Warframe: Monkeying Around

Wukong Prime was the warframe that kept me busy for most of last month, earning relics and then cracking them open painstakingly, only to find the wrong parts and begin all over again.

One has the option to skip most of the grind by paying a semi-exorbitant sum of real money – I did that for my first love Rhino Prime and have never regretted it; I was at a point in the game where I needed a good tanky awesome-looking frame to push my progress further.

In this case, I didn’t need Wukong Prime, but I thought he looked really cool and wanted him pretty badly. Going the relic route basically meant an excuse for gameplay… though bad luck ended up really extending the length of that gameplay this time around.

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Worth it. Playing around with the frame after earning the parts over said month, spending 12 hours building the parts, and then waiting another 3 days for the parts to be assembled into the warframe was immensely rewarding.

The frame’s abilities were apparently reworked fairly recently and the results are something I really dig as a soloist.

Ability 1 creates a celestial twin – basically a computer-controlled version of your warframe, presumably using the specter/pet AI. It uses melee if you pull out your ranged weapon to shoot something, and switches to range if you go melee.

Fortunately, the pet AI in Warframe is good enough to do a decent amount of damage, especially when it uses my Ignis Wraith flamethrower. It is childishly delightful to just watch your very own computer-controlled ally just clear all the enemies for you, while you stand around, swinging your melee weapon around in the air while admiring yourself.

Once you tire of that, ability 2 is Cloud Walker. He disappears into a cloud, going invulnerable (temporary tankiness, awesome!) and while in the cloud, you gain a massive speed boost and flight abilities, so you can literally pilot yourself up floors and across gaps without needing anything so crass as a bullet jump or a double jump like all those other ground-dwelling warframes.

In case that wasn’t enough, Cloud Walker also restores your health.

Oh, and it stuns any enemies you waft pass.

Is there anything it can’t do?!

I haven’t found the limits yet. I even managed a Maroo’s Ayatan sculpture mission with it, something I previously had to resort to Titania’s Razorwing flight mode. Cloud Walker is more brief, lasting only seconds, but I kinda like the active feel and the design implication that a little bit of skill in timing is needed to do cool things with it.

Ability 3 is Defy. Another sort of invulnerable skill which absorbs damage enemies do to you briefly, then reflects it back in a giant staff swipe of multiplied AoE damage. Oh, and he gains a brief armor bonus based on how much damage was absorbed, capped at 1500 armor.

I like it. It brings shades of Rhino or GW2 guardian blocks to mind, in that there is tankiness to be had, but it should be timed well, or at least used actively, when you anticipate huge bursts of incoming damage.

Ability 4 is the classic Iron Staff the Monkey King is always seen with. Like Excalibur, he can pull out an Exalted melee weapon and then go to town on enemies.

Honestly, I haven’t even tried out ability 4 while ranking up Wukong Prime. I just couldn’t be bothered to slot it with mods yet.

I had a Zaw, Warframe’s custom modular melee weapon earnable from the Plains of Eidolon, and it happened to be an already modded two-handed bladed staff I’m pretty fond of. So that’s my melee weapon for the time being.

I presume with proper slotting Iron Staff might be pretty good, or more ideally, pretty darned awesome, or less ideally, just only okay. Whatever. I’m good with Celestial Twin and Cloud Walker already.

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It’s odd. I never really was attracted to the persistent Monkey King-alikes that “mysteriously” get inserted into various games (aka thinly veiled attempt to appeal to the China market – see Who is Sun Wukong and Why is He in Every MOBA?) despite being Asian and yes, growing up with Journey to the West as one of my favorite book series/mythological stories.

But something about Warframe’s Wukong Prime – and it has to be the Prime look – really does it for me.

Superhero musculature, robot monkey, and all ninja – yep, checks all the boxes except zombie and pirate.

Definitely one of my favorite warframes, just a hair shy behind Nidus and Rhino Prime.

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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:

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To this:

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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

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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.

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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?

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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.

New Plains of Eidolon

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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.

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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.

Wide Screen, Narrow Focus

The biggest piece of news for me on the games front has been the upgrade of an ailing six-year old monitor to something about three times as ludicrous. Literally.

As in, super-ultra wide.

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I had the opportunity to pick up one of Samsung’s 49″ CHG90 monitors for 25% off and decided to go for it. You only live once and all that.

It’s currently being powered by my new-old PC (that is, it’s still new in my mind but objectively old by now) and putting the then-awesome GTX 980 through its paces (eh, it’s about time it gets a workout.)

Any further upgrades will have to wait a little, as the monitor, even discounted, costs about the same as an entire PC, but damn, is it glorious.

Naturally, I’ve been doing very little with it beyond playing the same old games.

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But in a whole new way.

It’s not been all smooth-sailing. One of the sticking points that are nigh immediately surfaced is the fact that very few games and developers have thought about ultrawide displays as an important consideration until recently, so UI can be a major problem.

Resizing it, moving it, not having it so far away in your peripheral vision that you can’t see any health reports and thus immediately die because you have no idea how you’re actually doing. Each game can be a whole new exercise in tweaking and customizing the UI until it becomes acceptable.

For someone who really values immersion as a motivation while playing games though, that feeling of being lost inside a wholly different world, and revels in the awe and inspiring nature of a fantastical landscape, the experience of playing on an ultrawide is something not to miss.

If VR is about wrapping a screen around your face so that you feel like you’re there in a different environment, then a super-ultrawide is about having a screen attempt to take up as much of your actual field of vision as possible, while still giving you plenty of room for air.

It is strangely sating.

I can play less, and feel completely satisfied. A couple of Warframe missions and I’m bowled over by so much visual spectacle that it’s hard to crave more.

Which is all very well because I’ve been splitting up my time into Path of Exile’s Synthesis League. Being SSF blissfully insulates me from any dissatisfaction of the general population.

The Spectral Throw claw-wielder I’ve been attempting is a bit of a slow bloomer, reliant on gear I probably don’t have, so it’s been a little more challenging than usual. Something I was quite aware of going in, so I don’t have any complaints on that front, but it’s slow going and tempting me to make a second character to try another build.

PoE is one of those games where going super-ultrawide does NOT do survival any favors, thanks to putting UI way beyond any visibility. So I’ve been playing it in a more sedate windowed “wide” view that expands my field of vision some, but not absurdly.

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It does, amusingly, provide enough room for me to have Path of Building up in another window right next to it, so that’s a nifty bonus when I want to refer easily to it.

You’d think one of the best games to be messing around with a super-ultrawide display is Guild Wars 2, and you’d be right, from a visual spectacle standpoint… except that I’m still struggling with overall veteran burnout – it all feels pretty boring doing the same old thing.

I did get a few cool screenshots while doing the same old thing:

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These are in the middle of raids, so graphics have been cranked down to middling to eke out every last drop of FPS.

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I got a WvW screenie for kicks, even though I don’t WvW much at all.

If there’s one thing I figured out right quick from the above, it’s that there can be very much hardware-related reasons as to why person A might perform differently from person B.

I felt like I had a noticeable amount of greater situational awareness just from the wider field of view, though smaller detailed nuances (like where your feet might be standing) might be harder to spot as a result.

If some WvW person seems to have a better grasp of their surroundings, it may very well be that they’re not looking through a porthole and do indeed have a broad overview of the entire field of battle, as it were.

Ah well, I suppose that’s life.

I certainly wouldn’t advise picking up an ultrawide display just to be competitive – if only because the words GW2 and competition go together laughably, if at all.

Eventually, I’ll get tired of Path of Exile and maybe that will bring enough time to broaden out to testing other games. Minecraft, Shadow of War, and others. But for the moment, slaughtering hordes of mobs in pretty surroundings is checking all my boxes.

I did take five minutes of random touring in order to leave you with some “proper” GW2 screenshots as I sign off till next time…

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I Have a Nidus, and I’m Not Afraid to Use It!

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No deep brooding post today. Just alien Infestation everywhere.

Holy hell, he is so much fun.

Nidus is the Infested Warframe – all his abilities involve shooting, spreading, or otherwise controlling various tentacled Infestation.

He is the first warframe I own to be primarily an ability caster – that is, he can get away with not relying on weapons much and instead let his abilities do the killing.

It takes some time to build up to seriously awesome power. Doing an ordinary mission with him felt like it kept his power level low.

Soloing an endless dark sector survival mission is a whole ‘nother story.

It’s going to take some time to figure out how to take him further with forma and the correct mods and all that, but for now, decimating packs of enemy Infested is ludicrously fun.