A State of Contentment

Happiness is a bunch of Labyrinthine Cliff screenshots...

The usual blog silence descends when I’ve run out of things to say, beyond an update on what I’ve been up to, games-wise:

Games I’m Playing

Guild Wars 2 – Next Living Story is slated for one month from now. Whoosh.

Welp, it gives people time to get Wildstar out of their systems, I guess.

I’m more or less done with Festival of the Four Winds, beyond an occasional peek into the Crown Pavilion when I feel like it, along the same irregular pace I keep for Teq and Wurm. That is, once every 3-7 days.

cliffs_overview

Same with the Labyrinthine Cliff events (maybe I’ll get another Favor of the Bazaar sometime this month!) and the Queen’s Gauntlet (maybe I’ll get a Chaos of Lyssa! Nah… I don’t believe in delusions of lucky drops, even with the latest patch, but I may as well convert spare tickets into tokens.)

8 Orb Liadri is still beyond me for now.

I just can’t muster any desire to craft a very distinct build plus gear -just- to do it over 90+ times, given how my latency affects orb pick-up speeds. Over on Reddit, an Aussie DnT guy mentioned that he took 80+ tries, while looking on in envious contrast at his NA guildmates, so I have no illusions about the amount of effort it’s going to take.

Plus framerates of 20 are likely not the most ideal, so I think I’ll just wait for the next year’s Festival or the one after that, if and when I finally get the spare cash and time to get around to upgrading my computer.

I might get around to another bout of screenshot taking in the Cliffs sometime this month...
Maybe one more round of screenshot taking in the Cliffs sometime this month…

I’ve dropped back comfortably into my old routine of logging on for an hour or two to finish my dailies and gather all the things.

Yes, I’m weird, I really like gathering all the things. My watchwork pick has been a great purchase for me on this front, since my commenters talked me into going for it.

(They convinced me it’s really all about the individual. I can’t see any use for the salvage-o-matic, for example – I’m getting far more orichalcum and gossamer from salvaging via Mystic or Master kits, and I calculated it’s enough to pay for even Master kit usage if and when I finally run out of Mystic Forge Stones. Just leave leather giving items for basic kits, though I do tend to just shut my eyes and salvage when using Mystic kits.)

Every couple of days, I get enough watchwork sprockets to auction off and put a couple gold in my pocket, saving me from the chore of enduring a couple dungeons – which I’m not a great fan of. I won’t say it’s anywhere near a great income stream (running a world boss choo choo train and selling the rares will probably net the same or more) but it enables me to get some pocket money while doing stuff I -like- to do.

Every now and then, I break routine and do part of said world boss choo choo train, or poke into a dungeon (or even a fractal yesterday and a guild TA aetherpath today!) or hop into WvW for a change of pace – and it all feels as it should be.

Dolyak photo bombs are another great way to break routine.
Dolyak calf photo bombs are another great way to break routine.

A true amusement park functioning like it ought to – come in, play the minigames or go for the rides you want, leave when you need to, no obligations, subscriptions or regret required.

Terraria – The anticipated relaxed pace of GW2 for the next month gives me time to poke around other games. A whole flock of NBI bloggers appear to have taken up residence in J3w3l’s Terraria server, and I’m poking my head in, as well.

A big patch or two seems to have been introduced since the last time I played it with J3w3l, and there’s plenty of stuff to explore and look forward to as well.

The world’s not in hard mode yet, as I think other players are still starting from scratch, but the big kahuna at the end appears to be the Frost Moon event, said to be harder than the Pumpkin Moon waves we were fending off the last time.

It’s all good, because this gives me time to work on building cool stuff without getting worried about nasty mobs or corruption coming around the next corner.

I played around with some pixel art – pretty much a first for me.

It's a platform game, right?
It’s a platform game, right?

Got re-obsessed with the Great Biome Project – saving all the trees and biomes for posterity in their little penned-off convenient-to-access zoo enclosures…

Saving the trees...
Saving the trees… one rectangle at a time. Still have space for Hallow trees once we get to that point.
In Africa, they set aside sanctuaries for lions. In Terraria, antlions are the endangered species.
In Africa, they set aside sanctuaries for lions. In Terraria, antlions are the endangered species. This is all Eri’s fault, by the way. Beyond numerous potholes in the desert, -somebody- also insinuated my project failed the last time around! Well, three rows of desert this time! I saw three antlions spawning once!

And working on digging my fallout shelter in preparation for hard mode.

Unfortunately, lead is not a valid material for lining walls with. Tinfoil will have to do.
Unfortunately, lead is not a valid material for lining walls with. Tinfoil (or tin plating) will have to do.
Dooown the vault shaft, into the decontamination tank.
Dooown the vault shaft, into the decontamination tank.

There is a whole new FISHING system which looks deliciously fun to play around with.

Catching critters for bait, as well as critters to turn into a terrarium collection (the rabid collector in me demands a whole laboratory floor of them at some point), and then catching a whole bunch of new and rare fish in various biomes, and having some kind of quest to turn them into the Angler NPC…

Haven’t had time to play around with this as much as I’d like, but definitely intend on getting around to it.

also works great as
The decontamination chamber also works great as an underground fishing pond on my doorstep.

Path of Exile – My new favorite game, which is working great in conjunction with the above two.

I “finished” normal difficulty on my Shadow at around level 35ish… only by some definitions of the word, because the last two maps ramped up pretty insanely in difficulty and I was sure I wasn’t in the right gear or build for completing it properly. I couldn’t be arsed to switch out my haphazard gearing because that would mean dealing with three stashes’ worth of inventory management I’d been putting off, so I went the waypoint rez route instead.

LOTS of death, LOTS of rezzing. Nickle and diming the last boss to death with poison and an occasional hit before exploding into bloody gore.

Totally doing it wrong, I know.

But I just kinda wanted to see the end of the story content.

After finishing Act III and watching the end credits roll, I found myself back in Act I… on the new Cruel difficulty, one step up from Normal.

Still level 35.

OH. Then it hit me that one was going to have to play through Cruel and Merciless to get to those lofty level 90ish heights.

*gulp*

There are experience point penalties for death in those two harder difficulties, so it was time to say goodbye to waypoint rushes. (Ah, I hardly knew ye, dear strategy, now obsolete…)

I took a short break to roll up two new characters, a Templar (str/int hybrid) and a Ranger (pure dex), and fooled around in the lowbie levels for a bit, feeling out the differences in gameplay and playstyles. Both were taken to the Ambush League, which apparently had a different stash and economy from Normal (until the league ends, anyway.)

Realizing that suddenly made the chore of inventory management a lot less onerous, when I figured out that there wasn’t going to be much point trying to hoard gear to twink out new characters in Normal, because I was going to start them in Ambush (until July ends anyway.)

So I logged back into the Shadow character, and cleaned my four stash tabs up. Also in the process, upgrading all my gear as much as I could, and re-evaluating all my skills and gems and refining the build further.

Then I took him out for a spin on Cruel difficulty, to find that the difficulty was back to being just right, and even a bit more exciting now that I had to take a bit more care in what I aggro’ed and fought and positioned myself.

The loot shower was also a lot nicer, with more blue magic items dropping and a couple rares, so the rewards seem rather in tune too.

(No doubt at some very high level point, blues will be like trash and maybe rares will drop like candy, but, for now, things feel good and like an improvement.)

In fact, the rewards in the side passage maps were so tasty my inventory and stash started filling up exceedingly rapidly.

I’m now pondering a convenience microtransaction purchase at some point soon-ish to enable the way I prefer to play. (Toss a whole bunch of loot in the various stash tabs while clearing a map or two, then sit in town to slowly clear out the loot, evaluating it and selling it.)

I don’t have to, of course. I could just clear stuff out as and when it comes, or choose not to pick up relatively valueless blue drops, but meh… pacing-wise, I prefer the above.

So it’s likely I’ll talk myself into putting down $20-30 for Path of Exile at a near point in the future, and I think that’s fair enough.

I got a whole game’s value out of it, playing for free, and now that I think I like it enough to keep playing, at higher levels of difficulty and challenge, with more varied characters and builds, it seems attractive enough to expand my bank space further to accommodate those characters, while at the same time, paying Grinding Gear Games for the game and online service.

League of Legends – Still waiting for an NBI blogger game. 🙂

On the back burner otherwise, but definitely looks attractive as a whole new game (and genre) to learn, with new systems and new gameplay expectations.

I like and approve of the microtransaction model as well.

I’m just not really driven by the whole competitive league and ranking aspect of MOBAs, so random join PvP games don’t really sound like something I would choose to inflict on myself on a regular basis, except when I get the rare whim. Sounds just like PUGing a dungeon, except now there’s even more personalities to create drama when one side inevitably loses.

I would need a regular team of friends with which I’m used to playing with, which can then proceed to match itself competitively with others. Or solo, I’m likely to just end up playing a random cooperative bot game for some mild fun.

Either way, dabbling is good for the moment. There are only so many games one can play at any one time.

Games I’m Not Playing

The Elder Scrolls Online – All this “quitting TESO” talk of it feeling like a singleplayer RPG is making me -want- to play it, lol.

I -like- singleplayer soloist games.

Except I’m nervous about the bait-and-switch at the very very end, where apparently you’ll need a group THEN (after how long singleplayer?)

And buying a box for $60 and paying a sub fee for $15 every month is a hurdle I simply cannot get over.

Let’s see, compare and contrast the potential gameplay value I get out of Path of Exile and League of Legends spending LESS than $75, or pay $75 to give TESO a try?

Sounds like paying $150 for an ArcheAge alpha to me.

If you really reaally like the game and setting and all, maybe it’s worth it then.

(For example, I am likely to be a premium-paying sucker for Eternal Crusade, as long as it doesn’t blow up on a technical front, like crashing or lagging very few seconds. The attraction of just being in a Warhammer 40k universe is -that- powerful. I mean, it can’t do any worse than Warhammer Online, right? *stares at Collector’s Edition box collecting dust* Welp, WAR was a fun first month, anyway.)

For anyone else, it’s really not. (Heck, I’m still waiting for a 75% off sale for Skyrim DLC.)

Wildstar – Sorry, I have a home in GW2, I no longer do launch crowds.

Especially not for vertical progression games that play just like WoW, even if it’s on sci-fi steroids.

I’m content to follow along with the various blogs that are covering it.

I’m getting various amusement kicks from the ones that protest about its challenge and its “hardcore” nature, and enjoying myself leaving *hardcore* chants all over the comments of the sites I think can take the light-hearted pokes.

The game is what the game is.

Take it for what it is, if you’re going to play it.

If you disapprove of its fundamentals, you -shouldn’t- be playing and supporting it with your wallet to begin with.

But I will wait and see how many hype hamsters wash out after a month or three, when they can no longer stand the HARDCORE.

They must not have been *hardcore* enough!

If you’re just having fun with the leveling aspect and playing around with its housing and dabbling in its casual parts, and content enough to pay the sub fee for those aspects only, and not at all perturbed by being weaker numerically in gear, I promise to leave you guys and gals alone though.

I’ll just read the blogs and enjoy the stories and screenshots from a distance.

If the game ever gets cheaper, or moves away from its rampant Achiever-driven RAIDS SO HARDCORE stance to pay attention to the bulk of people that are enjoying its more casual aspects, I might join ya’ll for a bit of fun…

…but not before.

NBI: To Blog or Not to Blog – That is the Question

Breaking News: Grumpy old fart pandering for relinking and pageviews takes controversial stance on starting a new blog in 2014.

He advises: “Don’t. There’s more modern means to start a discussion. And you won’t become famous.”

Sure.

If you want a lively, quick firing, discussion comprising of short sentences – there’s Twitter, Reddit and various forums.

If you want to be famous, try Youtube videos, assuming you have the face, voice and personality for it.

However:

If you want a personal platform to pen your thoughts, express your opinions and practice writing…

… AND produce content that people at work can sneakily read so they aren’t bored out of their minds…

Then

BLOG.

This post was brought to you by the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2014: Decreasing Work Productivity by 8% Annually.

The MMO Cycle – A Cento About Missing the Magic of MMOs

Beauty in a swamp...

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

The happiest day — the happiest hour
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels

And yet that spirit knew – not in the hour
Of its own fervour – what had o’er it power.

chievos

But he grew old —
This knight so bold —

Ah, dream too bright to last!
Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise
But to be overcast!

And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.

forums
And the people — ah, the people —
All alone,
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
A play of hopes and fears,
It shall not be forgot!
That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”

suchzergmuchpower

And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow —
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be —
This land of Eldorado?”

anya

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw
That motley drama- oh, be sure
In spring of youth it was my lot
To haunt of the wide world a spot
The which I could not love the less-

fountain

‘Twas noontide of summer,
And mid-time of night;
And stars, in their orbits,
Shone pale, thro’ the light

grove

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
And the tall pines that towered around.

wildlake

At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
And the mystic wind went by
Murmuring in melody-

moon

For the heart whose woes are legion
‘Tis a peaceful, soothing region —
For the spirit that walks in shadow
‘Tis — oh ’tis an Eldorado!

bamboo

cento is a poem made up of lines from poems from other poets.

Long time readers may be familiar with my complete and utter adoration of Edgar Allan Poe, though I leave the precise poems from which I have “borrowed” the lines an exercise for the reader.

I use GW2 out of convenience, since it’s the MMO I’m currently playing and most readily accessible to me, though I believe the poem is relevant to MMOs in general.

In no way should you assume anything about where I am on the MMO burnout cycle with regards to GW2 from this poem…

…though I will say that I -was- bored with the lack of change and Living Story, going through the motions seemingly out of habit, still a little turned off by the megaserver’s effect on the community I was used to…

…and that watching the Chinese “Fear Not This Night” music video that they’re releasing in preparation for the launch in China (the first video embedded above) and going pretty screenshot hunting suddenly reminded me of some of the things I truly love about this game.

This poem was also brought to you by the letters S Y L via the poetry slam sponsored by the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2014.

(Which I hope to talk about more later this month, but just haven’t had the time to get my act together yet. Long story short: Wanna blog? Blog! Now is good!)

It’s stretching the theme of magic by a considerable amount, but well, it’s what wanted to be written.

A Guild Odyssey – Part 2 (NBI Talkback Challenge)

“It is good to have friends, is it not, Mr. Garibaldi? Even if, maybe, only for a little while?”

“Even if only for a little while.”

— Londo and Garibaldi, Babylon 5

In City of Heroes, guilds were known as supergroups.

I didn’t join any for a while.

Not because I didn’t want to, but mostly there was no pressing need to (everyone did pickup groups) and I think I was hoping to get lucky and stumble across a perfect match like in my MUD days.

Turns out that an MMO is a lot bigger than a MUD.

It’s hard to be a known name or recognizable, and you sure didn’t seem to see the same people twice in your pickup groups.

I did eventually end up meeting a rather nice chap on the Justice server, who sent me an invite to his Instant Heroes supergroup, and I joined to be nice about it.

Alas, I started running into the problem that would plague me for the rest of my MMO career. Timezone issues.

Back in the MUD, I was mostly on American soil, playing with hardcore folks who would stay online for 9-16 hours a day (and possibly bot the rest of the time too.)

In an MMO with a larger casual population, more people play more sedate periods of 1-4 hours a night.

My primetime was not their primetime. As a result, the guild tended to be very quiet when I logged on, and they probably never saw me log on either, until the weekends.

Then I ran out of character slots on Justice and moved onto sampling a new server, Freedom, which had developed a more powergamer-type of community.

Around the same time, in 2007, supergroup bases became a thing. The new update was going to allow guilds to earn a currency that could be used to design-your-own-guild-hall.

Supergroup recruitment messages plastered the forums, every group clamoring for new recruits for self-benefitting purposes.

It was also going to be an awful waste if I remained guildless and kept playing, while I could be earning that currency for a guild. Powergamers abhor inefficiency, after all.

And the inveterate explorer in me was intently curious on -seeing- this new content, even if I had no interest in designing or building rights. Just being able to walk in was fine.

So I randomly picked a nice guild recruitment message that appealed and was in the same server that I was currently playing in, and found myself part of the Top Ten supergroup.

Oh, it started out promising as all these things do.

2007-07-16 05:00:16

We had our guild meetings in a brand spanking new HUMONGOUS superbase. We had our guild colors.

We assembled everyone together to take guild photos with artfully arranged emotes.

Memory fails me, but from scattered screenshots, I think we even had guild events where we assembled enough to do a hamidon raid or visit the PvP zones for some random fun.

I’m sure you know the ending of the story by now.

Attrition happened.

People got distracted by other games, Found other things to do. Stopped logging in.

We lost officers. The events dried up.

Day by day, the guild population got smaller and smaller.

Again, I ran out of character slots and the l33tspeak powergamer tendencies of the Freedom server were beginning to get to me as I kept mellowing down further.

I kept the global channel the supergroup was using, as I enjoyed the chatter, but stopped logging the character that was in it since there was nothing much to do but farm for fun after hitting max level. (Loot was still not a thing beyond some supergroup crafting items or what-not.)

I had moved on to the roleplaying server, Virtue, with new characters to level and was enjoying the concomitant increase in community maturity level.

And NOW loot became a thing. Inventions happened. A guild supergroup base made a really good bank storage given that characters only had ten slots to store stuff.

Except that one has no storage rights being a member of a big guild in a server far away.

Enter the family and friends guild.

Well, -one- friend.

They fancied themselves quite the supergroup base designer.

Desk stacking to raise an item to unintended heights. (I had no such patience for it.)
Desk stacking to raise an item to unintended heights. (I had no such patience for it. He did.)

It worked out fine. I left most of the design to my friend, continued to play my way and earn supergroup currency for us, and made use of the amenities – including hogging a bunch of storage containers for my packrat tendencies. He got to put the prestige earned by two very dedicated players to good use, building elaborate architecture to his heart’s content.

Attrition still happened.

This time the guilty party was me. I lost interest as all the raids arrived.

I stopped playing City of Heroes around six months before the end. I think my friend held on till NCsoft booted him out. Though he also had bouts of dissatisfaction from time to time, he held a bit more loyalty to the franchise than I did.

I had other games, and other guilds.

CoH was not the sole MMO I played. I had it on constant sub for years, while jumping to the next newest and greatest and shiniest at the time (and a few odd ducks besides):

  • Guild Wars – Ironically, I joined no guild in this, playing it as a single player game for the most part, enjoying myself thoroughly with my heroes and personal solo challenges.
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online – The required grouping and timezone issues killed this one for me at launch even before I could think about maybe being committed to the game long enough to perhaps join a guild.
  • Lord of the Rings Online – I think I did join a random fellowship at one point. You know the sort. Advertised over mapchat. Filled with people doing their own thing and occasional guild channel chatter looking for group while the game was still popular. At the time, I didn’t need much more than that. I attrition’ed with everyone else and must have got booted at some point. I wouldn’t know. I was having more serious issues, like not being able to get out of Moria. Ever.

(Run in circles, kill ten more goblins, pick up another quest, go back to the same place and kill 10 more different types of goblins. pick up yet another quest and visit the same area to click on some rocks near goblins, pick up still another quest to kill goblin leaders that may have needed a group or to be higher in level…. Yeah. I ended up taking pretty screenshots and logging off.)

  • Age of Conan – Alright. Let’s get serious, I thought. Timezone issues were a massive pain. Let’s take the time to pick and choose my guild more carefully, and if I couldn’t find a local guild – which never tends to last in not so popular games – maybe an Oceanic Australian guild would work. So I shopped around, read all the ubiquitous guild recruitment messages, tried to pick a good fit one that actually bothered to request applicants fill out a casual application survey. (My MUD did that. Good way to weed out the utterly nonserious and the unable to type to communicate to save their lives ones.)

I got in.

Oh my god, it’s full of PVPers.

Ok, I kid, but not by much. It was full of and led by competitive Killer types, with a side helping of Achievers.

In hindsight, I suppose I should have expected that, being that I was playing an MMO that -advertised- itself as FFA PvP, hardcore-realistic battles and what-not.

They weren’t bad people, by any means. Friendly, supportive, band-of-brothers-y. It just wasn’t going to be a guild culture that mapped onto my interests very well.

I stuck with them for quite a while, all the same. Attempted a PvE raid or two, to discover that GMT +10 primetime was still different enough for someone in GMT+8 to have a really bad time trying to make the schedule and be on time (quite a few hasty commutes from work and skipped dinners.)

  • Warhammer Online – This was the period where I think of the three MMOs in sequence. As AoC was drowning from exploits, bugs and laggard development fixes and patches, everyone switched their attention to WAR. I coasted with the same guild into the new MMO, where we had our fun-enough-for-a-time PvP trains and zergs while the crowds were still home.
  • Aion – Just as rapidly, the whole Oceanic population jumped ship from WAR to Aion. I was already beginning to get quite cynical at this point, recognizing that Oceania/Asia seemed to have formed their own community of PvP-interested guilds that were less attached to a game per se, and more attached to each other as voicechat individuals. I envied guilds like The Kelly Gang whose timezones and playstyles matched well enough to stick with each other, regardless of game. (Small world, ain’t it?)

The guild I was in wasn’t bad, but we were leaving a few people behind with every jump and getting a little smaller and smaller via attrition once more. And I was burning out from all dat PvP. Oh, the endless I-kill-you-kill-everybody-dies…

And you know, Aion -was- grindy. Like, really really grindy. Like, I’ve killed so many mobs in the same place and still can’t seem to level grindy.

Not to mention, being an undergeared melee class in a game where players can fucking fly (ok, glide) from floating island to floating island may not have been the wisest choice for successful PvP. (And PvE was turning out to be an unoriginal holy trinity game of spawn camping world bosses for lousy RNG drops, with presumably ugh, raids in the future.)

No hard feelings, guys. It’s not the guild. It’s the FUCKING GAME. I moved on.

  • RIFT – Having gone through all types of guild options at a rather accelerated pace, I though, well, what’s one more? Mega-guild time. There are only a couple of famous, super game-spanning guild communities out there, and mostly via random pick, I tested out The Older Gamers as opposed to say, Gaiscioch.

Which worked fine during the early launch days, providing sufficient chatter and crowds for my not-very-demanding needs, but I was beginning to suspect that the success of each individual game chapter of a mega-guild depended a lot on the shoulders of the leaders and officers that had volunteered to run it. If a community center didn’t develop, that was pretty much going to be it. (And it’s also tiring as hell for the people who are serving as the centers of community. I did it as a guild leader on my MUD once. Never again.)

As suspected, attrition yet again whittled down the RIFT chapter over time. I was losing interest in the game myself.

I never did participate much in the bigger game-spanning community forums. An unfortunate and untimely injected script into an advertisement incident scared me off frequenting their boards too often – valuable game hours are taken up by scanning for viruses, trojans and rootkits, y’know!

You get out what you put into a community. TOG was simply a little too big for me to connect with anyone. I found I preferred guilds that were game-specific, so that at least everyone had some kind of common interest.

To my surprise, it was in the niche games that I found more of a throwback to what I was used to from my MUD days.

Next up, Puzzle Pirates briefly and A Tale (of guilds) in the Desert…