March in Review

UltrViolet from Endgame Viable planted a whimsical seed when he shared his February Progression Report using a timetracking software called ManicTime.

Hmm… sounds kinda fun, I thought, and decided to give the program a spin for March as well.

The graphs are a little hard to see unless you click and expand ’em, but I’ll try to summarize in text too.

week1

In Week 1, I was all about Minecraft, spending 16.7h that week. A hefty chunk of that was played on the weekend, with around 2-3 hours each weekday, dipping as my interest waned.

The cause of that waning interest? I started playing Grim Fandango (2.6h), having treated myself to the remastered edition as one of my anticipated games of 2015.

On replaying it, I realized that Grim Fandango’s greatest strength is in its audio – the voice actors nail their lines with perfect emotion and the music, while understated enough not to be annoying as you revisit each scene, conveys the mood to that ideal point where your imagination takes over and starts imagining what is left unsaid – the backstory, the sidelong quips that one ends up filling in.

Tim Schafer’s writing, of course, is spot on, with conversational lines speckled with humorous wordplay, but in my opinion, if the voice actors didn’t get it right, one wouldn’t want to select every option and sit through the delivery, grinning gleefully like the skulls in the game.

The remastered edition brings in mouse controls and a radial menu for commands that works decently, to the point where you don’t really notice the controls too much – which is far better than fighting the controls with every step, certainly.

You have the option of ‘tank controls’ too, aka ye olde keyboard operated style, and can even get an achievement for doing that the whole game, but I wussed out of that – it did occur to me that keyboard controls felt a little more immersive though, in that you feel like you’re moving Manny, as opposed to mouse controls where you’re clicking on the screen at one step removed and telling Manny where to go. Perhaps another time.

Guild Wars 2 stayed at a constant 6.5h on essentially standby mode, a half-hour for dailies most days with 1-2h longer spurts when I felt like Triple Trouble Wurm, or caught guild missions on Fridays.

week2

In week 2, Grim Fandango obsession had set in.

Finished it with a further 8.8h, which kinda surprised me at how long it took, I hadn’t realized that it contained so much criss-crossing from scene to scene, looking for one item or another. Guess one blanks out the tedium in one’s memories and only remembers the stories.

Guild Wars 2 had slightly more hours of play (11.1h) this week, mostly via attending a dungeon event on Saturday, iirc, making me stay online for longer.

I started casting around for another game to play, dabbling with the Steam free weekend of X1, X2, X3, X:Rebirth type games (a spaceship trade simulator with fairly non-intuitive controls, though it gets better with the latest Rebirth edition), a bit more Minecraft and the Talos Principle (a puzzle-story game in the vein of Portal with some interesting philosophical themes about God and AI – I’d like to play it more later but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for that week.)

week3

In Week 3, Endgame Viable again showed me the way with a casual post about how he’s started to appreciate Path of Exile as a low-energy game that can be played one-handed.

You know, I said to myself, you haven’t played PoE for a very long time and I can’t really remember why either, maybe GW2 came up with an update that tore my attention away and maybe it was my old computer blowing up and I forgot to reinstall everything that was on it.

Turns out that they were starting a new one-month league quite soon, in a few days, when I visited the website to redownload the game.

Gee, one month sounds like an interesting time period, short enough to focus on (as opposed to the usual three month leagues, which to me is like the normal game, an end point too far away to imagine, I’d probably lose interest in the game first), but long enough that it isn’t a race either (of which I would fail miserably at even being competitive.)

And they were offering cosmetic skins as prizes! That looked actually quite pretty! For tasks that almost seemed achievable by normal people as opposed to only achievable by PoE experts!

Well, ok, when your highest character ever is level 66, level 80 is a bit of a stretch. Killing a unique boss like Atziri is definitely a stretch goal, but hey, people speak of farming her as an endgame task. But 40 of 46 encounters with Tormented Spirits and Bloodlines mod magic creatures sound like one of those ‘play enough in the month to encounter them’ participation prize, ditto 18 of 21 Forsaken Masters missions.

Maybe, just maybe, I might be able to qualify for one or two shiny skins, with a super stretch goal of three or four.

Since the league hadn’t started yet, I thought I might as well get some practice in and try something I hadn’t done before (my old characters had one of those skill points completely reset things, which kinda stalled me on going further with ’em – who wants to screw up one’s build permanently when one can’t even remember much of the game, right?)

Conversation on Reddit was all about safe, easy builds for noobs who wanted to get some of the prizes. Flameblast and arc witch were some of the stuff that was mentioned, neither of which I had tried, but y’know, I had a low level witch I had been intending to make into a lightning throwing character.

Playing with Arc, it was.

She was in Standard league, so what the heck, just have fun, deck her out in some lowbie twink gear and run around. Hrm, this Lightning Tendrils gem seems new (It was. 1.3 update or some such.) DAMN, it hits 4 times and attacks super fast, with almost the same cone area as ground slam. But so so fast, look at my DPS climb.

Suffice to say that was one of the fastest characters I ever leveled, eventually slotting in Arc mid way. She was about level 55-ish when the new one-month league finally started.

10.8h of Path of Exile playtime, with an almost exponential climb in the above graph, except for Friday, which is GW2 Teq-Wurm-guild mission day. 8.7h for Guild Wars 2.

I dabbled with Assassin’s Creed (yes, I am still stuck on 1) too for 2.7h, before getting bored of the repetition for now.

week4

In week 4, I am officially in the throes of Path of Exile obsession with 20.9h.

There are a few weekdays where I’m busy and can’t play a thing, but when I can, it’s full steam ahead in the Bloodlines/Torment league.

Having cleverly outsmarted myself by playing a lightning thrower in Standard, I want to do something else for the actual league.

I decide on another build that looks fairly noob-safe and not really reliant on much traded-for gear (since I really loathe old fashioned whisper trading – talking with people is hard, and I don’t wanna get scammed or have to deal with the potential to be scammed – and would rather play self-found if not given any kind of automation or auction house.)

The dual flame totem blood magic marauder.

I’ve always been wanting to try totems. The description of blood magic has always scared me (spend life instead of mana for skills? wouldn’t I just kill myself spamming skills?) so it seemed safer to follow a tried-and-tested build that can cope with taking that node. Marauder is a comfortable tanky class that I’ve played before with molten strike and ground slam, so I know how to level it.

The build even helpfully provides leveling skill-tree setups, so that there isn’t too much guesswork in which path to go up first.

Best laid plans and all that.

Try as I might, I just can’t get a Greater Multiple Projectiles gem to drop yet, and the only quest rewarded one is via a Merciless difficulty quest. This makes my Flame Totems somewhat wimpier, though I did manage to get my hands on Added Chaos Damage, Fire Penetration and Faster Projectiles.

Instead, I end up leveling with a Searing Bond totem as well, whose Increased Burning Damage support gem helpfully dropped for me. The scaling on this particular skill is quite nuts, being super-forgivable and packing a hefty punch with only that support gem slotted. It does around 2-3x the DPS of my as yet not yet fully upgraded flame totem.

However, I’m not quite in a fully Searing Bond build (which I peeked at and it looks quite different, utilizing Elemental Equilibrium and an ice skill to inflict more flame vulnerability) so I’m still working towards getting the Flame Totems more scary.

Dual flame totems are interesting mobile flamethrowers, but because they don’t pack too much of a punch right now, they take a while to kill mobs.

Dual searing bond totems are amusing. In the words of a Youtube PoE streamer, it is sort of like Spiderman webslinging, where you build up a web of fiery lasers that melt things, and then move yourself around pulling a line of fire across foes. It’s a little more active than flame totems in that you need to be constantly repositioning, but it’s also annoying when mobs ignore your totems because they haven’t been hurt by them yet.

poe_creativity

I end up ad-libbing a curious mixture of the two for imo, the best of both worlds currently. I throw a flame totem down, whose flamethrower projectiles piss off any nearby mobs and encourages them to approach and kill the flame totem. Then I block the path with a searing bond totem to the side of the flame totem.

Now anything that approaches either totem ignites and gets set alight by the searing bond totem, getting constantly dps’ed. The flamethrower from the flame totem is also picking on at least one mob for extra dps.

The best part, anything that approaches me, crosses the last beam and also gets set on fire – which is something you don’t get with dual flame totems.

And if I feel like being active, I can pull the searing bond beam across anything this setup misses. If not, I just stand around and chill for a bit while the totems do the work and replace the totems as they die.

Leveling this character went a lot slower than the arc witch, but I think it’s finally coming into its own. I crossed level 55 the other day (where the arc witch was at) and am now level 60 in Act 3 Merciless, working my way towards the final Dominus.

Playing in softcore for now, since I’m an idiot that tends to die a bunch and I personally like blue over red anyway. Easier goal to possibly strive towards too.

6.4h for Guild Wars 2 that week, a pretty standard ‘waiting around’ sort of pace.

week5

The last week of March is more like a couple of days.

I was off on Monday, which is why Path of Exile playtime resembles that of Sunday, aka insanely obsessed. 18.6 hours and rising.

I also dabbled a little with Alien: Isolation (1.7h) , which was on Steam sale last weekend. Haven’t got very far into it, but it feels a lot like a first-person survival horror rather than a first-person shooter, which has fairly faithful nods back to the original Alien. A lot of sneaking around, dark places and shadows, barely seeing an Alien (except for one part where I was too slow and it came out to kill me for taking my time. Bah.)

GW2 over two days has been 0.5h – super quick dailies and then full steam ahead into Path of Exile.

I expect that it should slow down over the next few weeks, as I’m approaching the area where leveling begins to plateau off somewhat, leaving me trying to figure out the PoE map endgame once more.

Listmas 2014: What I Like About The New GW2 Dailies

Yeah, I know I’ve gone silent for a while.

Between a seasonal cold, RL festivities preparation, lots to do in GW2, a renewal of interest in Minecraft, dabbling with the Don’t Starve Together beta, and Steam sales calling attention back to my massive backlog, -something- had to give.

Lists, though. That sounds almost doable to get back into writing shape.

I’m pretty late to the response party about the new GW2 dailies, Bhagpuss and Kill Ten Rats having gotten there first, but my main excuse is that I was busy -doing- them, rather than commenting about them.

Overall, I like ’em.

I don’t love ’em, nor do I hate them. They don’t really bother me either way.

The one thing I do miss is the unrestricted chance feeling of just having completed a daily by accident, while doing stuff one was doing anyway, but to be honest, most days I was using them in a directed fashion, adjusting my activities to get them knocked out first.

Stuff I do like:

  • Log-in rewards don’t penalize missing a day with an entire reset of rewards – thanks for recognizing people have lives, unlike *cough* Neverwinter
  • Log-in rewards offer a choice at the end of the month, to customize your reward towards what you need more of
  • New dailies offer a more directed, Guild Wars 1-esque, Zaishen-like experience
  • New dailies reward knowledge of lowbie zones as a result – knowing where lumber nodes are closely clustered in Ascalon, or forage nodes in Kryta saves you time running around in circles
  • New dailies encourage but not “force” participation in PvP or WvW (for lvl 80s anyway) – strictly speaking, you can do 3 out of 4 PvE dailies and still complete, but if you’re lazy and open to venturing elsewhere, the low hanging fruit in either game mode may be more convenient to hit than a more tedious or schedule-reliant task in PvE
  • New dailies give additional activity-specific rewards – it makes logical sense to get more dragonite ore hunting a world boss, more karma doing events or faster PvP track progression doing PvP. It also makes it still very tempting to complete everything on offer if one has time that day.
  • Bottom line: New system gives more rewards for doing less stuff – I used to only get 5-8 old dailies done for 5-8 AP daily and the old rewards. Now I do 3 at a minimum and get 10 AP. I get the old rewards just for logging in (something I already do daily) and I get new additional rewards for continuing my semi-completionist achievement-hunting ways.

Works fine for me.

 

Just Plain (or Playin’) Mercenary Now

gw2-mercenary

It figures. I go all gung-ho and farm Mordrem body parts for two days, because my compulsion to complete was reaching OCD standards… I bang my head against the Dodgy Crowd and Wicked Rodeo achievements more than a dozen times solo, before finally surrendering and looking for extra help in a group…

…and the big plan was to then title the next blog post “Mercenaries of the Silverwastes” and write some commentary on that.

Then Anet pulls the rug out from all of us with the announcement that Living Story will pause for Wintersday break and only resume on Jan 13.

Oh.

Hrm.

That feels like a bit of a letdown. Kinda deflated, really.

I think the biggest problem I have is that the story continuity kinda goes nowhere with this sort of pacing. One needs to have a sort of mini-arc come to a more-or-less satisfactory conclusion, before declaring a break.

One doesn’t just ramp up and build up mystery and suspense, plonk a big cliffhanger of a door in the way and say, well, wait 2, no, it’s 5 weeks now to find out what’s next!

Especially not if you’ve built up the expectation that the story will be explained in two weeks, and then suddenly extend it to five.

Did one really have to wait a week to announce that kind of thing, especially if it’s already scheduled? Just putting the Jan 13 date out there the moment Seeds of Truth launched, to say that it would continue then, would probably have mitigated expectations a little better.

Also, people wouldn’t have looked at the ridiculous amount of artificial Mordrem bodypart grind (two bladder pieces, wtf?) and freaked out.

Honestly, beyond getting strung along with a story that goes nowhere, I don’t have a big issue with the concept of a break for Wintersday.

It’s Christmas season, many people get busy irl, work takes a holiday in many companies, and personally I could use SNOW AND ICE for a while, instead of SAND AND ROCK.

It’s been…what, six weeks of the Silverwastes? There’s a limit to how novel the zone can feel, and as much as I’d really like to see what’s behind the west wall of vines that are ever extending outward (especially with the Shadow of the Dragon-sounding roar that echoes every now and then when you hang out between the Amber and Blue forts), it might do us all some good to have a break from the zone and go elsewhere for a change, before coming back refreshed.

(One will,  however, be a bit pissed story-wise, if we come back to find Camp Resolve strangled by vines. No, seriously, there’s this big giant vine creeping up on the camp here. For weeks. Cos plants grow slow, I guess.

If we can light signal fires to artillery barrage the forts, I humbly suggest that we turn the front part of this vine into a bonfire to signal the big guns to light it up further…)

Oh well.

If anything, it mostly comes as a bit of a relief.

Steam was offering Van Helsing II at 66% off the other day, and while I didn’t pick it up yet (I figure 66% ought to happen again during the Christmas sale, and I’m always hoping for 75%), it did remind me that I’ve always been intending to try out Van Helsing I, which has been sitting in my “to-be-played” list for an eternity now.

So I cranked it up and discovered that action RPGs seem to be a rather good accompaniment to an MMO habit. Quick to start, lots of mobs to fight, interesting skills and build pondering, plenty of loot drops/reward factor, and the ability to just log out and pause everything/put all progress on hold until the next time you feel like playing it.

(Between Path of Exile, Marvel Heroes and now Van Helsing, I’m racking up quite the collection, here.)

Van Helsing is entertaining in the sense that it feels a bit like a cross between a regular RPG and an action RPG. There’s a bit more of a story going on, with quests you pick up from NPCs, and sidequests. Stuff is supernatural-themed and you seem to be a bit of a mercenary hunter with one main plot you’re investigating, but along the way, you do a lot of other things and help various people – standard RPG schtick, really.

You have a nice interaction/banter occuring with your ghost “companion”, which sort of acts like a more elaborate Torchlight pet (she’ll be deadly insulted if you call her a pet, though), that will pick up items and gold for you, and go to the shops to sell stuff, plus a whole lot more besides.

There’s a bit more of a stop-and-start feel to the skills than something like Path of Exile or Diablo (the older versions anyway, I -assume- 3 is similar),  but not as awkward feeling as Marvel Heroes.

The challenge factor is a lot more appealing than Marvel Heroes, in the sense that one actually feels threatened by the mobs and can die to them, unless you do a lot of fancy footwork to kite stuff, or use healing potions and prep accordingly.

So at least I’ll have more time to play that in the 5 weeks that Living Story is more or less on hold.

Wintersday this year is in Divinity’s Reach, so I guess that’s something new and novel, to see the grand city dressed up in Winter finery.

I finally got Wynne’s Locket:

Picked up the Do Not Tread achievement after a lot of practice with Caithe and her skills and finally avoiding getting trampled or charged by acting like a total wuss and single-pulling centaurs out to the edges of the battle to murder, while letting Faolain tank the rest of them. (Stealthing in to rez her again if/when she goes down. Gotta match her for being a manipulative bastard, y’know?)

Was brought near to the point of tears and surrender with the other two achievements, and finally decided to join a group for the Wicked Rodeo achievement, if only to see how different it was when other people got to have their own skills.

It wasn’t a bad time, actually, though we wiped twice. Each go at it sort of showed us a bit more strategy on how we might actually progress with it.

Eventually, we settled on killing the elementals near the sides of the walls, leaving the nasty sand pools there, while avoiding most of the wind walls around the arena.

At the same time, I was playing Caithe, and decided to switch my gear around to 4 parts of Soldiers and 2 parts of Clerics, which made me a lot tankier than my usual Zerker stuff. (Died the first time to too many windwalls, died the second time to stumbling backward into two sandpools and getting conditioned to death with all my movement abilities on cooldown – which was stupid, but look, was avoiding windwalls, okay?)

I could pretty much just sit there and take one of Togron’s normal rock shard attacks without flinching, fer instance.

This also had the added bonus of turning me into a magnet for the elementals, so I could just tap them and bring them to the rest of the party gathering by the walls. They quickly made short work of them while I just spammed 1, afraid to do anything else and then move out of position with the rest of Caithe’s very movement-oriented skills.

The rest of the group was also more mobile and long-ranged, so they then pounded on Togron to bring his hp down while I just sat around at far range attracting his rock shards again, and preventing him from his close-range attack of creating sand pools.

That went really super smoothly, to the point one of the other party members asked if that felt like there were less waves that round. No, we just killed the elementals and worked his hp down really fast. -Really- fast. Cos no one died.

That experience gave me enough encouragement to try for Dodgy Crowd again, on normal, solo. Being really careful with Caithe and putting the eles near the walls before killing them, so as not to make nasty sand pool obstacles for myself.

After a few more times banging away at it, I got it, which makes me happy to feel like I accomplished something.

With that strategy, I might just give Wicked Rodeo a go again solo. Some other time, though.

I did get curious enough to join another group for Wicked Rodeo, this time playing myself, not Caithe. And yes, you can indeed reflect or absorb the windwalls. I got tons of mileage out of Shield of Absorption, and a lesser amount out of Wall of Reflection (problem with reflection is the windwalls will bounce away, so you better be standing in the right place.)

That group was a little less coordinated or organized. I kept mum on the strategy my original group had pulled off, cos I wanted to see what this one would come up with first. It ended up with most of us dead and one person finally managing to stretch it out and solo the last part of it, after repeated tries wiping. Still a viable enough solution, as far as it goes.

And I’m really just quite relieved that I’m done with the stupid Mordrem bodypart grind for now.

I ended up being one of those self-focused leechers for a bit, getting some hits in on a mob and then booking it to another. That’s just how the system is set up, right? It doesn’t actually matter if the bosses die or not, you still get the body parts. I don’t -want- the greater nightmare key reward, it gives glove boxes, which I don’t need right now. I just want -more- body part bags to open so that I might actually get a damned spleen or the second half of a bladder.

So one stops playing the Silverwastes properly, instead taxi’ing like mercenaries for hire into the next Silverwastes instance above 50% completion. One taps the events, does the bare minimum of defence, and runs around looking for lost bandit chests instead.

(Look, RNG and me don’t get along, all right? I’ve opened about 300 of them so far – 159 of them on a dedicated chest farm run – and only got one boots box out of it. On the 300th or so box.

The only good thing I can say is that I’m making quite a decent killing on materials that come out of the champion bags.)

Once the breach happens, hop into the first most-likely-to-die boss that you need (that’s usually Troll or Thrasher), tap it, bail when it feels like you’ve got enough damage in, and run, do-not-pass-Go, to the next boss you need (Husk or Terragriffs) and stay around to kill that (readying up an extractor to click the moment the first one dies.)

That’s at least two parts, and maybe even three, if you get the timings just right.

They might fix it eventually, but hey, not for 5 weeks, apparently. *coughs*

The good news is, I don’t need to do that anymore. I can now stay around like a good person and focus on killing one mob, so that other people who still need the parts can run from place to place.

The bad news is, I’m probably still going to pick an easy mob to kill first and go to the harder ones later.

That, and the fact I’ll beeline for any chest first over actually doing a Silverwastes event now.