GW2: Return to… Flame and Frost

So… how I did find Living Story Season 1 episode 1’s reappearance after nine years?

A bit of a non-event, really. But in contrast to way back when, I’m thinking non-events are pretty good in the larger scheme of things. Means the writers and designers managed to smooth the flow of the story out to the point of palatability for the greater part of their intended audiences.

I had far more to say on the living story prelude in Feb 2013 – sign posts and refugees – there were a lot more signposts then, now cut down to 3 for the Guiding Sign achievement.

I suppose already having completed the Refugee Volunteer achievement helped, otherwise those that missed it now have the ability to experience the joys of fixing signposts and rescuing refugees 75 times for a title just like we did.

I also had far more to say on the Braham and Rox instances way back in Mar 2013 when they launched. Yep, a full month of wait time between fixing signposts and having mysterious molten mole invasions before even getting started on the actual plot. Pretty sure the story developed in the writer’s room makes far more sense when compressed down into a shorter timeline.

One difference I noticed right off the bat was that I was a lot more willing to suspend disbelief and be immersed into the world and story as presented to me. It’s a little more like present Belghast’s reaction to episode 1, discussing the impact of characters and little nuances and such.

Jaded veteran me has no major comments on the storyline. It’s like, “Okay, yeah, we’ve seen this before. It’s not bad. It makes sense.”

Also, “Oh, this little bit is new. I suppose yeah, that smooths it out for newcomers more.” The new bits are the little lore dumps in hidden object note/book form, which the writers seem to have discovered in Icebrood Saga as a way to throw in their longer form paragraphs that attempt to convey their writer’s room story where game and level design is unable to, in the hope that interested people will read them, and disinterested people will see the wall of text and automatically skip them. (Kinda like this blog, in a way.)

It’s all collected into the Investigative Study achievement, where interested people have also preserved the texts on the wiki for other people to read at leisure. Mostly it provides a little more welcome context which the initial prelude was missing – leaders actually acknowledging that dredge and Flame legion have formed some kind of alliance and their responses to this threat, some backward foreshadowing of characters that were only conceived of during Icebrood Saga like Crecia, Bangar and Efram, and so on.

The new directive of the writer’s room appears to be “players only remember characters, not plot” so now everything is a character.

Molten Firestorm and Molten Berserker have been “promoted” into being named Gigarg and Rodion.

(Honestly not sure that is really an improvement. May as well just call them Squeee and Roar.)

There is now a lavish one page explanation for how Firestorm and Berserker (I’m old school, sue me) got to be the way they are, buried amidst lab workbenches in the Molten Furnace. Basically the dredge guy made others forge him armor, turning him into Ironman – er, Irondredge, and charr guy is implied to have gotten a Jormag’s blood transfusion a la Icebrood Saga explanations.

Were the clues already there in the original story? Maybe. In a very non-obvious fashion. The big vein of molten lava rock that all our attention is called to, in hindsight, now looks like a vein / ley line of Primordius power.

There -was- a cold area in the original Molten Facility, though the implication was more that it was being generated by three cold-producing consoles, which we destroyed to stop skidding around. No Jormag ley lines anywhere. Molten Berserker’s model -might- be called icy, if you looked at it charitably… or he could simply have been intended to glow blue to differentiate him from the red Firestorm. Certainly his attacks aren’t ice-related, they were simply shockwave tremors, claps and stomps.

Still, I suppose it’s an acceptable enough retcon. It gives our mysterious “B” villain (yeah yeah, we all know who that is now. Spoiler: it ain’t Braham) a little more world domination motivation along the lines of our Canthan Ankka. It appears she wants to understand and harness dragon magic and essentially create her own dragon minions, thus neatly hand-wavey explaining the soon-to-arrive rainbow assortment of enemy factions-of-the-month.

As for the actual instance, wow, its difficulty level is now pretty darned confusing. It may be the only instance in GW2 to now officially have a whole learning curve of scaled difficulties across time.

The new Molten Furnace is the revamped version of the old Molten Facility.

The Molten Furnace story instance in Flame and Frost is distinctly cut down to scale properly to a single player that may not be geared to tip top condition.

The biggest mobs tend to be only bronze-ring veterans, no silver-ring elites.

Was Kostya really a level 1 dredge knocked over in one sword swing in the original Molten Facility? I forget. Maybe he was, for comedic effect.

Years and years of the Molten Furnace fractal have led me to expect some kind of dredge miniboss there, so I was mildly confused.

The newly renamed Gigarg the Cruel and Rodion the Vile melted fairly quickly to an obsolete Dragonhunter raid build (aka not as high dps as the new power-creeped builds but probably still higher than the average player.)

All in all, it seems scaled well for its intended audience, which might be doing three times less dps. After all, it -is- the very next story step someone that finished the Personal Story might take, and it wouldn’t do to knock them silly three ways into Friday like Heart of Thorns pocket raptors did.

Old Molten Facility, on the other hand, was very distinctly a group dungeon intended for five players.

At least, that seems to be what my old posts imply.

I was already obsessing over inclusivity in dungeons way back when – though it was more of a level range issue back then. Oh, sweet innocence.

You can observe the development of early “meta” even then, though I didn’t have the jargon for it at the time. Altruistic healing hammer guardian was the aggro-holding ‘tank.’

I basically copied the build to sneak into meta groups and had zero clue otherwise. It wasn’t exactly hard to hold aggro with high toughness, you did it by existing and many of my 2012 and 2013 posts were lamenting about how much self-inflicted pain I brought about on myself and how challenging it was to survive, while everyone else just waltzed through untouched and said “ez game.”

Apparently, the other support classes at the time were “shout/banner warrior” and “TW mesmer.” Makes sense in hindsight. For great justice for might and fury probably was on the menu. Banner of strength and discipline have always been loved, and will stay loved until the soon-to-be-impending nerf/rework to make them non-unique buffs. I have no idea if TW mesmer brought anything other than Time Warp, but eh, if you’re pretty much the only source of group-based quickness, I suppose the meta will find you regardless.

For a real blast from the past, you can check out Ravious’ take on the Molten Facility as well, and his one week later retrospective. #saluteRavious

As alluded, I was insane enough back then to “solo” the Molten Facility. Took 5 hours.

Yes, my builds sucked back then. Didn’t we all? (Besides those super-clued into the meta of the day?)

Even though my builds probably weren’t ideal, I’m pretty sure it was objectively higher difficulty than the current Molten Furnace story instance. You can see in my old screenshots a lot of the enemies had silver-rings, so they had elite hp for sure. Molten Berserker had a purple legendary ring, as opposed to Rodion the Vile’s mere gold champion ring.

There were some kind of enrage stacks on the bosses in those days. The wiki says that once they got to a 25% interval, the other boss gets 50 stacks of enraged, and you had to take it off by attacking it.

Do they exist now? Probably not. I think it’s all defiance bars now. Either that or we spike down Berserker so hard it doesn’t even matter.

After one week of experimentation, I apparently give in to the meta for as long as I can stand to get what I’m greedy about, and then I go back to chilling and recovering from the intensity.

It’s going to be a familiar refrain in the coming years ahead.

The final addendum to the Flame and Frost achievements are instructions to go visit the Fractal Recursion: Molten Furnace and Fractal Recursion: Molten Boss to revisit the memory of the Molten Furnace/Facility.

It’s cute, like a little encouraging push into instanced group content and starting lost level 80s into the vertical progression ladder of fractals.

Me, I’ve never really liked fractals. I try to avoid them whenever I can. Something about five man content being a little too close and personal, where people are too ready to nitpick every move. Something about the insanity of vertically progressing agony resistance just to do higher level fractals, which get harder and harder and require really cookie cutter meta builds for a much less painful time.

It’s like you can’t win both ways – either you play like perfectly efficient optimized robots in groups that like being perfectly efficient optimized robots and invest tons of effort getting to that point (my memory for remembering dozens of different encounter mechanics that can be presented to you in random order isn’t great, and I don’t exactly want to repeat them for long enough to burn them into memory), or you get groups which devolve into failed carnage. Neither are really my idea of a great time, so T4 fractals aren’t really for me.

Then there are the fractal instabilities, which randomize the encounters even more, and are apparently a pain to even people who LIKE fractals. So now I have to not only remember two dozen different dungeon mechanics, I have to now mix and match and remember which instability means “don’t stand near other people” (wait, don’t we need buffs and heals and need to stand near people to get them?) and which instability means random sky cannon may just blow you up for shits and giggles every couple of seconds, and and…

…oh, they reworked fractal instabilities? Now there are new, more annoying fractal instabilities to remember, when I barely even remember the previous ones? And you need to already have all this etched into your brain before a PUG kicks you for being not up to their standards? Never mind. I’m pretty sure I didn’t start playing GW2 because I wanted vertically progressing instanced group content.

T3 fractals are about my comfort level maximum… except there is a known stigma and reputation around T3 fractals. It’s where us casual fractal losers end up, plus we end up mixing with up and comers from T2 fractals where it is perfectly safe to ignore most mechanics…so it becomes a generalized clown fiesta of people realizing that mechanics exist, and insufficient leadership to teach/perfectly perform said mechanics. Not an ideal group exerience either.

T2 fractals are ok. I can deal with the occasional T2 fractal. It’s just a mess of group brute force tactics, usually. It also triggers me a little to see people ignoring mechanics, nor do I really have the energy and willingness to teach said mechanics… so it’s just… urgh, close our eyes and get through it, if you really need to. Do you really need to, though? Usually, the answer is no.

So, to me, the one saving grace of fractals being on a staggered difficulty level is that T1 fractals are pretty easy. Most of the mechanics are gone or non-existent. You can probably get through a T1 fractal with any group mix.

You can also probably SOLO a T1 fractal with the right build, as long as the mechanics don’t require more than one person to perform required tasks. (Or with clever, exploity skips, most of which I don’t know about.)

So hermit me shamelessly avoids the concept of fractal grouping and just goes in alone to level 9 and 10 Molten Furnace and Molten Boss. It’s slightly harder than the story instance, but not that much. It certainly didn’t take 5 hours a la old Molten Facility, more around 45 leisurely minutes. It’s not at all profitable, I come out only 25 silver ahead when all is said and done. But eh, it’s good for once-off achievements.

Apparently, the fractals got reworked some time in 2019 because man, was it ever confusing to find things even more DIFFERENT from the molten furnace story instance and the molten facility of yesteryear.

Boulders to be placed to seal vents? Gone. Now you hit rocks instead to unseal vents. I suppose the dredge didn’t do enough steam damage to the place, and you have to help them humidify the place even more. Molten Protectors at the core that’s supposed to be destroyed, and movable with a clever push or pull, rewarding crowd control? Gone. Replaced by some kind of weird shamans you need to take down before the core becomes hittable. Because murdering things is the only thing players understand, I guess.

The flame tornadoes that used to be shielded by the core – and still work that way in the Molten Furnace story – the way I thought was -intended-, cleverly going on the opposite side of the core to shield yourself (a la Silverwastes, Dragon’s End and Echovald Wild metas) as opposed to hiding in a corner… now the tornadoes go right THROUGH the core. Wtf? So now you try to stand between the gaps, and get knocked about if the invisible hitbox of the tornadoes scrape you by a milimeter.

Which intern got assigned a fractal rework in 2019, huh?

Well, it certainly didn’t improve my taste for fractals any.

Got it done, then got out of there in a hurry, is about all I can say. That and “at least it’s still possible to solo it” so that the achievement doesn’t have to be ignored like most of the other fractal stuff I dislike.

So, that’s over.

It’ll be interesting to see what episode 2 brings, I suppose.

Looking back at old posts, Canach, Ellen Kiel and Southsun actually came after Flame and Frost, but devs have alluded to that plotline possibly hitting the cutting room floor. So it may just end up being Aetherblades and Mai Trin coming next? Noir Marjory and Kasmeer?

(Two more fractals and Aetherpath to recursion through? Gods save us all.)

In Memoriam For Those Who Have Gone Before

The plan was to re-read some of my ancient posts way back in 2012 and early 2013 to remember how I felt about GW2’s Living Story World back then.

Perhaps find the equivalent comparisons to the Flame and Frost story instances and Molten Facility / Molten Furnace instances and do a compare and contrast?

It seems like I was a lot more excitable and passionate then, for one thing.

The plan is still in effect, but not today.

Going down the rabbit hole of my blog posts, probably the only one with the gumption to do so, I came across an old post that brought back serious memories.

I’d been doomscrolling the GW2 reddit recently for far too obsessive a time for the last week or so, and getting somewhat unsettled by the seeming brigade of hardcore challenge-seekers clamoring for more rewards for their preferred game type – including exclusive mount skins and high profit rewards – so that they could resume their place on the traditional MMO pedestal of prestige. Aka at the very top of the food chain. In GW2. A game that wasn’t supposed to be a traditional MMO ever.

The old post took my mind off that rather neatly. Perspective, indeed.

Both elderly relatives have now already passed on, by the way. They made it into their 90s, which is likely far longer than I might achieve. Lifestyles were healthier in the old days.

No, what really got me was the commenter at the bottom of that post.


Nov 2012, wrote a note of sympathy. Gone five years later.

Touched enough lives that you can hang out with his virtual doppelganger and bring back his ten rats.

While mulling over his memory, wondering if the faint melancholy of the past few days was worth a post of some kind, what do I see while reviewing the immense Discord detritus I’d accumulated with the Dragon’s End metas and Aetherblade CM release?

(Discord and me don’t get along. Or I have no idea how to use it to its fullest potential, and very little impetus to do more with it. I end up joining a bunch of groups because people want me to listen in, and I join a few other groups of interest where I lurk and every once in a very rare blue moon, scroll through pages and pages of text chat of other peoples’ conversations weeks ago.)

A Tale in the Desert’s Discord chat is one of the latter. I haven’t played the game for years, but I had a nice MMO time with it when I played. It’s a very social, tight-knit, neighborly sort of community (including neighbors of the sort who hate each other.)

But now and then, neighbors become friends.

Something about just seeing the same names over and over again, and having the time and space to have civil conversations without getting interrupted by aggressive virtual wildlife and so on.

Sadly, one would rather not see familiar names pop up in this context:


tehm (aka tehmoosh) and merek (aka Verix) were a very well known ATITD pairing since the early Tales.

My second go at A Tale in the Desert was on Tale 4’s Bastet shard. I’d moved up to middle Egypt to have a change from my previous Tale 3 attempt down south Egypt near the Zfree guild.

Turns out that a pair of veteran players also had similar ideas and we ended up in the neighborhood near each other.

I did my usual solo self-sufficiency hermit thing, just being civil to all and sundry. Imagine my surprise when one day, out of the blue, I got a guild invite to, pretty much, their personal guild. (I was Isaiah, and my alt spouse was Juliana.)

This in A Tale in the Desert, an MMO where if your ownership permissions are set carelessly, anyone can pretty much come along and loot you out of any and all possessions that you set to be shareable. Or even if you intended stuff to be shared, maybe you didn’t intend for one person to take ALL the resources overnight and use it all for personal profit.

Significant levels of trust are involved with guild invites and guild ranks.

Me, I’m not that good. Every time I play ATITD, I have one personal guild that is only me and my alt. My possessions are mine, until I decide to stop playing, at which point, whoever wants them is free to declare open season and nab them for their own use.

The only thing I can do when trust is extended like that is accept the honor in the spirit that it is given, and not abuse it.

It’s years ago now, but I seem to recall that I mostly provided cheerful conversational counterpoint, and the two veterans essentially took newbie me under their wing and taught me little interesting secrets that you couldn’t find on the standard wiki.

This is absolute bliss as an explorer motivated by discovery.

I still have some old screenshots of the pair dowsing for metals and me in the vicinity possibly doing the same thing? We were talking in chat, so I was probably learning how to do it from them?

I remember we mined a decent amount of marble together as well. It takes four players. I had me and my alt. They had each other. (Spouses in ATITD can literally log on as each other’s characters. That’s serious -serious- trust.) I learned how to find marble from them – though if you asked me at gunpoint now, I can’t remember how to save my life.

merek always struck me as the older, calmer member of the pair. tehm had more youthful energy. Both were highly sociable. merek was more of a homebody, he stuck around by his compounds more, while tehm tended to roam further afield and socialized with a larger group of players. As such, I tended to have a few more run-ins and chats with merek (as Verix).

merek also struck me as especially kind and generous in spirit. He’d have to be, wouldn’t he? To open up his guild to an unknown stranger and basically offer mentorship in the ways of A Tale in the Desert.

The devs and world builder team set up a memorial for him.

In order to visit, I had to create an account, download and install the new client, do the lengthy (but now shorter and clearer) tutorial that took about 45 minutes – including lots of grass picking one strand at a time, join the faction that I guessed would put me closest to the memorial, spawn in a random location thousands of coordinates far away from it, momentarily panic at the thought of a potential 45 minute run, recognize a chariot stop and take a guess as to the closest chariot stop to said memorial, guess correctly to much relief, and do a 15 minute run to the papyrus mountain said memorial is on.

But for merek, it was worth it.

A Tale in the Desert Tale 4 Bastet was 13 years ago, in 2009.

The fact that I can still remember his name and associate good feelings with him is testament to his quiet impact.

I’m pretty sure he made Demipharaoh in a couple of Tales. Demipharoahs are players with the power to permanently ban 7 players. Yes, subbed players. If they ban you, you’re gone. RIP your money.

Yep, he did. Second after Pascalito, which shows how much trust people had in him, as a leader and a mediator.

Nice thing about the ATITD wiki, it preserves peoples’ voices, even when they’re gone. I didn’t play Tale 7, but a demipharoah debate in 2015 lets merek speak for himself on who he was in ATITD.

He calls himself an “average Joe.”

I’ll tell you who he was. He was a nice guy.

And I’m going to miss him.

GW2: My Funny Friend and Me

I had a nice chance encounter the other night.

I was in Auric Basin doing events, having observed that my stock of aurillium currency was dangerously low, and hey, map rewards were on shiny bauble week, providing a good excuse to get off my lazy arse and do pylon pre-events for aurillium and exalted keys.

(I rarely do Octovine, much unlike the rest of the known world. That might change soon, as some of my longer term goals have a pressing need for Octovine-related loot.)

A bunch of events later, I was up to about 900 aurillium and 70ish exalted keys, which is pretty good for my level of lackadaisical Octovine participation. It was still extremely -early- for Octovine. One hour early, in fact.

So I was standing around, semi-afk at a waypoint, trying to decide if I should keep playing in Auric Basin and wait it out for one of my rare Octovines, or waypoint away and do something else (I don’t Octovine much anyway) or just log off GW2 and do something else.

Out of nowhere, just trundling along the raptor-infested lanes, comes a guy on his turtle.

His heavy footed, inertia-laden acceleration is suddenly cut short by a Veteran Mordrem Vinetooth, and before you can blink, both of them are locked into deadly combat. The turtle stomps, a couple of times, struggling. The vinetooth is still at half health.

I don’t even think.

I’m already there, in 900 range, unleashing a blast of necromantic green energy at the Vinetooth, as I race up and swing myself into the gunner’s seat.

The ammo is all there and waiting for me. A hail of 5 artillery shots rains down on the Vinetooth. I trigger the turtle shield that protects the mount’s health and gives back more ammo.

The turtle driver, with sudden renewed energy, starts to rev up his jump jets, which burns the Vinetooth a little more. I trigger the turtle Overdrive, which boosts the mount’s speed, acceleration and turning. Not that it really does much, since the turtle is stationary, but just in mutual response, a silent signal that “yo, I see you moving, here’s your speed if you want.”

He activates his Bond of Vigor, the ammo comes back as if we have an army of skritt fast reloading for us. I fire it all just as quickly, a hail of luminous green fire on the Vinetooth.

Another stomp. Another few more shots. The Vinetooth perishes.

It’s the start of a beautiful, temporary, friendship.

The turtle driver resumes his ponderous patrol through the paths of the Auric Basin.

I go along for the ride.

I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do anyway, so why not let him take me for a spontaneous adventure?

He’s quite a clever driver. He goes for the speed mushrooms and the adrenal mushrooms. I boost his speed with Overdrive whenever I can.

He slides through tunnels of vines and cave entrances I would have thought the turtle would never fit through. It does. Albeit with a bit of ponderous turning and shuffling now and then.

I have ammo, so I herald our passing with artillery shots on all available targets. We share xp anyway, and a bit of loot is nice.

It is tremendously cathartic to take out groups of pocket raptors with one or two shots. His slam cleans up the few that escape and rush us. At most, one more shot on ourselves directly (good thing no friendly fire) and that cleans up any mini-dinosaurs that think we’re good eating.

I go through a bunch of jungle boars. Rolling devils are nothing, turtle siege ammo and slams come with defiance breaks.

We pass some new players (with less than 50 odd mastery points) locked in deadly combat with a few normal dinosaurs. One helpful shot cleans up their fight. We are small gods, passing through the night, raining down sudden judgement on prehistoric creatures, blessing momentarily bewildered players with nary a word and leaving just as suddenly as we arrived, skidding around the bend with all the grace of an accelerating hippo.

We start visiting events. We show up at a half-health Vinetooth Prime and add a little fun artillery color to the mix. We survive that, barely. We tangled front and center with the Vinetooth for as long as our shield and health lasted, then we fled and orbited it with artillery fire while the rest of the zerg swarmed it.

We lost, rather squarely, to the event with three Elite and Champion Bristlebacks. Turns out we finally found a bigger reptilian. Three of them, anyway. Our turtle died. We cleaned up on foot.

He found an adrenal mushroom, and we had our turtle again. Onwards to high adventure!

High indeed, as he got a little trigger happy with the jump jets as we drifted right over a cliff. Turns out, if you drop a turtle from high enough, it does indeed go splat. Very hard. And so did we.

Alas, small gods lose to fall damage. The newer players had their turn in the sun as they scraped us up from the floor.

We took out Aurum, the gold ooze with nary a scale mussed.

We did get mauled by the Mordrem Stonehead Alpha and Beta – or at least the turtle did. Our driver started calling for help in map chat, as there were only three of us there. Oh, ye of little faith. We took them out in the end, by ourselves, on foot, with mutual rezzing as needed whenever one of us missed our sideways dodge and got rolled on.

Once done, it was back to turtle adventure! The driver was reluctant to waypoint – I think he thought that both of us had to do so. I told him to go for it, as I wanted to see how it actually worked. Sure enough, once he waypointed, I got the loadscreen without having to do a thing and just came along with him, still mounted. I think it works like that within the same map.

We did a few more quarter city perimeter patrols, while he searched for a nice direction that he wanted to be at for Octovine. By now, it was about 15 minutes to Octovine. How the time had flown by!

Alas, he decided on south and decided he needed to go AFK for the remaining time. So I bid him thanks and adieu. South ain’t really my thing, no pushes and I dislike swapping to pulls, which drag all the ugly in my direction. I rather shore up a less populated direction, so I popped on over to west and didn’t see him again until the final post-victory treasure chest opening sequence, where we were far too busy opening chests to allude to our brief, but fiery, testudine acquaintance.

If there’s one thing I really notice in the End of Dragons expansion, that I hope the developers continue and aren’t discouraged by the flocks of players calling for more and better closed silos to solo or squad in, is the design work of building bridges and scaffolding across the deep divides that Heart of Thorns first engendered.

The turtle is a two player mount. It is built to synergize. Like combos, before people figured out how to blast their own fields and do it all themselves. It is designed for driver and gunner to make a social connection, no matter how small.

The gunner goes nowhere that the driver doesn’t take them. They offer trust and the wheel to the driver. (Of course you can always choose to get off, if the driver is a maniac.)

The driver creates the experience for their gunner. How fast, how slow, whether you’re in range or no, how awkwardly or smoothly you both travel. There is naches, the feeling of pride or gratification at someone else’s achievements. You set up that shot the gunner took.

The driver opens up access to their turtle. It’s not open by default. By doing so, they are inviting another to share in the experience. It’s a social gesture.

The gunner does have a bit more fun. That’s the point. It’s the pleasure of supporting another, carrying them on the back of their turtle shell, both together on the same road, greater than the sum of the parts.

Calling for “oh, more attacks for the driver” misses the point entirely. Yeah, I know what you want. You want to just trundle around solo on the turtle by yourselves, stomping stuff, and pretending to be prestigious, with the doors to turtle boarding closed. You want a shiny WoW dragon in GW2.

No, the turtle is a tank. Not an MMO tank. A military tank. Driver plus gunner. Still needs infantry support. But when driver and gunner share the same mind, it’s a beautiful thing. And it’s beautiful design.

GW2: Efficiency Numbers, One Week Later

You know you’ve played too much GW2 when your right index finger starts hurting.

I have a keyboard key bound to left click, for mass bag opening sessions (my mouse scroll doesn’t scroll very well, I prefer the key) but evidently, those left clicks have been sneaking in outside of those sessions.

Part of it is playing a gunner-like class with piercing projectiles. You always want to target the back row so you conveniently also smash through all the front mobs with one burst. There’s a lot more camera swiveling and pivoting as compared to my older but now slightly boring dragonhunter main which can just target nearest and go.

The other has been those sneaky champion bags that drop in 2-3 at a time. It’s not exactly a mass bag opening session, and my bank is a little too full to transfer them and stock up for an opening session on a lowbie character. (It doesn’t really feel that profitable these days either, linen and the lower mats are quite cheap; and I’m suddenly in dire need of mithril and elder wood, having suddenly taken it into my head to keep my banked materials low by crafting legendary shards towards Claw of the Khan-Ur.)

So I just absent-mindedly pop them open, salvage stuff and deposit all materials, all left-clicking with the mouse because I’m not really thinking and “eh, it’s just a few bags.”

I could have sworn I cleared about 30 bag spaces on this character when I started End of Dragons. Halp!

No, no, it’s not. Over time, one champion after another, it’s really not.

So now my mouse profile has button 5 (operated with the thumb) bound to left click again, and I’m chilling out on intensive GW2 play, reminding myself to use the damn keyboard key, rather than absent-mindedly keep on clicking.

To divert myself, a blog post seemed appropriate.

It’s been a week since I was staring at GW2efficiency numbers… how have things changed, one week on?

As mentioned previously (all usual caveats apply), the percentage provided by GW2efficiency was a little useless, since it was comparing over 350k odd accounts, most of which probably didn’t have End of Dragons. So I got rid of that number and in the above table, I’ve re-calculated percentage based on the Old Friends chapter 1 completion number.

Frankly, everything’s going up.

I think there are just a lot of players who play like the siege turtle, slow and steady. 40% still haven’t completed the story yet.

The above are the absolute numbers, draw from them whatever conclusions you will. I don’t really care.

Below are some of my subjective calculations, based on a bit of back-of-the-napkin logic and generalization:

Here’s the reasoning for the first. I feel like most people will only attempt the Dragon’s End meta once they get to that point in the story. If they’re still messing around in chapters 1-3 and blissing out on the cherry blossoms in Seitung Province, it’s highly unlikely they’re going to charge all the way through several maps just to get to Dragon’s End to do the meta… when they’re probably going to need to do it anyway at the proper time for their True Ending achievement, or if they want to see the story in an order that makes sense.

So we want to see how many people have finished Chapter 12 – Weight of the World, who then would logically have a reason to be in the Dragon’s End map and looking for a meta. That’s about 63k last week and 68k this week.

Of those people, how many GW2eff accounts successfully cleared the meta once and got their Dragon Pacifier achievement? 35k and 40k respectively for last week and this week.

So percentage-wise, we’re looking at 55% successful completion last week and 59% successful completion this week, out of those who finished chapter 12. Just a little more than half. Good? Bad? Okay? Eh, I dunno. You can entertain your own opinions.

Me, I don’t think it’s that bad. If it can be better, I won’t argue against it, I’ll just chill out more and relax. I like chilling out and relaxing. But I don’t think it’s grounds for end of the world complaints. (Now, lagging for 3000ms as one drops packets all over the place, or getting black screens on character log-ins… that’s something else entirely.)

For the second, despite my automatic knee-jerk distaste for instanced group content on principle, I have to be fair. Logically, people will only start looking for and doing strikes when they’ve finished the story and are looking for *ahem* “endgame” things to do.

So instead of just comparing against the Old Friends number (40% of which are still trailing behind somewhere in early Cantha), the denominator is the total number of players who have finished the 15th story chapter.

Is there some potential error in this back of the napkin comparison? Sure. I’m sure there are players who cannot be bothered to finish the story but really like strikes and have gone ahead and done them. I’m also sure there are players who have finished the story and won’t touch a single strike. Both will offset the other to some degree. How many are in each category is unknown, but I suspect the more casual latter category to be more populous than the former.

If we just take it at face value though, the turtle effect is a strong motivator for just gritting one’s teeth and doing Kaineng Overlook once. Nearly 61% have participated at least once in Kaineng Overlook, whereas the more normal strike numbers seem to be in the 45-47% range, despite Aetherblade Hideout and Xunlai Junkyard being considered the easier strikes.

Out of the GW2efficiency accounts that have completed the Dragon End’s meta once and gotten their turtle egg, 94% did throw themselves into Kaineng Overlook. May as well, eh?

50-60% participation overall after story completion for the easier strikes seem rather respectable though.

I admit, I am now part of that number. The easy strikes are quick and easy enough that I can deal with PUGing them when greed for gold and green prophet crystals overtakes my reluctance to deal with strange, unknown, possibly annoying players. Not every day. Some days my hermit-like misanthropy takes over and I just want to be alone. But some days, especially on daily strike days when there are double chests, yea, I can be part of your group for 10 minutes so that you get the group content gameplay you so dearly crave, and I get to open a few more chests.

Of course there could be confounders. There could be some alt accounts who bought EoD that just got pulled up to do strikes with friends without finishing the story , and those would mask a few of those accounts who finished story and didn’t do any strikes.

Also, GW2efficiency as mentioned, by definition, is a place where the more dedicated players sign themselves up. One would expect the actual participation to be lower, once diluted by the hundreds and thousands of less intense players who wouldn’t want to sign up for GW2efficiency, or have never heard of it. But taken at face value, just looking at GW2eff accounts with Canthan access… imo, it’s not bad.

Harvest Temple, being on a more raid-like level with multiple phases, naturally and logically, is at a much lower completion percentage.

I’ve PUGed it twice now. It definitely takes a certain headspace to be in to deal with. Preferably very much when not lagging.

Anyhow, there’s a wide world of GW2 out there besides Cantha. I’ve found myself dipping back into HoT zones to refill currency, and the next long term goal is to revisit the Icebrood Saga zones to finish up the legendary amulet Return To… stuff I missed during last year’s GW2 break.

Super Adventure Box has popped back into town for three weeks, and there’s a dog park in Lion’s Arch for April Fools’. Plenty of stuff to do.

I’m going to be spending gems, aren’t I, once these doggos turn up in the gem store… This one in particular…

GW2: Overthinking Lag (and How to Continue)

I was going to write a deep, brooding post about how it’s easy to begin things, and more difficult to continue them, and even harder to end them.

I was going to tie that into how I was over-reading Reddit and getting occasionally mildly peeved by comments that lack nuance and context – “Want to do group content? Oh, join a guild!” – conveniently glossing over potential issues like timezone matching, finding said guild in the first place, how much time and effort commitment might be involved and whether the group culture matches or might devolve into conflict and drama.

I was going to lament that in general, the world does a lot of talking about and encouraging the first, and pays less attention to the latter two things. That I was struggling with thinking about the latter two things, even while beginning with the GW2 End of Dragons expansion, trying to discern the depth and level to which I might want to be playing for now.

What level of gameplay can I maintain? How easy or hard might it be to end, when I need it to?

Be it for a gameplay session – I had an elderly relative suddenly need emergency chaffeuring to the A&E for kidney stones the other day, I just dropped quickly and easily from Dragon’s End and that was it, no long explanations or justifications to another social group required, or sense of guilt from not fulfilling one set of obligations – or for a months long break if burnout or boredom hits.

I was going to muse about how shorter, accessible drop-in, drop-out content like map metas and even strikes, where you pop into a group to contribute for 10-20 mins when you have the time, might be a better fit for me at this stage, while brooding about the allure of trying out strike challenge modes, which would be best done seeking out an organized group – with all the baggage and preparation required to commit for an indefinite amount of time.

I was going to waffle about my greed for profit-making from strikes and just checking out new content while it’s hot and learning while the playerbase is less set in their ways versus whether it’s worth just not participating in the content, since it’s only played by a smaller fraction of players than those who do map metas, and shifting Arenanet’s metrics accordingly.

Or maybe just going for the easier strikes and avoiding like the plague the harder ones, just to prove that a majority of players do prefer the path of least resistance. But… that mastery point. But new content. Achievement get. Surely it’s worth seeing once? *cue Explorer twitching*

Later, I was going to posit that I was possibly overthinking it, and that in the past week, I just went for it. Beginnings being supremely easy, after all. You jump in. Fall flat on your face a few times. You learn what not to do the hard way. You don’t do it again after that.

That I even lucked into someone LFG posting a Harvest Temple learning-progression run and that we basically banged our heads on it for 2-3 hours, going phase by phase until it all got figured out.

And that I started feeling real antsy by the end of that time, but stuck it out anyway because it was my best shot at the achievement, and learned something valuable about the second-to-last phase (projectile absorbs and reflects are really good against the bullet hell orb) that may have saved another PUG run a few days later.

Continuings and endings though. Ah, those are harder. Much harder.

This is not that post. (Or maybe it is.)

This is a post about it being all moot anyway, because in the last two days, I have somehow suffered through Dragon’s End with 3-4 second ping. Not milliseconds. Seconds.

It is hilarious. It has to be hilarious, because otherwise I will be throwing breakable things through other breakable things.

It is certainly, on a 1-10 scale of enjoyment, much less enjoyable than actually being able to fire off skills and react to cues on time. (Let’s say 5-6, whereas the latter case would be a 8-9.)

What’s amazing is that it’s even possible. I get side-swiped by every last tidal wave in existence, of course, since I’m not seeing any half of the arena light up in time to react. Pretty resigned to just dropping dead and looking like the world’s biggest noob in existence. There’s a Pact airship for port backs… assuming the waypoint clicking registers eventually.

Mostly I just stand at 900 range away from Soo-Won’s smashes and go harbinger auto-attack gatling gun with the sporadic laggy as f–k skill 2s interspersed. No fancy skill-weaving of 4 or 3s; those are for less laggy times.

The first run was pretty funny. It was a Discord run, and the calls were coming in on-time and clear. It was, as usual, just the server routing from where I am to where Arenanet’s Amazon servers are, busy dropping packets in the middle of our timezone’s prime time. So it felt like playing blind and just logically predicting everything.

Guy calls “tail” and I don’t see nuthing, but hey, I’ll just run to where the tail should be, and wait for it to appear on my screen 3 seconds later. This is the phase where Soo-Won throws an arena-wide tidal wave, and she normally appears south-west-ish, so let me try to hug this crystal on the north-east side about 5-10 seconds beforehand and try to micro-adjust when she appears and let’s roll the lottery on whether I survive or no. Hey, I lived!

Unfortunately, he had a tendency to just call “move” for half-arena tidal waves, which wasn’t -quite- descriptive enough for me at the time. Ah well, we learn things the hard way. In the future, maybe we try to hug the half line more. Heh.

The second run wasn’t a Discord run alas. Just a typed chat one. So it was basically a self-guessing game and mostly side-swiped by every last badly predicted orange that appeared 3-4 seconds later.

It’s the old albatross of GW2 come home to roost yet again.

If I play at NA or EU times, this doesn’t happen, but my sleep schedule is already twisted from too much obsessive play of End of Dragons and it’s not sustainable in the long run. Especially once work starts pushing all of us back into the office more than they already are.

Somehow, from around 8-10pm of our SEA timezone, with my ISP’s default routing, there are a couple of servers just off where GW2 sits that clutter up really badly and start dropping packets all over the place. Maybe it’s 8am-10am est over in NA territory and everyone’s having their online meetings and such.

The solution for this is to go get a VPN, and basically force the routes to switch away from that cluttered point.

I’ve been idly poking around at a few VPN websites… but it always makes me wonder why I should be paying $5-10 USD monthly just to offset a couple hours when the trouble periods take place. I did it for a few months when my raid static was still ongoing, but I can’t say it wasn’t a factor into why extreme frustration and resentment built up over time.

Then there’s the risk of getting swept up in a massive ban wave if I should happen to pick the same VPN and get similar IP ranges that botters and hackers might be using.

No resolution on this yet. It basically boils down to several options:

  1. Get a full fledged VPN and pay the $5-10USD monthly for the period this lag issue lasts. Live with the inconvenience of disconnecting from the game/map when I want to turn the VPN on, and the risk of getting side-swiped in a ban wave.

2. Survive with a partial bandwidth-limited VPN option. I’ve been idly testing out BitDefender and one of its cheaper pricing options comes with a VPN with a daily limit of 200 MB. It’s… just enough to last one round of Dragon’s End, preparation events included.

3. Don’t get a VPN and just log off during the bad lag periods, or sit around in town doing crafting and all the necessary inventory management fiddling that GW2 tends to spawn after some gameplay time.

Option 1 is more necessary if I want to go through the effort of participating in hardcore group content. Just one more hurdle in an already occasionally depressing list of things to prepare to get all of one’s ducks in a row before potential fun can take place.

Option 2 is a more middle-of-the-line casual option with the limited ability to level out my ping for a more crucial map meta or strike that happens to be taking place at a bad hour. Except there is the chance that the spaces may fill up before I can even get the VPN on. I might also start feeling like I want an unlimited option to stop having to worry about suddenly running out of bandwidth.

Option 3 is the non-participation option. Just lazily do nothing and wait it out. It is possible. It also may just wind up with me having nothing feasible to do and losing interest in the game and meandering over to more attractive, less laggy games. It’s not an unappealing option, I’ll tell you that.

As usual, I might be overthinking this. It’s not like any challenge modes have shown up in any strikes yet.

Maybe the internet kerfluffle will cease by the time the first CM appears. Maybe I’ll just pop in on a weekend during NA time and luck into an LFG that’s looking for a few fillers. Maybe the guild advertisements will start when there is an actual need for teams to form. Maybe I’ll have lost interest in GW2 by then, or something might crop up IRL that stops me from playing, and it’ll be all moot regardless.

Some serious reflection is needed.

My default stance would veer to somewhere between option 2 and 3. I could always upgrade for a month or two if and when necessary.

I think I’m only thinking about this so hard now because the trial for BitDefender is coming to a close. So if I decide to pick it up, that would have an impact on which tier pricing I opt for. The cheaper option would be the more casual stances, but there’s that little niggling thought in the back of the mind whether I might like greater convenience and flexibility if I just go for the “no worries” unlimited VPN option.

(Of course, if I get swatted by a blindly-wielded banhammer while on a “no worries” unlimited VPN option, it’s going to make me very cross indeed.)

Or I could use a different, possibly better VPN than BitDefender’s premium option, because the options honestly don’t look that premium compared to other VPNs.

And here I go, overthinking it all over again.

It’s enough to make me think I should just pick up the Nintendo Switch and play that instead.