Retrospective

If there’s one thing I would not have predicted, so many moons ago, it’s that raiding in GW2 would successfully kill my desire to blog.

Not in the usual “I hate raids” hermit-y grouch sense, mind you.

It was a combination of things:

  • Yes, there was the tension between the hypocrisy of continuing to raid…

(reasons: a) no Legendary armor alternative; b) the -need/craving- to see all content successfully completed; c) maintain network of -competent- players in one’s timezones for future content, outcasting = no more success, d) yeah, the challenge / puzzle inherent in difficult content is somewhat entertaining, even if the need for 9 other people’s schedules to coincide is not)

…while philosophically being opposed to the divide that raids create. (More on that later.)

  • There’s my chronic allergy to all things drama.

I had long ago resolved that I would never write in fine-grained detail about anything that happened (good or bad) in my raid group, or the people and personalities and politics and stories of any other raid group I heard about, for that matter.

The Oceanic/SEA community in any game is a pretty small one, and when you compress it down to people that want to raid, even -smaller-. The raid guild I’m in appears to have subsumed a fairly hefty majority of this population.

Hell, I would not be surprised to find a fair number of this group have experienced the same Age of Conan/Warhammer/Aion exodus as I, just spread across various guilds and organizations. Bottom line, this is a very tiny community. Hardcore players talk and know each other, stories can spread like wildfire.

Some people love gossip. That’s not wrong. I don’t. And I choose not to contribute to it.

This does, however, pose something of a challenge to writing when you’re consciously stifling a part of yourself and your experiences, editing before word is even laid out on the blank page, so to speak.

It may not have killed the idea muse, but it did steal some of the desire to even sit down and begin.

  • There was the lack of positive feelings about anything Guild Wars 2, or a desire to promote it by writing about it.

I don’t know if any of my readers were tired of it, but -I- was tiring -myself- with all the negativity and complaining.

So I tried the ol “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all” routine, and what do you know… I ended up not saying anything at all.

Whoops?

You know, I don’t even think it’s the game at this point. I am sure many many people are discovering GW2 and playing it at different phases in their life and are having tons of fun.

-I- just seem to have boarded the down escalator to the burnout basement, and am just about treading water by raiding once or twice a week and then dropping the game like a hot potato before the burn hits the third-degree.

I was pondering why this was the case all throughout November and December, hoping to develop it into some kind of blog revelation. I did actually figure out -something- fairly revelatory, which is that…

  • The divide in GW2 has gone too deep. I can’t really relate to the current community. I don’t feel like a part of it anymore. This causes disassociation, from almost everything GW2.

In nearly every Reddit thread about GW2 lately, there is this constant conflict of “no, you’re wrong” sentiment from people in different camps.

I’m sick of it.

I don’t even care what the two camps support or hate any more. I just wish they’d stop sniping at each other all the damn time.

Except, of course, they won’t.

So the only way I’m not going to see any of their crap is to stop reading and stop participating in the community.

Hey, it works for me. It works for the argumentative guys. Maybe it doesn’t work for the devs, or maybe it does, but you know what, it’s none of my damn business.

So I’ve mostly stopped commenting on the GW2 Reddit, besides the odd craving to dispense sage advice to newbie questions or upvote-whoring sarcasm/jokes from time to time. I spread out and lurk in other friendlier Reddits and enjoy reading those posts instead.

On a less complaining but still worriedly alienating note, eavesdropping on much of my raid guild’s Telegram conversations (ie. a third party messaging app) also brought home some important thoughts to consider. Mostly, they ran along the lines of:

These are nice people, but these are not -my- people.

Let me explain. Age is a big factor. In the endless scrolling conversations of short pithy phrases, 90% of them Twitch memes or spamming of emojis (Telegram calls ’em Stickers, apparently), it is relentlessly brought home to me that I don’t get it, I don’t have the cultural context for this, we have moved from the age of the Millenials to Generation Z.

Being a cusper, I can usually get to grips with various generational tendencies without really 100% identifying with them, but you know, Gen Z has me beat. I have no idea what they’re saying half of the time. They’d rather use voice chat over the microphone than type anyway; reading is hard and text is for sticker spam.

That I can communicate enough to raid successfully with them is already a pretty hefty accomplishment, with a lot of generosity and goodwill extended across generation borders. (Hey, plenty of other groups will say, no mic=no join us, and so on.)

Then there’s time. Gen Z is in college. (Granted, half or more of my particular raid group is working, so we may be slightly older than average.) No, duh, why should we be surprised that the people with the most interest in raiding can spare (and spend) heaps of time in a game due to their real life circumstances?

I thought I played GW2 at a fairly hardcore level. The amount of time some of the people I eavesdrop on spend in-game boggles my mind. Not judging, mind you. I’ve had my heavy hardcore months in four years of GW2.

But lately, it’s just seeing other people do it that put a mirror in front of my eyes and the growing sentiment inside me is that I don’t want to spend -that- many hours in this particular game any longer, because I have other interesting priorities that would be shoved to the wayside if I did.

And there’s mindset. Challenge-seeking, continual improvement, competitiveness, optimal min-maxing, unsoweiter. Not everyone who raids is on one extreme – which is good, because otherwise I’d never get a spot.

There’s a spectrum. There’s people like me that espouse the above just long enough to break whatever necessary threshold there is to hit success before satisficing, and then there are the maximizers who never ever goddamn stop. (And those sprinkled in the middle, of course.)

Needless to say, satisficer and maximizer mindsets do not mix terribly well. I get where the maximizers are coming from, there’s a certain joy from doing what they do; it’s just that they do fail to understand now and again that others don’t share the same time or priorities as they – or perhaps they do, and they’re just willing to eliminate those others from consideration in their narrowing search to optimize further. Who knows. “Not my people”, so talk remains at a professional / acquaintance level.

For those reasons and more, November/December for me was spent in a sort of low-level gaming crisis of faith. I kept hoping for some kind of revelation to blog about, while experimenting in various directions.

Something did eventually come together, but strangely enough, I didn’t feel like I had the energy or motivation to blog about it until today, on New Year’s Eve.

It’s a combination of a few small-scale revelations, really:

  • Guild Wars 2 has become just another game among many. I don’t want it to be my life any more, aka not my “primary” game or MMO.
  • I may, in fact, give up “primary” game thoughts in order to visit more of my game backlog. Dunno. It may be just “play what I feel like” any given month and if something becomes primary that month, so be it.
  • I was getting really antsy about having too many tasks I wanted to do on my plate, and wishing that they were all magically done and complete without having to spend the time. An impatient pipe dream, yes. I needed to somehow resolve this so I could stop driving myself nuts.
  • Patient gaming is a thing. I ran into this concept idly trawling through Reddit – there’s a whole subreddit of patient gamers. They use the term mostly to describe those who lag months and years behind the wave of “new” before playing games. (Huh, I did that already. I did not know there were others like me. *subbed*)

What I’ve been doing this December is an odd foray into something beyond patient gaming – I would call it “slow gaming” except that phrase has been already snapped up by others to describe completely different things – slow-paced deliberate games, low-stakes idle interludes, a longer, sustained experience on an extended timescale.

It’s the last that comes the closest, the idea of extending the timescale of play.

You see, an inventory of tasks and projects suggested I had way too many priorities to keep in play at any one time.

I wanted to do stuff in GW2 like PvP more, learn/gear more classes for raids, collect legendary armor things, force myself to fractal, make legendary weapons, at the same time that I wanted to play Breach League in Path of Exile to death, continue with Terraria’s expert mode, re-visit Minecraft, dabble with other Steam games, not to mention catch up on some nostalgic gamebooks – digital and analog, think about solo playing some tabletop RPGs, catch up on digital magazines, read new books, explore interactive fiction, make my way through courses on Udemy and Coursera like programming and pixel art, exercise more, maybe with the help of Pokemon Go, prepare healthy lunches for work, find a new pottery teacher…

… clean house before the coming year’s super-early Chinese New Year.

Oh, and blog more.

Yeah, right. So going to happen.

I’m not a specialist. I don’t do deep-diving or seek mastery at one thing for 10,000 hours until I become an expert. Razor focus on one thing is not me.

Being a generalist, though, risks overwhelm. So here I am, idly flipping through one of Barbara Sher’s positive pep talk book for generalists with many interests, whom she calls “scanners,” looking for inspiration and advice. Then it hits me.

It’s not anything in the book per se, though there’s a lot of encouragement and cool tips and tricks that might work for some people or at different points in our lives. She suggests that certain scanners might be happy exploring different interests every month, or perhaps spending two years on one thing before going on to another.

The timeframe is too long, I think, and I have -so many things I want/need to do.-

But what if I bring it down to a week, and in that week, I don’t focus on one thing, but say, three things?

Three top priorities, in other words, and because it’s just a week, I can quickly elevate something else to be top priority the next week. The system supports fast iteration.

I can drop GW2 without too much guilt one week (beyond the bare minimum) and spend the time on other constructive pursuits; then the next week, I could PvP or catch up on Wintersday festivities without too much guilt that other things are not getting done.

Experiments in December have not been without its ups and downs (there was deliberate procrastination on one priority for at least two weeks, in part due to being plain exhausted from real life.) It’s a work in progress.

It does seem like something that might suit my particular patterns of cyclic interest fairly well, and more successfully, it has diminished the frequency of relentless restless “I wish it were all done, now” impatient thinking.

We’ll see how it goes for 2017.

In other news, I have run ManicTime (as introduced by Endgame Viable) for over a full year now.

jan-mar2016

  • Red – Guild Wars 2
  • Grey – Minecraft
  • Light Brown – Path of Exile
  • Black – Shadow of Mordor
  • Yellow – Stardew Valley

apr-jun2016

  • Dark Red-Brown – Total War: Warhammer

jul-sep2016

oct-dec2016

  • Green – Terraria

I chopped the looong graph up lazily, so there’s no more axis on three of the charts, but meh, it’s an amusing look at the games I spent the most time on this year.

There were plenty of less than 10 hour dabbling with other games, but I didn’t feel like mentioning those this post.

Big trends for me that I’ve noticed is that GW2 time stayed relatively constant across the year until it took a big hit in Nov-Dec during my little gaming crisis of the faith.

Total gaming hours also got whacked significantly in December (Nov was like a little practice run where I transferred my obsessive attention to Terraria before cutting back.)

Path of Exile is always something I can rely on to spread focus as well, played in spurts throughout the year.

Man, I want to play more Minecraft and Terraria. Maybe next year. 🙂

Of Fish and Blenders

The problem with playing singleplayer games is that it almost never occurs to me to share what I’m doing.

I mean, the very -point- of a singleplayer game is to toodle around doing things on your own having experiences of your own, right?

In contrast to some players who find they must have company when playing modded Minecraft, be  it for general camaraderie or friendly competition or to show off what they’ve made/done, none of those are very strong motivators for me when playing.

I mostly play to assuage my own curiosity, to learn the ins and outs of a particular game, to tickle an underlying achiever urge, and to be lost or immerse in another world/story for a time. None of which particularly require ‘sharing one’s experiences’ in order to tick the checkbox.

So I conveniently “forget” I have a blog and let it lie fallow, in favor of oh… playing Stardew Valley for an extra hour or two.

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We’re now into the Summer of Year 2, and getting a minuscule bit more serious with the farming thing. I’m trying to earn enough moolah to afford the larger animal barns, because it’ll be a really boring Winter if I don’t.

The fishing craze continues, and I’m fast running out of Summer days to catch my new obsession, the legendary Crimsonfish that lives in the east ocean.

It’s not that it doesn’t bite. Oh no. That dang varmint has chomped down on my bait more than ten times now.

It’s that it twists around so wildly, even at level 9 fishing skill (with an extra +3 from a Dish o’ the Sea reward I got from the community center, so I’m capped at 10)  that it escapes me every time. It is officially “the one that got away.”

I have been -sooo- tempted to install an easier fishing mod, just to nab the varmint, but that would probably just cheat myself of the satisfaction.

I spent the hour after I quit playing reading up on Tackles on the wiki, and am going to try a few new ones and see if they make the task any easier. I can also level up my fishing skill one final time to level 10 and see if that does anything. Failing which, there’s modding as the very last resort.

I got so pissed off by the Crimsonfish, I actually ran into the Sewers one night after an entire failed afternoon/evening at the ocean, thinking to use the last 30 seconds of my +fishing food on an attempt at another legendary fish.

sd2

Well, it wasn’t an attempt. It was one hit, one reel. Super easy.

At least it proved there was nothing wrong with my fishing rod, or my fishing skill.

CRIMSONFISH, I’LL GET YOU NEXT TIME, I SWEAR.

On the Path of Exile front, I’ve been finding new fancy things to spent microtransaction points on.

poe1

A currency stash tab is the newest thing GGG has come up with, and I immediately nabbed one.

Some people felt it condensed their wealth too much, into a numerical value that they couldn’t feel the tangibility of (an image I now can’t locate on Reddit said it best, a roomful of cash Scrooge Mcduck style versus a bank account transaction slip listing only numbers), but you know what, I don’t care.

I only care that I managed to empty the two Stash tabs full of currency that I had on the Standard league into one nice neat tab, and got 1/24th closer to having a usable stash in Standard (maybe it’ll happen, one day.)

Having a condensed currency page in the Perandus league ain’t bad either.

poe2

I was mildly amused to see that Path of Exile also had its own share of lockboxes.

Albeit a fully cosmetic-only lockbox wherein you are confirmed to get the full value of the points you spent (just that you get purely random things you may or may not want), and the forum announcement also requested you to “spend responsibly.”

I dunno if that had any effect on the whales who promptly dropped some hundreds of dollars for 2000-3000 points to open a ton of them, but hey, people spend hundreds of dollars on various hobbies, so who’s to say they were irresponsible?

Everyone has their own spending limit.

I was feeling mildly curious, so I decided to open three. 75 points, or $7.50 USD. That’s more my kind of spending limit.

I popped a gargoyle decoration for my hideout, which I was quite chuffed about, and a radiant gloves that some people might have liked, but I personally didn’t like the look of, and decided to stop there, one less than originally planned.

poe3

The hideout menagerie grows…  (The biggest gargoyle is the decoration.)

A day or two later, the infernal footprints went on sale, and I gladly nabbed those, to finish off the whole cosmetic look – essentially you leave fiery footfalls behind, just like carting around a GW2 legendary.

On the non-spending and actually -playing- front, my Righteous Fire/Searing Bond totem Marauder officially ascended to Chieftain a few days ago, by visiting a very outleveled Normal Labyrinth.

The Labyrinth is interesting, but the necessity to stay connected for an extended period of time sorta puts a damper in my enthusiasm to run it, as I don’t have that kind of time except on holidays/weekends, and I’m not 100% sure the servers will stay up even when I do have the time.

Instead, I’ve been enjoying running maps. He’s level 73 now, and still climbing, in spite of really horrible gear. I’ve been searching around desperately for upgrades and just not finding much of anything. The woes of the self-found.

Admittedly, I’m also reaching the limits of my understanding on how precisely to upgrade him further. Else it is always possible to grit my teeth and send a trade whisper out to someone when I’m feeling brave, but the truth is that I don’t even know what I want, how I want to slot further (even though there’s now a million and one skill gems available from the NPC vendors) and it’s going to take time to slowly work it all out.

In the meantime, he can still do maps, albeit exploding every now and  then when encountering the wrong type of boss sporting the wrong type of damage that he now lacks resistances to, because his gear ain’t up to snuff anymore.

For a change of pace, I decided to start up an alt, and make use of all the delicious uniques and stuff that the first character had been dropping.

On a whim, I decided on Blade Vortex, apparently a fairly new skill that was just introduced some few patches ago.

It took a bit of leveling with other gems to get past Merveil and the level you could start slotting Blade Vortex, but now that I’m in Act 2 proper, Blade Vortex is officially on the menu.

And it is hilarious. I now fully understand why folks say that this gem is for fans of “Will it Blend?”

poe4

Essentially for each button press of the skill, you conjure up one blade circling around you for 5 seconds or so. The more you press the button, the more blades get conjured and spin around you.

Eventually of course, you want Faster Casting and Increased Duration to increase the number of blades you can have spinning around you at any one time.

As of now, it’s about 12 as the max, holding down and spamming while being stationary, and to be honest, about 3-5 blades is all that is needed to grind the majority of the throwaway mobs running around the maps.

They run towards you and literally explode on the blades of a blender.

This is cause for much unbridled giggling.

No doubt, the weakness of this build is going to be lethal ranged attacks from afar, but well, I’m following a guide, and let’s see what defences they propose later down the road. It’s a problem for another day.

In the meantime, the answer to the question “Will it blend?” is YES.

 

Stardew Valley Days

stardew1

This game is a dangerous time-suck.

I boot it up to get a few screenshots, and before you know it, I’m doing the “just one more turn” thing into the wee hours of the morning trying to make the crops grow up to the point where I can reap the rewards, and oh look, the seasons changed, my plants are dead, I need to plant more seeds and make them grow up to fruiting stage again.

stardew2

It probably didn’t help that I spent most of the spring fishing.

In every conceivable spot I could find. Because the minigame is devilish in a casino-like sense, involving just enough skill that makes you think you can control the outcome sufficiently and enough RNG from different fishing locations and different fish biting on the hook (and a high amount of variance on the basic rod) that the outcome is never guaranteed.

stardew3

Bought a farming game; Went fishing

Somewhere along the line, the community center quests were unlocked. This asks the player to turn in one of practically every item there is in the game for rewards, in themed bundles like fall crops or spring forage or night-caught fish.

stardew5

Naturally, this fed my hoarding tendencies to no end. Turning a profit is now tricky, because I’m more inclined to keep it in a chest instead.

Still, a sandbox is a sandbox.

Some people choose to min-max their farming to optimal sprinkler patterns and industrial crop generation.

Some people choose to decorate their house with pretty bits, or play the NPC dating sim portions.

Me, I’m tootling around on my dinky little unoptimized but immersive farm, watching the crops grow and the days go by, while I mostly fish the hours away.

stardew6

I’m also dead certain half my played hours are spent holding down “A” or “D” to criss-cross a multitude of screens “running” here and there, at a pace other games would call walking speed. Sneakiest time-wasting mechanic ever.

Before you know it, the natural tendency of humans to rationalize kicks in. “Gee, I just spent hours playing Stardew Valley. I must really like this game!”

(Not to mention the sunk-cost fallacy.)

For pleasant whiling away of hours to cheerful music and idyllic pastoral settings, especially if you only own a PC and can’t play Harvest Moon/Rune Factory variants, Stardew Valley can’t be beat though.

The inside of my modest chicken coop:

stardew4

With two extremely free-range hens.

stardew7

I’ve been keeping the bulk of the overgrown grass around, because they’re apparently a free source of hay.

The silo’s currently clogged with 240 pieces. Am still progressing toward a barn and larger farm animals ever so slooowly.

In the meantime, the hens are running amok in the tall grass and I have to admit that I rather like it that way.

(Fortunately, in-game hens are nice enough to return to the coop to sleep every night, and Stardew Valley doesn’t implement any “farm livestock happily run off and get lost without fencing” mechanics or have any free-roam hen predators around either.)

stardew8

Before you know it (or rather, 15 Steam played hours later,) fall is here.

And the Stardew Valley farming saga continues.