NBI/GW2: Screenshot Safari #2 (#NBI2015Safari)

So here’s a freshly taken screenshot for Murf’s NBI screenshot challenge.

I was originally going to rummage through my old City of Heroes screenies for the theme Heroes and Villains, since ol’ Murf has a fondness for that game last I checked, but eh, that seemed a bit too straightforward when folks are busy playing around with puns and such. (Maybe I’ll find a cleverer theme to match to a CoH screenie within the next two weeks.)

It so happened that I was practising dungeon soloing again today, this time managing a CM story solo, which took a slow and steady but relatively safe 40 minutes (taking it leisurely since it was a first time try, there are Youtube vids of much faster solo speedrun times).

Since I was by myself, I watched the cutscenes and was reminded of the whole human Ministry schism again where both factions think they’re on the side of right when it comes to dealing with the charr – except one wants to make peace with them and the other one would prefer to slaughter them all.

I finished the dungeon and found I had extra time on my hands so… you know, why not practice AC story again?

It was at the end of that dungeon when I really started -looking- at the scenery and realizing that:

a) One almost never looks UP in a dungeon. The Ascalonian Catacombs was surprisingly cavernous in places and made for some nice screenshots.

and b) Hey… what’s this small blue glowy thing here? Hang on… is that…

…the sword that caused the Foefire?! And have I been running past it a million times in groups when running Kholer in explorable dungeons? (Not sure if they removed it there though.)

But certainly I’ve been blind-spotting past it when running AC story mode, even when alone. (Cos the red name mobs are over that way and hitting the ‘skip’ button for cutscenes is an automatic reaction by now.)

So since I was happily alone with no one waiting for me, I decided to take the time and grab a screenshot that did it some justice.

Rytlock, Sohothin and Magdaer

Rytlock, Sohothin and Magdaer

As for the theme, well, you gotta be a bit of a GW2 lore nerd.

Magdaer was the sword that King Adelbern used to cast the Foefire, wiping out his enemies, the invading Flame Legion charr about to take over Ascalon City, but also damning all of his people in one fell swoop, turning them into ghosts trapped in undeath.

Rytlock’s decidedly charr take on the Foefire

Martyr hero or mad villain?

That theme pretty much encapsulates the entire charr – human relationship for the past couple hundred years. Depending on your perspective, one or the other are villainous and the other side are the good guys.

And even now, when there are folks on both sides looking past those old hatreds, you still have the recalcitrants on either end – Separatists and Renegades alike – who are now seen as the troublemaking villains… except if you’re on their side, then they’re the freedom fightin’ heroes.

Heroes and villains, all.

Edit: Sheesh, I forgot the prompt thingy. Which NPC in your MMO could be seen to be heroic or villainous, depending on how one frames their story?

GW2/NBI: Dungeon Soloing Is A Lot Like Writing

Wurms, wurms, they're everywhere....

Dear Reader,

You will not believe how many times I have pressed backspace or delete on this post.

I have a half dozen false starts and zeroth drafts of things I could say, and things I might want to say, while maybe these other things that I did type to myself should be left for my personal viewing.

I tried coming at the topic from a million and one angles, all of them maybe sort of potentially viable, yet somehow not yielding up a complete post.

Not yet. Not quite.

In the end, I just went back to my blog and forced myself to hit the “Add New Post” button and told myself I am just going type the first (but hopefully not the last) post on this topic directly into the post editor.

(If you could call continually pressing backspace to erase a turn of phrase and retyping a new one “directly,” that is.)

So, prior warning, this post is going to be rough around the edges. Not slick. Not smooth-sailing and superbly easy to read. Rough. Blocked. Start-and-stop and probably just as much struggle to read as it was to write.

The act of writing this post has been amazingly similar to my attempts to learn how to solo dungeons (or a dungeon – let’s keep our goals modest here.)

False starts, lots of deaths, intense frustration at certain ‘stuck’ points, a lot of thinking and trying and maybe some success and an equal or greater amount of failure and surrender (for now.)

You know, it’s not something that is often publicized.

Writers hide the struggle against the blank page, generally proffering only the finished product for an amazed public to ooh and aah over – unless you talk in-depth with writers on their craft or read books specifically on the art and craft of writing to begin to understand how the whole process works.

(And bear in mind, that process is different for different writers, of course. Some plan every last scene, some type by the seat of their pants, and so on. Whatever yields a ‘readable’ product at the end – I can’t even say ‘finished’ because it never is finished, for some writers.)

Looking into the art and craft of the GW2 dungeon solo reminds me a lot about the above.

Solo dungeon runners proudly show off their final product, a beautifully cut-and-edited video of their best and most impressive speedruns. Who can blame them? Watching flawless victory is a lot more entertaining for an audience than sitting through the many hours it must have taken them in real time to perfect their technique to the point where they can record their final product. The point, after all, is to show that the mountain can be conquered, not the many many falls it took to get to the peak.

The ordinary layperson tends to fail to grasp this concept.

They see the finished product and they think, “All right, I want to write the Great American Novel! In a month! Cos Nanowrimo is a thing!” Or they expect flawless nuggets of verbal gold the moment that they begin writing. Or they demand that their favorite authors churn out books like a factory for them.

Basically, they expect perfection in a multitude of unrealistic ways, and it’s a bit of a letdown (understatement of the year) when they don’t quite get what they expected.

Confusing the whole damn affair further are the bystander comments, some of which may very well be true for them (“yeah, I finished my novel during Nanowrimo! It’s awesome! I’m getting it published next month!”, “I just sit down and start typing every day and I got 50,000 words! Actually, 100k! Cos you know, I’m naturally a member of the wall-of-text club!”) or just internet exaggeration, who knows… but may very well not be true for you in specific.

So here we have a big morass of maybe helpful and well-meaning advice, some of which may or may not work for you, mixed with a quarter-pound of just plain look-at-me-my-prowess-is-better-than-you trolling and a lot of ill-formed personal expectations about how long it might or might not take, how successful or not it’s going to be, and somehow, from there, you try to sift through and eke out some information, some strategies on things you might possibly try, and then the bottom line is… you’re just going to have to sit your butt in the chair and try it out for yourself and see what works or doesn’t work for you.

Yeah.

Writing is a lot like that.

Dungeon soloing is a lot like that.

The stuff you read on Reddit asking about dungeon solos tends to come from innocent yet ambitious individuals who think it would be cool to be all super-elite and solo things like Arah and oh yes, make lots of $$$$ in the process, because selling Arah paths is a thing. How can they start learning how to do that?

(I’m sure writers have smashed many a forehead – theirs or the askers’ – against a hard surface when yonder innocent yet ambitious individual lets out that they think that writing a book would be a great way to earn royalties, make money and become super-famous and awesome like their favorite celebrity writer, and what would be the fastest and most efficient way to do so?

Of course, confusing the issue is that there do exist exceedingly prolific writers who write by a set formula and churn out bestsellers or the next bodice-ripper with a regularity you could set your watch or calendar by, and novices of their particular subset of craft can and do successfully join them in their $$$$ accumulation.)

Of course, not every individual asking on Reddit is exactly like that. Some of them do recognize there is a serious learning process involved and are merely trying to get any helpful advice they can from individuals or experts that have already walked the paths they’re hoping to travel on. Anything to make that very challenging learning process a little easier or a little more structured or just a bit more scaffolded, like out of the many dungeon paths there are, instead of blindly throwing oneself at all of them, are there any that are more doable or slightly easier to learn than the rest, and so on…

…except the answer may apply to the individual that suggested that X is easy, but not to the person receiving the answer… (maybe due to the class being used, maybe just due to individual player differences, whatever)

…well, they recognize that too, but they just want some guidance or a direction they can try, regardless. Which also makes perfect logical sense.

So you have people trying to be helpful, and people earnestly receiving that helpful advice, and then they go ahead and try it and…

…well, I don’t know if there’s a gruesome car wreck or if there’s great success, because again, this totally boils down to the individual yet again.

Which leads me to the interesting problem of trying to decide how exactly I should blog about my attempts at dungeon soloing…

Trust me, there are a lot more car wrecks at this present moment.

There’s no way I’m writing an ‘expert guide to dungeon soloing,’ as much as some people might like, because a) I’m definitely not expert status at this point in time, and b) I guess I lean slightly more to the exploratory school of thought that kind of cringes at the thought of people rote following a preset solved-by-someone-else tactic without real understanding.

To me, that seems to contravene one philosophy behind trying to solo a dungeon, which is to test yourself and your understanding of your class and the game mechanics and how best you might arrange things so that you can get through a particular encounter.

(Obviously, other people may have different philosophies in play. Some may enjoy purely the execution / reaction aspect of the exercise, and see no problems with imitation being the best form of flattery. Some may simply want to give themselves the best chances of success by being as optimal as a number-cruncher has calculated for their class. Some don’t give a damn about any glitches or exploits because lol, it’s up to the devs to fix the bugs in their game, if we can break it, we’ll use it, that’s what players do, we’ll do it fast and easy and painless.)

To be frank, I’m still trying to figure out where I stand on the various spectrums of these philosophies, which leads to a great degree of confusion in planning.

My life would be a lot simpler if I prioritized fast, efficient, painless like some other players. Ape everything – class, gear, traits, movement and positioning strategies – and just practice understanding fight mechanics + reaction time, everything else has been solved for me.

I think the problem is that I’m curious about too many damn things at once.

I want to know how it feels on the builds that I already have. I want to know how it feels on the ‘optimal’ builds. I want to adapt and customise new builds to solve various encounters.

I kind of want to figure out how to adapt various strategies for a different class (because look, every class has ranged and melee attacks and lots of blocks and evades and there’s always dodging) or to figure out other viable strategies (a warrior might dps and evade but maybe my guardian can reflect), yet I don’t have an issue with imitating a strategy that works either, especially if my attempts at new solutions aren’t working out that well.

Then there’s my damn morality about glitches and exploits. They make me cringe, in more ways than one. I don’t like the easy way out. I don’t like breaking the game or an encounter just to do something painlessly. And I sure as hell don’t want to get banned for an exploit.

It makes me bloody frustrated to go look up a video about how someone else has solved this problem and oh, the answer they’ve taken is to glitch something. Argh. Of course, they glitch it because the alternative is utter painful hell, and I find that out the hard way, and then I wind up stuck and dead-ended and frustrated.

Yet I’m sure that I’m not an extreme on the glitch morality scale, because I don’t have issues with things like skipping encounters by running or stealthing past, or using corners to block line-of-sight and pulling and leashing or constantly readjusting and making use of AI pathing to reduce damage taken. Those seem to be normal things that most everyone does in dungeons.

And frankly, I don’t have personal moral issues with using height and ranged attacks to get past an encounter (done it before in other MMOs, the system is supposed to declare the mob invulnerable or let it regen back tons of hp if that’s not kosher, standing on a rock or tree to shoot things feels like a natural human thing to do, the very point is that I’m trying to be hard to reach here, mobs could be given a ranged attack or some kind of cc to get us off the perch, it feels good and intended to outsmart a melee mob) but since Anet appears to feel that abusing the Z axis ventures into exploit territory, I avoid using that as a valid solution in GW2.

Kite around the mulberry bush, it is. No standing on the mulberry bush. Pft.

And I’ve followed the mulberry bush entirely off the point because I’m no wiser about how I should blog about my turtle-slow learning process.

I thinking that I may not want to show pictures and strategies and a breakdown of each encounter, because doh, that leads to blind imitation, right? (Or some bastard leaving me a note in the comments about how I’m doing it ALL WRONG and you should DO IT THIS WAY INSTEAD cos GLITCHING IS FASTER.)

And yet, I have a piss-poor memory and if I don’t make a record for myself about how far I’ve gotten through with each dungeon, and the strategies I figured out for how to get through it, I’m liable to forget what the hell I did and have an utterly miserable time the next time I try to make progress or practice.

And yet, maybe leaving some kind of record of the process is valuable for those that want to come after, in the same exploratory spirit, since what works for me may not exactly work for them, right?

And maybe it would be helpful to get comments and suggestions on areas where I am stuck, or having trouble. (Yet well-meaning comments can sometimes be helpful and sometimes infuriating – like trying to get someone to comment on or edit your writing. Maybe they have a valuable point. Maybe they should just go stuff it instead.)

And yet it would be kind of exceedingly stupid to publish a thorough solution that an ArenaNet dev can look through, decide they don’t like something about it, and proceed to get it fixed in the next patch, causing mass consternation (no small amount of it from myself either since that would invalidate a hard thought out strategy.)

I think “conflicted” and “confused” are good words to describe my present state of mind, yes.

Dunno, no real answers. Can’t decide.

If anyone is curious, at this present point in my experience, I would recommend AC story as a good starting point to learn dungeon soloing.

After all, it’s the only one I’ve managed to get through, start-to-finish.

Did have some deaths while learning, but they seem to be easily avoidable deaths with practice. My guardian main gets through it pretty easily. I tested it on an older guardian alt for fun, and that character also managed to get through it while in knight’s gear and berserker trinkets.

The upscaling makes it fairly forgiving to somewhat wacky, not quite optimized builds, with zero food or consumables.

Tried it on a sinister necro for fun, and wow, it hurt a lot more. It’s probably my lack of familiarity with the class and precise dungeon mechanics (which tend to get masked on guardians since they’re so block-filled and heal-y) but it was also eye-opening to try and figure out how to solve it from another perspective.

No, Eir, -I- need help. Your job is just to be a meatshield.

No, Eir, -I- need help. Your job is just to be a meatshield.

(Got super-duper frustrated when the Lovers bugged out on the necro. They became immune to conditions. Vs a NECRO. In SINISTER gear. It was fucking awful and repeated massacres for a long while. Nearly wanted to quit and decided to just give it a few more shots, switching over to zerker and a stabby dagger. Had to essentially waypoint kamikaze to get past the bug.)

Rate of return, beyond satisfaction in completing a dungeon by yourself, is not very high though.

No real NBI prompt for this post. Just this one thing: Give yourself permission to write a sucky post and get it done. All just part of the process.

And yeah, this advice may or may not work for you.

Only one way you’re going to find out.

NBI/GW2: The Everyday Boringness of Things

Everyday boring things...or not...

The trouble I have with blogging these days is that I find just blogging about prosaic day to day things boring, and yet, so much of our MMO life is prosaic day to day things.

I did a daily. I did another daily. I leveled from numeral X to numeral Y. I crafted Z item.

I incremented this achievement, and completed that achievement. I added onto this collection or that wardrobe.

I made an Eternal Sands focus the other day.

I made an Eternal Sands focus the other day. Just to get the component out of my bank. Except now it’s taking up an inventory bag slot on my character. Doh. Might not have quite thought this through.

In a sense, I’m not sure what difference it makes, in the greater scheme of things.

Why should you or I care about what I did? What I incremented? What I achieved?

Why, oh, why, is my life so boring and routine, with nothing new to say?

How can I find a story in the everyday boringness of things?

booksorstories

In my blog posts, I want to tell you a story. I like stories.

I like unique stories.

Unique narratives that can only be told by me, in my voice, doing the stuff that only I can do… stuff that hopefully you haven’t done in exactly identical fashion so that you’re still interested…

… and yet, weirdly, conversely, stuff that you should at least be vaguely familiar with so that I’m not over here talking in a foreign language you don’t understand and have zero interest in either.

Perhaps the problem is that -I- am seeing what I do as the same old boring routine.

Another day, another dragon...

Another day, another dragon…

But that’s not it. Not quite. Because if it really was that awful, I’d change up the routine.

I’m a big proponent of variety to prevent burnout, and I have a whole list of other things I could be doing, in this game or in the 500+ others on my Steam games list, if I got tired of what I’m doing.

And yet, every night, I look at the clock and make sure my butt is in the chair by 8.10pm so that I can kill the Triple Trouble Wurm with the oceanic arm of TTS.

If I have time, I might join in by 6.30pm for Karka Queen, or try my best to squeeze my way into Tequatl by 7.00pm.

It is a safe, comfortable routine.

If I really can’t make it, I forgo it (some days you just gotta be an adult and not play computer games,) but when I can, I’m usually there for Wurm because I -want- to be there. Why?

Perhaps the problem is the way I am telling it.

These last couple of days, since the beta portal invite event for the Silverwastes, Oceanic Wurm has been cancelled.

I catch an NA Wurm kill instead, on the weekends, in the mornings, to sate my bloodlust.

Naturally, I pop the second piece of regurgitated armor that I wanted.

I’ve killed OCE Wurm for months now with no armor drop.

Guess there’s something to be said for change and variety.

One more armor piece to go.

Perhaps we have to look deeper than the prosaic facts to the affairs of the heart, and seek the hidden conflicts.

In the night, the whole Oceanic gang is merrily farming the Silverwastes, which is also utterly perfect for my needs.

In the first two days, I wanted a beta portal, of course, like everybody else.

I play normally on Day 1. Or as normal as my experimental sinister necro build can be. I defend the red fort, and help escort nearby pack bulls for a ways before orbiting the red fort once more.

We do the breach events, the Vinewrath, then go champion farming during the recovery time to maximize our portal drop chances (mob drop + event chest drop).

Nothing. No portal.

But I get to stress test the sinister necro build to my satisfaction and I’m getting better at playing it.

The second build is a vast improvement in survivability over the first, the trickle heals from life siphoning seem miniscule but they do have a noticeable effect I can feel in gameplay.

On Day 2, I still play normally, but I branch out a little more and start actively tagging more events. I drift over to the purple fort to tag the Magister Wiggs defend event, while ostensibly guarding Gritblade’s red fort. Purple and yellow bulls are a must-tag. Red bull, when I can.

Nada.

I’m getting a pattern down with the necro though, saving wells for the set Mordrem spawns around each bull escort, using my condi scepter/dagger on husks, and using power (axe/horn, deathshroud, lichform) for everything else.

Late in the night of Day 2, when there isn’t an ongoing TTS Silverwastes map, I decide to just pop in and use the LFG SW 30-40% breach hopping method to get a few more Silverwastes maps in.

I use the guardian.

(Somehow, I have no trust in a general PUG map. Using my sinister necro feels wrong.

I might get downed accidentally, because I am still warming up to and making mistakes with the necro, and no one might rez me.

It seems like taking on too much for a bunch of strangers to throw condis on husks AND power damage other Mordrem, at the expense of getting downed and having to waypoint if I screw up, because everyone else has run off and left me to it.

On a PUG map, I stay on the ledge at the copper husk during the Breach. Why should I be the only idiot jumping into the pit and getting attacked by a million offshoots?

On a TTS map, following the example of our crazy asura leader, we hurtle into the pit and kite the offshoots around, and the husk melts a lot faster.)

So I play the guardian, on an indistinguishable Silverwastes map filled with hostile toxic mapchat, I run around shamelessly tagging all the events between red and purple forts (all three bulls included) and let someone else worry about whether the forts are overrun. Worse case scenario, we can retake the fort for another event.

One event or another finishes, a fort defence of some kind, or a bull escort, and I realize that I have new mail and a purple beta portal in my inventory.

firstportal

Well, that’s good. The anxiety is over.

Now I can focus properly on the farming and the making of gold and champion bags while everyone is still excited about the Silverwastes.

In between organized map hours on Day 2 to Day 3, I stop by a LFG chest farm on my necro to use up the many shovels and bandit crests I’ve accumulated.

Almost absent-mindedly, I tag a Veteran Mordrem event to get it out of the way of my unlocking of a bandit chest. I hit the AoE loot button when it dies.

A new mail pops up in my inbox.

No way… Really?

Really.

It's amazing how quickly I can clutter up a character's inventory when I'm actively playing them.

It’s amazing how quickly I can clutter up a character’s inventory when I’m actively playing them. As a WvW alt, his bags were much cleaner before.

The necro has an accompanying purple portal to the one sitting on my guardian. What a weekend.

On Day 3, I’m back in the TTS Silverwastes map instances on my necro, cheerfully going through multiple rounds of the Vinewrath.

I haven’t stopped. I don’t plan to, until mass interest has died off.

It is fun. It is profitable.

It is routine farming.

I love it anyway.

Why?

Why do I look out for and make it a point to attend the same, safe routines?

Maybe it’s because it’s with the same, safe people.

People with a certain level of competence that I can trust.

People whose names I am familiar with.

In-jokes and laughter comprehensible to only those who were there.

The revelation makes me wonder about my reaction to dungeoning. 

I hate it. I have massive trust issues with dungeons.

Which is curious because I’ve stopped using LFG for the most part. There, you can never get the same people twice, which doesn’t do much for building trust for people like me, slow to trust.

I wait for a trusted friend to yell at me and pull me into a dungeon, and if I’m free, I go through it and it’s not so bad, but I still don’t like it.

Maybe because I still don’t get regular, scheduled practice to build trust with the same group of people.

Or maybe because I don’t trust myself in the dungeon.

As much as I farm Silverwastes, twice now, I have dropped out of the map without completing the Vinewrath stage.

The modem or my ISP has been acting weird lately, disconnecting for half a minute or so before reconnecting again.

It’s long enough to drop me right out of the right map instance and make it a pain to taxi back.

Sometimes I do, if I’m lucky and the map isn’t full.

Sometimes the map is full, or I just don’t want to bother someone with the chore of taxing me back in.

So I just shrug and stop playing for a couple hours while my internet is on the fritz and go do something else, like eat, read, watch TV.

Voluntarily missing the rewards for that particular hour doesn’t really bother me, whereas I would have been a stressed out emotional wreck for the tens of minutes I wasn’t connected to the game while four other players were waiting for me in a dungeon.

The whole open, drop-in, drop-out nature of the Silverwastes makes it a more convenient design for me.

I can stand by a cliff for a couple of minutes in the Silverwastes and go get myself a drink or have a bathroom break without anyone noticing or caring or being bothered by it.

(If you don’t move for hours, that’s a different story, of course.)

Try that in a dungeon.

Even if you’re surrounded by the most loving and understanding friends ever, with plenty of free time on their hands to wait for you, the fact of the matter is that they still have to wait for you.

I hate that sense of obligation.

I wish I knew why.

Figuring out that part of my brain is a subject for another post though.

I took my own advice in my last post and freewrote for ideas.

The above is an elaboration of some of the threads that were in the mess of freewriting.

The trick is mostly to pick up on a thread topic that was a little intriguing to you and do another round of writing concerning that, hoping that richer stuff pops out.

I think the above post has a ton in there that anyone can spin off. I’ll just pick a topic that occurs to me.

NBI Writing Prompt #1: How can we design our MMOs to foster more trust between strangers?

  • (Is forcing them together the only way, or are there other more innovative means to do so?
  • A matchmaking system that tries to prioritize putting the same people playing at a certain hour together?
  • A voting/reputation system to increase the chances you’ll interact more with the people you friend/like/think more highly of?
  • Clever megaserver systems that prioritize the same?
  • Something even newer and more innovative?
  • Something old that has been done before but not picked up by our modern MMOs?)