GW2: In Praise of Bite-Sized Content

Two famous cats...

Having spent a few too many days playing through two-hour long map meta events (sometimes, only to reach bitter failure), this weekend I found myself making only a few desultory efforts to taxi into an organised map before giving up.

“Eh, let’s give other people a chance to experience it and not hog a slot.”

“If it’s the weekend crowd, chances are likely their first few goes at it are going to fail anyway, given the learning curve and all that…”

“I could be doing this with much less frustration and failure a month or two later when more of the player population actually knows what to do.”

“This is wasting too much of my time when I could be doing other things.”

“Also, I’m nursing a headache and I don’t think I can withstand staying upright for 2 straight hours of middling ordinary play to razor-sharp focus right now.”

All the above ran through my mind and before you knew it, I’d dropped the taxi and ended up mostly in bed napping.

When sleep was finally impossible because the brain kept insisting it was time to wake up, I decided it was time to head back to core Tyria and catch up on stuff I’d been ignoring there.

Like topping off and completing the Fractals 3 mastery I’d been working toward steadily, given the news that Fractal rewards were getting tweaked a little in the future. (Well, that means I kinda need to have a basis of comparison and try out opening at least a few chests now.)

The most peaceful and still fairly efficient method of filling up the mastery bar that I know is solo killing of xp-laden ignored mobs.

So I popped some boosters, and ran around Cursed Shores (long time no see), Southsun Cove and ended up settling in Frostgorge Sound under the quiet, dark and deep waters killing all the things.

Sometimes, loving things other people loathe has its advantages.

I ended up finishing that rather quickly. In order not to waste the boosters, I turned my attention back to Pact Mastery 2 – at a more modest million or so xp – and managed to get that bar to completion too. Job well done, in just one hour.

I logged off, feeling satisfied.

Back again in Tyria after another round of naps, I started scanning the achievement and collection lists. Fractals and daily fractals stood out as something I hadn’t touched post-HoT. So I gave them a go.

Frankly, I must applaud the post-HoT fractal changes.

(Mind you, this is ignoring the reward aspect. I tend not to even keep track of how many fractal relics I’m earning when I play. I just do an activity, click all the chests, and only when I need the tokens, do I check my wallet to see how much I have accrued over time.)

Here I’m just talking about how much less of a pain it is, now that they’ve chopped up what used to be a set of three fractals, plus a final boss fractal.

Before, you were looking at a 45 minute minimum time investment, if you were lucky and got a decent group, or upwards of 1.5-2 hours for a not-so-great group. I’ve heard nightmare stories of 3 hour fractals, but I don’t want to think about those.

Now, especially given the guidance of a simple ‘daily’ fractal number, you just grab a group and go do that one fractal. Done in 15 minutes (give or take a few.)

If it’s the daily, you even get an extra bouncy chest to add on to the good feelings.

I open what I can with the free keys from the dailies, usually getting 10-15 silver junk plus some number of +1 infusions, and sell the rest of the chests on the TP.

If I feel like doing more, then I can scan the LFG list and either do two more single fractals to make up another daily, or jump on a group with more stringent goals (such as a specific string of two or three fractals) or a group that’s trying to do some kind of achievement/challenge.

Wow, it's been a while since I've seen this part of the map.

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve seen this particular part of this map.

I am especially in favor of the -certainty- factor of the new fractals.

I keep the Fractals of the Mists wiki open in the other screen for easy reference, and at a glance, I can set my expectations appropriately.

Ok, that group is asking for a 2. That’s Bloomhunger, easy peasy, I can do that.

That’s a 23? Ok, tunnel crawl, kill a bunch of mobs, whole lotta dredge trap mechanics, k, I’m ready for that.

A 22? Ugh, Cliffside. Eh… I don’t like all those vertical heights and chanter stuff, I think I won’t join that group today.

I didn’t realize it until it was gone, but I always had this subconscious sense of -dread- with pre-HoT fractals.

On paper, randomization of a dungeon sounds like a good thing, for variety and all that.

At the same time though, there was a lack of control aspect to it. You had to remember how to do 14 different mini-dungeons, on the fly, and you’d only know which one you faced when you were hip deep in it. No takebacks. Get through it, or give up the whole thing. Even if you could manage such a thing, you’d worry about your four other teammates, were they as experienced? Would they stumble?

And well, RNG being a cruel mistress, sometimes you got the worst possible combination ever, and the whole experience wound up being a massive hard slog through stuff that was tedious, long and/or challenging. No wonder I tried to avoid fractals as much as possible.


I feel a lot more openness and flexibility with the new fractals, now that they can be done singly.

You’re not stuck with a hopeless group for a marathon quest. You just complete one quick bite-sized challenge, and thank you, we’re done. Each fractal feels like a quick CoF path 1 now.

If you do like the group, and the group clicks and has the time, nothing stops the five of you from continuing further.

I joined a fractal group that had advertised itself as aiming to complete the Swampland challenge mote for the backpack, and that went by really well. A party member started asking about the Firestorm first achievement, another one asked “Hey, the next fractal is aquatic, there’s a challenge for that too, wanna do it?”

Before you know it, we went through the aquatic challenge mote, did the Firestorm first achievement, did the 5 minute time limit achievement for the Jade Maw, and made a pretty good attempt at the Cliffside 5 chanters or less achievement (didn’t get that one, we might have accidentally went through one too many chanters or the chievo bugged.)

They were still up for more, but my head was busy trying to pound itself out of my skull near the end, and I decided it was time for a break and another nap.

(And no, I have no idea why the last few days have been a sequence of minor headaches. It’s probably just a migraine, eye strain, lack of sleep, caffeine withdrawal or some kind of flu virus. Hopefully nothing more serious.)

The whole bite-sized collections making up a legendary is also a nice concept.

My first impulse on hearing that the fractal backpack was named “Ad Infinitum” was to laugh my ass off and nickname it “Ad Nauseam.” Which is what I imagined repeating -that- many fractals over and over would feel like.

Of course, when you actually SEE the damn thing being worn by an NPC, you start drooling at its shininess, and seriously looking at the collection page examining each task for its “doability” factor.


The first one’s not that bad, actually.

I got all of this in the space of a day or so (granted, that day spans two GW2 ‘daily’ days.)

The biggest time-limiting factor is the collection of 28 fractal research pages for a journal. If you do one fractal daily, it’ll take you 28 days, or a month-ish. If you get two fractal dailies done each day, we’re looking at two weeks. Which ain’t so bad, fairly reasonable a medium term goal, imo.

The biggest cost is the ball of dark energy, which you’ll have to salvage an Ascended weapon or armor for, I think.

I ended up staring at the Ascended chests collected over time in my bank and sacrificing a Dire stat weapon for it. At least I unlocked a free orange-colored skin in the process.

Over the next two weeks, I just need to catch one more volcanic fractal (to soak the ice elemental core I popped off Svanir a couple days before, and wondered then what the heck it was for) and one more swampland fractal to infuse a +4 infusion (easily gotten, given the amount of +1 infusions I’ve been receiving from the new fractals), and do mah fractal dailies.

I’m sure some of the challenges for the later backpack versions will get a little more tricky, but I’m enjoying the bite-sized nature of the process. It feels like you’re getting somewhere, for not that much cost or effort invested at one go, just a little gameplay here and there.

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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.