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.

Advertisements

theHunter: Call of the Wild

Yours truly is a product of the urban jungle, having grown up and lived for decades in a place much closer to Asian cyberpunk than medieval countryside.

The weather here is hot and humid and muggy, the actual rainforest jungle full of secondary undergrowth (and snakes), not to mention potentially disease-carrying biting insects (or other creepy-crawlies), and god forbid it rains and turns the whole place into a slick muddy uncomfortable (and still stiflingly warm) canopy of misery.

As such, most sane people who can afford creature comforts do all they can to stay within safe climate-controlled air-conditioned entirely man-made cool zones of underground or mall environs.

Actual camping experience: Close to nil, mostly unvoluntary.

Actual hunting experience: Nada.

Actual desire to expend that much physical effort or risk getting seriously injured or slain by a wild animal (those stingrays are dangerous, man): None.

That said, there is something rather captivating about the romanticized aspect of hunting, as described in books like The Hunter’s Way by Craig Raleigh or humorously alluded to in Bill Heavey’s essay collections.

cotw1

It’s the idea that hunting is 95% about getting touch with nature, meditatively flowing back in tune with the old animal rhythms in our bones or planning, practicing, anticipating without seeing a living creature, 4% actual animal encounter of which one may never get the opportunity to press a trigger, and 1% or less all-factors-line-up-just-right-for-a-gun-shot-to-ring-out and if and only if everything was planned and prepared well, will you have the satisfaction of seeing the animal drop and have venison for dinner.

cotwa5

(We will skip over the messy butchery parts and the required preliminary practice to realistically fire a gun so that it doesn’t kill anything – including yourself – that you don’t intend it to, and all the study involved in being able to track and find real life deer and navigate in countryside without being lost forever and dying of exposure.)

cotw13

TheHunter: Call of the Wild captures the essence of the romanticized notion remarkably well.

cotw7

So well that I’ve been essentially addicted to a virtual walk in the woods these last few days.

cotwa1

Quests come in via your cell phone, if you choose to heed them. Else you can just roam around as you will. Or deliberately set up somewhere in anticipation of animals traveling to a rest area, or somewhere to eat or drink.

If you’re more inclined to moving about like I am, you might come across animal tracks, or hear an animal calling, or detect some movement or sound. Binoculars help to locate said creature (don’t ask how long it took for me to discover the zoom function.)

cotwa2

Then begins the slow and deliberate stalk, crouching or going prone and endeavoring to approach as close as possible for a good shot, without spooking the target. And yes, they have a sense of smell, so don’t be upwind of them.

cotwa4

Once you determine that you’re close enough, up come your gun sights, complete with breath wobble and you need to hold and still your breath long enough to steady your aim and shoot well.

My first tutorial deer was not at all great. (I did say that I had no clue for days that one could zoom, right?)

cotwa6

Once you pick up the dead animal, it will actually tell you where your shot landed. It hit a shoulder bone, despite my prior vague knowledge from watching a Youtube Let’s Play roughly where the deer heart was located.

Shot placement still is a work in progress and mostly luck. I suppose the starter gun and bullet’s accuracy and recoil, potential game bugginess, and whatever wind or bullet trajectory simulation is in play all do not help.

Still, there is something immensely satisfying when a gun shot shatters the previous silence of the woods and the animal you’re aiming for drops in its tracks, as opposed to bleeding and running and forcing you to follow its trail until it drops dead from blood loss. (The kindness of the game is such that you can usually follow it until it dies, so there are no wounded virtual animals left in the virtual woods to die a slow death from a lingering injury from bad aim.)

cotwa7

My first such shot broke the neck (completely inadvertently, of course.)

Such moments are few and far between.

One’s enjoyment of theHunter: Call of the Wild is primarily the immensely immersive experience of a walking simulator, set in some of the most realistic environments I’ve ever seen in a video game, complete with ambient sounds like crickets and leaves and rocks crunching underfoot.

cotw2

In an almost GW2-like fashion, there are lookout points that act like combination vistas and scouts that point out nearby landmarks.

cotw4

The act of visiting each landmark by foot allows you the chance to stumble across local wildlife, if any, and go haring off your intended point A to point B destination to follow deer and boar and fox trails.

cotw11
A fox regards me warily from a ways off.

There are also unmarked landmarks to stumble across and just admire.

cotw5
This circular ruin feels transposed right out of a fantasy game.

cotw16

One has not experimented with night hunting much. Given the amount of verisimilitude the game has, it seems fairly implausible. Tracks can only be seen if you use a helmet lamp, and somehow, I have a feeling that most animals are going to startle and flee at the sight of a bright light pointed straight at their faces (or even stumbling around in the woods at a distance.)

The downside of theHunter is that many conveniences come as DLC, and the Midweek Madness sale on Steam is now over. I refuse to pay full price for anything, especially not DLC that has had mixed reviews from players indignant that such features are buy-for-convenience and not bundled into the full game, and some reporting that the sold DLC features are also somewhat buggy.

The many roads suggest and hint that one should go get an ATV to zip around in and travel from locale to locale – except that vehicles also apparently scare off animals and aren’t very responsive, getting stuck in terrain and all that. It’s okay, I can walk for added immersion until stuff goes on sale.

I would love to have a tent to add to my simulation experience of traveling cross-country, then settling down for the night to have a sleep in, then waking up and beginning from that locale. Except that you apparently still have to pay in-game money earned from hunting animals to own more than one tent, after paying for the DLC. So er, I’m not buying that until it goes on sale too.

Instead, I have to break my immersion and just use a fast travel option back to an Outpost, where one can sleep for the night… or I have to break my immersion and just walk on with no rest through the night until enough time passes for it to be daytime. Either way, immersion doesn’t win here, though gameplay-wise, either is fine.

There are three other reserves that come as DLC, and those seem perfectly fine to pay for eventually, if ideally at a sale price. An African savanna, a snowy wilds and what seems like a South American park of some kind. The base game comes with two reserves, one European and one North American, and given the amount of gameplay I’m getting out of the one European zone, I think those will last me for a bit.

Bugs-wise, there are a few. Some folk are pretty annoyed about this on the Steam reviews, given that this game has been out for two years now. For instance, the waypoint placement on the map is fairly infuriating in its inaccuracy. I’ve been settling for getting a waypoint in the general vicinity as a direction finder and map navigating.

Then there was the time I heard a noise and found a fox dashing around in furious circles in a grass field, completely ignoring me as I approached.

cotwc1

I presume something went wrong with its AI and pathfinding.

(Heck, I stood in its path and it just shoved me aside and continued in its merry circular way. Classic bot-like behavior. Not at all simulation fox-like.)

cotwc2

My lore justification is that it was rabid, and thus I put it out of its misery.

Then there was the time I heard this mad and LOUD continuous rustling of bushes. I approached, binoculars-out, wondering as to the source of the sound and saw a deer bouncing vertically up and down in the air, next to an overhanging tree. (WTF? Is this some sort of strange programmed deer antler rubbing behavior?!)

cotwc3

Turns out, as I got a lot closer, with no right to be up this close, that the deer had gotten stuck in some scenery, despite it madly attempting to run, presumably from me being up this close.

Lore justification for this one was pretty easy. I just Googled “deer stuck in a tree” and found a decent number of instances of real life deer getting their antlers (not to mention whole body) tangled up in a tree, and ethical kind-hearted humans helping them out to live another day.

In this case, since I was roleplaying a hunter, I think this one is a little too stupid to let live and be allowed to breed the next generation. So it got two bullets at almost point blank range, at which point the game managed to free it, and a third bullet right through its fleeing rear and it eventually died and contributed to my xp.

At other times though, the AI feels spot on.

I shot a wild boar at a distance, and while the rest of the herd fled, there was one individual who seemed like it refused to leave the dead female, yet stayed warily far from me. It kept a healthy distance from me, seemed to stare and call plaintively to the boar that I had dropped with a shot that went through lungs and heart, trying to get it to move and come and follow.

cotwb2

As I walked up, it fled into the surrounding bushes and stared out some more, hanging around for a good two or three minutes, while my heart broke and I guiltily felt like I might have killed his mom or something. I half-decided I would go into the bushes and put it out of its misery if it refused to leave, but it was a rather half-hearted attempt, and my tromping around finally encouraged it to leave.

My most recent stretch goal is to take down a red deer. These fellows seem mightily elusive and skittish, staying mostly out of sight and keeping super healthily distances from anything vaguely human.

It was with some amazement that I watched a gigantic (8 or 9 individuals) herd of them run across the road from my right to left, and race up the ridge in the below picture, naturally, too fast to even consider a shot.

cotwe1

cotwe2
Can’t see ’em above? Me neither. Here, have a zoomed in view through the binoculars.

cotwe3

I’ve been patiently tracking them all across creation in this region and they seem to have some kind of migratory pattern to food and drink and eventually to a rest area. I might consider a stake out using the nearby hunting structure, which one purchases with in-game currency to put up.

In case all this talk of killing virtual animals raises your hackles and seems terribly unsavory, theHunter: Call of the Wild also has a camera mode in place of a gun.

So it does seem also pretty viable to roleplay as a nature photojournalist and do all the nature-walking and stalking hunter behaviors, and finish with a snapshot instead of a gun shot.

This side quest teaches you pretty early on about the camera, which eventually clued me in to the zoom functions on -everything-. I had a devil of a time trying to get a photo that counted for the quest, scaring off a herd multiple times by getting too close.

cotw15

Much to my chagrin, zooming in was so much easier and it immediately checked the quest off as done.

cotw6

Overall, I find the game amazingly relaxing. It checks off a great many of the boxes I like from my games. Immersiveness, the awe of beautiful surroundings, meditative, rewards exploration and a little care and planning.

No regrets. Now to wait for a DLC sale.

cotw17

Path of Exile: Designed to Be Played Forever

Watched Chris Wilson’s GDC2019 talk the other day:

A lot of eye-opening insights in here:

  • the standard population decline of any online game when they first launched and how they got it to spike consistently and even grow over time through their league seasons
  • a quick look at their custom tool for procedurally generating interesting map levels in really short time frames
  • the importance of marketing and having enough content to market to different subsets of players to make a big enough impact to prompt returners to return
  • the importance of consistency and predictability to cultivate a customerbase (or else they will look elsewhere and get distracted and then you’ve lost them.)

A couple of his points I don’t necessary agree with, or think might work for -every- game out there, but perhaps are more game and population specific:

  1. The idea of investing time to design aspirational content for the 5-10%, knowing full well the majority of their customers will not reach it, but creating this content for the 5-10% to feel special because no one else can get there, and those 5-10% tending to be the more hardcore influencer types who stream and thus draw in hopefuls and additional player numbers
  2. Economy resets so players can start on a fresh playing field periodically
  3. Layers and layers of randomness to create interesting variability
  4. Avoiding day-night cycles so that assets can be re-used
  5. Designing spare assets to sit around in a warehouse/library so that they can be pulled out when there is a need
  6. Avoiding pipelining releases so that people aren’t distracted working on two things at once, or tempted to avoid dealing with a tough problem in favor of something easier

Point 1 always raises my hackles. My opinion is that it works for games that start out designed that way, so they attract a playerbase that accepts that premise from the get go.

Something like Warframe apparently attempted large group raids and later removed them because apparently too few of their playerbase was interested, they seem to be doing better investing effort into content that both groups and soloists can do.

As for GW2, well, their “little” u-turn and about-face during Heart of Thorns introducing aspirational raid content lost them the better part of their initial playerbase, and attracted a newer, more competitive, and hostile sort of player in lieu. Hopefully they pay more. Else it was a really really bad strategic decision, no?

Path of Exile on the other hand is built around the idea of competition, of races, of getting to level 100 and feats of getting somewhere “first” broadcast to all and sundry. It has a hardcore permadeath league mechanic for the challenge seekers. So yes, logically aspiration works for a primarily competitive, challenge-seeking, numbers-crunching playerbase that can deal with that PoE skill tree. Somehow, I don’t think playing PoE to “relax” is a majority motivation here.

The solo self-found playstyle was more of an underground subset of players who chose to remove themselves from this competitive economy and create their own fun – it’s only recently they gave a nod towards it by delineating a separate group to declare oneself that way. The stated rationale is for bragging rights, and they are very careful to assure players that you can jump back into the economy any time you want; separately I suppose it is also a way for them to keep tabs on just how large or small this hermit-like player subset is. (SSF all the way, huzzah. Fuck yo’ aspirational content.)

In theory, I really like the idea of Point 2. I was first introduced to the broad principles of resetting in MUDs that had something called ‘remort.’ You reach max level (ie. near immortality), then you ‘remort’ (become mortal once again) to level 1 and get to level up again, but with some bonuses for choosing to reset yourself that way.

For some games, this works and comes as part of the game. Kingdom of Loathing is a browser based game that uses the remort mechanic. A Tale in the Desert has an extended long reset with new Tellings. There’s that One Hour, One Life game I never tried, but the reset concept is right there in its title. You can choose to reset almost every single piece of gear in Warframe with forma and level it up again so you can cram in more and better mods to make it even stronger.

For other games, I don’t know if their playerbase would recoil in garlicky vampiric horror at the concept of being set back to square one and starting anew. I understand that World of Warcraft tries to reset gear every expansion – from an outsider’s POV, it seems to be a 50/50 mix of acceptance and frustration among its populace. GW2 resets WvW in varied intervals and it seems most players have gotten numb to the resets over time, as winning means very little. Still other games are all about the collection and character/account progress, and I doubt those players would be happy with a reset – does Monster Hunter World or Final Fantasy 14 reset anything?

Point 3 I also like on a personal level, it’s a very roguelike foundational concept, and I love me a whole bunch of roguelikes that can offer me procedurally generated layouts that allows me to have a different and strategically interesting time each playthrough. Playing through City of Heroes near identical and unvarying tilesets and fixed predictable spawn size for 4 years will do that to you.

But not every game can be a roguelike/sandbox type of game where the player is expected to react with the resources available and create their own story. Some games are more linear, more dev-created story-oriented, and handcrafted, hand-placed content still has that level of uniqueness that can break the pattern recognition of players reacting to procedurally generated stuff. It’s just that handcrafted stuff takes a lot longer time to create.

Some games do try to mix the best of both worlds. Don’t Starve has handcrafted set pieces mixed in with procedural generation, and a bunch of Minecraft mods also do the same thing, sprinkling in handcrafted stand-out pieces and allowing the general landscape to be procedurally generated.

Which I suppose point 3 also covers, this idea of mixing and overlaying random stuff atop of random stuff, so that it is harder for players to discern predictable patterns.

Point 4-6 sound very much studio-specific and game-specific decisions, so I won’t comment there.

Still, it is interesting to learn what he feels works well for Path of Exile.

And I really want to sit in on a three hour talk to hear what he thinks about loot and itemization.

Outward: No Use For Adventures – Nasty, Disturbing, Uncomfortable Things

Venturing outward may have been a mistake.

I’d earned enough coin from one terrifying adventure to avoid being evicted from my humble lighthouse in Cierzo.

For days I rested and hunted pearlbirds in the relative safety of the shadow of Cierzo’s palisade walls, careful to steer well clear of less feathered two-legged foes. Harvesting and cooking brought humbly modest coin into my pocket as I pondered my next steps.

ow_a1

Once, one of those bandits came up unawares and it was too late to hide, so I engaged in a furious scrum for my life. Victory was won by a thread.

ow_a2

Then there was the time I came upon the corpses of two such highwaymen, who had lost their own battle. The bloodied bedraggled hyenas who had won jumped me before I could salvage anything from their bodies.

ow_a3

That haul was pretty good, though it near cost me my life once again.

Tiring of such pursuits, I set out further afield to seek other settlements.

ow_a10

I met a strange hermit in a cave.

ow_a4

I was near savaged by two hyenas who ambushed me shortly after. A strange man rescued me and left me to recover atop a mountain by a campfire. Nearby was a door.

I sought to enter, thinking him further within, but a terrible ice witch froze me and left me for dead at the entrance. I gathered up the scraps of myself, my dignity, my torn apart gear and body, and assailed her once again. This time, I was victorious.

A rope led deeper down into the mountain. But I dared not venture further and left instead to find more peaceful environs to set up my tent, generously gifted by the hermit, and rest.

ow_a5

The view was… really something.

ow_a6

Since I was already on the mountain, I thought to climb to the peak to see if my erstwhile rescuer could be found there.

ow_a7

He was not. A strange stone-like mantis creature guarded the summit, beside a rusty sword in the stone.

Perhaps one day they will tell the tale of how I courageously stood my ground against the creature and traded blow for blow against its uncrumbling hide, until I pounded it back into the earth and took my prize.

The truth of the matter is… I ran. It followed.

I ran in a circle around the stone, and it chased me.

I ran behind the stone and it chittered angrily at me, trying to decide if it should climb the rock or go around. I took advantage of its hesitation to snatch the sword, wondering if I should attempt to use it against the monster.

Then its pincer claws were upon me and I thought the better of it.

I ran further and it came after me.

Somehow, it lost my trail.

I doubled back and crept past it, as stealthily as I could. It had left the peak unguarded, and I searched the rest of it, greedily stuffing whatever I could salvage into my backpack.

Then I turned around and snuck ever so quietly past it again.

ow_a8

Laden with my haul, it was time to return to civilization and sell some of the goods I had uncovered.

I could have taken the path back to Cierzo.

Oh, how I wish I had.

Instead, I took the other path to a stern and rich-looking fortress, hoping to find new merchants and trainers.

“Hello?” I looked about the castle furnishings, hoping to find live people, rather than the walking bones of unquiet undead. To my relief, there was a black-armored dwarf or a short human sitting back in a chair, and he made no hostile move.

I tremulously approached and conversed with him. He welcomed me heartily.

I told him I sought a place to rest, and he cheerfully replied that I had found it.

Then the world went black.

And I woke up. In a bed. Fleabitten. Iron bars formed one wall, and rock the other three.

Confused, I checked my gear and found nothing but tattered rags. I stumbled out and realized we were ‘guests’ all right. Guests who would be working in the mines for our daily loaf.

ow_a9

The two other slaves I talked to were wryly accepting of their lot.

The main exits appear to be closed and guarded by armored men. I fear I might be here for a while.

New Plains of Eidolon

wf-poe-revamp2

Completely unexpectedly (at least for me, since I don’t follow Warframe devstreams religiously – something I should endeavor to change eventually, given the phenomenal effort of Digital Extremes communication – stream + summary on their -own- websites, wot is this, I don’t even… I’m not used to actually checking an actual game’s own website for useful information, dammit) I logged into Warframe to find out that the Plains of Eidolon had been remastered.

Honestly, the Plains already looked so good before, that I can barely tell the difference. The trees look better. I think. Possibly the water.

wf-poe-revamp1

More relevant are probably the changes on the game side of things to apply lessons learnt from Venus’ Orb Vallis and make things more equivalent. Missions can be run from inside the Plains entire now (though this change seemed to have gone in before the full remaster).

The Arcanes are now just bought straight up like how Venus does it, rather than through extra grindy earn-blueprint-earn-resources-craft-actual-arcane sequences… something that should eventually matter to me, but not just yet since I don’t own a single Arcane.

There’s a new Tusk Thumper enemy roaming about, that is slightly annoying to solo because two of the weak points are always on the back and the Thumper desperately wants to face forward on the only player around. Blowing it up drops PoE specific resources, which is a nice alternative/extra bonus to -having- to do all the requisite mining/fishing/crafting activities to progress.

Animal conservation has also apparently made its way into the Plains. Not something I’ve tried yet, but I did find the activity semi-enjoyable on Venus, so it should be fairly fun here in prettier and less snowy surroundings.

My focus in Warframe is still razor beelined onto earning enough Nightwave standing to make it to the very end.

It’s had me be a little more hardcore than I’d like (aka not sure how much interest will be left to do the same thing in a future Nightwave), since the really hard missions beyond my level and do shit with friends/clan are automatically out for me.

But I am appreciating the first time attempting such a medium to long term goal in Warframe because like any good daily/weekly system, it encourages a player to branch out and possibly try things they haven’t done before.

In prior weeks, I’ve had to learn about the whole animal conservation thing, and do Sanctuary things for Cephalon Simaris and earned enough standing to upgrade my scanner.

I’ve done spy missions, something I normally deeply dislike attempting on account of being unfamiliar with map layouts and usually triggering an alarm 80% of the time.

Every derelict vault task is a good excuse to saddle myself up with handicaps and run a few vaults, thus making decent progress earning new corrupted mods. (I actually got Heavy Caliber for my Ignis Wraith that way, huzzah.)

This weekend, it has been trying to find and learn the Halls of Ascension on Lua. There were a lot of failed attempts. I finally gave up and decided to use Loki, which I’d had to brush up and improve for animal conservation purposes and spy missions. I spent about 3 missions just running around invisible LOOKING for the correct rooms and trying to match them against fuzzy video guides, trying to feel out patterns in room connection.

After finding them, there was actually attempting to do them. The cunning drift one murderized my Loki repeatedly. Like a stubborn fool, I kept trying to do it and failed a mission once after dying four times. Then I found and did it again in the next mission and somehow lucked into a completion after 3 deaths. The agility drift one took around 30-40 mins of sad attempts at jumping, repeating it over and over until each new phase was more or less mastered. I screwed up attempting to cheat at the endurance drift one with spoiler mode, and did not screw up the spoiler mode shortcut on the stealth drift one (yay!).

Suffice to say, some completely new drift mods were obtained, after a great deal of pain. Presumably the next time this task turns up, I will be just a tinge better at it. Eventually. Over time.