Two Things That Make Me Wonder…

“Is it too late to start?”

I visit Reddit a lot.

Every week, it seems like there’s another person asking a variant of this question for the two game reddits I visit, and probably more besides in the other game reddits I don’t visit.

What is the point of asking this, really, pray tell?

The only time a “No, it’s too late” answer is likely is when it’s an online game and the servers have shut down and/or there’s not enough critical mass of players for multiplayer matches (and even then, the players might try to get one more into the fold.)

Far more pertinent questions would be:

  • “How time-consuming is this game?”
  • “How steep a learning curve does this have?”
  • “How long would it take me to get on a level or competitive playing field with veterans?” etc.

in order to figure out the real question of “Is it worth spending my time to learn or play this game?”


 

“Yep, this really makes me want to buy Black Lion Keys with real money, stat!”

newblchest

Trust Guild Wars 2 to make me want to buy lockboxes…

…from a different game.

The point of lockbox gambling is the thrill of seeing something cool pop up, while consoling yourself that the worse the lockbox can offer isn’t too bad and can still be used/useful.

Not, oh my god, that is so shit that I got totally gipped.

The boosters, at least, had that opportunity for potential future usefulness.

I challenge anyone to look at the picture above and say with a straight face that “eh, it’s not so bad, they can still be used.”

Transmutation charges would have more freaking use.

A guaranteed wardrobe unlock item in the place of the booster would have been perfect.

I leave you with the video comparison of some poor soul opening 75 new black lion chests ($78.75usd in worth):

To contrast against a different game’s lockboxes (>$100usd in worth):

Study the emotional punch of opening one GW2 black lion chest vs one PoE mystery box and seeing what pops out.

One makes you feel “Cool, it’s not what I wanted, but I could use that. Probably. Eventually. Maybe another one will have what I want. Just… one more…”

The other makes you go, “Let’s open these as quickly as I can in order not to feel the figurative gut punch of an individual box that has nothing but shit inside, and hope that the aggregate adds up to something that won’t make me feel like I wasted my money.”

You’re selling an experience here, people.

I know which I’d rather pay for.

Disclaimer: I got my Black Lion Chest Key for free. That state of affairs is quite unlikely to change at this present moment in time.

The Parable of the Bad Pottery Teacher

I may have mentioned a while back that I’ve been dabbling with pottery lessons.

They started out great, staying that way throughout the six weeks of beginner handbuilding.

The teacher was appropriately attentive, both in demonstrating what to do with practiced hands and in taking a step back to allow the student to get the feel of the clay, while observing mistakes and offering tips and fixes to solve issues that came up.

Some time through the intermediate lessons, the teacher’s attitude inexplicably changed.

Perhaps it was me – maybe I unknowingly offered grievous insult to his honor with a humble jest that I -thought- demonstrated student modesty.

It was an offhand smiling remark to another student and him about how all the great bits of my piece were the mark of a master’s hand, after he had helped, and all the lopsided bits were mine.

Or perhaps it was him. Over the weeks of the lessons, he seemed perceptibly disinterested in teaching – complaining bitterly to older hands and partner potters that he had to rush to prepare for suddenly booked corporate events; that student works were piling up needing to either be kiln-fired or collected by beginner students who never returned after the first six weeks; bitching within earshot of existing students that the various newbies showed up with no or last minute notification or didn’t bother to attend lessons as they felt like it – and generally evincing distinct signs of burnout.

My last couple of intermediate lessons felt like an exercise in deliberate inattention.

He’d walk by to offer the odd word of advice to the one or two beginner students, then walk out the door and put himself incommunicado, leaving us to flounder on doing our own things.

Now and then, again in earshot of all the struggling students, he’d express his belief in his supremely hands-off teaching style to another obviously experienced artist potter who was just sharing the same venue.

“Give us time and space to make our own mistakes and screwups, and then figure out how to fix it for ourselves” seemed to be the general gist.

Inside, I was fuming with frustration.

No, really, I get the hands-off method.

I think it makes sense, judiciously applied, but:

a) the student has to feel that the teacher -cares- (the vibe I got was mostly laziness, judgmentalism and burnout)

and b) the student has to have some basic grounding in HOW to even begin looking for answers to fix the problems they’re having

With both missing, chances are fairly good that a sizeable subset of students will drown, for every one student who flounders on to reach shore, having figured it out for themselves.

Tossing people into the deep end of the pool after demonstrating a swim stroke once and waiting to see who comes out is -not- good teaching.

In my book, anyway. I expect a good teacher to be able to break things down for a student, encourage step-by-step practice and gradual progress, observe errors and offer guided advice on how to fix the problem and in general, scaffold the student’s learning.

After the end of my intermediate lessons, I took a short break and really questioned if I wanted to go on to the advanced lessons of wheel throwing with said less-than-good teacher, especially since he seemed to be doing everything in his power to dissuade me from even paying him for the next set of lessons.

Mostly, it was the sunk cost fallacy that did me in. The beginner and intermediate lessons were a prerequisite for the advanced ones. If I walked now, and sourced for another teacher, the effort, time and money sunk into the previous months would likely have to be written off, as I’d end up fulfilling said teacher’s cynical prophecies of a student that would never come back.

Also, it didn’t seem polite to end abruptly. Leaving after a beginning, middle, end sequence was another thing altogether. One could then seek out another teacher and say truthfully that one had completed a pottery course, but was now looking for further improvement and new perspectives from a brand new teacher.

So I went ahead and signed myself up for another six weeks of instructorial neglect.

Halfway through now, and it went about as much as expected. One demonstration and then left to one’s own floundering devices.

Maybe I frustrate him as much as he frustrates me. Maybe he just doesn’t know -how- to teach me.

I remember things slowly, especially when it comes to visual bodily demonstrations. Perhaps my mirror neurons are somewhat dysfunctional, I do not really learn viscerally. Dance, exercise, pottery, you name it, I cannot see once and automatically ape.

It has to be repeated multiple times. I have to preferably read it, in step-by-step fashion. I have to see pictures and photographs and rehearse placing my hands in the demonstrated positions. Theory must come before practice.

Instead, full of frustration, I’m often left googling up “pottery concept X” after the lesson that introduces the name of concept X and not much else beyond the realization that I’m making a right muckup of concept X because I don’t even know what I’m actually supposed to ideally do in the first place.

I learn more by eavesdropping. Imagine that.

Said teacher is having a extended cheerful conversation with another experienced potter, just chilling and hanging out and steadily ignoring me, and he pulls out his phone and shows her some Youtube video of an advanced technique from a potter of a different country. He does -not- show the video to me.

I make such a right muckup of concept X (centering, if anyone knows pottery) for hours and look so distressed and woebegone, that after the “bad” teacher has rushed out of the workshop to grab his lunch before his next batch of ungrateful students, that the other experienced potter comes over and offers me a completely free demonstration of the way she does it – and by the way, more emotional support in those five minutes than the last five weeks.

She then promptly screws it up with a perfectly overheard conversation to the teacher who just came back, expressing her own helplessness at trying to explain concept X to me, while he offers her a commiserating knowing smile and shrug.

I stifle an internal scream.

It isn’t until the lesson is over and I’m furiously googling again when I chance upon THE article that sings to me – The Clay Will Tell You How You Are.

Here is a woman who makes me feel better because she’s had an even worse time of it than me.

At least my piece of clay didn’t turn into a flying projectile, but just sat there as an insistently lopsided soppy wet yet hard and sandy lump that evoked the ever unproductive ritual question and answer from student to master:

“Is this centered?”

“Not centered.”

“Now?”

“Not centered.”

“How about now?”

“Not centered.”

I bite back on the words, “What the FUCK is centered then? How does it even look? What the FUCK am I aiming for here?” because I know I’ll get no words, just the guy’s hands coming down on my piece of clay doing magic stuff with me none the wiser.

I did learn one thing though.

When you have a bad teacher, the Internet is your best teacher.

After seeing the Youtube video being shown to the other potter, angels descended and sang Hallelujah in my head because my eyes were suddenly opened to the source of a DOZEN good teachers.

Ten Youtube video clips of “pottery centering” later, I had the foundation concepts and the scaffolding that I had not been privy to before this.

No one had told me that I was supposed to brace my hand against my leg, or that the wheel had to be at a decent speed, or that the idea was to push in one direction while easing up in the desired direction so that the clay had some place to go.

They knew how to do it, but they didn’t know how to teach it.

Those on Youtube did.

The following week, I magically produce a 98% acceptable centered piece of clay after a couple of false starts and self-experiments.

(No doubt I also just confirm in my teacher’s head that his style of teaching is perfect.)

Things go well until I run aground in the next progression step of “lifting the clay to make a tall cylinder.”

We engage in a failure cycle of call and response again until the end of the lesson.

This time though, I know what to do in order to progress my own learning next week.

cylindervid

So why I have spent 1400 words telling you guys about my pottery lessons on a -game- blog?

It strikes me that learning is learning, regardless of the subject.

It could be pottery, it could be Civilization 6, it could be Path of Exile, MMO raids, PvP or whatever.

We all want the ideal of the understanding good teacher that cares and knows how to break it down just right so that we can learn what we don’t even know, let alone don’t understand.

(Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe you have some other ideal of the perfect teacher that is just right for you. Goldilocks style, not too soft, not too hard.)

Chances are bloody good that we’re not going to get one.

We would be immensely lucky if we strike gold on the first attempt at sourcing a great teacher.

Chances are far more likely that we’re going to hit judgmental people; people too self-absorbed in their own lives to bother much about your learning; people far too ready to go for the expedient assumption of “unteachable, boot him/her out of here” much more often than a good teacher with a heart of gold. (The latter burn out real fast, I hear.)

They’re going to do shit things to your emotions.

But there’s always one person that -is- committed to your learning, and that knows -exactly- how you like to learn.

Yep. You.

Perhaps that’s the teacher to really have a heart-to-heart conversation with.

 

GW2: The Nerfs Will Continue Until Morale Improves

The watchword of the day is annoyance.

I suppose this is a change from the past month, where the operating phrase was “cruise control.”

However, I am not sure this is a terribly positive change.

The silver lining, of course, is that I finally got frustrated enough to break through into coherence on this blog again.

Most of last month was me questioning myself, “What are you feeling when you play the games you’re playing? Do you have anything to write or blog about?”

And the reply, as always, was “ehh… nothing very much. I’m not sure I’m feeling anything. Kinda numb. Empty. Just cruising. Kinda contented, I guess. Not happy happy. But not depressed or sad either. I’m just doing what needs to be done.

“A chore is a chore is a chore. It’s not super-tedious, but it’s nothing to get excited over either. You do it, mark it off the to-do list for the day or week, and proceed not to think about it any longer. You certainly don’t find a dire need to wax eloquently on a blog about brushing your teeth, bathing, cleaning the house, picking up groceries, paying the bills, doing GW2 dailies, doing PoE dailies, -every- day and -every- post.

“You know what? This is too much thinking about trying to write about nothing. Let’s go play Path of Exile. Your next build is waiting to be leveled or improved incrementally.”

The result: zero blog posts.

Until now. Where ArenaNet’s somewhat overzealous nerf of the standard chronomancer and necromancer raid meta builds promises ripple effects that will shake up the meta, in as yet unknown ways.

Doom and gloom has a way of spreading across Reddit and the forums though, and the knee-jerk reactions of others are not doing wonders for -my- mood either.

The reason why I’m blogging about it though is mostly a need to work out a bunch of conflicting emotions, and having no other outlet but to lay it all out here.

I have an underlying foundation of stability throughout whatever the hell excuse for “balance” occurs in GW2. The fact is that it is possible to own one of every class, if not more. I am also quite confident in being able to equip each class with whatever the hell is defined as “good” in the next meta, even if it will cost time and money to do so.

So even as one class gets hit with the nerf bat, another class will naturally be in ascendance, and if I have to equip and change to that class, SO BE IT. It is doable.

I know that I can -eventually- adapt to whatever’s needed. My raid group is full of people who can multiclass, so chances are fairly good that eventually the team will sort itself out into a new configuration that can cope – even if we might have to wait for the new strategies to be developed and then faithfully ape in cookie-cutter fashion.

Of course, doable does not mean easy, cheap or enjoyable.

Some classes aesthetically appeal to different personalities more. Some classes are easier to play without having to manage a concerto on the keyboard. Some classes have cheaper builds or less specific role responsibility to tax one’s concentration and reflexes.

I’d previously found a very happy place in raids as a condi PS berzerker-warrior.

I fulfill a support role by buffing might and providing banners. It even gives fury and added condition damage. Adding on burns on a boss ups the dps of the necromancer-reapers, who get a serious amount of burns to epidemic bounce.

I enjoy condition damage, it’s strategically different from straight up direct damage, there’s having to pay attention to layering on stacks and yet being able to pause and dodge and deal with other mechanics for a breath while still pulsing damage.

Also it is FIRE. My readers should know my pyromaniac obsession by now. I have the most luck sticking to classes and builds that let me play with fire, be it City of Heroes, Path of Exile or GW2. Fire particle effects just make me happy.

dropbearonfire

morefire

Not terribly original, perhaps, being a darkity dark lord with shoulder spikes and on fire, but who freaking cares when you can watch the world burn?

coh_worldburn

Warriors are straightforward. They hit things with their head. A perfect match personality-wise. They’re fairly survivable and sturdy – which is good because I tend to be clumsy and insta-die on squishier classes.

They contribute a decent amount of control. Condi PS especially excels with immobilizes, and I have felt successful in my niche but not terribly demanding role holding Gorseval spirits and escort wargs.

And I am now sulking and in a spot of mourning because it looks like the ripple effect is going to catch condi PS warriors in its wake.

The “common knowledge” being bandied about is that condi PS can no longer keep up 25 might stacks without a mesmer’s signet of inspiration to help it along.

This is true. If you’re in the standard condi PS build.

I spent a fairly fruitful if moderately frustrated night of testing with the dps golem ways and means to keep up 25 might stacks on a condi PS.

After a bunch of experiments, I determined that it was possible to stretch boon duration in various ways (with the understandable tradeoff of a slight drop in personal dps.)

Instead of rare veggie pizza, for example, one could eat dumplings and gain 20% boon duration at the cost of 20% condition duration. This, of course, is not terribly desirable.

So I invested a bunch of gold, leveled a scribe to 225 (hoorah for hoarding materials), and made a superior sigil of concentration. Dump that on the bow, dump a sigil of battle (cheap option, I was ready to go two sigil of concentrations if needed) on the torch, and voila, extended boon duration and a few more might stacks at the cost of some bleed dps from two sigils of earth.

Actual raid testing proved it was possible to maintain 25 might stacks with blasting might on the bow, For Great Justice and a bunch of extended might duration from sigil of strength crits.

Unfortunately, even as that bit of personal testing proved a success, our raid group was discovering the other ramifications of the nerf.

No one brought a rev, so our break bars – which were previously heavily dependent on rev breaking – ended up getting broken more slowly.

No one brought a necro, except in a few odd tests after repeated failures with a new comp, so the group struggled with mechanics that previously the necros with their many minions were taking care of. So… cage on trio caught a bunch of damage from adds that were previously tied up with minions and downed by epidemic. Conditions were flying left, right and center on Matthias and to a lesser extent, on sloth, without plague signet. Unmanaged adds on Xera were lethal distractions.

Without minions to heal, the druids had less astral force to go into celestial avatar and less healing ability, which was not really able to keep up with a spoiled bunch of clumsy souls used to getting topped off despite mistakes. Said clumsy souls were also mostly adapting to new builds or rotations and distracted, hence the mistakes.

It’s unknown what strategy our raid group is going to settle on. We were previously very necro heavy and banking heavily on conditions and epidemic bounce. I don’t know if the viper horror minion nerf means they are now off the table for good – the only hope for them is if their epidemic bounces are still strong enough to deal sufficient dps – but it’s not looking terribly promising.

This puts my condi PS warrior in a really bad spot as well, despite managing 25 might stacks, because to me, I exist to help boost necromancer epidemics with plenty of burns. The fact that a ranged build is easier to play in a number of these raid encounters was a bonus.

If there are no more necromancers, there is much less reason for me to be playing condi PS in a raid.

I am better off going normal power PS, in melee, where I can pretty much close my eyes and shit out 25 might stacks without working as hard for it.

Bonus, a power PS has more break bar management than condi PS, which would compensate for the loss of a revenant. They support direct power based builds better, because they never have to decide whether to trade off burning arrows for empower allies, and it looks like the new golden children are going to be elementalists (what’s new?), guardians and thieves, all of whom are direct damage builds.

*sigh*

redvsblue

Again, there’s an odd sense of conflict. I -shouldn’t- feel too terribly upset.

I already have a staff elementalist decked out in ascended (which I still barely know how to play, but have managed successful kills in some off-class runs.)

I have a decked out thief, which I’ve taken to Gorseval before, and can play (but somehow don’t terribly enjoy. Either I don’t have a thief mindset, or I can’t gel with how that particular thief character looks.)

I have lived and breathed guardian life for four years. I can play a guardian in my sleep. My main is a guardian, albeit I was waiting for legendary armor before upgrading his still exotic armor. I also have a second guardian alt that I can easily resurrect – especially since I decked out a revenant which never saw much play (thank goodness, I wasn’t terribly comfy with it) – so I can easily just transfer a whole bunch of ascended heavy armor weight stuff over, if need be.

I have an 80 ranger-druid (that I was going to practice on via world completion, eventually) and a boosted 80 mesmer and engineer (that I was eventually going to take beginner steps to learn, so that I can at least appreciate what the other classes bring to the table), and enough leather and magnetite shards and random ascended drops hoarded that it’s not going to be impossible to equip whatever is needful.

A change in the meta is theoretically a good excuse to learn how to play a new build, and be exposed to more variety in gameplay.

So why is it that I just generally feel annoyed? Like something that was tolerable just got even more tedious?

Well, for one thing, changing over builds means I have to look at my completely unmanaged inventories and try to get them in some semblance of order once again. I have to think and make uncomfortable decisions over which currency to use to buy X ascended item, or grapple with crafting and the mystic forge to make said item or switch stats.

For another, the change in meta means that raid team roles are now in flux once more, and my particular raid group hasn’t even settled on a workable raid composition, let alone who will be in which role most of the time. This leads to discomfort, rather than the numbing comfortable familiarity of knowing that such-and-such player will be here and doing this, and that player will be there doing that.

And while discomfort is all very well when you want to incite players to step up to the challenge and adapt, every time I hit a frustration or discomfort or pain point these days, I start asking myself, “it’s been four years, maybe it’s enough, maybe I’m done with discomfort?”

At the level that I’m playing Path of Exile, there is no discomfort whatsoever –

plagueoffrogs

– only a plague of frogs.

(No doubt at the higher levels, there is great unhappiness every time a patch comes and throws something out of whack. But I have to point out that in PoE, there’s usually something else that can be the new OP thing that patch.)

This leads to a path of least resistance where I find myself double-clicking the PoE icon on the desktop a lot more often than the GW2 icon.

I’m not quitting GW2, of course. I think I’m still too attached to it for now, even if the -developers- seem to be checking out more than moi. (Hi, Amazon Game Studios!)

Both me and my raid group are likely to settle for the path of least resistance too, which is to just wait until the theorycrafters with the interest and too much time on their hands publish their “findings” (regardless of how true the facts are objectively, what is copied and repeated becomes history.)

Or it’ll hit a drama patch and break up. (Always have to prep for that possibility as well. Human nature is human nature.)

Whatever.

Even Legendary Armor can’t get me excited these days.

(I will leave it to a new generation to bitch about exclusivity and lack of alternatives. Bitching implies caring or giving a fuck, something I no longer have the energy for.)

Yeah, it looks pretty acceptably great. The heavy version, anyway, which is all I care about. I can only hope that it doesn’t look fugly as sin on a charr or asura, which are the two main body types on my character stable.

The new raid will probably arrive some time in November, after Halloween. Perhaps there will be more collection steps to work on then. With enough patience, I presume my raid group will eventually get there. Or it will be sad pug life like many others already suffering now to steadily unlock the collection. Or if it proves too painful, then the other alternative is giving up. Then I’ll move on, to some other game.

I can neither get excited or feel stressed about it either way. What happens, happens.

All I am, is a little bit sad about my condi PS, and a little bit annoyed that I have to suffer through more ‘work’ and unenjoyable bits, in order to arrive at a self-chosen goal.

(Not complaining, it’s self-inflicted, delayed gratification is a thing… but just…annoyed.)

In the meantime, in order to get over my annoyance and forget everything but the cheerful meditative smoothness of things falling over and dying without a struggle, I’ll be over in Wraecrast, procrastinating on GW2 stuff I probably oughta do but can’t be arsed to yet.

uniquestrongbox

Likely more exciting loot than I’ll ever see in GW2.