GW2: Plenty of Problems, But This Ain’t One of ‘Em

MassivelyOP has successfully trolled me into another blog post. This time, it’s regarding the GW2 Skyscale flying mount, wherein it’s patently obvious that no actual firsthand experience was involved at the time of writing.

Yes, I understand that articles are written way in advance. But could you kindly resist from making statements with no basis in reality, then?

Pet peeve: Verifiably wrong things, stated as facts.

“The only way you can actually spend more than a few seconds in the air is if you jump off of something really tall and glide down.”

“Also, there are no flying mounts in GW2. At best they glide. Literally any mount in any MMORPG that flies (i.e. stays in the air indefinitely by design) is superior.”

You know who you are.

skyscale_hover

I’ve been up here for half an hour, sorting through my inventory bags, and then alt-tabbed out to write this blog post.

I dunno about you, but in my book, that certainly seems longer than a few seconds in the air, pretty indefinitely, by design.

Granted, any horizontal X-axis movement is going to lower me steadily, and incrementing the vertical Y-axis without a friendly wall to cling to involves waiting for a minute for Bond of Vigor to cooldown and recharge half of the green flight bar.

At a certain height exceeding the point you took off from, there is also some sort of ceiling where the flight meter is drained very quickly, so that you lower back to maximum hover height, possibly in an attempt to keep you from ascending forever into the skybox to insta-die.

For horizontal gliding and SPEED, once you get the hang of downward diving for acceleration and then climbing back up with mount ability key 2, the griffon is superior. 

For vertical takeoff and landing, fine-grained control in a small area and indefinite HOVERing (40 mins and counting), that’s where you look towards the skyscale.

Honestly, given its specialities, I’m more or less convinced that its main role is to cover one of WoW’s flying mounts’ features – lording it over the hoi polloi by hovering on a gigantic dragon, mount and rider doing their best to block the trading post from view.

And yeah, you can use it as a hybrid springer with finer-scale control, crossed with a slower gliding griffon, just with added infinite hover potential.

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There have been some criticisms over the whole process of attaining one.

For someone who had been previously all psyched up to finish legendary medium armor, the collections did not really raise massive alarm bells, which might be more an indication of how mentally unbalanced the Achiever portion of my brain can get.

There were some identical go-here, go-there un-clued collections which were of poorer quality. Resorting to a third-party guide to get through those quickly is probably what 95% of players do, me included.

There were some nicer legendary-style collections, themed, with better clues and directions, including visible waypoint markers! which sent players back to old maps to revisit content. I liked those.

There was massive dismay at timegates, of which I personally did not find too onerous. They are pre-set stopping points. Being content to be a couple days behind meant that I made a nice killing selling timegated components for the first two days – grow lamps for 70 and 60 gold on the TP. After the 15% tax, that’s 110g contributed to my legendary medium collection from players who need it now. Sweet.

Anyway, ArenaNet tweaked some of the timegates after reading the feedback, so that’s even better. They’re actually listening and demonstrating it! And communicating! What is this, I don’t even-…

There was a huge histrionic fainting uproar at the revelation that 250 of each LS4 map currency would be needed in a later collection.

My only criticism is that it would have been really nice to know all the requirements before, and not reliant on the first few players to unlock the next collection, just so that each player could plan ahead and make more efficient use of their time.

I get that there’s some drama and excitement and even prestige for the spades/explorers/first-to-gets by keeping some of these secret, but it was a little irritating to know that the previous days could have been better spent.

I’d been somewhat laggard catching up with the LS4 maps, having not been actively playing for much of the time they were released, so I had only about half the currencies needed. That meant a furious altholic hearts-grind for 2-3 days, pulling out some 11+ characters and cycling them through easy hearts to buy 5 currency each for karma.

It’s not something I do on a regular basis for sure, but I found it mildly interesting for the three days to go into super-efficient achiever grind mode. The benefits of having a secondary Achiever function. Fortunately, I was already in the mood for grinding.

If not, well, there’s always tomorrow.

Oh yes, since it’s been two weeks, I assume that most people who cared have at least logged in to check out the first episode.

If not, too bad, you can take this like a teaser image instead. You’ll see this at the very beginning episode anyway.

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I love this. The scale is awesome.

A few more landscape shots of the new map.

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P.S. 50 minutes and counting. I guess it’s time to come down now.

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GW2: New Map

Wow.

Avoiding spoilers, suffice to say that there are some serious stops being pulled out.

Visually it knocks your socks off.

I am so happy I have the monitor I have right now.

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I have a FANTASTIC spoiler-laden shot of a really big dragon, that is absolutely done justice in 3840×1080, but we’ll save that for a later post, after folks (me included) have had time to go through the latest release.

Here We Go Round the Grindberry Bush

You’d think I’d learn by now.

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

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

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

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To this:

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

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

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

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

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

I guess these things come in cycles.

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

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

I get very very antsy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That chasing up side avenues is fine.

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

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

I tried out the practice on the Relic Farming project.

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

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

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

3. Next Target – Loki Prime Systems

4. Experiment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

legmedss

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

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

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

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

grindberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s still pretty grindy though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll see how things go from there.

Wide Screen, Narrow Focus

The biggest piece of news for me on the games front has been the upgrade of an ailing six-year old monitor to something about three times as ludicrous. Literally.

As in, super-ultra wide.

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I had the opportunity to pick up one of Samsung’s 49″ CHG90 monitors for 25% off and decided to go for it. You only live once and all that.

It’s currently being powered by my new-old PC (that is, it’s still new in my mind but objectively old by now) and putting the then-awesome GTX 980 through its paces (eh, it’s about time it gets a workout.)

Any further upgrades will have to wait a little, as the monitor, even discounted, costs about the same as an entire PC, but damn, is it glorious.

Naturally, I’ve been doing very little with it beyond playing the same old games.

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But in a whole new way.

It’s not been all smooth-sailing. One of the sticking points that are nigh immediately surfaced is the fact that very few games and developers have thought about ultrawide displays as an important consideration until recently, so UI can be a major problem.

Resizing it, moving it, not having it so far away in your peripheral vision that you can’t see any health reports and thus immediately die because you have no idea how you’re actually doing. Each game can be a whole new exercise in tweaking and customizing the UI until it becomes acceptable.

For someone who really values immersion as a motivation while playing games though, that feeling of being lost inside a wholly different world, and revels in the awe and inspiring nature of a fantastical landscape, the experience of playing on an ultrawide is something not to miss.

If VR is about wrapping a screen around your face so that you feel like you’re there in a different environment, then a super-ultrawide is about having a screen attempt to take up as much of your actual field of vision as possible, while still giving you plenty of room for air.

It is strangely sating.

I can play less, and feel completely satisfied. A couple of Warframe missions and I’m bowled over by so much visual spectacle that it’s hard to crave more.

Which is all very well because I’ve been splitting up my time into Path of Exile’s Synthesis League. Being SSF blissfully insulates me from any dissatisfaction of the general population.

The Spectral Throw claw-wielder I’ve been attempting is a bit of a slow bloomer, reliant on gear I probably don’t have, so it’s been a little more challenging than usual. Something I was quite aware of going in, so I don’t have any complaints on that front, but it’s slow going and tempting me to make a second character to try another build.

PoE is one of those games where going super-ultrawide does NOT do survival any favors, thanks to putting UI way beyond any visibility. So I’ve been playing it in a more sedate windowed “wide” view that expands my field of vision some, but not absurdly.

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It does, amusingly, provide enough room for me to have Path of Building up in another window right next to it, so that’s a nifty bonus when I want to refer easily to it.

You’d think one of the best games to be messing around with a super-ultrawide display is Guild Wars 2, and you’d be right, from a visual spectacle standpoint… except that I’m still struggling with overall veteran burnout – it all feels pretty boring doing the same old thing.

I did get a few cool screenshots while doing the same old thing:

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These are in the middle of raids, so graphics have been cranked down to middling to eke out every last drop of FPS.

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I got a WvW screenie for kicks, even though I don’t WvW much at all.

If there’s one thing I figured out right quick from the above, it’s that there can be very much hardware-related reasons as to why person A might perform differently from person B.

I felt like I had a noticeable amount of greater situational awareness just from the wider field of view, though smaller detailed nuances (like where your feet might be standing) might be harder to spot as a result.

If some WvW person seems to have a better grasp of their surroundings, it may very well be that they’re not looking through a porthole and do indeed have a broad overview of the entire field of battle, as it were.

Ah well, I suppose that’s life.

I certainly wouldn’t advise picking up an ultrawide display just to be competitive – if only because the words GW2 and competition go together laughably, if at all.

Eventually, I’ll get tired of Path of Exile and maybe that will bring enough time to broaden out to testing other games. Minecraft, Shadow of War, and others. But for the moment, slaughtering hordes of mobs in pretty surroundings is checking all my boxes.

I did take five minutes of random touring in order to leave you with some “proper” GW2 screenshots as I sign off till next time…

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