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.

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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.

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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.

On Warframe

Everybody should try Warframe.

Everybody should try it, if only to gain a little empathy for newbies coming into their game of choice completely lost and having no context to understand any of the terminology.

It doesn’t help that the game is deeply in love with its own vocabulary, so much so that even basic game concepts require a trip to a wiki. I have an almost bottomless capacity for useless space words (I play Destiny!) but even I read about the folly of overinvesting Endo in performing Fusion on the damaged Serration in my MK1-Paris and think: wat.

– Chris Thursten, Eurogamer, “Warframe in 2017 is a shooter at the crossroads between art and business”

That said, Warframe does try to drip feed information to you. It has in-game tutorial instruction pages, neatly broken down into easy to read (if less easy to absorb and internalize) bite-sized pieces.

There’s an entire in-game codex, which is a mini-game in itself to fill out, in order to unlock more of the story, lore and possible tactical information.

Different stations of your ship will unlock through quest progression, so that you only need to worry about the basics at the start, and deal with the more advanced stuff later.

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It’s just that everything feels so very alien when first dipped into the universe of Warframe.

Even the aesthetic is non-standard. Your avatar is all Bio-armor with organic curves and abstract color schemes.

The words are alien. They call you a Tenno. Someone or something called Lotus is talking to you. There’s Ordis, there’s Grineer, there’s weapons and warframes given all manner of names like Skana, Furis, Paris, Oberon, Hydroid and Frost. There’s mastery ranks, levels, mods, resources, credits, platinum, affinity, a codex, sentinels, companions, and more.

All you want to latch onto is, “Ok, this is a gun. I can shoot it.”

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That, and “I think this Excalibur warframe is a bit too slim and curvy for my liking where avatars are concerned, but it’s already the best out of three enforced choices.”

Then you flip through the Warframes in the Market, wondering whose looks and shtick might  suit you the best, and get your heart set on the big bulky Rhino.

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If you’re me in 2015, this is where you take one look at the cost of purchasing the Warframe, realize that the price is listed in platinum (the currency bought for RL currency), do a little calculation over how many dollars it’s going to cost to try out a sampling of warframes and weapons, and quit in a “ugh, P2W, I don’t like the game that much to start paying yet anyway” huff.

Fast forward to 2017 and I’m in a more receptive frame of mind. Warframe has been out for more than a couple years, it just launched some kind of ‘open-world’ map as an expansion patch, it seems to garnered a favorable audience for itself… it makes me receptive enough to start Googling for information, which is where I went wrong in 2015 – I didn’t.

Turns out that Warframe is -not- P2W as many strident fans will tell anyone who cares to read more about the game. You can earn pretty much anything in-game with enough investments of time and focused effort (which could possibly be more grind than you wanted to invest, of course.)

They make their money out of those who want to pay to significantly shortcut the process of progression, which has always been a pretty sizeable number. It’s not the best kind of microtransaction model in my book personally, since it’s very easy to make the ‘free’ alternative a ludicrously impossible grind in comparison to dropping a couple dollars (which then begs the question, “why am I wasting so much time on this one game?” and the answer of “let’s not”), but it is acceptable enough for me to try it free and see how far I can get.

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What I missed in 2015 (or maybe the UI wasn’t like this then, I do not recall) was this little alternate tab that shows that the Rhino blueprints can be bought for the in-game currency of credits.

Mind you, not that I would actually know, as an off-the-cuff newbie that the icon of three blue stacked trapezoids means “credits” and that it can be clicked to bring up a new tab.

You’d then need the parts and resources to make them, and a little more enterprising Googling research revealed this to be a decently achievable medium-term goal for a newbie. Rhino part blueprints were dropped by that boss over yonder, the resources for that part could be found on that planet, and so on.

(Granted, if you had your heart set on something much less newbie-friendly and further up the progression chain, then you were asking for a really really long grind playing stuff you didn’t like in order to get to stuff you thought you might like.)

Since I’d fortunately developed a taste for something conceivably reachable, I decided that my 2017 Warframe trial would take on that challenge. Something a little easier than building a GW2 legendary, perhaps more along the lines of building an ascended weapon or earning a griffon. Something that focused one’s path and laid out a line of clarity.

Turns out that is pretty much Warframe: the game.

There’s a fair amount of lateral progression choices set among the vertical progression of fighting bigger and badder higher level enemies. More so than Destiny 2, I’d wager a guess, even if I didn’t play Destiny 2 beyond the free beta for long enough to really know.

For one thing, my gun didn’t automatically get stronger or increase in attack damage numbers, nor did I get drops of guns with ever-increasing gear levels and higher damage numbers.

Once enemies started hitting levels of 6-10, I found my weapons starting to do very ridiculously small amounts of damage, and desperate need forced me into Google research once more to dig up beginner guides and frequently asked questions.

Turns out (and this is a very common refrain for Warframe, discovering what is common sense knowledge to regular players and completely alien to anybody else) that there are these things called ‘Mods.’

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Mods are like little Magic cards you collect (ok, they are ostensibly item drops, but they look and function like Magic cards.)

In similar vein to games like Paladins or Hearthstone, you select a limited deck from a broad array that you can collect, which hopefully synergize in effective ways, and make whatever you slot into them stronger/better/more effective.

In Warframe’s case, you stick them into your weapons, your warframes and even your companions.

There’s a bit more linearity to Warframe’s mods. There’s one primary mod that straight up increases damage done for a specific weapon type, like rifles, melee or pistols. That’s the one to go for straight away for improvements to weapon strength, I’m given to understand.

Then there are nice-to-have mods that can tweak how much secondary elemental type damage your weapon might do, make it better against specific faction enemies, increase criticals and so on.

Given that your weapon has a limited capacity to accept mods (its capacity increases as you level up the weapon), this turns into a strategic building exercise complete with third-party website calculator/builder for those that like that sort of minigame.

To add on to the fun, each mod can vertically progress in power, from say, 20% damage dealt to 40%, 60%, 80%, 100% damage dealt, by “fusing the mod.” This involves spending yet another currency, Endo, along with in-game credits to essentially rank up the mod from level 1 to say, level 7.

The cost goes up exponentially, making it not that desirable to completely max out all your mods, not to mention, your weapon has a set capacity, so instead of just a few maxed out mods, it might theoretically be more optimal to have several medium-ranked mods synergizing together instead.  (We’ll leave these for the min-max strategists to calculate, but I like the complexity and potential for different builds, rather than the one true Max Everything Max All The Gearscore path of numerical simplicity.)

There’s lateral progression options in Warframe’s map levels as well.

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You start out on Earth, and from there, you can branch in multiple directions almost at once.

You -could- follow the given quest storyline and aim towards map nodes that complete it.

You could also, like me, decide that you want X item and then concoct your own strategy of shortest path to reach map nodes that would reward the necessary resources for the item.

Along the way, you’d be required to achieve various goals (some of which might be completing a story quest) in order to unlock the junctions that gate the planets you were trying to reach.

Warframe’s maps themselves are open to a small amount of lateral options, in that you could achieve objectives in a stealthy way, or charge in alarms blaring and guns blazing. You could clear methodically, working your way through killing everything and opening every container in sight, or speed rush through all the enemies and go straight for the objective and then make an equally hasty exit.

Granted, some strategies are more optimal for certain mission types. Setting off multiple alarms are not a good idea when trying to rescue a prisoner, for example, as you’d wind up with a time limit of slightly over a minute before the prisoner is killed by the wardens and the mission automatically fails.

I’d guess rushing is probably the favored multiplayer option (knowing how pickup groups generally are) but if you’re solo like me and trying to collect as many rare resources as possible to build a specific item, it may be worth your time to veer off objective and crack open all the resource containers you can.

Bottom line, Warframe lends itself to replay in quite a number of different ways.

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Maybe you need to rank up a bow, so you decide to kill everything with a bow; and if you want to rank up your throwing daggers/shuriken or a sword or giant hammer, that’s a whole different kind of killing method altogether. Maybe you want to fill out your codex, so instead of killing everything without looking, you might spend more stealthy time scanning all the things first.

It’s good that it’s so replay friendly, because that’s essentially Warframe’s entire game. Play and replay all the maps, progressing forward with whatever you’re set on progressing on.

When this gets unbearably repetitive, I guess, depends on the individual player’s tolerance.

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One thing Warframe has going for it is that it is also exceptionally good at parkour movement. ” ‘Freedom of movement’ is fun,” seems to be the refrain that ArenaNet is using when it comes to its Path of Fire mounts, and well, Digital Extreme’s Warframe already knows all about that.

You can sprint, and slide by crouching while sprinting. Double jumping? Yes, of course. Wall-running is apparently a thing, though I’ve not cared to figure it out yet. (It’s gone through a few changes over the years, apparently.)

You can create an insanely ground-chewing pace by first sprinting, then sliding, and then chaining that slide into a double jump leap that spins you into a mini missile torpedo-ing forward.

Bullet jumping is the new in-thing for Parkour 2.0 supposedly, and I use the heck out of it without knowing anything about its history or when it was introduced. It’s a glorious superjump which is triggered by crouching, then jumping. Gets you nearly anywhere, or would, if I were a bit better at it and aiming it properly.

What Warframe -isn’t- that great at, which did contribute to turning off 2015 me, is how its animations connect with the map and the enemies.

They don’t. Not quite. Just a hair shy, maybe. It gives a “floaty” feeling of combat.

The animations and the sounds effects are themselves great. They spin, they perform, they sort of connect, but not quite…

It’s that “not quite” that I couldn’t quite accept way back in 2015, after having been spoiled by GW2’s combat animations – where every attack has an animation, which connects with impact. Where your avatar’s feet position actually changes level if you’re standing on a fence or a little step.

In Warframe, you hit things with a big ol’ ninja sword, and they don’t reel away or react as an orc might in Shadow of Mordor. Instead a bunch of small numbers pop up, you hear a sword slashy sound and for a split second, it sort of feels like you’re scraping this sword against a bunch of static pillars with declining health bars before they take enough damage to fall down dead.

It’s not unforgivable. You can get used to it. 2017 me has stopped caring about it. The mobs perform their role as target dummies adequately enough. If you’re pincushioning them with multiple projectiles from a distance, you’re not going to see that much regardless.

But in case it feels a little odd, well, it’s not just you. Some weapons feel just a mite off.

Then again, some weapons are freakin’ spot on. My new favorite melee weapon (not that I’ve tried much beyond the basic Skana and a plasma sword) is the two-handed Fragor hammer.

Missing an impactful feeling? This thing has IMPACT as it slams down, destroying anything in its path with an area of attack that sends mobs flying. It attacks slower than I’d personally prefer, but y’know, it’s a gigantic two handed hammer, attacking slowly is both balance factor and a nod to verisimilitude. You can accept that. Especially for what you get in exchange.

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All in all, I am in a comfortable spot with Warframe. I greatly prefer games with lateral progression options over vertical progression ladders.

I ground for/earned my Rhino warframe the other day and love it a great deal – I love bulky, tanky characters.

I ground for/earned my first Archwing a day or two ago and was amused by (if a little disoriented by the controls) the Archwing missions – which involve arcade-like space dogfighting… with basically a giant humanoid robot mech wielding a big gun and an even huger sword.

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Freedom of movement galore… at least, right up to the point you slam into an asteroid or an enemy ship and learn why “ramming speed” in space is essentially a kamikaze attack.

I forsee things slowing down a little as I settle in to enjoy slowly playing my way through all the planets and quests with the warframe I wanted from the get go.

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Lots of planets to trundle through

Similar to GW2, Warframe’s the kind of game where there’s always going to be another stretch goal, if you let it run your life. So my tactic in response is to take it at my own pace and get there when I get there.

It’s not the bestest game out there by far. But it’s a “fun enough” game for me to consider spinning up for the night, getting a mission or three cranked through real quick, and then logging out again to devote more time to my primary game.

Given the many thousands of games I could be playing and how desperately each game is vying for our time and attention, Warframe being able to qualify for the position of a nightly secondary game isn’t too shabby an achievement at all.