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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newmap_fire

newmap_ghosts

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.

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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:

lake_deer

To this:

legmedss

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

wf_relicgrind

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.

charmingmug
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.

ultrawide-warframe1

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.

ultrawide-warframe2

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.

wide-poe1

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:

uw-gw2_2

uw-gw2_3

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

uw-gw2_1

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…

uw-gw2_4

uw_gw2_5

uw_gw2_6

GW2: Astralaria, A Long Ago Short and a Use for Treasure Hunting Kits

My latest obsession is something rather weird.

Previously, these treasure hunting kits have been piling up in my inventory, ignored in favor of all the other things I could be doing for more reward instead.

Since finishing Astralaria on Oct 31 or so, I’ve been in a more lax period of rest and recuperation.

It was actually quite strange. I was nose to the grindstone chugging along for the week or so before, and when I made the legendary axe, the initial feeling on seeing it completed was, “Is that it?”

isthatit

It just seemed more understated than envisioned in my head. For one, it’s ordinary silver when sheathed and only does its starry night glow thing when wielded.

And it just seemed like such a small item compared to all the giant hoops I had been jumping through that I felt almost letdown.

Fortunately, when I finally put it on the character I intended to use it on and with a bit of fancy cosmetic kitting out with an outfit that was just released on that very same day, the initial disappointment has been slowly moving towards long term contentment.

astralaria

It looks bigger on charr, for one.

Using the haunted armor outfit with a tactically selected blue dye channel also provides a bit more particle effect glow to support it, and it lets me escape the tyranny of medium armor trenchcoats for this Ash Legion ranger/druid. Win win.

Adding to the satisfaction is the ability to envision/depict a character that only existed in my head before. This is Bastia the Bloodhound, one of the supporting characters in my long ago short “Loyalty to the Legion”.

Except a little further back in time in her younger days as Bastia Shroudmourn, gladium, after losing the rest of her warband in the story she told Flame.

That is, Flame Fireflash, the Ash Legion engineer star of the story in question, whose look has been slightly updated with the Predator rifle below.

predatorflame

Rakis and Brek are in the works.

Here’s a sneak peek via the character select screen, of them post incarceration and more grown up.

rakisbrek

Rakis, being the ever-unchanging shifty-eyed sneak thief of bitter proportions; and Brek, originally a big warrior doofus following the wrong company, now haunted by voices and slightly unhinged by a madness that crept up on him while doing his time – which is just my fancy way of justifying making him a revenant to fill a hole in my charr collection.

Anyhow, the next thing that struck me was that Bastia really needed the Howler warhorn to go with Astralaria. *gulp*

On the bright side, Howler is an older legendary and much cheaper and less insanely intensive than Astralaria. On the flip side, I also want to finish legendary medium armor to finally close the book on that chapter. (It’s still SO horribly ugly though, that I would have to immediately transmute it and use it only for its function.)

Regardless of which super long term goal gets prioritized, I’m back into a period of resource accumulation downtime. I was thinking of focusing a bit more on short and medium term chievos and collections while sloowly ticking off bits of the long term stuff (aka chak gerent eggs, faction provisioner tokens and ascended material crafting every couple of days or so).

Except that chasing more achievements didn’t really seem like a break after coming down from the pursuit of a legendary, which is like a giant spreadsheet of achievement hunting.

Enter the Treasure Hunting Kits, which have been accumulating in my shared inventory and are now at 235 items, threatening to very shortly hit the max of 250 in a stack and burst.

Since I am constitutionally incapable of throwing away anything, even if doing them is way less profitable than sitting for hours in an Istan farm, I decided to attempt a few.

This time, however, I had a neat idea that completely revolutionized my perspective on these things.

I told myself, I’ll make it a solo “mini-adventure.”

The rules are, once you zone in to the nearest waypoint to the blue circle, every mob you pass, you kill; every harvesting node you pass, you harvest; every cache and sand pile and container you pass, you open; every event that pops up, you do.

Previously I was treating them like how the ordinary player treats them – trigger them, find blue circle, waypoint to blue circle, mount up and rush to the chest, take out the buried treasure, rinse and repeat. At the end of it, open a bunch of buried treasure and feel a little cheated by the loot gained.

I have decided that this is the wrong way to use them.

Treating them like mini-adventures really turns them into something like Rift’s instant adventures – a little randomized hit of content through the open world, easily completed in a couple of minutes, with a treasure chest at the end.

The profit comes not just in the final treasure chest, but in all the xp (a ton, since no one kills PoF mobs anymore), random mob drops (it’s been nearly five years since magic find was introduced, I’m at 290% base magic find by now) and harvesting nodes along the way.

Sure, it’s not Istan-levels of profitable, but it’s a nice change of pace for when running around as a farming zerg gets boring, when one is sick of dealing with other people in instanced group content, or otherwise tired of running around with laser focus on achieving a goal.

Given the peaceful feeling of re-experiencing something akin to leveling gameplay, where one just wanders across the open world keeping one’s eyes open for things happening along the way, well, it’s worth the potential loss of gold earning opportunity (which in reality wasn’t going to happen anyway, because I can only farm for one round of a meta before getting bored out of my skull and logging off to find another game.)

Suddenly, I’m in a good place in GW2 with a lot of things to do and no immediate deadline.

Minute to minute short term, I have treasure hunting kits. On a medium scale, I have a bunch of incomplete achievement tabs for Living Story 4 and PoF/HoT zones. In the long term, there are legendaries waiting in the wings.

Then other-game-wise, Fortuna just released in Warframe (yipes) while I’m -still- half-heartedly trying for Chroma Prime and now need another prime part to unlock the last rank in a Syndicate. I also suspect Path of Exile will be dropping the next bit of hype soon in mid to late November for whatever they’re planning in December once Delve league ends.

I suppose these are good problems to have.