One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

I thought I was getting better.

Two days ago, I took this screenshot feeling relatively good about everything in general, wanting to share a burgeoning optimism that maybe quarterly class balance updates would be decent for overall game functioning.

newdervish

After all, I had around three months to giggle about getting into Viper’s gear before the crowd demand sent Black Diamond prices soaring sky-high, and then play a Burnzerker – a build that I would probably not have ever gotten around to on my own, but really tickled the pyromaniac-loving part of me that loves any class that throws around fire, fire and MORE FIRE.

The Burnzerker nerf was expected, and I was pleasantly mollified to see that it wasn’t knee-jerk cut down into absolute uselessness, but more or less on par with most other normal condition classes/builds. (Minus the present bug where two burnzerker fields are ineffective, thus don’t bring more than one, until it gets fixed, eventually.)

Of course, we still have two annoying player subsets to contend with – those who won’t accept anything but the current most OP builds – that crown has gone to a certain specific necromancer/reaper build using minions and epidemic apparently (not sure, I haven’t looked into it yet); and those who are blatantly ignorant and jump to conclusions based on hearsay without any actual attempts at measurement or objectivity.

The latter are a pet peeve, as arguing with an idiot tends to wind up with descending to their level and them beating you with experience at being a stubborn ignoramus.

So I usually don’t try, beyond a calm factual statement or two, and then let the facts speak for themselves. (Brought a burnzerker to VG, red either still died before blue and green, or exactly on time – so either blue/green group is incompetent and/or the condi output is acceptable. Not OP anymore, but acceptable.)

Another funny side story about those who think they know everything: I was on my way to my last Lunar New Year firecracker for the daily.

As my charr bullrushed past one or two people standing around, random bystander guy spoke up and said, “You have to glide to this firecracker. FYI.”

I have no idea if he was addressing me (since I did bump the pillar/pedestal on my way to said firecracker) or if he was talking to the other player standing nearby, but eh, what if that player didn’t own Heart of Thorns? Was he SOL?

Without missing a beat (since I was really truly on my usual route to the firecracker anyway), I ran right past, jumped up the side of the glass dome, ran along the roof and then promptly fell down through a gap in the roof onto the pedestal where the firecracker was.

Sans glider.

Random bystander quickly shut up and decided that now would be a good time to walk/run away.

I might be revealing my deeply flawed human nature here, but I couldn’t stop chortling to myself for some time after that.

But I digress.

The screenshot above is my new *cough*dervish*cough*

Okay, it’s really just the thief Elite spec Daredevil with a staff skin.

But it captures the scythe wielding part of the GW1 dervish decently well, even if the avatar changing utility skills have more or less wound up with the revenant.

Again, without the meta in dramatic upheaval every three months, I find that it would be quite unlikely that I would have gotten around to this build.

Mostly, I was looking for a secondary replacement class for the burnzerker, so that if a particular raid already had way too many might stacking PS warriors or revenants, I could at least offer a current ‘common knowledge’ ‘OP’ class/build. (When in Rome and all that, you know, why fight it?)

It also took out what was probably a month’s worth of materials hoarding and savings by the time I finished decking him out with the appropriate runes/sigils, Ascended weapons, trinkets, and about three pieces of Ascended armor.

As personally painful as it was to dip into the treasure hoard, I have to admit that a certain amount of forced spending and need for materials is good for stimulating the economy. Also, it acts like another kind of hardcore tax beyond expensive food/wrench consumables.

I was excited enough by the feel of playing and learning a new build/playstyle to go out and kill a bunch of core Tyria stuff, adding up toward core Tyria mastery, as well as start formulating specific HoT plans for improvement/progress.

One goal was the Ascended Bo, which I found cheapest to just go ahead with the collection. That made me partake in one round of Auric Basin and one round of Dragon Stand in order to get the last bits of stuff I needed.

I idly also laid in plans to score some HoT mastery points, since way too many repeated raid failures had already capped me in xp for the HoT mastery tracks. I just need about 12 more mastery points I haven’t gotten around to earning.

Unfortunately, the last two days have put me into a bit of a foul mood yet again.

I idly made a reply comment in a Reddit thread rant that described how many problems the player was facing while trying to enjoy/play through a HoT meta event.

At the time, it was just a bit of a speculative thought I had, an idle remark on the many levels of abstraction that the guy’s story had become about, that his narrative had become more “struggling with the game, as game” rather than an immersed narrative about the world as obstacle.

I was sort of thinking of the same issue that Warhammer had, with their all encompassing Tome of Knowledge, and PvE leveling that wound up staring at the quest UI going “OK, I need X more organs from Y mobs” and mostly out-of-world game-meta related thinking that made the obvious focus manipulating game mechanics and rules, rather than actually enjoying the world as presented.

It blew up on me rather surprisingly, garnering some 200+ upvotes.

It made me think about how many people are out there, feeling a bit like me, feeling a bit like some of the old guard like that_shaman and other familiar Reddit names expressing a certain malaise or discontent.

And then I read new guard comments in the GW2 reddit, who LOVE raids and think they’re awesome, except that they’re also constantly whining that dungeons have been gutted, fractals have devolved into Swamp of the Mists (apparently, I haven’t bothered to set foot in there for some time) and that they’ve already cleared the raid wing on reset day and have nothing else to do and are now bored and going off to play another game, while waiting for more stuff to do.

And here I am, -struggling- to find enough groups every goddamn week to even get a guaranteed vale guardian kill, having to push aside my dinner time so that I might even get into a raid group that might or might not kill VG…

… and I just get angry. And bitter.

(To add salt to the wound, apparently TTS training raids are now off the calendar, diminishing yet another avenue for raid groups, and it’s back to waiting for an invite into the next experiment, a specific TTS raid guild, to see if that works any better. Strung along, yet again.)

And then I read a post like Azuriel’s, wherein he Gets/Doesn’t Get GW2.

All I want to do is bang my forehead against a flat surface really really hard.

No offense taken from Azuriel’s honest reactions, by the way, I think he’s a great representative of the subset who give GW2 a shot, just can’t find any impetus to level up further and then start posting on Reddit asking, “is that all there is? how do I level fast? map completion is boring, how do I like this game? unosweiter.”

But I can’t help but scream, in a rather enraged fashion, that Heart of Thorns threw in all the fucking endgame for people like this – who need a reason to keep leveling (masteries), who want a PvE endgame to look forward to (raids / collection grind)…

… and apparently they’re not even making it to level 80!

They can’t get past the open exploration aspect of leveling, so they quit before hitting 80.

Meanwhile, those that liked the open exploration aspect, now face the bait-and-switch achievement endgame, just like -every other fucking MMO- out there.

WHO THE FUCK IS ANET CATERING TO ANY MORE?

They try to reach the hardcore raiders, and the hardcore raiders are throwing it back in their faces by locusting the content and diminishing it to triviality.

In the process, they’re infuriating the casuals and those in the middle.

The PvPers are twitching ever since the PvP league ended and they’re forced to mix with the hoi polloi in unranked.

Meanwhile, they’re scrambling to apply CPR to the most neglected portion, WvW, because that’s a post-expansion priority now.

Everyone else is just going to have to wait their turn.

#grumpy

Furthermore, I hear news from Trion’s end that they’re revamping payment models and my second-favorite “MMO-like” Trove is going to start charging real money for classes, no two ways around this.

This makes me grumpier.

Mind you, since I started early, I’ve already reaped most of the benefits and unlocked every class but the Gunslinger (which still reputedly needs help to be brought back up to par) so it’s not exactly going to impact me considerably except moving forward, if I ever desire a new class introduced.

But I just don’t know if I can bring myself to play games that don’t feel fair, payment model or level playing field-wise.

So Trove may be a write off too.

Maybe it’s time to relook at Path of Exile or Minecraft again…

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A Trio of Updates – GW2 Fractals, Trove, Minecraft: Regrowth

I have no idea how I’m managing, but I’ve started juggling three games in one night.

What’s losing out is the blog. Again.

Guild Wars 2

The new pre-expansion stretch goal is to get to Fractals level 50, before October 23.

Preferably by the end of September or thereabouts to give myself more of a comfortable head start.

I guess I’m like the crazy inverse of that Reddit thread that asks how many players are looking forward to raids, but can’t/won’t do a Fractals 50.

I’m -not- at all looking forward to raids (just sort of grimly and begrudgingly looking at it as a mountain I’m going to have to climb because it’s there – and I’ll probably enjoy myself somewhat in the process – but not crazily anticipating it by any stretch, no… It’s sort of the same reluctant dread of corporate teambuilding activities… oh no, there’s -people-, they’re gonna make you do stuff you don’t want to do, go places you don’t want to go, but yeah, you’ll probably find -some- enjoyment at certain times/during certain bits, but meh, better if you didn’t -have- to go through it in the first place…)

But you know, I hear there may be a special something for all those who are at Fractal 50 before the expansion and the fractal changes (even if it’s just a shiny ‘been there, done that’ kinda title) and I WANTS IT. *gollum*

It’s also -something- to do, I guess.

Previously, I’ve never bothered going beyond the 20s, because you know me, I’m not a fan of vertical progression. And what is AR, but a special stat made up especially for the -express- purpose of vertical progression?

Whether you fall over and squish into a puddle at random intervals or stay standing and watch others do said “I’m melting!” impersonation bemusedly doesn’t depend at all on player skill, but merely on whether you have little baubles glued onto your armor that increment a number by 5 (or more), that you get by either doing the same activity over and over again or paying someone else gold to do it for you.

Meh.

So I “saw all the content” by mostly repeating the lower range of fractals over and over again (I wanted to type “an easier difficulty range” but as I’ll explain later, that’s not strictly true), and just meandering by chance to fractal level 25 or so, whenever someone happened to open a fractal level higher than my current one to pull it up by one.

But mostly I just played fractals 10 and 20 when I wanted, and I stayed at 26 AR, which could be all piled onto the Ascended trinkets, and kept my perfectly functional exotic armor and weapons.

After Blaugust though, a couple of things became apparent. I knew I wanted to stick with GW2 for the moment. I needed some kind of medium term goal to hold my interest in GW2 pre-expansion and play it a little more than I’d been doing in August… get back into the swing of GW2 things, as it were. I kinda had to “face my fears” socializing and grouping-wise if I even want to consider a 10-man raid. Fractals 50 is also pretty much the last unexplored frontier for me (not counting even more esoteric things like Dragon PvP rank or leaderboards, WvW god-knows-what rank or stuff like that.)

And there’s that shiny title thingy or whatever as motivation.

Ah, why not.

I’d been picking up the odd Ascended chest here and there from various places like Triple Trouble Wurm or Living Story and mostly sitting on them in the bank, while trying to decide what I wanted to do with them anyway.

The Wurm warrior was wearing Zojja’s chest and leggings, from two previous drops – one Zojja’s, one Raider’s – but I’d been reluctant to make the rest Ascended because the stat jump on things like shoulders and so on is… miserable, to say the least. (Intentionally so, of course, which I agree with.)

Well, since I now needed to hit 70 AR eventually, this was “go time” to clear out some pink clogging my bank.

There were two essentially free pieces – “Ascended Chest” variants – so I just picked Zojja’s and were done with them.

I idly eyed the other weirdly named Ascended stats like Apothecaries, Chorbens, etc. since now you can convert them to Zojja’s, then realized I had a spare Vision Crystal sitting in the bank, and a Zojja’s insignia that had been also sitting there because I made one accidentally when I just needed an exotic insignia some time ago.

So I said, ah, what the heck, I’ll craft a piece. The non-chest non-legging stuff is probably cheaper to craft anyway.

Unfortunately, I was silly enough to make a glove component before I thought to check the warrior I would be replacing his exotic armor with. The idea being that I want to just Black Lion Salvage Kit his exotic armor and pull out the rune for reuse in the Ascended armor piece, saving me loads of $$$ in the process.

Most of the warrior alt was decked out in CoF dungeon armor, because I was on a CoF kick then and hey, tokens for free zerker armor, why not? EXCEPT the hand location, which turned out to be WvW badge armor. Goddamn it. And they’re going to let us salvage that eventually…

Long story short, after a bunch of quick calculations on the AR I could potentially hit using other wear locations, the glove piece made out of what, a bolt or three of damask, went back into the bank to await the time WvW armor can be salvaged and I made boots instead.

I also converted one weapon and crafted a second to Ascended, because what the heck, that has better stat gains than armor, and I was bank cleaning some of this stuff anyway. (Hurrah for idly converting time-limited materials over a month or two, just to stock up for times like this.)

So now the warrior is pretty much all Ascended, save for one offhand weapon and one hand location (and underwater stuff.)

He jumped from 26 AR to 41 AR, the limit of which was the number of fractal relics I had at the time, and after a couple fractal runs, up to 61 AR.

I infused a ring, and now the last slot is just sitting there awaiting the +9 infusion that I calculate should be craftable soon, once my stock of 222 +1 infusions goes to 256 or thereabouts.

With that, he should be able to hit 70 AR for fractal 50, and have two more potential slots to go up to an easy 80 if future fractals require ever more increasingly insane amounts of this otherwise worthless stat.

In the meantime, I started running fractals 30, and later fractals 40 (after hitting 61 AR), plus the odd variant of other-numbered fractals higher than my present fractal level.

The goal, basically, was pure and simple prioritization of a) Can this raise my fractal level? If yes, join, and b) Does this qualify for a fractal daily? If yes, join.

(Can I run it without melting, goes without saying, of course. Basically anything on the 1% health loss chart is perfectly safe, and anything else means one is playing with fire, especially in a PUG.)

A lot of higher level folks will tell would-be beginners than the higher level fractals tend to be a lot -easier- than lower level fractals because of the selection pressure factor. Most of the folks at a higher level range should theoretically know what they are doing, since they had to get through quite a number of fractals before getting there. Most of the folks that -bother- getting higher AR to run said high level fractals have an obvious interest in the activity.

Repetition. Liking, Familiarity. All this adds up to something that ought to go a lot more smoothly than a lower level run where nearly everyone ends up running around like lost headless chickens.

I suppose, for the most part, this is sort of kind of true.

I’ve had some really smooth and amazing runs – especially nice if it’s a guild of three or four and just looking for one more PUG to fill the ranks, they’re usually a well coordinated team.

I had one level 40 run where I was absolutely stumped and trying to guess whatever the hell the others were wearing / whatever their build was because their hp barely budged – and my zerker warrior was the one catching the lion’s share of the aggro and having to back away now and then to heal up, fortunately only went down 2 or 3 times throughout the whole series, so it wasn’t too horrible – the other builds were ridiculously support-y, I suspect, but it was fantastically smooth and the combined team damage wasn’t horrible either (as timed by whether Molten Berzerker can get killed in a melee bumrush before people start wiping.)

I had one run which had an ele and a necro in the same guild and boy, did things MELT. I personally don’t subscribe to the common PUG theory all necros suck ass in groups, and I think this was a case of both insane might stacking (as helped along by moi, of the no-skill-required PS/EA banner warrior variety) and fantastic vulnerability stacking. My hundred blades were hitting some of the highest numbers I’ve seen, across various PUG fractals.

However, I’ve also had fractals run… with a necro… (and other classes, of course) of the *ahem* not so good variety.

Of the kind where everyone appears to be a squishy fail zerker and falls down multiple times, where the party keeps wiping until pieces of armor have fallen off and broken and one has to retreat out for repairs…

(I learned for the first time in one of those groups that one was actually supposed to log out and log back in to repair. I actually hit the little icon on the right, thinking that the rest could refuse and I’d accept and be beamed out, Scotty or something. Not as intuitive as that, I’m afraid.

Some guy in the party was like “lol, don’t do that, it’ll reset, just log out and log back in.” I was wondering if the guy was laughing at me for being a clueless noob… then I realized that actually not knowing how to repair mid-fractal till now could probably be seen as a -good- thing… )

One of the things I have kinda realized is that I’m not really that sensitive anymore about how others might potentially view my performance.

What’s the worse thing that could happen? They kick me. I don’t ever have to party with them anymore. There’s a dozen LFGs all looking for extra hands.

Granted, I have a bit of a ‘mask’ advantage in that I have over 22k AP (despite every exhortation that high AP != high skill, there still seems to be this undercurrent of belief or intimidation regarding it), and am intentionally playing a fairly foolproof PS/EA banner warrior where everyone is quite content if they have the three buffs on their bar and I swing a greatsword every now and then. (Though really, if the PUG leaves one of my banners behind – aka 99% of them – they have no more right to complain about anything.)

Generally though, I find that even the worse PUGs will still struggle through and finish the fractal in an hour, or hour and a half, even if we had to resort to essentially wipe-rezzing to get through certain spots.

(I keep thinking that all Anet needs to do is disallow wipe-rezzing in raids, and require certain encounters done ‘properly’ and even some of the vaunted high-level fractal PUG players are going to have a serious challenge.

Take for instance Snowblind and the elemental source/ice elemental encounter. The number of PUGs that can do that ‘properly’ without wiping is slim to none. I keep thinking that this would be perfect for coordinated stabilities, or coordinated reflection, while someone picks up the torch and maintains the fire or whatever, and well, it usually doesn’t happen. Add on a high likelihood of someone getting caught out by a one-shot ice elemental spike, others struggling to revive them and/or light the fire while under fire from more elementals…well, it’s ugly.)

The other thing that makes high level fractals “smoother” in general is the number of somewhat oddball exploitative strategies used to make certain encounters easier. Certain places to pull, certain places to stand, some of it perfectly legal LOS around corners, some of it slightly more questionable playing around with the Z axis and so on.

All this is stuff  you won’t expect a low level fractal to know or use, and generally, the number scaling on the mobs is such that a team probably doesn’t even need to bother with them and can just charge in and straight up kill things.

Anyhow, it’s all pretty good practice and warmup prep for Heart of Thorns, I guess.

Trove

Not much to say Trove-wise.

I sneak in a daily every night, working on the consecutive log-ins badge (which I hear is going to be reduced in today’s patch, hurrah.)

I’m not sure how much use I have for Shadow Towers. I just can’t be arsed with spamming the equivalent of LFG for Shadow Arenas, and I doubt I am inclined to do the same for Shadow Towers.

If I can’t solo parts of it, then I guess I’m essentially done, beyond seeing if I can collect a dragon via very simple daily play for an hour or so.

Playing all super-casual in pixel land, because a) there’s only so many games and time one can afford to be hardcore in, and b) their servers really suck. Ping is still 300-500ms and while it’s playable, it’s not awesome fantastic A-OK either. It’s just.. ok. Since I’m playing for free anyway.

Minecraft: Regrowth

Remember my spate of sudden internet disconnections that made me rage while attempting to play online games?

I took to playing singleplayer modded Minecraft in the meantime and boy, was it a mistake… in the sense that I am now hooked onto a new mod.

I get back home every night and I just want to get back to my little blocky world instead of any of the two games above.

I’m running out of space, so I shall save the loving lavish writeup for another time.

We Interrupt This Program… Due to Technical Issues…

Surprising as it may seem, this round of blog silence isn’t exactly due to it being Slacktember after Blaugust (well, maybe, just a little) but mostly due to a sudden and urgent need to diagnose an intermittently disconnecting Internet connection.

For the last couple of days, the connection has taken it upon itself to cheerfully break for the space of 1-2 seconds, before reconnecting, at frequent yet irregular intervals ranging from pretty durned often in the space of a half-hour to once every hour or two.

In essence, it appears artfully calculated to drive me up the wall as it’ll give me problems when playing games and then promptly vanish (but not entirely) while trying to troubleshoot and nail down the culprit.

Needless to say, the past week’s GW2 game time has been less than satisfactory since disconnecting for two seconds is long enough to break the client’s connection and cause me to fall off maps – including organised Triple Trouble and Teq maps -, not to mention somewhat aggravating to dc from a fractal run and then relog and zone back in dead and be forced to beg your party to get out of combat for a sec so that you can respawn and rejoin them.

Ditto Trove, because it’s really annoying to lag with awful ping prior to a dc while mid-fight with a boss and realize that the boss is going to sucker punch you into next Tuesday while your latency is in the 1000ms-3000ms range (that extra digit is not a typo, mind you) or be midway through a challenge and dc right off the map, knowing you’ll log back in and the group doing the challenge is miles away and/or you’ve lost enough time reconnecting to make the challenge impossible to complete before the time limit is up.

So the past few days have been filled with a series of swapping between the Intel and Killer NIC ethernet adapters on my computer, deinstalling and updating drivers, deactivating antiviruses with real-time protection, going into safe mode with networking and physically changing various LAN cables in a colossal attempt to determine the root cause of the intermittent disconnections.

Fortunately, before I got to the stage of trying to unroll meters-long ethernet cable to directly connect my computer to the cable modem, I ended back down a previously researched avenue of overheating routers causing intermittent internet.

This has been a point of contention between me and another family member; said family member maintaining that the router’s position in the house is perfectly fine and that it is at a perfectly acceptable temperature, while I lightly touch the top of the router and point out that the surface feels just a bit shy of a boiled kettle of water that has cooled down sufficiently to touch, but not sufficiently that the water inside can be considered “lukewarm” yet.

Since the poor abused router has already been moved out of a shoe closet some time ago (after one of those little familial wars regarding optimal router temperatures conflicting with aesthetics), there are, unfortunately, limitations to where it can be moved. (Basically, it’s not.)

Its current home is in one corner of a room that is only intermittently air-conditioned (depending on if a family member is inside or no.)

Now, if you consider that our ambient air temperature in this tropical country can reach up to 33°C, as opposed to that of a temperate country usual temperature ranges when it’s not in the middle of summer, and that the router is essentially sitting in a pocket of still air in the corner of the room, and that it has to deal with a network where every family member has a desktop or laptop PC, a cell phone that connects wirelessly and several tablet devices, a smart TV and a small, personal NAS, well…

It’s unfortunate that I lack an easy way to objectively measure the temperature of whatever is going on inside the router. Nothing like evidence to solidly win a family argument, eh? Ha.

Short of starting a screaming match by absconding with a fan that is not “supposed” to be placed in an unsightly position, aka aimed directly at the router, I hit upon making off with a less used device – a bargain-priced laptop cooler belonging to another family member less likely to make a fuss, and sliding that under the router.

It’s not the best cooler out there, I’m sure, but at least it’s actively cooled and has a fan that can (sort of) move a little air around.

After a day, I note that the router is noticeably cooler, having dropped to a temperature that can now be considered “lukewarm” by touch.

Best of all, since doing that, I haven’t had a single dropped connection (*touch wood*) and only one heart-stopping incident of horrible ping during a GW2 Mordrem invasion event… which amazingly managed to hold the connection through about five seconds of lag, something that would have previously been impossible, I’m sure.

Hopefully, my guess as to the source of the problem was the right guess, and this state of affairs continues…  (Note to self: Buy a better laptop cooler, if so.)

As for the Mordrem invasion in GW2, the current hooha around rewards strikes me as a little bit of an overreaction to an event that seems cobbled together for just a little fun with veterans and newbies…

…but then I have to admit that my judgment is a little colored by actually receiving a reward the first time (aka not bugged) and then opening the Scarlet’s box/bag/thing to receive an Enameled Jungle dye – which I unfortunately wasn’t daring enough to sell for 64 gold at the time. Ah well. (I used it, after logging in the next day and seeing prices had fallen to 30 odd gold.)

…plus not actually needing any of the higher priced rewards/skins, that would require an insane amount of bloom grinding. (Minis? Check. Toxic skins? Already bought with gems. Scarlet skins? Bought with gems. Thoughtless potions and what not? Already taking up room in my inventory from the last time around.)

I intend to attend an event or two a day over this weekend and be fine with whatever I get from that.

Personally, I suspect that the costs are meant to be high enough to not devalue the rewards – because, you know, some of those skins were worth $5 USD when I bought them the first go around… while I have no issues with letting other people enjoy them after I’ve already had the opportunity to use them, and applaud them also being alternatively available through in-game earning, I would feel a little bit of cost/effort disparity if people could just attend one invasion and then voila, buy up all the skins just like that.

Possibly, some of the stress is from it being such a time-limited event.

I’d personally have no issues if the event just continued on to October 23, and then people who wanted all the stuff could slowly and steadily earn them until the expansion launched. (Bonus: cheaper dyes and minis, yay!)

Well, whatever, we’ll see whatever Anet adjusts next and go with that.

Such is the advantage of having all the stuff I want already. *phew*