GW2: In Praise of Bite-Sized Content

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.

moreaether

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.

adinfinitum1

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.

Advertisements

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

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.

GW2: There May Be No Spoon, But One Sure Will Try Collecting Them All Anyway

Going down the rabbit hole here...

I wonder if the disconnect comes from semantics, or merely wishful thinking.

When your average player hears the word “feature,” they think of content. They want their new dungeon, their new zone, their new shiny reward that usually comes in the form of better stats or better looks. They want what’s labeled on the box as “features” – new class, new race, new skills!

They don’t give much thought on just how much this new stuff might imbalance or invalidate the old  stuff. They don’t care, the designers better have figured it all out beforehand, because players will be players and will optimize towards the most efficient path, and WoW has already shown that the way ahead is to just say ‘fuck the old stuff’ and pile on the new shiny on the next rung of the ladder to keep climbing forward. New players? I guess we better just fast-forward them past all the old bad stuff so they can catch up. Instant level 90, here we come.

Urgh.

Me, I play GW2 precisely because it isn’t WoW.

When I hear the words “feature patch,” and I’m probably in a minority of players to do so, I think of it in the way the Anet devs are using it – to reference things that aren’t content. Systems. Tweaks and improvements and little balance nudges.

Things that probably take a heck of a lot of coding work and behind-the-scenes stuff to make it more invisibly smooth-flowing on the front end.

The irony of it is, if the work is done well, no one will notice when the UI just got that much less clunky or when new players move on from level to level without a hitch and without quitting in disgust. (It’s only when it bugs or creates some kind of stopping or frustration point, that the bulk of the bitching starts.)

And there’s actually some good stuff coming down the line this 9th of September, despite the never-satisfied cries of increasingly bored players looking for new content (not new systems, per se) and new stuff to do, and despite the meat of it being spread so thinly across three weeks in some sort of weird marketing attempt to keep interest/hype going for the length of time it’ll take to deploy the patch.

The Collection Achievements system is one of those things.

You see, there’s this perennial complaint from players that such-and-such piece of content isn’t ‘rewarding’ enough. That there’s no reason or motivation to do this slightly more difficult thing over another, the devs better give us some external reward to get us to do it…or else.

Never mind the deplorable fact that many players won’t do anything without an external carrot.

(I dunno, I sometimes do content just because it’s there. I give up 2-3 hours of my time to PUG a TA Aetherpath when I get the sudden whim to, because I think it’ll be interesting and somewhat entertaining and internally rewarding to gently coax a group of players who don’t really know what they’re in for, but are desperate to get it done for their Dungeon Master achievement, through it.

The last few days, while on my platinum ore harvesting rounds, I’ve been throwing myself at the Champion Risen Spider near Flamefrog Waypoint in Sparkfly Fen, trying to figure out how to solo it – and mostly repeatedly dying. It’s turned into an almost Liadri-like compulsion by now. Eventually 2-3 other players turn up and we kill it, but dammit, I’ll get it one day. My best efforts have only reduced it to half hp so far.

It’s really infuriating because it immobilizes so much, and has an annoying egg spit attack that spawns additional spider mobs if not dodged/blocked/gotten out of the way of. That spawning can get runaway uncontrollable very quickly, so my best guess is that it -must- be -always- dodged/avoided/prevented from spawning. This is much much easier said than done, because you can’t dodge when immobilized, and I still end up confusing its egg spit attack animation with its other attacks, all of which involve twitching and lifting of its abdomen.

Reward? None but eventually satisfaction, I suppose. And a screenshot of me over its dead body… ONE DAY. SOME DAY.)

Thing is, what kinds of rewards can be given?

There’s a limit to vertically progressing rewards, since GW2 is not that kind of game. And if it tried, I’d be the first one to quit in disgust. I don’t want to be “forced” or “motivated” aka “pushed” into doing a particular dungeon simply because it gives +5 more Power stat on its gear than any other dungeons so far… and then the next new dungeon will have +10 Power to chase. *FAUGH* *spits*

Shiny new skins may have a certain temptation, but there’s always going to be a manpower limit on how many the artists can crank out at any one time, without eliciting howls of distress over lack of hair, lack of tails and oh god, that clipping. And what if the player doesn’t like the skin on offer? Then it’s back to the forums and more whining on how this and that skin is ugly as sin and not “rewarding” enough to make him suffer through that new dungeon or piece of content, I guess.

Increasing the amount of gold reward is just going to end up a tail-chasing fly-swatting game of players gravitating to the ‘best’ gold-giving dungeon for the time spent, and all the other dungeons ignored…until the next patch which increases gold rewards of some other dungeon. Not to mention, making inflation worse with every ‘fix.’

So enter a Hall of Monuments variant.

A structured system of multiple lateral options for -personal- progression, all of which will count towards accruing some points total at the end, and presumably offer direction and signposting for grabbing lower-hanging fruit before working one’s way up to harder and longer to obtain stuff.

That’s the potential I’m seeing in this new Collection Achievements system.

Players will have an external ‘reason’ to do X new content over Y old content because it will have its own ‘reward track’ where doing X related stuff will yield X-based rewards. And when content Z pops up, Z will have its own reward track too. It’ll be like trying to go for the Dungeon Master achievement, you’ve got to visit every dungeon if you want it.

(If you don’t care about it, then proceed on your merry way, of course. Like how life in GW2 has always been. All these systems are just for the Achievers who need things spelled out for them, or they quit. There’s just -so- many Achievers, though, so it’s worth creating systems for them.)

On a personal level, the collector and pack rat in me is super-thrilled.

These things have always been in GW2, but never really celebrated or made very clear.

I’ve never finished collecting all the cultural armor available… mostly because I can’t figure out which pieces I have left, and it would be a pain to have to log every single character and check what they’re wearing. (The only good news is I don’t throw away anything… Oh hey, I guess I could also use the wardrobe function now that I think about it. But that would still be a little annoying to sift through.)

I just visited a slew of Heart vendors in Fireheart Rise the other day and picked up the light, medium and heavy armor cosmetic sets that were being sold there. I never got around to it for a long time because I never needed it. Until I decided that my sylvari necro could use one piece of that look (via the Wardrobe) and so may as well since one is going there, pick up all the other sets and complete those too.

If there was some ArenaNet Points and a final shiny reward at the end for doing that, that would certainly be a little more of a motivating push in the butt to go do that kind of thing. It’s really easy low hanging fruit at that. I was sitting on 5 million karma and just never got around to using any of it on karma armor.

It’s quite a kick in the butt for the economy too, as I suspect this is going to add some new value for previously ignored shiny skins that more people will be motivated to collect.

And of course, *sinister chuckle* there’s nothing like creating account-bound stuff (like binding skins for personal use in the wardrobe) to reduce supply or “dedicated” miniatures to take these things out of circulation and sink them, so there’s always going to be demand, rather than a round-robin exchange of swap-the-same-minis so that everybody gets AP.

I can see some people thinking they’d cheated the system being a little upset by that.

To which, I can only indulge in a little Dark Side collector laugh. Seriously, did you think that you could spend hundreds of gold buying minis, get that little AP ‘ding’ and then sell them all away again to recoup most of your gold… would be valued as equivalent to someone who spent those same hundreds of gold to KEEP every last collectible shiny?

mini1

mini2

mini3

True collectors hoard shit and take them out of circulation.

It’s going to be slightly painful when it comes time to take them all out of these collections and account-bind them. That’s a LOT of gold I’m going to be throwing away. (Or spending on myself, rather.)

I’m half-considering just leaving them in the collections tab to sit for a while, but I have a feeling all it’ll take is seeing the new achievements and AP and titles for me to cave.

And it’ll be nice to be able to swap between a whole bunch of them without having to juggle stuff in my inventory. That’s at least 2-4 bag slots freed for all my characters.

To reiterate, coming down the line for the feature patch:

  • WvW – new month-long Fall Tournament with weekly match-up rewards and supposedly more unique worlds matched up with each other (I’ll believe it when I see it, BG and JQ and TC have been seeing each other since the last league), Siege Golem mastery, new Siege Disabler trick.
  • Commander tags – will now be account-bound, cost 300 gold, and have 4 shiny colors to choose from.
  • PvP – some new world tournament thing with shiny rewards for pro-PvPers, standard enemy models for Team Arenas, new PvP armor cosmetic reward (one presumably super-shiny variant for the top-tier, and one less shiny variant for the hoi polloi to earn via PvP reward track)
  • Balance changes – Elementalists weep as FGS and Tornado-Meteor combo get nerfed, mesmer scepter gets torment added, necromancer dagger gets a two-target cleave, warrior adrenaline gets played around with, and a whole bunch of less used and less popular skills and traits from all classes get some kind of adjusted boosts to try and make ’em more attractive (guess we’ll see how the new meta shakes out)
  • Guilds – will now be global, and all those leftover influence and upgrades and other things abandoned on server transfer will now come back home to roost. Guild mission experiences on the megaserver system -may- be further improved, by letting the first guildie joining a map to do a (presumably-active) guild mission reserve spots on the map for other guildies zoning in, so that half the guild isn’t spread out across several maps. May. Caveats for guilds of a very large size, which will probably still get smeared across various map instances and have to taxi in on each other. To be improved further (TM).
  • Megaserver – still getting plenty of tweaks to increase good experiences over bad ones, will attempt to sort EU players by language a little better, language chat filter back to being disabled by default so that EU players aren’t mysteriously plagued by a horde of seemingly deaf individuals in maps that keep requiring communication and coordination, fingers are crossed as to how much toxicity and harassment will result versus community-forming and a reminder to frickin’ use the report function on the worse of the toxic xenophobic lot so that the mapchat can improve.

Also, when megaserver maps drop below a certain number and need to be emptied out and closed, leftovers will be asked to volunteer to move maps back to more crowded ones and get a little bonus buff for doing so. What this will imply for organized groups trying to move to and fill new Teq and Wurm maps with people that actually care to listen to instructions and cooperate remains to seen.

  • Dungeons – will now have no instance owner. As long as someone stays in the instance, it stays open, so gone are the days of getting booted out when the opener leaves. What this might end up enabling remains to be seen: there are a few unscrupulous toxic people frequenting dungeons who might get extra-kick happy and may get some jollies out of kicking PUGs and inviting guildmates (though why they wouldn’t just run with the guildies, I dunno) or selling the path after using PUGs to do their dirty work (which I suspect is far more likely, and will no doubt keep Anet’s GMs occupied for some time.) Three-person kick is apparently in the works, but will not be in time for the feature patch.
  • Performance tweaks – More improvements to back-end stuff that will -hopefully- improve performance and frame rates at crowded events like world bosses and WvW.
  • Crafting – Crafting UI will allow for opening and viewing recipes to subcomponents at the same time as the main recipe. New cosmetic crafting backpack skins as a little mini-reward as you go up in crafting tiers. New recipes for leveling items (aka twink items) that will go up to an exotic-equivalent for low levels.
  • Profession loot – will make it more likely to get drops that are usable for one’s class. Makes it more exciting and logical for low levels to get drops that they can actually use, may sneakily tweak supply and demand of materials based on the population of classes actually being played on a regular basis.
  • Fresh Start – New player experience will be given more clear direction and guidance as to where to go. Experienced players can ignore this and turn it off, and wander Tyria as before. Leveling up will be made more shiny and WHEEEEEE, YOU LEVELED to make it feel more rewarding per level. Various existing GW2 systems will be drip-feed introduced to newbies using this guiding/unlock system, such as downed state at level 5, “hey, WvW exists, come try it out” at lvl 18, “you can PvP too, it’s not just all hearts” at lvl 22, etc. (Experienced folks who don’t need this will still be able to access WvW and PvP at lvl 2 on alts by jumping into a portal or using a hotkey, once unlocked on one character, all future characters will have the button unlocked.) More shiny item rewards for leveling up. Personal story will come in chunks using this system as well, so they can be played through at one go, instead of getting spaced out by really weird level gaps. Stats may come in chunks to also make it feel like one is getting stronger – everything will end up the same by level 80.
  • Collections – Miniatures and finishers will now end up in the account wardrobe. Both minis and finishers will be previewable in the wardrobe, minis will also be previewable via TP and chat links. Wardrobe has had some UI tweaks to make searching through it easier. Minis can be turned into an account unlock, available to all your characters to equip, simultaneously if desired, and will follow you from zone to zone with no more work needed to display them. Doing so essentially “dedicates” the mini, making it no longer sellable/tradeable as the mini item will vanish and exist as an “account skin” instead.

An entire Item Collections systems will be introduced via Achievements to reward the whole compulsion to collect everything under the sun. Shiny weapons or armor skins, food consumed, loot bags opened, spoons, you name it, it goes in it. There will be rewards attached to collecting various um, collections – equipment, functional unlocks, recipes, AP, stuff like that. Naturally, if you collect it, you can’t sell it and profit from it. More sinks, more demand, more money-making or money-sinking opportunities, gems-to-gold and gold-to-gems, more motivation to do one or the other, TP tax and economy churnchurnchurn, here we come!

The last announcement, due tomorrow, is titled Trading 2.0.

If it doesn’t contain Trading Post improvements, like *cough* certain filters that have been missing since the beginning of time, I’ll be very very surprised.

All in all, I think this feature patch definitely offers some very promising foundations for proceeding forward on. It’s good to have some rock solid bases to build that ‘new content’ on, after all.