The first thing that ran through my mind when I heard the news wasn’t “OMG, gotta grind Silverwastes for a HoT beta invite!”
It was more like, “YES! Moar champion chests! Good excuse to revisit the Silverwastes since everyone will be piling back in!”
Like Bhagpuss, I don’t feel really fired up over whether I get into this beta or not – a somewhat strange state of affairs, considering that Path of Exile over yonder is also in closed beta for their Awakening expansion and GW2’s over here prepping for HoT, but I suspect there’s an air of inevitability to it.
I -know- without question that I am -obviously- going to be shelling out for the Heart of Thorns expansion, so -eventually- it is going to get played either way.
Ditto Path of Exile’s expansion, it’s going to be a free update and I’m not a super pro PoE player that can offer valuable feedback or bug reporting, so it’s not going to hurt me to experience it when it’s ready… when it’s done.
However, the announcement was a good excuse for me to break out of my habitual GW2 rut and give a little thought and effort towards one of the many “should do someday” ideas on my GW2 endgame list.
Namely, test out sinister gear.
I -could- just bring my tried and trusty zerk guardian with the sword and scepter pewpew into the Silverwastes, but the minor issue with that, besides being boring since I farmed Silverwastes for months with that playstyle, is that his inventory bags runneth over. It’s a struggle to free up 5-10 slots because of all the fun tonics, extra gear, Ascended materials that don’t fit in the bank anymore, leftover seasonal rewards, and a bunch of soulbound consumables that I bought with the pure intentions of practising Arah dungeon solos (and of course, never got around to it.)
The solution thus becomes: bring an alt.
Sifting through the characters that I’d been intending to test sinister gear on, the ranger is still underleveled, the thief’s playstyle I still can’t really wrap my head around (plus it’s kinda dangerous to melee Mordrem on a squishy you’re not used to playing) and my gaze naturally falls on the necromancer.
Here’s a number of birds slain with one stone. He’s a sylvari necro, and we want to play at least one sylvari through HoT because their story is apparently going to diverge some from the other races. Getting him Mordrem-ready and me used to the playstyle would help that goal.
Mordrem are best fought at range. Necros have comparatively decent range attacks beyond their one stabby stabby melee dagger.
The idea of being able to switch between condi, which would melt Mordrem husks, and power/precision, which should enable the more fun zerk necro options like death shroud life blasts, lichform autoattacking, and wells, is extremely appealing.
In theory, anyway.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t take that long to put together a set of experimental sinister gear.
I’d already been hoarding the Ascended trinkets from the Living Story in my bank, so it was just a matter of filtering “Ascended” and pulling out the stuff with the right stats. (The back I leave as zerker, since I had a zerker backpiece anyway.)
I’d been charging up charged quartz for over a month and racked up some 40 of them before I stopped. Exotic sinister gear was just a matter of getting my Tailor logged on, buying a ton of Gossamer thread and clicking a couple buttons to craft the armor pieces.
Runes were a bit more of an issue.
The one sinister necro build available for reference is DnT’s Brazil’s. He uses Runes of the Aristocracy, which gives condition damage and additional might duration. It makes sense for that build because it’s meant for soloing dungeons, with a major trait synergy of signets giving might. It can actually produce 25 stacks of might on its own, which is pretty sick.
In this case, I’m envisioning more of an open world flexible build – I want swiftness, I want to be able to throw wells and play with lichform and deathshroud because FUN, and I want to be able to kill things from range using either power or condi as I please.
After scanning a Trading Post’s worth of Superior Runes and eliminating super-expensive runes for reasons of poverty, I end up settling for the super-cheap Superior Rune of the Adventurer – condition damage + some power (that sorta fits the whole sinister theme there) + a bit of extra endurance on using a heal skill, which can’t hurt, given a necromancer’s lack of vigor for dodges.
Weapon-wise, I knew I definitely wanted and needed scepter/dagger to be one of them. That is the quintessential necro weapon set for inflicting bleeds.
Dagger/ I eliminated, since I didn’t feel brave enough to go up and stab Mordrem in melee range.
I brooded over staff for a while, then decided to drop it in favor of an axe. Necro staff has always struck me as more of an AoE control-ish sort of weapon, if I was going to autoattack with staff, I may as well drop into death shroud and spam 1, eh? Envisioning Silverwastes, there didn’t seem to be too many opportunities for AoE spam over systematically taking down one Mordrem at a time.
Necro axe on the other hand is a very nice mid range weapon, that can key in on whatever you target, regardless of whatever else in between you and it. It’s a power-based weapon, with a nice damage life-force sucking channeled attack on button 2.
This was the initial experimental build.
6 in Spite went without saying, who wouldn’t want +300 Power and +30% condition duration? I wasn’t going to run signets, so the next best seemed to be VI Reaper’s Might for some might while pewpewing in death shroud. I’m using an axe, so VIII Axe Training for the damage increase and reduced recharge. XII Close to Death because 20% extra damage once a mob drops past 50% health? Yum.
6 in Curses for +300 condition damage (whee) and +300 precision (yay.) II Hemophilia for increased bleed duration (yep, this is our main damage once we go into condi mode), VI Focused Rituals because I want to play with ground-targeted wells, dangit, and the new trait specialization stuff ain’t here yet. XI Lingering Curse to boost conditions dealt with scepter, which oh so happens to be our condi inflictor weapon.
2 points left and I found myself not quite sure of the best place to put these. I gave them a try in Soul Reaping at first, for additional Ferocity, and I figured if I was going to be pewpewing with death shroud, I may as well let Life Blast pierce with VI Unyielding Blast.
Taking the build for a spin in the Silverwastes, it wasn’t half bad.
(In fact, given how the copper husk beelined for me after it had dropped to 1/3 health, and kept thumping me into kingdom come despite sitting on the ridge, I have to surmise that the build might have been dealing a substantial amount of damage. Or maybe it was the extra toughness on my weapons helping to attract aggro.)
I left my weapons as rabid scepter/dagger since I was using Tequatl Ascended weapons and used an exotic zerker axe/warhorn that I also already had.
I had a pretty large number of options for dealing damage – condi scepter/dagger, power axe, power deathshroud, power wells for AoE, and power lichform.
The only thing that got a bit annoying was terragriffs knocking me over (I suspect I’m too used to letting guardian aegis block the initial charge attack) despite rolling what seemed a pretty decent distance away, and needing to stunbreak with spectral walk…
…and I didn’t feel quite as sturdy as my old rabid build. Somehow, I kept finishing up my fights with about half to one third health remaining, and maybe half of deathshroud life force left. Also, I had a tendency to keep falling over during the Vinewrath corridor fights if I missed seeing something that might run me over.
So… enter the revised build to be stress tested further tomorrow.
I’ve not really used Signet of Vamprism very much, but it seems interesting with this build. Left on passive, it heals me a bit when I get hit by anything, so small attacks should sting less. If I take a large hit that dents my health bar, I can activate it for a heal, and mark a mob for life siphoning (which apparently scales with power – and sinister gear has power!)
I found that I wasn’t really utilizing the pierce feature of life blast much, so I swapped 2 points over to Blood Magic instead, with a little extra vitality and healing power. V Vampiric Precision is another experiment, since sinister gear has decent enough crit ability and I’m using either scepter or axe, both autoattacks that are fairly fast, hopefully producing a decent enough trickle of small heals that keep me more topped up than the previous build.
Just running around the regular Silverwastes events, it feels a little more resilient than the first build, which is promising.
P.S. I am not claiming that this is the end-all and be-all of builds out there.
I’m just sharing my design thoughts on how I personally go about making and testing experimental builds that fulfill a certain goal I have in mind (in this case: kill Mordrem, switch flexibly between power and condi, don’t die.)
I generally let other people do the min-max number calculations and settle for a more fuzzy in-game measure of ‘feels good to play, kills comparably fast or faster than other people around me, doesn’t squish and keep dying.’
Here’s a gratuitous shot of the new PC… sans one rather important item.
The first test run of power flowing through the system went well, which was good, since I’d been building it very leisurely and piecemeal an hour a day or so, in between gaming sessions, in no real hurry since I don’t have my graphics card anyway.
Last I heard, it was in Hong Kong somewhere. (Sheesh. Oh well, it gives me a lot of time to transition over slowly. I’m still trying to figure out the best arrangement of new PC and old PC on and around the desk, which is also overflowing with monitors, speakers and other computer paraphernalia.)
Anyway, when powered on, all the LEDs lit up in a really cool fashion. I knew there were four red LEDs on the after-market CPU cooler, but I didn’t know that the motherboard also had red indicators, which was a neat bonus.
I didn’t smell smoke. Good sign, that. The fans were spinning (but oh so very silently, it was amazing!) and there were words on the monitor I’d hooked up.
Admittedly, the words were something obtuse like “Boot sector disk not detected. Please press a key to boot from DVD, CD or other optical device” or something along those lines. Which, of course, wouldn’t work anyway since there was no boot disc in the Blu-Ray drive to begin with.
But hey, no crashes, no black or blue screens of death, so far so good. Power button seemed to be working.
Slotted in the Windows 7 disc, powered it back up again (yes, the reset button works!) and the OS installed effortlessly. A lot more cleanly and faster than my previous go at it upgrading from Win XP to Win 7.
Some of the speed, no doubt, has to be credited to the SSD.
I wanted to check the BIOS after Windows installed successfully, and I had to reset it three times to do so.
The first time, I’d barely read the BIOS message telling me what keys to press for what option, before the system jumped straight into loading Windows. And boy, did the desktop come up fast. In seconds. It doesn’t match an iPad, but it was coming pretty close. I guess I really have been living in the past with a Windows startup that takes minutes.
The second time, I tried to press the Del key to bring up the BIOS, because I -thought- that was the key that the superquick message that flashed by said to use. And I apparently didn’t press it fast enough, because it was zipping directly to Windows 7 desktop again. Hello, stock Win 7 blue/green background thingy. I really wanted the BIOS, though.
On the third try, I spammed the Del key multiple times and voila, success! Took me into the UEFI BIOS, which uses a much slicker graphical interface than I’m used to seeing. T’was pretty cool scanning all the options.
Resting/idle CPU temperature was 27-28 degrees Celsius, about 3-4 degrees higher than room temperature (yes, I baby my computers with air conditioning, a tropical climate is harsh otherwise.) So far so good on that too. Hopefully that means I didn’t screw up processor or CPU fan/cooler installation or the thermal paste application in an obvious fashion.
Stress testing with a this-generation game will, unfortunately, have to wait until my graphics card gets off the slow boat… from Hong Kong. (It’s only, what, 8 hours passenger flight time? Guesses whether it actually arrives in 8 days… or 8 weeks.)
I did grab the Eidos Anthology bundle from Steam in preparation though – Deus Ex Human Revolution, Hitman: Absolution, Tomb Raider, Thief, the works. Lots of stuff that I’d been putting off and letting it depreciate over the months and years, knowing that my toaster wasn’t going to handle these FPS type games well.
Dishonored at the Christmas Steam sale, methinks.
And by the time I’m done with all of this, Civ: Beyond Earth will hopefully be 50% off or more on the -next- Summer Steam sale. *wry grin*
In the meantime, here, have more gratuitous pictures:
Front of the case has a very clean look, with metal mesh allowing airflow.
The top slides back to reveal a small cubbyhole for placing objects in, and USB ports and the power/reset switches.
I’d previously had the impression that this was hinged. It’s not, which is a little bit of a letdown, and leaves me in a mild dilemma over “leave it fully open for convenience, but block top air flow” or “get in the habit of closing it regularly and sliding it back when one needs access to the ports” or something in between.
Still, it does slide fairly cleanly, so it’s not exactly a struggle to open and close it. (It’s just that I fear I’d break it one day overdoing opening and closing.)
Popping the front panel off, there’s a removable dust filter behind the metal mesh!
I find this rather nifty, since in comparison, my old Cooler Master Centurion case only had some pieces of soft foam as a dust filter. (And the vacuum cleaner ate one when I was a little slow one day and forgot to hold the small pieces of foam down.)
Removable dust filter on the bottom as well!
And yes, those are rubberized feet.
There’s ventilation pretty much everywhere on this case – the bottom, the top, the front, the back, only the sides have no air holes.
If you wanted a side fan, I guess you’d have to get the standard non-windowed version, which does appear to have air holes and room to screw a side fan onto.
But really now, I think we’re pretty much overcompensating for something with the front fan already.
Really, pictures cannot do it justice.
Nor can the specs. I’d read 200mm fan and sort of nodded my way past it. I’d read the reviews, and said, ok, it’s a pretty big fan, that sounds very nifty indeed.
You really have to see this thing in person as you pop the front panel off and go, “Oh my god, they put a jet engine propeller on the case!”
What’s super impressive about this is that you’d expect it to sound like a leaf blower or something, but it’s been utterly silent under low non-stressful conditions so far. It’s more quiet than my old computer, which has a faint but audible hum that I’ve gotten used to.
The engineering and design of these cases never fail to impress me over the years.
Seven to eight years ago, the whole concept of tool-free compartments to hold hard disks and optical drives with some fancy schmancy designed plastic in place of metal screws was already quite spectacular, to say nothing of the hand-screwable two screws that hold in place the side window.
With this new Cooler Master CM690 III case, those similar innovations are there, just made better with iteration over time. Both sides are removable, one with a window, while the other side has an indentation outward to make more room for wire and cable management behind the motherboard.
Here’s the slightly more cable-managed version that I took some time to putter around with, after establishing that it could actually turn on and run. (Aka, I didn’t screw up any wires connecting to the wrong places.)
Really nice design. There’s little rubber curtains to slot wires through.
The amount of hard disk storage slots is quite stunning, and I’m really amused by the latest newfangled innovation in tool-free removable hard disk trays.
These things are pretty durned cool.
They slide all the way closed and become just wide enough for a 2.5″ disk.
SSDs get a little propping up via some fold-down plastic ‘shelves’ – the one on the right side of both pictures is folded down.
Or you can pull them open and resize them to fit a 3.5″ HDD perfectly too, with little metal rods that fit into the screw holes, and white rubber rings to reduce vibration around those rods.
One identical design, making it easy for a factory to mass produce tons of these, and then bang, they all go into any case Cooler Master wants.
Very very clever.
You can actually widen the top cage to fit 3.5″ hard disks if you wanted, and you can also screw in 2.5″ SSDs in the 3.5″ configuration using the bottom screw holes provided.
It makes the thought of adding or changing storage space so easy that it almost feels wasteful for me to only occupy 3 slots. Guess there’s upgrading potential there.
That’s the far future though.
I’ll be happy with the near future, once the gaping hole in the middle of the space is filled up with you-know-what.
Yes, I am aware that the Blood and Madness Halloween update just launched in Guild Wars 2, with plenty of recycled old content giving new rewards.
Yes, I know it comes with a talking point so loaded that it’s just -asking- to be commented upon.
Yes, I am cognizant of the fact that most of the launch locusts are still in Archeage, focused upon the best made plans disintegrating in contact with other players and not really interested in anything else but the strange jargon of that world.
Or that the Warlords of Draenor expansion is soon to be upon us, so all the WoW stalwarts will make their way back home.
Yes, much of my singleplayer game attention is still being sucked up by Minecraft, where I’m trying to play both Agrarian Skies and Crash Landing without forgetting what the hell I was doing in the other map, while accumulating a list of other mods and modpacks that look damn interesting to “try one day.”
And thanks to Bragtoberfest and other bloggers, it’s suddenly occurred to me that:
a) Team Fortress 2 is kinda fun and I should make a point to play it more
b) Path of Exile still exists
c) Orcs Must Die 1/2 and Defense Grid 1/2 are both tower defense games I should play more of (yes, I actually Kickstarted DG2, and finally got around to checking my mail and found a Steam key waiting for me)
d) I haven’t played/continued Skyrim for a while, nor have I really given Civ 5 or various Tropico versions a fair shake in a bit
and e) I need to stop looking at my Steam games list again.
BUT I have found a game even better than all of the above, and it is likely to take up much of my attention for the week, with not much time left over for blogging once I factor in trying to keep apace in GW2 and sating a currently insane Minecraft addiction.
What game is that, you ask?
It’s something I haven’t had the opportunity to play in years. It’s the “contemplate and plan, then build your own dream PC” or the “endless wallet daydream” game.
Yep, my budget’s finally opened up the purse strings this month.
I’ve been reading computer hardware reviews actually dated this year, scanning the catalogue of parts available at the local store, narrowing down the choices to “things I want” and “things that fit my current priorities for this new computer” then applying the filter “things I can actually afford.”
That filter is pretty generous this month, which why I’m playing the game now, rather than a year ago or 2 or 3 or more, where I would feel awfully depressed and constricted with too low a budget.
See, here’s the odd thing about what I like out of my computers.
It’s not so much their objective performance as compared to everyone else at a current point in time (in which case, I would have to upgrade a lot and fast to keep up with the Joneses) but more that I want the computer I build for myself to be a lasting, quality piece of work. That it was pretty high-end, if not the absolute top-of-the-line, -when- it was built, at that period of time.
The Chinese have a saying, ” 一分钱一分货” (yī fēn qián yī fēn huò), which sorta literally translates to “one piece of money one piece of goods” or rather, you get what you pay for.
If you pay pennies, you’ll get goods worth that amount or basically, rubbish. For each cent or dollar extra that you pay, you get that amount of goods/value/worth/quality in return.
Like all proverbs, that doesn’t necessarily hold true all the time, but speaking generally, I find there’s more than a few grains of truth in it.
My old and current computer, as much as I joke about it to others (mostly to explain why my load times or graphics is way behind the current norm,) is still going strong, with not much breaking down beyond one X-Fi soundcard that decided that its drivers simply wouldn’t play nice with this newfangled Windows 7 any longer (ended up yanking it and falling back on the on-board Realtek audio – just as old if not older, and doing just fine – and some rattling case fans that took turns to protest that they were getting way too dust clogged at last (some reluctant cleaning took care of that – the front fan was a nuisance as graphics card and hard disks had to be pulled out of the way to work on it.)
I believe the reason it’s lasted so long, going on 7-8 years now, is because I bought good quality parts from known brands that generally do solid work and didn’t skimp or cut corners while doing so.
That priority is one of the factors I’m weighing quite heavily in my next selection of parts, along with the usual suspects of “great games performance” and “not insanely priced.”
Granted, I might have gotten a mite carried away at -finally- seeing the light at the end of the “new computer” tunnel and splurged a bit while I can afford it this month.
Without further ado, the parts list:
CPU: Intel Z97 4690
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z97X UD5H Black
Memory: Corsair Vengeance Pro 1866Mhz 16GB
Graphics Card: Gigabyte GTX 980 G1 Gaming
Power Supply: Corsair HX750i 750W
Case: CoolerMaster CM690 III windowed
CPU Cooler: CoolerMaster V4 GTS
Hard Disks: 2 Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSDs, 1 WD Black 7200rpm 1TB HDD
Optical Drive: LG16x Blu-Ray BH16NS40
OS: Windows 7
(To be added in November) Sound Card: Creative Soundblaster ZX
Monitor and speaker upgrades pending…
Words can’t describe how thrilled I am.
Here, have a little Ascii cheer instead.
As to the rationale:
As much as I would have liked to open the wallet even further and get one of those crazy X99 chipset processors with a super-blinged out motherboard, there IS a limit to my enthusiasm, and it sounded like a good idea to wait for the real enthusiasts to be the guinea pigs and break in all the new technology first.
I’d been leaning towards a Z97 4790K processor, except that I didn’t think experimenting with overclocking and possibly burning out what was intended to be my next stable and reliable gaming computer was a good idea, plus there were some mildly scary reports that this particular i7 processor was seriously overheating. After reading the whole rather current thread, it suddenly seemed wise to sit on the idea for a while and let the early adopters hash it out with Intel. Also, perhaps in six months to a year, the X99 processors would have gotten more affordable and the whole thing might be a moot point.
So I backed down step-wise to a 4690 and decided that I’d just go with the stock clock – since the priority for this particular computer, after all, is to be a worthy successor to the one that I’m typing on right now, old and still hearty.
I’ll save the creative and experimental overclocking or dream watercooling setups (had quite enough of unlikely water leaks over electronics, thank you) for when my budget can next afford a more modest hobbyist build computer – perhaps salvaging the guts of the old one after the new one is up and running and stable enough to let me log on daily to GW2 without freaking out that I’m missing a laurel reward. 🙂
The same thought of reliability led to picking up that particular Gigabyte motherboard.
I briefly considered Asus, since that seemed to be one of the stronger rivals, but decided that aesthetically, the whole armor-encased look didn’t quite work for me. The marketing jargon went rather overboard with the military-sounding stuff, and I rather imagine it might appeal to those who play some variant of Battlefield or Call of Duty all day long perhaps.
The whole plastic shield over the motherboard did look interesting, but it also struck me that it looked more like a dust trap when air blew up through the little wind tunnels – possibly improving air flow over the components, yes, right up to the point when dust jammed into all the nooks and little crevices, necessitating maintenance via needing to unscrew the plastic shield off, just to remove the dust.
So I backed away from that and decided to head back to Gigabyte, whose DSP4 motherboard is still doing excellent work in my current system.
They, on the other hand, have gotten carried away with quite a bit of game and audio-related bling, with a whole series of Gaming motherboards that apparently come with a special Killer NIC that prioritizes gaming packets, with the top of the line versions sporting a built-in Creative Soundcore 3D processor and what not.
Now, hang on a minute, I thought, I know I have a fondness for Creative audio solutions (from old good reputation and they’re a Singapore company), didn’t I -just- have the worse time trying to get their stupid drivers to play nice with Windows 7, granted on a card that’s marked “end of service life”?
And I’ve heard reports that folks have problems too with the drivers for the Killer NIC, and that it does use up extra CPU processing power…
I drooled over all the marketing bling for a while, then decided that for a motherboard, what I really wanted was redundancy.
As much as it sounded nice to just have a Creative chip on the motherboard itself, saving the need and money for a separate sound card, one can’t exactly pluck it out if it’s giving problems. I may as well just pay the extra 40 or 50 bucks and get a separate sound card, which would still have the same processor and possibly better components and supporting software, AND have a Realtek audio solution on the motherboard to fall back on, if/when the Creative shit decides it wants to break down. (It’s such NICE sounding shit though.)
Ditto, I didn’t just want a Killer NIC as my only connection to the internet. What if it decides it won’t play nice one day?
Fortunately, Gigabyte did have some motherboards that have both an ordinary Intel LAN and a Killer LAN. And it also so happened that this was on one of their ultra durable range, which goes through extended durability testing and with a warranty of up to 5 years.
Now that sounds like something that would meet my goal of having a computer built sturdy enough to last the next 5-7 years, if necessary.
Imo, the RAM’s fairly normal, if higher-end. Corsair’s a known brand.
I did drool a ton over the thought of their Dominator Platinum RAM, which just looks ridiculously blinged out and dead sexy, with soft white LED lights that would light the interior of the case… but sanity prevailed over serious temptation and I decided paying an extra hundred bucks for slick design and LED lighting was not something I oughta do at this point in time. (Maybe someday… *sighs dreamily*)
No, what I did, was I threw the wallet at the graphics card instead.
As far as I’ve gathered from reading, the GTX 980s are pretty much the newest thing on the block currently, but not dumb expensive expensive. Just expensive, but with really good performance and better power-savings and cooler temperatures than prior cards. I’m, in fact, still waiting for the shop to call me when their shipment arrives, because it’s that new, I guess, and still in transit from country to country.
I briefly entertained the thought of getting the GTX 970, which is a step down, but maybe getting two of those and SLI them together. Then I decided to leave that as a hobbyist project for the other dream computer and go with a single card solution for now, which is probably less likely to end up with a whole bunch of troubleshooting problems with specific games or programs.
Stable. Reliable. Durable. That’s the hope, anyway.
Same goes for the power supply, which isn’t the absolute high-end, but the next closest. It’s got a 7 year warranty, which I suppose, ought to count for something.
One mild annoyance I’ve encountered is that the 24-pin ATX connector is not fitting properly, either with the motherboard or the power supply. It goes in, but not all the way. There’s a couple of milimeters of gap, blocking the clip from clasping properly. After some Googling, I suspect it may be a common manufacturing defect from whatever company Corsair got those connectors from, as it seems to be turning up as an issue in other types of Corsair power supplies. It’s just that particular wire. All the rest of the wires fit fine.
So the build is on hold for now, while one pays a visit to the local distributors/repair center to make some noise and gripe until they hopefully give me a satisfactory solution to make me go away.
I’m still quite zen about the whole thing. I suppose I’ve already waited so long, a couple more days or a week won’t really hurt.
I’ll try to share some pictures at some point later. I’m in love with the case. It’s a really cool case. Some really clever engineering in this one, plus a ginormous front fan.
I’m looking forward to having SSDs for Windows, Guild Wars 2 and current Steam games I’m playing that might benefit from those load speeds, while the rest of the Steam library, music and what not goes on the HDD.
I’ll confess I’m not exactly thrilled with the choice of a WD Black hard disk – Western Digital has not really struck me as a brand that makes stable, long lasting hard disks – it’s just practically the only brand the local store had in stock, that still had a decent warranty period… I decided not to go crazy on the terrabytes as a result, didn’t want excessive amounts of spinning platters, or a giant hard disk that would make backing up of data to external disks difficult. I suppose there’s room for this disk to surprise me.
After all, I’ve got Maxtor and Seagate hard disks in the current computer, and while I’m still somewhat pessimistic about how long they’ll last, so far so good… and this is an old computer, as I’ve said.
We’ll see. I suspect the best solution is just to get plenty of affordable hard disks and make multiple redundant copies of the data one wants to keep. If one disk fails, there’s still others, that kind of thing.
I’ve no clue if the Blu-Ray drive is any good, it’s just also what was available. As long as it does what it’s supposed to, it can’t be that different from any other brand.
The sound card’s not essential, and there’s a ubiquitous computer fair in my part of town coming up in November, so it’s earmarked for pickup then. Spares my wallet just a tide this month too.
One will have to cannibalize and use the existing monitor, speakers, keyboard, mouse and other such peripherals for the time being.
So yep, those are the big plans taking up most of my mind and time, front and center, for now.
I’ve already hauled home a good amount of the parts and am midway through the build, pending a graphics card and a properly fitting 24-pin ATX connector. Two more outside errands to run. No idea when the card will get here though.
Gonna take it nice and slow and savor every moment, inhaling all the new and shiny. That’s part of the fun of building yer own computer, imo.
I’ll see you all, when I next see you. Computer building time’s got to come in front of blogging time, though it needs to share some space with gaming time.
Hopefully soon(TM), I’ll actually have screenshots on this blog that belong in this decade.
P.S. Does this count as Bragtoberfest? It should, right? Like, look at my soon-to-be system specs, whee! *brag brag brag*
I play GW2, a game of lateral progression, and we encounter a great many people who find it difficult to understand the point of GW2, especially after being trained by WoW or other traditional MMOs.
I willingly played A Tale in the Desert, a literal crafting sandbox of -significant- grind which had progression on a mandatory to optional spectrum via a levels unlocking skills system. It appealed to a very niche audience only because other folk couldn’t figure out what to do with themselves in a game with no combat, and which took forever to walk anywhere.
I fully expect there to be a subset of people who will walk into a creative building game, be it Landmark or Minecraft, and go, um… where’s the game? What’s the point? What do I do?!
Some of them will get it if it’s explained to them. A few of them might try it and like it. Still many others will fade away from the game, having decided it’s just not their cup of tea.
I understand that Landmark is more of a “software toy” – if anyone is ancient enough to remember Will Wright and the original Sim family of games and the term as used then. You played with the software as it was, tinkered with whatever parameters you wanted, created your own goals and “what ifs” and then when you were done, you put it down and forgot about it until you got the urge to mess with it again.
Thing is, putting it down and forgetting about it is not a concept that sits very well with MMOs and the desire of its developers to be paid (though other free to play games like League of Legends, TF2 and Dota 2 seem to be doing just fine with a broad base of folks who do that, perhaps since they have a very hardcore cohort who play ’em daily and pay enough to keep development going.)
And that sort of unsettles me and makes me want to lay a finger on what specifically makes me feel that way.
I think I am less worrying about what the exact point of Landmark is (since it can be many things to different people – a place to build, socialize, craft, gather, roleplay, tell a story, design for other players or for future Everquest Next, be creative, indulge in artistic expression, make a virtual home, play with a virtual dollhouse, have an adventure, explore, learn, etc.)…
…but more trying to answer a burning question with incomplete information and stuff that is yet unknown, undecided and/or undetermined.
And that question is: Should I be investing my time or money into this game?
Of course, that answer is different for different people.
Some people have even willingly spent $100 on its Alpha stage. They were happy to pay for the privilege of being involved in the game’s development from the ground up, have a voice (such as it is) in where the game is going, to playtest with unpolished tools and systems and be the first guinea pigs (or *ahem* first to get to play around with the game or have a headstart), to create and design and maybe, just maybe, have it included in Everquest Next. They’re dedicated fans of the franchise and the studio.
I mean, if you asked me if I would do the same for ArenaNet and Guild Wars, I’d -seriously- give it some thought. (Though the initial payment would put me off.)
But here’s the thing, I’m not them. And since this is my blog, we’ll dig into my perspective today while I try to get it sorted out in my own head.
I didn’t pay for Alpha. I didn’t pay for Beta. What kind of game would I pay or not pay for?
WoW’s design is primarily a raid endgame centred around vertical progression of gear. Eve Online encourages very dubious player behavior and morality in its design. For me, the answer to both is no. Because I don’t want to support games whose design I’m not in favor of.
Other people play them, and pay for them, and keep both games going just fine. To each their own.
I paid and played games like City of Heroes, Guild Wars 1 & 2, A Tale in the Desert, Minecraft, but not games like Wurm Online or Darkfall or Fallen Earth.
I generally support games that foster friendly and cooperative groups and social experiences in their design, but also give leeway to solo at one’s choosing. I’m drawn like a moth flies toward light to games that show off innovative design and interesting novel systems to play with and learn, but I’m turned off by games that have room for nonconsensual PvP, take forever to progress or get anywhere (aka too much time grind) or are sluggish and buggy.
My fascination for grokking systems may see me knowingly put up with some annoying game design choices. at least for a short while.
Mob Wars: La Cosa Nostra is one example. I played it religiously for a month, logging in every day, doing all the stuff, incrementing numerically for the sake of incrementing numerically, but one day I just decided to skip a day. It stretched to two. Three. Then I didn’t bother logging in anymore. The addiction/compulsion was gone. Gimmick design works for a while, and then it loses its hold, especially when you break the habitual pattern formed and find other more prioritized things to do.
I put up with quite a bit of crap in A Tale in the Desert. The endless running across large tracts of land, for one. I avoided doing that as much as possible, and credit to the game, it wasn’t excessively forced. Mostly because the multiple systems and minigames in ATITD just kept blowing my mind. Each required days to learn and probably months or more to master. Observing the social interactions and conflict between cooperation and competition was so fascinating that I was willing to put up with a few not-so-comfortable things, since there was nowhere else to get the same experience in more convenient form. And there were always many lateral progression options and ways to get regular feelings of accomplishing something too.
As for Landmark, well, I can’t quite get a proper grip on what kind of a game it is and where it intends to be going, leaving the existing Closed Beta experience sitting smack dab in the middle of the Play-Don’t Play spectrum.
You see, for MMOs, I want to know that the game is still going to be around for a bit and popular enough to have some people playing it, for me to want to invest time, money and energy into playing it. How is Landmark going to work, exactly?
I’ve kind of read the Blueprint. But it still leaves me with questions as to what exactly the game is going to entail.
Harsh death penalty and PvP are big twitching red flags for me, for example. Waste too much of my time, threaten me with resource loss, and your game goes right into the Eve Online pile. It may be a great simulationist sandbox in the vein of all those others, but Trammel killed Ultima Online for a reason. If you can still find your niche to play and pay, all power to you. I’ll just not be there.
(The Everquest brand is not particularly promising on this front. Time-wasters and harsh penalties aplenty. And Landmark is already actively showing signs of time-wasting.)
How is the payment model of the game going to work? What kind of economy is going to drive this game? What types of playstyles and gameplay niches are we expecting to see?
The Bartle model may not be the most ideal one to use, for this sort of game. This is pretty much unexplored territory for triple A MMOs – it’s more the purview of games (*ahem* “virtual worlds”) like Second Life and Neverwinter Nights (the old one, with the Aurora toolset that players created content with) and maybe multiplayer Minecraft.
Here’s my best guess on what playstyles we might see in Landmark:
Builders/Designers – artist builders, artisan builders, home builders
Roleplayers/Storytellers – using the world to create and tell stories of their own choosing
I am a so-called Adventurer. In truth, I’m probably a harvester-gatherer. I collect resources and enable the larger game to function. I may have to put up with some grindy aspects via number accumulation and vertical progression tiers. I ought to be able to walk in and play for free in Landmark because I pay in time. (Caveat: I am not SOE, I do not come up with their payment models.) I exist as content for the other more dedicated players because I bulk up the game with more player population to socialize with, to admire their constructions and perhaps run their scripted dungeons/adventures/experience the stories they want to tell (assuming those systems come in.)
My payoffs? I should be able to sell or trade resources to the other players who need them… but in exchange for… what? I need an in-game marketplace or auction house or trading exchange. Perhaps I can trade for some amount of currency or Station Cash that enables me to keep a small-sized claim and cross over to the other playstyles. I should be getting in return the thrill of adventure, the fun of exploration, some sense of accomplishment, the excitement and novelty of seeing what’s over the next hill and around the next corner, etc.
Builders are a pretty broad category, since this is, after all, a building game:
I am an artist builder. I want to make large towering works of art out of voxels. I need large-sized or multiple claims. I need lots of resources. I have the option of buying templates from the Player Studio like windows, railings, decorations and more to copy-paste stamp them into larger pieces. My payoffs? I get to express myself artistically and show off works of great beauty. I develop a name and reputation for myself. I perhaps contribute to parts of scenery in Everquest Next (assuming that’s a plus in your perspective, having paid $$ for the privilege.)
Big question is: Am I going to have to pay real life money out the nose for these things? If so, why should I be choosing this game to build in? Minecraft is looming as the equivalent of WoW in the creative building genre, and it’s buy to play. More such games are on the way as competitors.
I am an artisan builder, I make works of art that can serve as templates to be used in larger pieces. Besides all the regular perks of the artist builder – name and rep, EQN contribution, creative expression, etc., my payoff is potentially selling them in the Player Studio (assuming you live in the correct country for it), or the satisfaction of giving them freely away to others to see them used in larger works of art.
(There can be, of course, plenty of overlap between artisan and artist builder playstyles in the same person. Or the other playstyles, for that matter. The more playstyles one enjoys, the closer match Landmark is going to be for one – though I don’t know how much more money you’re going to end up paying. But we’re separating them here for clarity.)
I am a home builder. I have a vision of something I want to build – likely a house or a castle or something cool for me to stay in. I likely value environmental immersion of some kind. I may not be that great artistically. I might be able to supplement my not-so-great artistic skills with a few choice templates bought off the Player Studio, or trading in-game resources with artisans and artists, or even getting them free off social interaction (providing value by being there as a player.) I will probably be willing to foot a small upkeep for a small to medium claim, though having the option to pay in in-game resources might be better for a subset of these players.
What happens though when I am “done?” When I have created the house I want? What do I do next? Stop playing? Move to another playstyle, assuming I can find one that matches?
I am a roleplayer/storyteller. I tell stories and make them up using the game’s voxels and props. I interact with other players in some fashion, be it via chat or posting on the forums. (See a great example in progress here with a builder/immersive roleplayer combined in one person, creating some very natural constructions to tell a story in time.) My payoff is the stories I create and the people that see/view/experience them.
Eventually, assuming scripting and NPCs make it into Landmark, we’ll have crossover designer/builder/storytellers that will be similar to GameMasters of tabletop roleplaying games, designing adventures for others to experience – probably similar to how existing player-created content in other MMOs like Neverwinter Foundry or adventure mods in Minecraft work.
Crafting is the part that still puzzles me at this point. It seems to exist for the sake of existing and time-wasting. Here’s a bunch of technology trees. Go get the required number of resources and then come back and click a button to make it. You need to do it to unlock other things, like the tools you want for other playstyles.
Maybe, just maybe, one might have a dedicated crafter niche who pretty much goes out to collect resources and bring them back to craft, and then trades the finished, desirable products to others? Like those elusive Legendary picks and axes?
I dunno though. There is one danger of trying to add such niches though, taking lessons from A Tale in the Desert, there is the possibility that time-plentiful veterans will learn how to do it all, and do it much more quickly than newbies. This leaves newbies with nothing of value to offer veteran players.
How does the food chain function here?
Are there going to be enough players willing to pay for convenience and shortcuts to make up for playstyles that they don’t want to crossover to?
Are the rich folks on the very top willing to pay lots of money for what? Vanity? Prestige?
On one hand, lots of cosmetic options in other games say yes, there might be sufficient people willing to pay for pretty dresses. On the other hand, Glitch did die from lack of participation in the clothing shop and insufficient thought about a viable payment model…
I guess what I’m wondering at this point is… what’s the Landmark demographic going to be like? How much of each playstyle is there? Is there going to be a viable monetization strategy, and how acceptable is that strategy going to be for the various playstyles? And is it going to be enough to keep Landmark afloat and/or making oodles of cash?
And even, -does- Landmark need to stay afloat or make oodles of cash, or will it be shielded by SOE as the parent company, bundling the game along with its All Access Pass and/or profiting from whatever is designed in Landmark going into EQ Next?
Back to me. I’m not much of an artist builder, I can tell you that.
Nor am I much of a home builder. I can’t seem to understand the compulsion to build a pretty virtual house to stay in.
Further thought reveals that I am more of a -functional- builder. I build stuff to fulfill some kind of in-game need.
Zombies going to eat my face at night in Minecraft? Well, I better hack a hole into a cliff and hide in it. Or build walls to surround myself. And I may as well put a door in it so I can get in and out more easily.
Landmark may not fit that building playstyle as well. Perhaps only mining for ores and designing those temporary tunnels into cave systems might fit.
Or for example, hacking a hole into the ground because I want more studio space but don’t want weird geometric creations floating in the air ruining my nice wilderness desert landscape immersion.
I suppose I -could- learn to be a bit of an artisan builder. Experimenting with microvoxels and seeing what kinds of odd geometric shapes get produced is pretty much the only thing keeping me hooked to Landmark at present.
I probably couldn’t produce anything worth selling – far more skilled players could probably recreate them in no time flat – and besides, I bet Player Studio will never quite open for my country, with all those legalese concerns.
Problem is, the tools and various controls as they exist in Beta are somewhat awkward and not very smooth or intuitive to use.
One example and big culprit here is Shift-Tab to switch between translate, rotate and scaling, plus Tab for the directions. Having twisted my wrist far too often to the left to reach Shift+Tab one too many times, I gave up and wrote an AutoHotkey macro to keybind them elsewhere.
You can replace R and Q with whatever keys you want.
I have an entire profile on my mouse dedicated to Landmark, just to give myself two buttons for left-click (Button 5 uses the thumb and spares my index finger when it starts to scream), and to bind Numlock (Autorun? Who puts that -there?- Obviously I don’t play Everquest!) to the middle mouse button and button 4, which I use in GW2 and has become natural.
Proper keybinding cannot come soon enough in Landmark. No idea how Alpha players put up without it.
Said building tools have quirks that some dedicated builders are learning and sharing. Apparently all I had to do to fix my misshapen arch which was bumpy on one side, was to just copy the good side and mirror it. But how did I get a misshapen arch in the first place? The circle used to cut the arch and the smoothing tool used to round out the arch wasn’t consistent on either side.
It all begs the question: Should I invest my time learning to build here, with its unique idiosyncrasies, or spend my time learning how to use a free alternative like Sketchup or Blender instead (which admittedly uses polygonal modeling, not voxels) or locating voxel modeling software or just build for fun in creative mode Minecraft when I can spawn all the blocks I desire without paying real money or grinding hours for it?
How about the other playstyles?
I confess to being weird and not minding mining or chopping wood. I find it oddly meditative.
But I don’t like feeling forced to go get them in order to get the next tier and the next tier of stuff – that just feels like busywork. I’m not really fond of game design that just exists to waste one’s time – it’s a carryover from subscription-based MMOs that shouldn’t exist in free-to-play ones.
Also, my system is truly on the low-end of the spec pool when it comes to Landmark, and starting and stopping with crashing framerates, falling through the floor and just plain crashing, or getting stuck on loadscreens and having to force the client to re-draw by hitting ctrl+alt+delete and canceling makes me think that I simply can’t participate in an Adventurer playstyle until I have the funds to upgrade to a better computer.
(Pushing the envelope is all very well, but that does restrict the playerbase some. EQ2 was reportedly less popular due to the need for high graphics capability at the time, whereas WoW’s popularity took off into a cult phenomenon – one of the foundational reasons being that people with low end computers still could play and enjoy it.)
I still have big unanswered questions about PvP, griefing and how other players are going to be able to affect you. Big questions about death penalties and potential resource loss, microtransactions and planned payment model. Other questions like:
Will my favored playstyle(s) be available for free, or low to reasonable cost?
Otherwise, why should I start now and invest the time to learn this game?
Well, don’t start now then, some people will reply.
Fair enough, I could just pack up everything, let whatever’s on my claim save into a template (assuming it does, apparently anti-voxels and negative space don’t?) and let the upkeep expire to make room for others. Log out and wait to log in later.
But fundamentally, I’m a little antsy about what the answers to the following questions are going to be:
Why should I spend a good amount of time on this game?
Unnecessary timesinks. Is that valuing my time? (I want to build creative designs unhindered by said timesinks, would be a better answer.)
Why should I keep playing?
Upkeep. In order not to lose stuff in 5 days? (Or, because there are fun things to do that cater to multiple playstyles in-game?)
If SOE swings one way, Landmark would be dropped like a hot potato. By me, at any rate.
The other way has more promise.
But it’s all a big uncertain gamble right now, isn’t it?