“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.

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.

Heroes of Myth… That’s What They Called You

Three years ago, you saved the world.

The moon turned blood red. The demons broke free from the portal to wreak havoc. A Dark Lord (well, Lady) had arisen to sow chaos and despair.

Together, mage, warrior and soothsayer followed the path of an ancient prophecy, fought back these evil forces, slew the Dark Lady and brought back peace to the land.

The only problem? None of it is true.

It was all one big fat lie.

Your partners-in-crime were:

Letha, the above-mentioned warrior who, by the way, just happened to have murdered your mutual employer for being a demon sympathizer, thus getting the both of you flung into jail

Alvis, the wannabe soothsayer who, actually, doesn’t have a scrap of magic in any bone of his body and lies through his teeth out of sheer habit

Verity, the “Dark Lady” who wanted to fake her death, because… reasons…

And you, not at all a master of -any- elemental magic, just some illusions.

Well, you do also have some other skills at your disposal. Perhaps you’ve studied a great deal of theoretical magic and history. Perhaps your gift is that of the gab, charming others with witty banter. Maybe you’re not half bad at tactics and in the combat arena, or maybe you’re just really good at running away.

You’re going to need them.

Because tonight, the moon has turned blood red (for real), and you’re not to blame, but your three years lie is finally catching up to you.

Heroes of Myth by Abigail C. Trevor is one of the most recent offerings from the Choice of Games lineup of text-based choice-laden narrative games.

I picked it up via iPad app because I was simultaneously craving reading a book I could tote around on the go, and something more game-like and interactive where I could have an influence on where the story went.

For moods like that, the Choice of Games lineup is definitely becoming a good resource, though it can take a little patience to dig the gems out of the merely decent or the unfortunately mediocre with cringy writing.

Crowdsourcing some Steam review opinions, and then playtesting the first few chapters for free via their website (see link above) is usually how I go about it.

By and large, Heroes of Myth navigates the twin perils of purple prose or the outright ungrammatical fairly well. The style is straightforward and easy to read.

The one caveat is a gender neutral character who is constantly addressed as “they.” Done tastefully, I think there is little wrong with that usage. But as repetitively as it is sometimes used in the story, the pronoun can produce momentary confusion as to whether it’s referring to that specific character, or used in the more normal plural sense. This can get occasionally disorienting and even cringy language-wise.

Despite that minor niggle, the power of Heroes of Myth is how it treats its central theme – that of truth or lies. Is honesty the best policy, or is it better to tell the world a mythic story to dream about and believe in? You get to decide.

There are multiple viable paths through the chapters. This allows repeated playthroughs with entirely different archetypes of your choosing.

In the vein of Choice of Games style games, your initial decisions move your stats towards shaping your character in certain ways. If you tend to talk your way through things and being bold and flashy, your Charm and Showy stats go up. Fighting everything might push up your Combat stat instead, and making more introverted hover-in-the-back-of-the-crowd decisions leans you towards Subtle instead of Showy.

In the later chapters, these stats become more fixed, and get used for tests of success or failure. Often, you’ll want to use the better stat choices for optimal results, but there can also be times when it becomes interesting narratively to fail.

In one playthrough, I had a terribly low Charm skill, so most of my choices that relied on conversation tended to repel NPCs with my uncouth and overly forthright manner. Near the end, there was an option to assure certain other NPCs of some matter… except that I as the player actually wanted to fail this, so I picked the choice suspecting my character would make a hash of things, and they did. The NPCs did not believe my character. Character: *unhappy* Player: “Yes!”

Speaking of characters and NPCs, Heroes of Myth provides quite a veritable cast of NPC characters – each of whom you have your own relationship meter with, and as is the usual fan service with such games, the possibility of romance with quite a number. At least five, if my count is correct.

All in all, I find Heroes of Myth a fun romp. It’s a fantasy adventure story that lays out its premise from the beginning and concludes where it should.

As stated, there’s going to be demons, illusions, a prophecy (twice-repeating) and a fantasy kingdom with a cast of characters to save. You begin at the start of the second repeated prophecy, flashback to portions of the first “prophecy,” and end when that second prophecy concludes. Nothing more, nothing less.

But how you get there, well, that you’ll have to decide for yourself.

You’re a hero… aren’t you?

Here We Go Round the Grindberry Bush

You’d think I’d learn by now.

I don’t know why I even try to expect consistency from myself.

Not a few days after changing my blog layout to favor bigger pictures, in the expectation that I might be playing more simulation style games with lovely scenery like theHunter or new games where screenshots would help to illustrate the experience, I have suddenly decided that NOW is the perfect time to re-focus on the same old games and make a concentrated push for long term goal projects.

This mostly means that I’ve traded off staring nightly at stuff that looks like this:

lake_deer

To this:

legmedss

Well, in the case of Warframe, I know why.

At the end of April, they announced the Prime Vault was unsealing to make Loki Prime earnable once more, as well as Volt Prime.

I have neither of them and I’ve been enjoying the basic Loki’s invisibility for certain missions of late, so this was very motivating for me to declare “farm relics to get the unvaulted primes” as a long term goal until July 3 or done (Preferably done way before that final vault sealing date.)

The less fantastic news is that relic farming is always intentionally grindy.

So I thought I may as well stretch it into a long term project rather than burn out attempting to farm 12 hours without stopping the first few days. (Yeah, right, who has that kind of game time any more? Dang college students/unemployed/retirees.)

I guess these things come in cycles.

Having indulged the inner Explorer for a couple months, now the inner Achiever demanded to be let out to do its thing.

The problem with the inner Achiever (or at least with mine) is its intense desire to have whatever it’s aiming for -now-, stat, with very little clue about just precisely how it’s going to get there and very little tolerance for how long the whole process will take.

I get very very antsy.

In my befuddled brain that is the usual state of affairs, it tends to imagine that whatever it wants will somehow magically be presented to it, if it thinks about it hard enough, repeatedly enough, and keeps chasing after it like an overenthusiastic dog.

Project planning is a skill I seem to have largely missed the boat on.

Traditional project planning, much like traditional outlining, has never worked for me.

In the old days, it was pretty much do it that waterfall way or the highway, and I usually just opted for careening down the expressway flying by the seat of my pants and winging it by dealing with the loudest and most urgent thing and proceeding from there via subconscious guilt and nagging brain prompts.

In this enlightened Internet day and age, there are apparently more options than the two extremes, as consultants and professionals attempt to describe what the more average folks -actually- do to get by in their day to day lives, and then give it shiny new names and a marketing buff and polish to sell the technique back to us.

One such methodology that I randomly stumbled across is the Improvement Kata, something purportedly based on what Toyota’s management culture practices.

Beyond the business speak and filler for packaging into a format that can be sold as training to corporations, it seems to be based on a core common sense (which is never very common) concept of iteration.

  1. Have a direction that you want to head towards, and an idea of the challenge you’ll need to overcome
  2. Have an idea of where you currently are
  3. Define a reachable “next target”
  4. Experiment your way from 2 to 3
  5. Repeat 2-4 until you reach 1, if ever

Besides the useful and common concept of breaking down your goal into smaller realistically achievable parts, I really like what Improvement Kata brought to step 4, where it is explicitly diagrammed as not a straight linear path, but a series of winding experimental steps where the path zigzags

This helps to assuage my perfectionist mind that it is okay to have backward progress or sidetreks in the course of attaining the target.

That like Edison’s light bulb, you may have to try a whole bunch of different things, fail, realise and learn what -doesn’t- work, in order to finally hit upon something that -does-.

That chasing up side avenues is fine.

That whatever gets you motivated to just keep making starts is good, you’ll learn more as you experiment your way forward.

That it’s more important to just check in now and then on where you are, on what you’ve learned since the last check-in and to keep refining those plans based on what you know now until you get where you want to go.

I tried out the practice on the Relic Farming project.

1. Overall Big Picture Target – Own Loki Prime, Volt Prime and maybe Odonata Prime

2. Where Am I Now – originally nothing; now, see below

wf_relicgrind

I am almost there on Loki Prime, just missing the rarest and most annoying to obtain component. I got lucky cracking open relics, so I’m a little further along on Volt Prime than I’d dared to hope. No progress on Odonata, but that’s fine as it is the least priority.

3. Next Target – Loki Prime Systems

4. Experiment

Experiment-wise, I’d already conducted a bunch in the previous week to find out the best sources of relics and what tools I had at my disposal to obtain them, given my quirky limitations of preferring to solo, not wishing to buy stuff outright with platinum and being more limited than a max MR player

Several false starts and some time measurements later, it has boiled down to running through Void, Marduk – Sabotage with a Loki at my very average and not extremely fast pace of ~5min per mission to have a 6% chance of popping the correct Axi L4 relic.

I am collecting a great deal of other relics in the progress.

When bored of the former, the secondary fallback is that I can also do a Void, Mot – Survival up to 20 min for a 13% chance at the Axi L4 relic with a Nidus.

But survival with void enemies doing 4x more damage and needing to stay for an uninterrupted 20 minutes tends to be a little more nailbiting than running around mostly invisible.

So I wind up by preference going for 4 chances of 6%, as opposed to 1 chance of 13% to get what I want.

Is that better? If I remember my math classes more, I could probably figure it out.

(My hunch says: the combined probability of -not- getting the relic I want each time is 94%, multiplied by itself 4 times. So 0.94 x 0.94 x 0.94 x 0.94 = 0.78. So the chance I might have popped the relic after 4 goes is 1 – 0.78 = 22%?)

Dunno. I await someone better at math to correct me. Intuitively, it kinda feels better, so we’ll run with that for now.

You’d think that project is sufficient to keep me occupied for the present, but between ArenaNet’s slightly improved communication and the anticipated release of the final Living Story 4 episode, my attention has been somewhat drawn back to GW2.

charmingmug
Not to insinuate that the game is some sort of many-armed monster, but… maybe.

To be honest, my relationship with GW2 was in a very bad place at the beginning of the year.

Some of the words that easily came to mind were “frustrated” “bored out of my skull” “burnt out” and “pushed beyond tolerance at the change in community sentiment.”

(Call me paranoid, but I rather suspect that similar emotions were running through a number of ArenaNet staff pre-layoffs.)

I just hadn’t reached a “quitting” frame of mind yet.

I was just stuck in a weird limbo of “I still kinda like the game, but I don’t like where it is nor where it seems to be going.”

Eventually, I decided that I’d delay reacting to it and give ArenaNet sufficient time to get their last few story episodes out and reassess what I felt about GW2 in April-May.

I guess I’m finally getting a little smarter with age and figuring out that delaying decisions can sometimes be a way forward.

The ArenaNet layoffs seem to have been a wakeup boot for the company. Not a great thing to happen to anyone, but making lemonade out of lemons is about the best one can do with a bad situation. Communication has stepped up a little (possibly due to certain policy makers voluntarily leaving). It’s a fire under them that forces a re-focus on what they’re trying to achieve with GW2.

From a steadily dropping and close to zero percent confidence level in the future of GW2 pre-layoffs and pre-communication, it at least feels like there’s a 35% chance now that there might be somewhat interesting future things for GW2. (Note: I’m a cynical pessimistic person by nature, so these are pretty decent numbers for my skewed viewpoint.)

Pursuant to figuring out how I will feel about the whole GW2 franchise once Living Story 4 draws to a conclusion, it occurred to me that regardless of me quitting or continuing, I should finish some of the long term goals that I always wanted to complete.

The biggest bugbear on that Unfinished Tasks list was Legendary Medium armor.

It is with some irony that I note that the raids part of it was completed long ago and by no means a bottleneck.

It was more a lack of motivation due to it being ugly as sin (and that’s giving sin a bad name), and the eternal time-gated nuisance of faction provisioner tokens which requires serious organized diligence to remember to feed various NPCs daily with the required objects for weeks on end. 25 days if you’re rich and go for 12 tokens a day, and for cheapskates like me, 42 days going at a 7 token a day pace.

That and the crippling cost of helping to sink a shipload of crafting materials by buying them with gold from other players.

Hence the spreadsheet, keeping track of what I have and still need:

legmedss

The Step 4: Experiment stage of this has been surprisingly more entertaining than first anticipated.

Mostly because my miserly soul refuses to buy outright expensive things off the TP if there’s another way I can obtain them at a decent enough clip.

I’m time gated by provisioner tokens anyway, so it’ll be early June before I can be done.

The question is: what activities can get me more of what I need?

grindberry

The various experiments in answering that have led me to do long ignored HoT metas, chase down the Winterberry farm once more for Unbound Magic to open bundles to see if their contents were worth anything, and learn more intently about the Living Story 4 maps that contain Volatile Magic as a reward, as those can be exchanged for trophy shipments.

It’s gotten my not-quite-raider self out of closed instances with my ego continually frayed by ever-excessively competitive people (not that it’s wrong, but type As exhaust everyone else around them – especially when they decide type B aren’t worthy of respect, or would be better off dragged up the mountain and would appreciate it once they see the view at the top)

TypeATypeBCartoon
Cartoon taken from https://www.simplypsychology.org/personality-a.html

and back out into the open world where things are either slightly more chill, or where I can solo in peace.

I finished most of the crafting and mystic forging. I ran through a HoT meta or two and picked up most of the tokens I’d need.

I bought stuff I’m not likely to be able to farm for myself in good time from the TP.

My timing is terrible, as the legendary greatsword is coming and prices are no doubt rising in response already. I rationalized it by my supposition that prices will rise and stay high for at least the next month once the legendary launches and everyone realizes they need the stuff I also need for legendary armor, so I may as well get what I need now for peace of mind, and any extras I earn I can sell at the presumably more inflated price later.

The last step is T5 and T6 trophies. They’re in sync because there’s two major ways I figure I’ll get them.

One is mystic forge promotion. I buy the T5 and then convert them on my own penny crystalline dust and spirit shard-wise for T6. That economy is generally sensitive enough that it should always be somewhat cheaper to do so than buy the T6 outright, barring a sudden glut of T6 drops from some event or another.

The second is volatile magic converted into trophy shipments. The return seems to be fairly decent. So I’ve been all over the LS4 maps harvesting nodes, killing stuff, doing hearts, buying daily stuff off vendors, collecting glowy magic objects on mounts, doing dailies, doing metas and trying to figure out if anything gives a decent return and is hopefully more personally interesting to me than doing a million Great Hall/Palawadan meta cycles.

It’s still pretty grindy though.

In that I’m repetitively doing a whole lot of things mostly to get the end result. I’m not not enjoying it (if you can parse that.)

As in, it’s not something I would just do for fun (it takes a bit more focus than relaxation), and it’s not something I outright hate either (those I wouldn’t do. I decided to buy the fractal stuff I needed off the TP, all 140g of it, because I still loathe that game mode and the dislike deepens further with every new fractal I’ve never tried and ever-divided PUG scene. What’s gold for if not to trade with, right?)

It’s more a focused reason/excuse to repeat some things I might not repeat otherwise in order to get to a final goal.

In the repetition, I have a reason/excuse to actually be playing the game, and you know, it’s not half bad an activity to be doing.

…Hmm… Maybe I still sorta like this game after all.

It’s a strange kind of convoluted thinking that I haven’t quite got my head around yet, but it’s an improvement from -not liking- for sure.

We’ll see how things go from there.