthly Community Days have been a thing the last year or two in terms of relationship maintenance and social community building/participation.

If I had to choose one or the other, HPWU wins out for being more soloable and necessitating a lot LESS inventory management.

So I settled for the absolutely prosaic (but actions speak louder than words) choice of:

5. Harry Potter Wizards Unite

It’s what I’ve been mostly doing anyway.

Mind you, there would be a lot of other game-related activity on the side, that would not officially be “playing a video game.”

Reading about games, on blogs, Reddit, guides, Let’s Plays, the works, would be a given. Writing about them, probably. Buying a ton of them on sale but not actually playing any of them in the year, sure, sounds about right.

I’d be watching Twitch streamers play a variety of other games (video game spectator sport), getting my Critical Role fix in (aka tabletop RPG spectator sport), browsing through oldschool gamebooks (they’re books, interactive, sure, but books) and idly considering solo RPing through some tabletop RPGs (that mixes oldschool RPG and writing, but no video or computer in that mix, beyond a PDF viewer).

I’d get more library book reading done, and maybe, just maybe, actually paint up some minis.

It’s been interesting timing on this topic – it was only last weekend when a public holiday presented me with a three day opportunity to get bored enough to start looking for other things to sample. (While blithely ignoring all the things I still wanted to revisit in Warframe.)

I gave Dota Underlords a spin to try out the strange new auto chess genre. Sidetrekked into Minion Masters and Helldivers (free weekend) to determine that I did not really care for either. Completed Quarantine Circular (a slightly poorer made game than its predecessor Subsurface Circular).

Took advantage of the upsurge of “productive” play to uninstall ‘completed’ aka taste-tested and unlikely to play again anytime soon items from the above, and gleefully grabbed back the smidgen of free disk space that resulted in.

Then I promptly sunk more time into continuing a long ignored Subnautica (finally got the prawn suit, then promptly lost it in some poisonous green brine that destroyed me when I briefly exited the vehicle, creating yet another ragequit stopping point) and got sucked into finally giving Cook, Serve, Delicious 2 a go.

It’s been more games one weekend than I’ve played in as many months, and apparently I’d been craving the variety like water in the desert. Just didn’t know it until I did it.

So if there’s one thing to be reinforced by this ‘5 Games’ thing, it’s that I really need to be playing more games.

I find the biggest losers, and the biggest things I’d miss from such a limitation, are the one-off shorter singleplayer games that are more contained or have a linear story. I’d miss my adventure games and interactive fiction. I’d miss the small scale, quirky, do-one-thing-well, focused indie or niche games.

In actuality, these are probably the easiest things to be squeezing in between the big primary games, like pebbles fitting around big rocks in a jar, if only I’d given some more thought to doing so.

Worth thinking about.

Missing the “Micro” in Microtransaction in Guild Wars 2

After reading the ArenaNet response regarding Build and Equipment templates, and the resulting furor over Reddit, I was briefly inspired to blog a response.

I wanted to tell a story about how I regularly am ‘encouraged’ (sometimes over-excessively) to buy stuff in Path of Exile and Warframe because each small item values to less than $5 usd.

Oh, a lockbox where I am guaranteed to get at least the equivalent points worth of a digital item, and possibly 5x the value? 30 points, or 3usd? Oh… maybe one this login. Just for fun, and the cheap thrill. Ooh, look at what I got. “…” Maybe two more. $10 is my cap. I walk away happy.

The next log-in, that is hopefully separated by a few days of real time, I might do it all over again.

Stash tab for 30-40 points? I need space. It’s less than a Starbucks drink. Fine. Clicks “Buy.” Several months later, I’m left staring at 40 tabs and realizing the bottleneck is now my incapable inventory management, and not actual storage space or pricing. The company meanwhile has walked off with $120 from me over time and I don’t begrudge them any of it, for the freedom and flexibility and convenience it offers. (If only I had the self-discipline for organization too.)

Affinity booster for Warframe? I have a few things I want to level up. I’m not playing this game for an uninterrupted month. I don’t want to pay 200 platinum x 6 cents for this. But a three day booster for 40 platinum? Yes, it’s overall less value, but I can see myself grinding for 3 days and not for 30 days. 40 plat x 6 cents is $2.40 usd, cheaper if the plat is bought discounted… less than a Starbucks drink. Ok!

And the more you get used to the speed and pace of it, the more you’ll pick it up again when it is time to grind for more things.

Conversely, if I am looking at >$5 (~$8-10+) for a single purchase, that’s a mental barrier that is going to severely limit my spending – both the initial purchase and the frequency thereof.

But you know, this user kinda summarized all my sentiments for me with much fewer words:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Guildwars2/comments/dlo68g/about_guild_wars_2_templates/f4sjhrb/

And I realized it was pointless to spend so many hours writing blog text on a topic that is patently going to get ignored anyway.

So instead, I have farmed out the job to some neural net AI instead.

Missing the ‘micro’ in microtransaction in Guild Wars 2 – How to fix it?

I’m really not happy with this game and I think that some of these issues need to be addressed.

In this blog I will cover issues that I face when attempting to play the game properly in the early game and how I can hopefully fix them.

If you want to know more about the issues and my troubles with this game I have a separate article on my blog with a lot of more specific info.

For a few things to help improve your gameplay I highly recommend the following games: Borderlands 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Dead Island, Star Wars Battlefront 2, Skyrim, Star Citizen, and The Division.

What I mean is that I will focus on the things that will impact your play time. You will notice that there are no micropayments in these games. As this is a free to play game you will not miss your “microtransactions”.

However, I will explain below which of the micropayments I’m struggling with and if there’s another

From <https://talktotransformer.com/>

Missing the ‘micro’ in microtransaction in Guild Wars 2 is a big mistake? Here’s how to fix it…

Guild Wars 2 is still on the brink, and I’m sure many gamers are in despair as they see game’s progression to being slow, buggy and even broken and I, too, can’t help but feel it could go one way or the other, so how do I stop this game from going downhill like the rest of them?

We could start by getting rid of microtransactions. I’m not one to preach about a change, but I can see why fans wouldn’t want to sacrifice the fun of the game and the money that comes in when you use it. I could also go with a free to play model where the player can buy one ability from a list of abilities that already exist and have more in the game.

There are ways to fix the microtransactions and I’m sure GW2 fans will find them. The main one being to stop the “trade” that is implemented in the game that changes the available options on your character.

The problem with that

From <https://talktotransformer.com/>

I think the AI did a great job. Maybe not quite the game examples I would have used, if I had been the real author, but in terms of time-saving and demonstrating the equivalent amount of tone-deafness, I think it is spot on.

Playing Catch-up

Where did September go?!

You know it’s a busy month when you sit down and can’t even remember half of the things you were doing then. Either that, or I’m getting older and my brain cells are depleting even further.

Part of it has been real life – peak periods at work, visiting relatives, trying to cultivate more of an actual book reading habit back into my life, and part of it is too many games releasing content at around the same time.

poe-elder

The primary game has been Path of Exile this season.

Blight League has a tower defense schtick going, which mostly means hordes of enemies coming in waves for you (and some towers) to kill before they reach a central point you’re guarding. The loot for succeeding is plentiful, incorporating both drops from the mobs you kill, as well as special treasure chests to open once victory is attained.

The build focus for buffing this time around are minion summoners.

This is a match made in heaven because I’ve always enjoyed the PoE summoner – a wave of plentiful minions that engulf enemies, tangling them up and giving them the death of a thousand paper cuts from multiple sources.

Except now the minions can be buffed to be faster and attack more quickly, and those paper cuts are now significant sword slashes in their own right. Plus more seems to scale based on the gems themselves, skill traits or more craftable gear, instead of requiring specific unique drops.

All in all, it makes my staunchly SSF playstyle a little more viable, pushing up the power potential of such builds, while possibly capping the more traditional “trade for perfect gear to reach insane heights” type of build. Those folks might have something to complain about, but the beauty of being SSF is that I don’t have to care – there is no competition, economic or otherwise, between them and me.

My game becomes simply about progressing further than myself in the past, as well as enjoying myself in the present.

The former is a definite. I hit level 90 the other day. This unlocked an account achievement for doing so. Progress milestone for sure.

Between spectres, zombies, vaal skeletons and carrion golems in an adapted Speaker for the Dead build, the power potential is quite off the charts in my limited experience. I did a normal Atziri at a super fast pace with no deaths – something I used to struggle with, often dying several times to flameblasts. I did a low level Shaper stronghold, I did a low level Elder fight, taking out the Elder Guardians for the first time ever. (More achievement unlocks.)

I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the Uber boss levels. The necessity of unlocking so many maps may be a stopping point, given my time constraints. We’ll see. From a build standpoint, it doesn’t seem like the limiting factor right now.

I’ve been enjoying the latest iteration on Master missions as well. It’s become less random, storing up the dailies into a sort of “banked storage” system, so that you can miss days and then crank through a bunch of them at once. You can also choose to concentrate focus on one type.

So if you feel like romping about the Omnitect’s temple, you can bank up a bunch of Alva missions and then feed maps into it, guaranteeing you Alva encounters per map, and quick progress towards a temple visit.

Or if, like me, you feel like exploring the depths of Delve, then you’re running Niko missions non-stop in between mine explorations, in order to get sufficient voltaic sulphite to go even deeper.

Presumably, if you’re an 18 hour a day streamer, you might actually run dry on all the master missions and have to go back to the randomness of whatever a map decides to offer.

As someone who can only play PoE for 1-2 hours a night, that is absolutely not a problem I’m running into – quite the opposite, the specter of “wasted” potential when a to-be-banked daily hits the storage limit is far more possible for me.

Fortunately, I’ve developed an immunity to this sort of perceived “loss” already. One has to. I play GW2 (have you seen its dailies tab these days?) I play Warframe. I play Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and Pokemon Go. All of them have dailies for their more engaged, hardcore players to chase. If I attempted faithful completion of all of the dailies -daily-, I’d probably have to be a student, a streamer or unemployed. Not to mention, go nuts in short order because I’m not that innately obsessive-compulsive or to-do-list-manic.

So I’m good. I’m just chugging along, doing a couple maps nightly, aiming for short master mission goals on a whim, enjoying the present and the churn of hundreds and thousands of mobs meeting -my- personal tens of mobs and dying.

metallegion

At nigh unto the same time, GW2 released the Prologue of its newly renamed Living World Season Icebrood Saga.

It seems to have been warmly welcomed all around. (I mean, if you can evoke a cautiously optimistic response from Endgame Viable, you gotta be doing something right.)

Mind you, the GW2 subreddit is still variously on fire from a subset of the raider subset, unhappy about ‘easy mode’ strike missions, their ‘challenging content’ preference being ignored, class balance being effected with a sledgehammer… on the wrong targets entirely, being potentially forced to pay for worse functionality on in-game build templates when they’re already used to a far better free third-party option, and so on.

(Not all of their unhappiness is off base – I am personally really pissed off about my already weak-in-raids Scourge being made even weaker and clunkier to use, to the point where I don’t think I dare risk teammate unhappiness any further, while the top of the line condi option remains an unaffected outlier – but there’s a definite echo chamber effect going on.)

Before October’s skill “balance” patch though, there was Grothmar Valley. And it was good. 

The Metal Legion concert has been a spectacular example of an open world meta event that harnesses the dynamic event system to superb effect, uniting everyone – hardcore, casual, mid-core alike – in one goal and giving everyone warm, fuzzy community feelings instead of “lol, your dps is 10x less that of mine.”

The golden fields of Ascalon has always been a sight near and dear to any GW1 fan. It’s the first thing you see in the tutorial. It’s what you promptly lose post-tutorial in the Searing. It is the Shire equivalent in Tyria. It is where you begin. It is where you’d love to come back to when your journey ends. It is home.

Grothmar Valley being right smack in Ascalon gives a massive nostalgia homecoming kick to those of us with enough history to remember it.

(As an aside, I was amused by a Redditor’s comment that GW2 officially now has players with a longer tenure than the developers. Maybe not quite yet, I assume GW1 had -some- amount of development time, possibly years, before opening up beta weekends to players. But I do remember playing those beta weekends. We’re getting there.)

At the same time, Grothmar Valley being populated with charr, and a very dangerous sort of discontented charr and a Hitler-esque leader to follow (this from a charr main player) pushes us into the future, hinting at the direction of the saga’s story.

It’s…promising. (Alas, given prior track record in executing, that’s about all we can say for the moment. We’ll believe it when we next see it.)

In the meantime, I was content to mess around doing all the things in Grothmar Valley. Catching up on crowd-necessary achievements while events were still populated. Playing around with races. Wandering the open world like how GW2 used to be from lvl 1-80. Jumping in on a whim for quick and painless public strike missions. Getting caught up with Ascended cooking to 500, which I’d neglected in the off-cycle.

wf-nightwave2

As is usual, something in the games line-up had to give and the loser for the month was Warframe.

Though frankly, they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

I’d finished Nightwave series 2 early, getting the outfit I wanted, so I felt happy enough to drop it for a binge in Path of Exile.

I’d heard about Saryn Prime and Valkyr Prime unsealing from the Prime Vault, but having just come off a relic grind for Wukong Prime and wanting -both- unvaulted Primes really badly with none of the time investment, I took a hard look at what was offered in the joint package.

Nothing was a repeat. I kinda needed to restock some platinum. The whole deal was “only” $60 USD, as opposed to the more premium $80 or $140 Prime Access packages for new Prime warframes.

The ending of this story is predictable.

Some rationalization later, some clever brain trickery promising myself to work hard on real life matters I’d been procrastinating on for a reward, I gave Digital Extremes $60 to not play their game for September.

Maybe in October I’ll enjoy the fruits of this. Atlas Prime is out and I’ll probably relic grind for that. But I’ll have to finish up a bunch of other things first to make time for Warframe again.

factorio-twisted

Then there’s single-player games. I’m racking up an alarming number of “want-to-plays.” My computer is nearly out of disk space on three hard drives. I need to make myself sit down and sort through installed games and so on, but seriously, who has time for that?!

I can’t even sort through my Path of Exile stash, my GW2 inventories and my Pokemon Go critter collection.

I took a few days “vacation” in Factorio beginner land. The learning curve was prohibitive. Eventually I gave up any hope of potentially making something resemble anything close to efficiency and embraced a train of thought that ran ‘if it actually connects and makes a circuit and -runs-, it’s good enough.’

I have come to the conclusion that my brain works in convoluted ways and what one sees on the screen is a reflection of this. I am not an innately ordered or orderly sort of person.

Other assorted September snippets:

Still watching Critical Role faithfully and enjoying an additional game from a vicarious standpoint.

Re-discovered (one year late, again) a stunning Portal inspired song from Youtuber Harry101UK and TheStupendium – The Android Hell Blues. Did wonders for the couple of days I was in a blue mood to have it on repeat loop and wallow in jazzy, dark humourous, clever wordplay while nose to the grindstone.

Re-reading the Blades in the Dark tabletop RPG and pondering in sporadic intervals over interrupted days if I can actually get some solo RP gameplay going, to actually enjoy story-based gaming that video games can’t seem to get quite right yet.

Bought a bunch of Dave Graffam papercraft models at $1 each, on DriveThruRPG sale, in the hope of getting crafty again and making a mini-medieval city. Maybe in November. It’s a really hectic time at work this season.

Also recently watching CohhCarnage play through AI: Somnium Files, a visual novel-esque detective anime game with more interaction than a standard VN, and being somewhat drawn to it. The current price is a definite not-now though, so the craving has been displaced to “How about actually playing through some of the other older games of the same developer that you -actually- own but just haven’t gotten around to?”

Aka Spike Chunsoft’s Zero Escape series, Danganronpa, Steins;Gate, 428 Shibuya Scramble, et. al.

If wishes were fishes…

Bleh. Back to squeezing in productive “survive life” to-dos for a little longer and playing catch-up on everything else.

GW2: Ok…So They Went There…

So the Aug 30 announcement of the Living World: Icebrood Saga contained:

  • Next episodes of Living World/Story announced / Lore drops / Hints at map direction / showing off some environments and level design
  • An assurance that an expansion’s worth of content will be bundled into the staggered release format
  • Some shiny mount/weapon/armor skins
  • Some ridiculously grindy long term Legendary sort of item to construct
  • Jewelcrafting to 500?
  • Some brief allusion to fractal/raid to keep the difficult group content subset dangling
  • Build templates
  • Something to help WvW or PvP (vaguely)
  • New elite specs
  • Variant difficulties to raids (easier to repeatable CMs)
  • New weapon types?
  • Cantha
  • Ships (ie. above water and underwater mounts)
  • Improved Guild Halls and Guild Missions
  • Personal Housing (or improved decorating / player placed features for home instances, etc.)
  • Underwater combat

On the bright side, I guess one can say that one nailed it essentially 100%.

Though if anyone was trying to play GW2 announcement bingo, I’m not sure there’s enough to fill up a complete row. Reddit is going to be a bloodbath for a while.

I am cheered by one thing – we do now have official confirmation (not just speculation) that we’ll be checking out the northernmost Frozen Shiverpeaks and the charr homelands, and that Jormag is next.

Though it is predictable, it looks fairly lore rich, lets us hang out with and learn more about the charr and norn (and kodan) cultures – which are some of the more uniquely GW2 racial offerings – and hints at a tiny bit more worldbuilding than we’ve seen of late.

The art is still good, but the actual gameplay stuff looks sketchy, like they’ve been working pretty darned hard to pull off this much to show after the layoffs. It’s going to take some time to ramp up, I hope they can pull it off.

Build templates confirmed. Which is probably the best news there is. Only took 7 years, but better late than never, right? As mentioned in the previous post, that actually demonstrates that the current team can pull off a long term, ‘new feature’ project/improvement, even if they had to tweak/invent/change a million things to get there.

Vague allusions to PvP and WvW were had. Swiss style tournaments for PvP and concept art of new armor sets for it, allowing me to cross off two rows based on something that took 30 seconds to say. And they are still trying to work out how to automate WvW restructuring, which might be months away, and I guess one can read between the lines of that item fairly obviously.

I -was- pleasantly surprised with the revelation of strike missions, aka probably easier mode pickup raids in the vein of what we’ve seen in Dragon Bash. That is, a stepping stone to getting more people familiar with some version of instanced content, and allowing for repeatable group content that doesn’t require a formal LFG or more intense style of group formation. We’ll see how that one works out?

Things that weren’t on my list:

Masteries linked with the Norn spirits. I’d kinda assumed masteries would come with Living World drops. Sounds like a more lore-based take on masteries, though I’m not sure if there will be any story that comes with that, or just an excuse for some extra lateral skills with long cooldowns after a bunch of running around pressing F on things.

Charr rock bands. Ice elemental construct mini-boss fight in either the Prologue or Episode 1, can’t quite recall the details. Drakkar Lake monster might be a little less frozen in Episode 2.

A sudden realization as to why the marketing of GW2 is so terribly off tune most of the time. Let’s just say you need to watch the stream/video up to a certain point where you CRINGE and then the revelation unfolds.

Several surprisingly decent marketing items, including a 20th anniversary GW1/GW2 art book collaboration with Dark Horse comics (aka desperate cash grab via recycling assets, but their art has always been their major value product and it works a lot better than oh… cringy clothing or drinks only obtainable in one country. As in, I kinda want it. I have a weakness for art books. Even if the game goes to shit, I’ll always have the awesome concept art to remember the world by) and Funko pop collectibles of Aurene, Rytlock and Palawa Joko.

Major bundling of Heart of Thorns (aka now free) to Path of Fire, as in, please buy one box and join us in game now. We really need new blood. Or returning blood that was scared or scarred by Heart of Thorns reviews.

(They were also clever enough to promise HoT owners some special goodies to stave off the “I paid good money for something that’s now free?!” complaints. No doubt some of those complaints are still coming, but at least it’s an extra thank-you-for-your-support bonus, alongside the “you’ve had plenty of time to utilize HoT value” argument.)

And I guess that’s it.

Ohh, this is going to be tricky to figure out how I feel about this one.

I can predict the hardcore fanbase reaction already. Bad. Really really bad.

From a more story-oriented casual like I used to be, once upon a time, it feels like they are trying to steer the slow boat around back to another -hopefully better- attempt at something along the story season veins.

I do kinda want to see where they’re going with the world and the story.

I just fear the speed and quality with which they can tell it.

Time will tell if the fear is founded or unfounded. Two more weeks, Sep 17, before we get a Prologue. In the meantime, Path of Exile’s Blight Legion launches Sep 6. Warframe’s Prime Vault opens Sep 3, releasing Saryn Prime and Valkyr Prime. Harry Potter Wizards Unite will be having some Day of the Dragon related events Sep 7.

I’ll have things to do.