Basing Your Expectations on The Things Other People Say

So I’ve been thinking.

This is nothing new.

You know me, always thinking, always brooding. Ruminating. Pondering so long that I’ve fallen out of the blogging habit.

I collect a bunch of stuff in my head, letting it percolate, waiting for lightning to strike.

This post’s recipe consists of two chance events following each other in close succession:

  • a sudden outpouring of newbie welcome and overall positivity on the GW2 subreddit over the last week or so

This stems from another series of chance events: internet celebrity ‘finally sees the light with GW2’ and makes Youtube video about it; Bless Online launches and falls flat on its face; a slew of follow-my-leader MMO locusts descend to try out GW2 (base game is free, after all); and the more positive community-minded subreddit member voices somehow manage to drown out the more negative ones in the equivalent of a slow-news period for GW2 (perhaps the negative nancies have gotten bored and quit during the slow period, or they just decided not to say anything for now as everybody needs new blood, even the predatory sort.)

The TL;DR version is best succinctly explained as a cat video.

  • Shortly after, we contrast this upsurge in optimism with the first histrionics of a newbie who attempted to do dungeons and was abruptly kicked with poor feedback

There’s a lot to unravel in this thread, but all the drama is mostly due to differing player expectations.

Veteran players expect newbie player to demonstrate a modicum of civility and self-reliance and independent self-preparation before partaking in group content.

(This is commonly culturally understood as appropriate behavior by more hardcore gaming traditions, who trend toward being competitive, achievement- and prestige-oriented and high-challenge seeking.)

Newbie player expects to learn group content from observation of the actual game and being tutored by veteran players.

(This is not entirely unreasonable a set of expectations in general: some people learn best by seeing, and even the best preparation is no substitute for direct experience and in-the-moment practice. The very fact that multiplayer gameplay experiences exist will engender the highly likely possibility that two players of uneven gaming knowledge will interact with each other. However, the -means- of that gaming knowledge being transferred though brings us to…)

Newbie player expects all players in-game to be able to express themselves in a civil tactful fashion and be willing and able to successfully coach a beginner with accurate in-the-moment feedback and excellent communication skills.

(Yea, well. I think the absurdity speaks for itself. Let me know if you find -one- person like this. I keep looking for great coaches and teachers and can never find any. Recall my pottery “lessons.” I consider myself lucky if I can find a written guide or a youtube guide video structured in an organized and easy-to-understand manner. Sometimes one has to exercise a high degree of creativity and personal judgment to be able to learn effectively from others.)

Veteran players expect all newbie players to already be prepared to the point of being a high functioning, possibly even higher contributing than themselves, group member and preferably not waste their time and/or learn in another pickup group that isn’t theirs.

(Which only goes to prove that veteran players’ grasp of the language isn’t very good – newbie means newbie for a reason – and that harboring unreasonable expectations is not solely in the realm of beginners.)

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Black and Blue…

Warframe’s servers have been having intermittent issues due to a DDoS this weekend, which leaves me time to ponder a blog post, while feeling twitchy and restless and almost cast adrift.

The irony is that I didn’t get back to playing Warframe till a few days ago, when I decided I’d check it out and scored the 75% off for some Platinum discount I’d been waiting for for ages.

I promptly bought some to show my support for Digital Extremes’ hard work and care for their community, then played the anniversary missions to nab the free weapons. Said weapons turned out to be fairly awesome in their utility and power level, managing to replace temporarily the maxed out Soma Prime I couldn’t function without, which gave me a reason to start playing with a tiny change up of playstyle.

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Oh yes, I also bought the Rhino Palatine skin. Fashionframe has never been sexier.

(Captura mode rocks, btw. Is this something being on PS4 demands or what? Both Warframe and Horizon Zero Dawn rock this so hard.)

I’d hit a wall around Jupiter since I’d mostly ignored purposeful modding beyond the basics of dumping in an endo’ed up Serration and throwing in whatever else seemed good from my random assorted collection of mods.

Thing is, I urgently needed -another- Serration, because I can’t exactly max out my only Serration for higher mastery weapons and then leave the to-be-leveled weapons out in the cold with zero functional damage mod.

I’d also mysteriously managed to cut paths through Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Phobos, bits of the Void, Ceres, Jupiter without scoring something as basic a Steel Fiber mod that increases Armor for my Rhino.

Obviously, some purposeful targeted mission farming was way overdue.

Some wiki reading and a failed solo Excavation attempt later, I settled on solo Survival missions for a 7 or 8% chance to drop what I wanted, and level up the new weapons at the same time. After some testing with Tier 1 and Tier 2, I eventually found a comfortable Tier 1 Dark Sector in Venus/Malva that had Infested that beelined straight for you, making Survival a lot easier than having to chase down other faction mobs.

The nice thing about new weapons is that their mod slots are more limited, so I sat down to mod them well, from a more limited list of options. The straight damage increase goes in, then maybe something to improve their handling like faster reload, and if there’s space, increase whatever damage type the weapons do and figure out what damage 2.0 type does more damage to Infested (Gas, apparently.)

Badabing, even shinier new weapons purpose-built for destroying hordes of Infested. Stay 15 mins for a shot at the Rotation B prize, linger 5 mins more for Rotation C if I somehow get delayed or distracted, extract, rinse/repeat.

Granted, the prize excites no one but me at my newbie “solo self-found” level but hey, it’s the core loop of Warframe and it’s fun in its own way.

In the other screen, I watched teams of streamers get up to shenanigans I’m not willing to experience firsthand myself in Sea of Thieves and it’s the best of both worlds. A solo experience on this end, and a delegated team experience on the other side.

It’s odd, but it seems some computer games these days are catered towards being something in a “spectator games” genre.

The actual number of players might be relatively small, as compared against the obsessive attempt of WoW-like MMOs to capture -all- of the players (which seems doomed to failure the more games fragment into various niches), while another proportion of consumers “play” them virtually by watching said players go at it.

In this case, I guess the money stream goes from the audience => streamers => game, and through advertising and tie-ups with platforms that allow said spectating (cough *Twitch*  cough).

Over in Path of Exile, things are chugging along happily. I hit level 86, lucked into a few teeny upgrades with plenty more improvement to go, alternating between going back and forth through white and yellow maps to unlock them / play some Shaper/Elder-influenced maps, with Tier 8 as the current main unlock goal.

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It’s virtually impossible to take a good screenshot of my current build. It’s just blackity black and blue everywhere. Black ravens (SRS), two lightning golems which spawn phantasms on kill, the phantasms shooting bolts of black darkness, a Hatred aura which gives all the minions blue circles and bonus cold damage… It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s sure fun.

I did a quick duelist alt to level 19 or so, thinking that I might do a really tanky melee ancestral warchief champion to put some of the STR-based and Axe uniques that have been dropping like candy for the SRS necromancer main to good use. I’ll get around to it. Eventually. Maybe. If the league doesn’t end first. (I’m sure there’s still a month or three to go.)

Whirlwind Tour Weekend

This Saturday, I played more games in one day than any other day this year… for very much less time.

Yep, there’s that unavoidable tradeoff.

Path of Exile essentially launched Bestiary League on the very same day A Tale in the Desert began Tale 8. Naturally, I had to make a character in both and check the launches out.

At the same time, my inferiority complex was still smarting from a notoriously poor showing of my Scourge’s dps (rock bottom, getting only about two-thirds the dps of the other three player’s Scourges) during regular Friday raids in GW2. If I didn’t make some attempt at diagnosing and fixing the problem by next week’s raids, my hope of getting to do dps on Dhuum CM (and thus avoid the excessive mental drain and stress of doing green circles) was going to die stillborn.

Furthermore, I’d been wanting to check out Trove again, revisit Warframe and there were still projects to tinker away on in Minecraft: Forever Stranded.

Frankly, I didn’t know where to start.

But my subconscious did.

I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, knowing that Path of Exile had just launched Bestiary league at 4am my time. My mouse cursor found the icon and clicked it, setting up the download.

While waiting, I found myself hitting the icon for ATITD to set up -that- download, and then opening the browser to download Discord, register an account and figure out how to join the relevant ATITD Discord server.

Turns out Discord has the nearest thing to the persistent chat channels that I’ve found so unique and helpful to social community building that I’ve only ever seen in ATITD and no other MMO. I spent a while scrolling back and lurking, reading stuff to get a feel of the lay of the land: the two big takeaways were that there were now ‘factions’ in Tale 8 – the choice of which I’d have to think on before proceeding – and that the new Tale hadn’t quite launched yet.

Oh good. So I jumped straight into Path of Exile to recapitulate my SRS build from the old league, with a minor little cosmetic change. Instead of fiery skulls, I did a skill gem cosmetic swap to ravens.

I have my eye on the Harpy Alpha Supporter Pack at some point in the future. So my fashion theme this league is the Morrigan, all dark, ravens, witchcraft and bringer of death.

Imagine my surprise to find a new support gem, Summon Phantasm on Kill – supported skills or minions summon a Phantasm minion on landing a killing blow. The Phantasm does ranged projectile damage.

Are you kidding me? A mini-spectre type of mob that might support my leveling? Since I will be building for minion damage anyway for my raging spirits… 😍

The bonus is that they look like dark ghostly shapes shooting shadowy bolts, so I have the perfect themed entourage for my witch-necromancer right now. We’ll see how it goes when I get further up in levels.

As for the Bestiary itself, I find it interesting. As you catch beasts, you unlock crafting recipes that can produce more selectively tuned rares (like rares with fire damage, or rares with no physical mods or rares with critical chance and so on), except you have to defeat all the mobs involved in the recipes in a closed cage fight in an arena. For an SSF character, I suspect this is going to be a good source of decent leveling items.

It’s been having some teething troubles and negative reception on Reddit – powerful builds were apparently kinda deleting mobs before net throwing and capturing can take effect.

Since I’m a slower SSF player, that hasn’t quite been a personal issue just yet until Sunday night – I just made one raging spirit or leave one phantasm up to tickle a particularly squishy beast down to the level of low health a net needs. (For a few of the tougher mobs, it was all I could do to output enough damage to scratch it down.) It was also possible to throw the net first and then just spam spirits to knock it down to the low health required.

I did run into the apparently unintended glitch of the net lasting a split second (rather than a few seconds) and then the mob enraging for five seconds and not being able to be captured. At the point, I just assumed I’d failed and waited for the time required before netting again. I guess I’ve been too well trained by shitty catch chances in Pokemon Go.

The fixes are coming fast and furious though, I hear. The nets should last three seconds now, if thrown first, which is plenty of time for strong builds to delete the entire screen of mobs. And there’s talk of a backup necromantic net which can capture corpses, in the probable future event of fast builds going so fast that they don’t even see what they destroyed until it’s too late.

That should arrive at a perfect timing for my pace. I hit level 30 something this Sunday and started to realize my raging spirits were getting wimpy as all get out. So I bit the bullet and stopped to adjust my build – got a four link, though I don’t have the currency yet for a +1 or +2 level to minion or fire gems (*sad face*), respeced a few points to push to minion damage nodes sooner, picked up the Hatred aura, and struggled through an on-level level 33 Labyrinth, where I Ascended and went straight for the new Puppet Master passive skill.

The minion army is now at a point that can indeed be said to be effectively deleting mobs at my level range. Level 38 and showing no signs of stopping yet. All’s well until the next slowdown point.

In between PoE breaks, I turned my attention to A Tale in the Desert.

Apparently my Welcome Island lament got a couple of eyes – s’ not hard to rise in SEO when covering a niche game – and along with other new player feedback, a couple of tweaks have been implemented to the new player experience.

That’s one bonus of a niche game with active fanatical players – things turn and change at a much faster rate than say… trying to turn MMO oil tankers like *cough* Guild Wars 2 *cough*.

Welcome Island, I’m happy to report, is much more welcoming than before.

new-wi

The messaging at the top of the screen has improved, providing more guidance. The signs on the island say pretty much the same thing, in the event that a newbie might skip past all the text and still need to refer to something.

Things like camera and setting up UI options are covered very early on, to help with the initial disorientation of any player more used to modern day games.

There’s a big fat road to follow – that leads to the tar pit – and a bit of a new, improved mini-map which is still working out a few kinks (but hey, there’s a zoom in and zoom out function, mind blown.)

There’s even a decorative pier that kinda indicates approximately where one should set up their ferry when leaving for Egypt proper.

Anyway, with the help of prior recent experience and pulling up the old guide, I got to the mainland in under two hours or so.

Here’s the odd thing, I didn’t feel frustrated, but I didn’t feel in any particular hurry to settle down or start factory grinding either. I think, in the back of my mind, I kinda know that I don’t have the time investment available to play hardcore powergamer with macros and alts right now. Maybe this will change in a few months, maybe not.

It’s also a been there, done that kinda thing. I know reaching really high levels and achieving in Tests is beyond my willingness to dedicate time and effort and interest to grind (sorta like reaching level 100 in Path of Exile, for that matter.) I reached level 30 something and got to see nearly all the tech and systems somehow and that was enough, I don’t have extreme Achiever dreams as a motivating factor.

So what are my other options? If I was a strong Socializer, ATITD is a dream come true, a tiny sandbox where you can get to know a community, have plenty of people to chat with and contribute in some small part to. There’s politics and drama and this Tale is looking like it’s going to be very rife with high drama and conflict-oriented sociological situations with another new and active developer at its helm – especially one that just introduced factions to see if that changes the dynamics of the ATITD community any.

But I’m not. I’m pretty introverted, and work lately has involved a LOT of interacting with people, so really, the last thing I want to do when I go home to play a game is be pushed into interacting with more people. I consider typing a word or a sentence into a chat channel, be it in-game or in Discord, and stop before I even hit a key. That would invite a response, and I don’t actually want a friendly response because that would lead to a conversation and that’s -tiring- to an introvert in desperate need of solo recharge time.

I suppose I don’t mind becoming a small cog in a big guild and helping out here and there, except I have timezone issues and just general free time issues right now, so any of my contributions would be a drop in a puddle, if not a lake.

Then too, I have to admit that the actual activity involved in producing such a contribution is not exactly triggering a ‘fun’ button for me right now.

Nothing to do with ATITD specifically, mostly to do with the place my brain is in right now – the same lack of ‘fun’ button is being triggered when doing grindy resource accumulation activities in GW2 (I stopped, mostly), and when I popped into Trove in between various gaming sessions and realized that I didn’t feel like learning how to play my Tomb Raiser again or visiting various mini-dungeons to kill the mini-bosses to get loot… for now.

I was getting the visceral adrenaline hit in PoE, and to a lesser extent, Warframe of all places, which I popped into after Trove to clear a single survival mission for 20 minutes (I was going for the survive 10 minutes to unlock Jupiter Junction, and wound up staying for twice as long because shooting endless hordes of Grineer in the face felt ‘fun’).

I also managed to unlock the Jupiter Junction, which was a face off against the most ridiculous spectre encountered so far, Valkyr. I was nearly at my wit’s end in an utter deadlocked stalemate where I was popping Rhino’s iron skin every time it wore off but couldn’t figure out how to deal enough damage… right up to the point where I thought my way through the problem while dodging behind pillars and running in circles, and realized my energy was constantly recharging… and thus could produce nigh unlimited Rhino stomps with maybe fifteen seconds of wait time in between casts. It became a patient game of stunlocking her every time she didn’t have her invulnerability up and then just showering her with pretty ineffectual bullets until the next time. I nearly ran out of ammo for the poor Soma Prime, but killed her with 8 bullets left. Phew.

Obviously, I still need to work out and work on modding for more effectiveness at some point, but… just not today. Or tomorrow. Some day. When I’m not so busy.

But I found it a valuable lesson to realize that my subconscious was kinda enjoying the gameplay of Warframe more than nearly any other game on my huge laundry list of games I was visiting that day – I had to feel it contrasted right there and then, kinda like wine or chocolate or coffee-tasting, in order to sense the subtle differences I might not have picked out if just trying one product on its own.

Still I found myself logging in and out of A Tale in the Desert. I’d log in for 30 minutes, attempt to do a teeny step on a mini-goal or project, scroll and read all the chat text in-game and Discord, and then log out because I’d rather wait offline than online. Couple hours later, I’d pop in for ten minutes and pop back off again.

I think, subconsciously, I kind of want to spectate, rather than be a participant at this point in time. The whole idea of factions makes me subtly uneasy; an active roleplaying developer doing stuff is almost… threatening, in a sense. Resource loss, resource waste (including wasted time) feels like it could very well happen this Tale. Which is all very well if you’re in the Tale to be entertained by the participation in such stories and the social community… but which personally strikes me more like Eve Online – great to hear about from a distance, but not really something I want to invest time playing in.

Maybe, between reading all the system chats and Discord chats and the odd in-game chat, that’s all the entertainment that I really need from ATITD right now.

After all, I already have one other game that I’m in an odd work/play relationship with… I’ve been on an ambivalent break from GW2. The Amazon servers are still shit if I’m not using a gaming proxy, which is subtly frustrating. I gave up doing dailies and found that I haven’t missed them. I log in twice weekly to raid and that provides sufficient influx of gold to keep me going when I don’t do anything else in game, thus requiring nothing of the game. Raiding on my condi warrior is comfortable. I like comfortable. Most of the raids go more or less smoothly, and then I’m gone till the next time.

The slight discomfort is the Dhuum CM attempts which are a challenging stretch. Challenging stretches require learning, which I’m okay with, except that it takes time. And is not comfortable, and often perplexing and frustrating. Part of the frustration is the lack of a good source for learning / the perfect coach to accurately diagnose issues and offer usable advice.

Youtube videos move fast and often don’t explicitly state things that actually need to be said to a new learner. Friends or raid members may be well-meaning but equally clueless or offer tips that are completely off the mark. (I asked myself, if someone in my team or indeed, anywhere, asked me to coach or offer them tips on how to play the class I play most… would I be able to do so effectively? Answer: No. Not at all. I wouldn’t have the faintest clue where to even start.) Practising blindly runs the risk of locking in bad habits. But ultimately, self-coaching and trying to figure out your own sources of information and improvement is where most players who aren’t esports athletes end up.

I made myself log in and hit the combat golem a couple times. Mostly meh, still rough around the edges, still mostly perplexed. I do suspect the main bulk of my loss of damage is missing epidemics, which can only be practiced in a more real world setting with another necromancer.

I had the bright idea on Sunday to take the scourge out for a spin in the open world, and remembered bounty trains as a source of high hitpoint bosses in a low stress group setting. This gave me more real world practice with skill priorities (complete with jumbled up rotations when panicking and moving and dodging) and I even felt a bit of muscle memory locking in. The bounty train and learning of ‘how to scourge’ almost felt… fun… right up to the point where I started lagging at 800-1000ms ping because I wasn’t using the gaming proxy.

Scenario A: I log out, start the gaming proxy, restart Guild Wars 2, log back in, rejoin the squad and continue.

Scenario B: I log out. Period.

I went for option B and did something else instead.

Like build a jetpack in Forever Stranded and extend my cobblestone bridge highway a little further.

Like borrow some digital library books and start to skim read them.

Like watch a Netflix movie or two.

But mostly to play juuuust a little more Path of Exile.

So I guess the whirlwind tour was somewhat useful after all; I touched all the bases I was intending to touch, and more or less figured out viscerally where my focus wanted to be.