Ephemeral

blink.

Warframe. Path of Exile. Dragonvale. Crusaders of the Lost Idols.

I find it ironic that nearly every game I’m playing is unafraid of limited time events.

Many times, you’ll never see the exact same story sequence / plot point because the game has moved on in timeline from that time (though, of course, the rewards you stand to get may come back in a future event for you to earn via different routes or currency. But if that time is not now, then you’ll just have to wait.)

For some time now in Warframe, the guide/announcer Lotus has been in-game alerting players aboard their ship about a meteorite steadily heading towards Earth.

A couple days ago, the meteorite crash landed.

A day or two shortly thereafter, the meteor erupted with an Infestation boil (which I admit I still know very little lore about, but I presume anything that streams alien enemies warhammer 40k tyranid-style is a bad thing).

Operation: Plague Star was officially under way.

plaguestar

Thankfully, I found what looked like a hastily written text file cobbled together with slightly uncooperative UI providing in-game instructions for just what was supposed to be DONE with Operation Plague Star.

The effort towards clarity is appreciated.

Armed with that, I managed to make my way to Cetus and the NPC Konzu, begin the Plague Star bounty mission, and play the multi-stage mission.

As a newbie with no Archwing launcher, it ends up a fairly long mission hoofing it around (I don’t think my Rhino’s speed helps either) but I’m content to play it once in a while during this event period.

I presume more endgame progressed players can increase the difficulty and rewards by augmenting the Toxin following the instructions, and are probably grinding it to death as we speak.

But hey, I got to participate in the event a little, in my own solo way, and I’m happy.

It will end on Nov 27, and I suppose we will never see it again in the exact same form (though we might and probably will get Infestation invasions through some other story or plot point.)

Presumably, in the years prior when I was -not- playing Warframe, other Operations and other one-off events were happening, and long time players got kewl rewards off them. So it goes. The Warframe story progressed, and I wasn’t around to see it. That’s what happens in a living, multiplayer, persistent game.

In Path of Exile, you have month-long leagues, and short term races. The same style might come back for a revisit now and again, you might see some of the prize rewards return, but each event is unique and situated in time.

In Pokemon Go, the legendary birds were released, and then the legendary dogs (the last of which is circulated the globe, the last I checked, which was some time ago. I don’t follow this game fanatically, so I’m a little out of touch.) I missed catching Articuno and lightning dog Raikou refused to cooperate and be caught through multiple attempts. I don’t expect to be able to own these fellas until months/years later when hopefully they’ll make a return in another limited time event.

Seasons happen in Diablo 2. Hitman has Elusive Targets (they’re back for a second showing, I hear. I had high hopes but after screwing up the first one I tried, I decided I lacked the practice, skill and dedication to really savor the experience.)

Dragonvale runs 10-30 day events of different flavors nearly non-stop. Crusaders of the Lost Idols periodically buffs some crusaders over others, and has events that award new crusaders and their gear. During the time I play these games hardcore, I unlock the available event rewards.

When I stop playing those games in favor of other games, I don’t get the rewards that I missed until they come back again. I accept that much more hardcore players who play that game during those event periods get all the stuff available at that time.

I do not find this an intolerable state of affairs. All things have an opportunity cost. Time you spend doing one thing is not spent doing a thousand other possible things.

So why is it that one particular game is recently so allergic to the concept that time can move on and things can be ephemeral?

1483toxicfish

zephyritemourning

July 1, 2014: Zephyrite Sanctum attacked. “Think they’re dead by now, Jim.”

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Arbitrary

Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to be perturbed by the GW2 mount skin furor.

A pall of deeper games nihilism has draped itself around me like a languid cat that is having far too comfortable a time.

languidcat.jpg

In essence, I’m playing too many games.

Something happens in one of them.

I could get worked up…

… or I could spin up another game and play that instead.

GW2 has been seriously lagging me out for the past few weeks.

My dps was sub-par in last week’s raid. (Or was it the week before?) I was probably the only one slightly bothered by my self-monitoring – PS warriors don’t have to do -that- much to be passable as long as they were giving 25 stacks of might.

Come this week, and the new patch knocked PS warrior support out of the meta (welp, it was a good run) in favor of double duty might-stacking and heal/boon druid. Now the least onerous thing I can play is a DPS role, and I have to learn a new set of rotations.

Firebrand sounded like a fun idea, with lots of FIRE to sate my pyromaniacal urges.

Last Friday’s lag meant hopeless performance in terms of benchmarking dps. RIP hopes and dreams.

This Tuesday, I tried again and things were fine for the first two raid wings. Middle of the line, with room for improvement, which is good because a) things can only get better as I get more practice at the rotation, and b) even at my unskilled skill level, I’m not the shittiest.

Third wing and latency got bad. 700ms – 2394ms lag spike bad, for a couple seconds before dropping back down to the more usual 270 odd ms. It is not fun to play any kind of game when you press a button and nothing happens and you just see the skill bar flash. My dps practically halved. Yeah, well. That will happen when nothing fires and you have to wait for stuff to happen before pressing the next button.

Xera was the last straw. I had the misfortune of getting selected as the player to fire the shield to protect the party, and I “very cleverly” continued to count off as per normal timing, only to discover with less than two seconds to spare that repeatedly pounding the special action key = zero effect and skill button flashing.

Oh crap.

The raid team had just enough time to panic, before we wiped to her mechanic. Cue lots of ‘splaining to do.

Fortunately, if aggravatingly, lag-related shenanigans produce a lot of visible side effects in Xera. I had a narrow miss with a ley line glide just before the faux pas with the shield. Right after, the client disconnected me, I zoned back in, only to rubber band around while I struggled to fire one single effing mantra skill. Then I promptly fell right through the first ley line on the next try.

I dunno about my raid team compatriots, but that was about all -I- could stand.

There’s nothing to improve or indeed, even do, when the server and client just aren’t talking to each other and are busy producing highly unpredictable results. So I bowed out.

I’ll give Anet’s increasingly shit servers another try on our second raid day, and if I’m still lagging, that’s that for the week. There’ll be another week. In the meantime, I could be playing Warframe, or Path of Exile, or one of two idle clickers, or the thousands of Steam games that are yet unplayed.

There was a point a while back when I would have been a lot more upset about this state of affairs. I would have worried about what others thought of me and my performance. I would have fretted that I would eventually get kicked out of a static team, and thus be unable to achieve my goals of legendary armor. I might have ranted and raved and been generally more noisy about it all.

Now, I still feel a little bad for the team’s inconvenience, but eh, what can you do about lag? Absolutely nothing. Especially when you’re not lagging on Teamspeak, or any other fragging game – like Warframe or Path of Exile.

Presumably, someone will get around to figuring the root cause at some point and the lag will clear up some day.

If the lag doesn’t ever let up, like how I can no longer play Trove, then I might eventually get replaced by the raid team, and I might eventually find GW2 no longer fun to play when it takes the game 3 seconds to realize I’m trying to harvest a node, and 5 seconds to realize I want to mount.

This is not as terrifying a sequence of events as it might have once been. Still a bit scary, as in scary leap-into-the-unknown “I’d really rather not” scary, but not “it’s the end of the world and life is no longer worth living” despair.

I guess the thing is, when you play too many games, you gradually come to realize that all the numbers climbing, all the promise of progression… it is all, in the end, arbitrary.

I am voluntarily hamster-wheeling.

I pick a goal in GW2, I go do it, the days pass. (And they pass faster when I’m lagging, because I log right out again.)

I pick a goal in Warframe, I try to learn more about and do it, the hours pass.

A race is on in Path of Exile, and I think, what the heck, let me try and climb some levels with a new build to reach the designated level range where I might earn a chance at some prizes.

I have no time to play even a minimal interaction mobile game like Dragonvale or Pokemon Go, so I crank up Crusaders of the Lost Idols and/or Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms to click a few buttons and then let the games climb their own levels by themselves.

Then I go and read a digital library book instead, because why not? I’m learning interesting stuff by reading too. It’s just as arbitrary a goal. It’s whatever happens to be more entertaining/relaxing/enjoyable at that present moment.

It’s somewhat ironic that the more games nihilism envelopes me, the more positively zen I get.

There are an amazing amount of people out there who are devastatingly attached to Fashion Wars, to their collection of bits and bobs and shiny digital thingmajigs in their game of choice.

Or to the promise of greater and better and ever higher numbers on their virtual avatars.

Try as I might, I’m just not in the right frame of mindset to attach that deeply right now. It just doesn’t feel as searingly important as it might have been once upon a time.

To me, we have this HUGE hoo-ha about mount skins because many people WANT to own them, but not at the price that is being offered. It’s the $70 monocle with a side helping of RNG and gambling indignation thrown in.

I wonder, if the total cost of each mount license were 70 cents, whether the crowd would roar as loudly.

That is not to dismiss ethical concerns. Anet still has a long way to go in terms of improving its microtransaction strategy to become something more players would willingly and happily pay for. (My two cents, check out Grinding Gear Games and Path of Exile for ideas.)

Regardless, no one owns these things forever. It doesn’t seem sensible to get /that/ attached. Ask Gazillion and the players of Marvel Heroes, or for that matter, NCsoft and the players of City of Heroes.

Weekend Complexity and Simplicity

The new GW2 Path of Fire elite specs are on show on this weekend preview, but only in PvP and WvW.

I suspect they want to test out how they stress test perform versus players, hence the limitation, as quite a LOT of the elite specs play around with boons and conditions – the giving and taking away of them – which is often used in more rapidfire fashion against players rather than mobs.

I guess I’m just not -that- sort of Bartle Explorer, in that I can’t really scrutinize a list of skills and traits and then sit back and revel in build planning.

If pushed into it (aka I want or need to learn more deeply about a particular aspect,) then yeah, I could probably sit there and analyze things slowly and trace synergies slooowly until I grok what’s happening in a specific build, and then do it all over again for another build, until I finally “get it” just enough to be more confident tweaking those kinds of builds on my own for a particular effect.

But bottom line, it’s not the first thing I would do in a game, nor is it something that makes me as deliriously happy as wandering somewhere beautiful and awe-inspiring and then deciding to poke my head into where few would likely go -and- see something cool and secret at the end of that exploration.

So I’m not feeling super keen to stick around a long time in this demo, especially when you add on the fact that skills are likely to get tweaked and balanced yet again once this deluge of players has stress tested and sufficiently broken everything (or tried their very best to.)

I can only learn so much and so fast.

And I prefer to invest my time only when stuff is not likely to change too much, -and- when  I’m going to need it to play whatever content I want to play.

My primary take homes from very quick trials of the elite specs, beating on low to no opposition PvP NPCs:

  • Quite a number feel like different classes altogether
  • Nearly all of them have an enormous number of new skills / interactions / mechanics to learn
  • The level of complexity to play and master these specs is going to be pretty high skill threshold

I guess this is exciting for some people, and certainly I personally don’t mind the long term prospect of having 8-9 more completely different playstyles to play and learn over the next… oh, 3-5 years…

…but to be honest, in my current “old dog” mindset, the prospect of having to learn too many new tricks is a little scary and intimidating, and not a little depressing right now.

I suppose over the next few months of Path of Fire, if I just take one or two elite specs at a time slowly, unlocking and testing them slowly in PvE, it really shouldn’t be a problem to learn and get used to them.

But the overwhelm of getting thrown 9 elite specs on a platter, without slow unlocks, and the “here, you figure out how it’s going to interact best with 2 out of 5 core traitlines you’ll also need to take, plus which core or new PoF utilities would best serve you, and oh, look at all your new F1-F5 skills, and new UI representing new mechanics…”

…I dunno, some people like the overwhelm, and I personally do not.

soulbeast

On paper, they certainly look interesting. Take the ranger Soulbeast elite spec, for instance. You get a stabby dagger that has three of its own skills. There is a whole string of heal and utility and elite skills that comes with the Soulbeast spec.

On top of that, you can merge with your pet, and when you merge, you get three pet/you skills to fire off with your F1-F3 keys (which I have changed to shift modifiers long ago, because easier to reach) and you get a stat bonus that depends on the type of pet you’ve chosen.

This changes from pet to pet, depending on what families they are in (cat, bear, spider, etc.) and whether they are classified as a supportive, tough, ferocious, deadly type, etc. That is a LOT of reading of the pet window, and new categories and classifications to keep in mind.

Is it something I want to do right now?

Nope.

Maybe at some point in the far future, when Path of Fire is out, and I have no other game I want to play besides GW2, and when I feel like learning the ranger class in a more in-depth fashion. (That’s quite a lot of conditionals there, mind you.)

scourge

The necromancer Scourge is also interesting. It brings back shades of the GW1 Ritualist in my mind, as you summon static soul shades in a particular area. That seems very turret-engi-like in terms of being able to contest a point rather well.

The lifeforce second health bar seems to have mutated somewhat into a sort of mana/resource bar for using the soul shades’ specialized skills that seem to have a lot of support and utility and control for a group.

It also seems to have a ton of conditions coming out of all its orifices – which is about as deep and complex an analysis as I am capable of giving right now.

The guardian Firebrand is another one of those condition monsters. I’m kinda half-looking forward to learning this one, because I do sort of main a guardian in the open world. It seems to be capable of outputting a phenomenal amount of burning. I love fire.

The half that has me a little intimidated is the more channeled cast healer/support playstyle. Guardian tomes are back, replacing the normal virtue F1-F3s. One tome produces a shitload of burning, another tome has a lot of healing (presumably if you spec correctly, you can be a main healer – I’m thinking staff, and probably gear with no damage worth speaking of), and the last tome has a lot of utility, which might be very welcome in WvW.

It’s an interesting hybrid, to be sure. If I wanted to dip an itty bitty toe into an off-healer playstyle, I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot in the open world with a Firebrand.

No doubt, there will be a more specialized primary healer meta build down the line that someone will concoct because they love primary healing, and that I’m not likely to touch in group content. (I’m a simple person, I’d rather do straight up dps and/or offensive support. I’d bring the Dragonhunter spec and do that.)

One random thing comes to mind though. It will be interesting to see if down the road, these hybrids end up breaking the holy trinity mindset even further.

City of Heroes taught us that lesson rather well. (City of Villains helped even more.) You don’t need a tank, healer, dps if your class can do a little bit of each all at once. Just stack 8 of them and go hog wild, defender or corruptor team style. Your little heal doesn’t work so well? Here, take 8 little heals all together! Then everyone can have fun doing dps, and also debuffing enemies and offensively buffing each other.

Maybe people won’t need a primary magi druid any more, and the druid can go condi druid. Still can heal (but just less) and can do more condition damage. Then add on a Firebrand, who can also heal now and then, but also can burn all the things. Half-half role splits. Personally, I would like that. (Even if the role specialists are busy puking in horror right now.)

We’ll see. What is meta always keep shifting.

renegade

Some people dislike the mesmer Mirage and the revenant Renegade for not being enough of a total class change of an elite spec.

I don’t play mesmers, so I find it hard to comment, beyond observing that having so many utility skills that give a short evade that a well played mirage is probably going to be an annoying pain in the butt to fight against. Might make it easier to tank too, if someone else takes over the chronomancer quickness and alacrity duties.

I have to say that I found it almost a relief to test out Renegade. Something that -wasn’t- a complete disorienting change, and just an add-on. Some fun ranger-like bow attacks, a limited number of skills to learn – simple, manageable, and then I’ll have more brain power later on to figure out how Kalla Scorchrazor would best synergize with the other multiple aspects that a revenant can call on, and what traitlines would be best.

I think it’s important for GW2 to give choices in playstyle. Some people like playing the piano on elementalists and engineers.

I… can’t manage that.

I like simple. I’ll hit things with a sword, thanks. Or a stick. Or my head.

I’m happy to have a few relatively effective specs/builds that are mostly autoattacking to fall back on, if I absolutely suck and just need something simple to operate.

I’ll push the envelope playing something with moderate but easy-to-remember rotations to manage like the old condi ranger (push all the buttons that have conditions on them, weapon swap, push more condition buttons, rinse and repeat), the present condi ps (push buttons and weapon swap in a preset manner that try to maximize conditions/damage/efficient adrenaline generation, go into berserk mode and fire off as many F1s as you can in that time, rinse and repeat) and my new experimental dragonhunter whose meta is now in ascendance (push all the buttons that do a heckload of spike damage, just very fucking quickly because by god, does he attack FAST with quickness on him.)

A lot of the elite specs of Path of Exile all look like they’re going to be at least that moderate difficulty to play and probably higher if you really want to do well with them. *sigh*

The thief Deadeye seems more middle of the road difficulty. It’s not as straightforward Killshot/Gunflame sniper cancerous as I first thought it was going to be. In the hands of someone who has the pattern and timing down though, it’s going to be extreme evil.

Basically the thief has to troll a little with some bullets first, building up Malice stacks over time with a Mark F1 skill that replaces Steal.

I couldn’t find the Malice stacks at first, looking for them on the opposing enemies’ status bar, then my own, and then eventually finding some unlabeled fiery red dots right on top of my own health globe.

Once I knew they were there, things got slightly easier. Once they’re built up sufficiently, the thief wants to kneel with skill 5 (this limits mobility considerably, but they can still dodge roll around, fire off evades and blinks to juke opponents), quickly hit skill 4 (which is the sniper shot that will destroy a target with a 5 digit number if Malice is maxed), and then quickly hit skill 5 again to unkneel and be more mobile again.

Basically, if the deadeye goes invisible from far away after some time in combat, that’s probably a good time to dodge or block. There’s a whole mindgame of playing with stealth and being unpredictable, because the deadeye’s elite is a short stealth using the ammo mechanic that can be cast twice in quick or long succession as desired.

A deadeye has ridiculous range when kneeling though. 1500. Very long range. A well played deadeye will be a master of positioning and evading and movement.

You can give a deadeye some difficulty by getting up all close and personal with them… but then I guess you also have to take into account whatever he’s got on weapon swap, which could very well be a very lethal melee combat weapon combination. Most likely, stuns and controls and a lot of area cleave or forced reveals that disrupt their pattern is what will end up countering them.

It’s certainly very thiefy a mechanic. Winning the mindgame = a stomp of a win. Get countered and you’re likely to squish.

holosmith

Holosmith also seemed middle of the road-ish to understand.

Some new sword skills, the standard assortment of new heal/utility/elite skills, the standard assortment of a twist of F1-F4 skills based on what utility skills are equipped…

Plus a final ability that I completely forget what is actually called, but what I like to think of as “Activate Star Wars mode.”

You get a lightsaber sword effect to swing around and do very lightshow animations with 5 new special skills – presumably they’re doing good damage and additional things over your normal sword swinging.

While in this opposite variant of a berserk mode, you build up heat, instead of losing steam and eventually falling out of berserk. If you hit the red part of the mechanic bar, you take damage as you overheat. So presumably the goal is to keep an eye on the mechanic resource bar and drop out of Star Wars mode just a bit before overheating, and let it cool down over time, before voluntarily becoming a jedi knight again.

Not -too- difficult to comprehend, but will take a moderate amount of time to learn all the skills and get the timing right for heat management.

I don’t have much to say about warrior Spellbreaker and elementalist Weaver.

I tried the Spellbreaker. The dual daggers seemed fun and did quite a decent amount of damage. It certainly seems built around doing horrible things to boons – aka taking most of them away, plus quite a lot of “tanky”-like counterplay in terms of negating magic effects.

Since the golems have no boons worth speaking of whatsoever, it’s really hard to tell how effective Spellbreakers will be, from just reading their skill effects, and I have zero interest in trying to learn them now, just to PvP with them, just to see how effective they are. On paper, a class that specializes in boon stripping should be quite interesting, but I guess this would depend on just how fast those boons can come back on again versus players, and what types of PvE mobs would be susceptible to being boon stripped.

As for the Weaver, well, it’s an elementalist. What can I say. I haven’t even learned the basic elementalist at a confident level yet.

Now you add on elemental attuning that combines elements and produces a different skill per earth-air, fire-air, fire-water, earth-water hybrid…. and the only way I’m going to learn this is when a whole bunch of theorycrafters sit down and do the work and write out a “do it in this order for the most damage” rotation.

That, or I make an elementalist my main from now till Path of Fire and learn basic ele and tempest in Heart of Thorns zones, and then play Weaver in the Path of Fire zones to learn it that way piecemeal too.

Which is also a nice idea in theory, but there’s this other little game that says “fuck that.”

poebreachwoo

“Slow patient learning, pffft. Try to survive this breach instead.”

poelootwoo

“And when you manage that, enjoy the lootsplosion because you deserve it.”