GW2: Epic is the Expansion’s Watchword

If there’s one thing that strikes me about the Heart of Thorns expansion, it’s that ArenaNet has been really trying to up the scale on this one.

That's a pretty big frog.
The Nuhoch are pretty big frogs. These guys are part of a fan club.
This guy's fanclub.
This guy’s fanclub.

Everything is larger than life and supremely gorgeous. There may be only four maps, but they are probably some of the world’s most dense and tangled maps that an MMO has ever produced.

Perhaps LOTRO’s Moria might try to compete, but your typical MMO’s maps are merely only spacious but barren – this area is for that quest hub, kill 10 such-and-such named mobs, pick up 20 blah items and the rest are just mobs to grind through or run past.

Also, you cannot glide over or down to various scenery in Moria, and thus it loses by default to any MMO that offers flying or gliding.

hotd

Funny story about an item fetch quest that an NPC on GW2’s Heart of Thorns personal story sent me on. He told me to go get 6 ‘Chak Enzymes,’ either by talking to various other NPCs that had various ways which you could obtain said item, or by running around the open world killing said Chak, which are really annoying bug monsters that apparently eat ley line magic energy or something. Sorta like karka on magic steroids, triply annoying.

I talked to two NPCs, attempted to go in search of some items they wanted in trade, stumbled into some Chak bugs and thought, oh well, may as well kill them and get some enzyme that way…

…and then I followed a tunnel down, another tunnel around, slipped and fell and glided to safety somewhere, killing a bunch of Chak along the way, and realized “Oh, I have 6 Chak Enzymes now, I can go back.”

Except that I was thoroughly turned around by this point and made about six or seven abortive attempts to get back to the NPC, cleaving through a whole bunch more Chak along the way…

…By the time I found my way back to said NPC, I had about 27 Chak Enzymes on me. Oh well. Let’s just pretend I’m an over-achiever and say nothing about my sense of direction. Or lack of.

I digress. Let’s talk about scale. I poked my head into the new Desert Borderlands WvW map today. (Confession: Not to WvW, just to use a crafting station quickly without moving from where I was in the PvE world.)

hotc1

This map greeted me when I hit ‘M.’

After swearing a little, I scrolled down to see the rest of it.

hotc2

Well, -that’s- going to take a while to learn how to get around, and what all the special spots/events are… when I get to it eventually.

My NA guild claimed their guild hall a couple days ago, and fortunately nabbed Lost Precipice, so I have access to ogle both map variations.

hotg

Yeah, well, we say “guild hall,” we really mean a wide swathe of territory in which you can build multiple buildings. The scale of it may not be obvious in a map, so just take a look at the circular formation in the southeast corner of the map…

hoth

It’s this thing. A coliseum. I presume it can eventually be upgraded into a place where small PvP duels can take place (the space within looks comfortable for 1 vs 1 PvP, or 2-3 players to dodge around), and spectators can gather on the bleachers above to watch.

hote

The guild banners on display around the map are really cool.

hotf

Random scenery around the map. I think half a pumpkin is sticking out of the right hand side. One can apparently place guild decorations in the zone, but I haven’t had time to check out that functionality yet.

I think it’s lovely that our community’s decorator types (you know who they are, there’s bound to be a few compulsive ones in every guild or community) can step up and prettify the place for those of us with somewhat less interest in investing lots of time making things look nice aesthetically. (And you just know there’s gonna be a few jumping puzzles and other displays of creativity eventually.)

hoti

And this is the other map, Gilded Hollow (courtesy of one of the OCE TTS guilds)…

…yeah, the mind boggles.

(The draw of Lost Precipice – while seemingly slightly smaller in map size – is gliding, supposedly. There are apparently jump pads around the place that one can activate for updrafts to glide on. Unsure of just how it all works right now, whether stuff has to be unlocked or whatever.)

No other screenshots as yet, I’ll have to find the time to run around both maps in depth eventually.

I do have a few more screenshots I want to show off, but this is where I lay out a certain amount of spoiler warning:

There will be three pretty pictures from the Heart of Thorns story. I do not place them in any context, but they may show off some environments which you may prefer to stumble on yourself.

IF SO, STOP READING NOW. GO AWAY. COME BACK LATER.

If you have very little plans to ever complete the Heart of Thorns story, or don’t feel that you will be spoiled by seeing alien environments with no context or commentary whatsoever, then proceed on.

Continue reading “GW2: Epic is the Expansion’s Watchword”

Advertisements

NBI: Dear Reader, I Have Nothing to Write About

Foo, quaggan is writer's blocked!

You may have noticed that I’ve been alternating between silence and incoherence for the last month or two.

I wish I knew why.

I might have fallen out of the blogging habit when I went full tilt obsession into Path of Exile, giving up my usual routine in favour of devoting more hours into achieving an arbitrary challenge.

It might have begun even earlier, when I settled into a comfortable daily routine of a couple games that made me happy and decided not to get all huffy and bothered about other people playing other games or not playing my games.

The problem is that there are only so many blog posts one can write about doing the same stuff in a game and being content, nor can one muster enough interest to care much or spend time thinking about topics beyond that narrow focus.

It could be because I’m feeling rather lost and aimless in my current set of games. I’ve definitely hit ‘endgame’ some time ago, so most of the activities are essentially busywork – do a bunch of things to maybe get a rare RNG chance at improvement or adding to a collection, or gather a bunch of things that will increment an achievement or collection.

It’s not grind, because grind implies a lack of enjoyment and enduring to get to the end reward.

I still -like- doing the activities. I’m not forced into doing the activities every day. I can and have skipped days. Given a choice, though, I’ll do these activities over not doing them because I want to do them and have fun in the process of doing them.

afarmingweshallgo

But really, it’s a toss up over whether you’ll come over to mercy kill me if I wrote blog posts entitled “Day 1 – Farmed Silverwastes,” “Day 2 – Farmed Silverwastes,” “Day 3 – Farmed Silverwastes,” or if I bored myself to death writing about it first.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I just can’t help but wonder… Is there something more I could be doing? Something new to write about?

The irony has not escaped me that I am battling a bout of Blogger’s Block during the same month as this year’s Newbie Blogger Initiative.

Given this struggle, I cannot muster sufficient energy to officially be a blog sponsor of any kind, but it strikes me as a great opportunity for putting my money where my mouth is and practising what I preach.

This month of May, I’m going to write. And write. And write some more.

I hope to do this alongside the new and returning bloggers that are joining us for this exciting, exhausting, intriguing, infuriating, depressing, uplifting, agonizing, engaging and altogether roller-coaster journey of distilling one’s thoughts into words…

…and offering them up as a gift to oneself and others.

There is a beautiful energy and synergy in the shared struggle, one topic spinning off from another, one blogger’s post inspiring a string of others, knowing that we’re not alone.

(I desperately need that energy to kickstart my blog writing again, and I hope in turn to contribute to the spirit of the NBI with the posts produced.)

I’ll be creating a modest set of goals, so as not to burn myself out in the striving, and also to create a fun writing challenge and a change of pace.

The target is a blog post of 500-1000 words, every 1-3 days or so.

And I’ll end off with a writing prompt or blog idea or exercise of some kind, to help combat that uncomfortable moment of staring at a blank page and having no ideas (or worse, deciding that one has nothing to write about, and avoiding sitting down in front of the blank page in the first place. Guilty.)

NBI Writing Exercise #1: So, you have nothing to write about. No ideas. Zilch. Your real life is boring. Your game life is boring.

No one, including yourself, could care less about the routine of incrementing some number or another, but you’re still doing it anyway, for reasons that escape you.

It’s time to freewrite.

Open a blank document or get a piece of paper – something different than your usual blogging method – and just start writing about how you have nothing to write about.

However you want. Stream of consciousness. Sentence fragments. Loose grammar. Every ohter word misspeled. Whatever.

Brood about why; philosophize; throw in random ideas and things you might want to do in the future; discuss what another person might do in your stead; talk about things you hate; talk about things you love; talk about things that you have a ‘meh’ response to, and why; go with the flow of where the writing takes you.

Keep freewriting until you’ve stirred some threads of interest, something that makes you go “hmm, maybe there’s something here.”

It doesn’t have to be a lot. It doesn’t have to be a fully formed thought. You just need a tiny thread of something that vaguely resonates, that you can pick up and explore further in writing, and right there, that’s your next blog post in potentia.

GW2: Speak of That Devil Spider…

yessss

Yesssss…

I believe this was promised a little while ago (aka yesterday.)

Figures, it takes a little public rant about it to finally get it done.

My previous thoughts on tactics had been fine, it was mostly just all in the execution.

Essentially, after getting repeatedly pwned in the cave, I pulled the spider out to use the handy dandy protruding corner of rock.

diespiderdie

This blocks a fair amount of its normal pounce attacks and its web pull, though it -will- chase you around the corner, so you always have to keep moving to the other side and back again.

Its egg spit will go right -through- the corner, just like your own cleave attacks, so there’s no rest and relaxation (or exploitation) going on here.

When it lifts its abdomen, block or dodge the egg spit (or be not in the path of its frontal cone) to prevent an uncontrollable swarm of spiders + veteran spiders from showing up.

It will also use an immobilize, which pulses at least twice and can be quite a pain to condition clear if you press the buttons too fast, and tends to egg spit right after that, while you’re all tangled up in the immobilize trying to clear it and unable to dodge.

What really helped me was thinking BLOCK first over dodge.

By prioritizing focus 5, retreat, and F3 virtue aegis, there were a little less accidents of the “oh god, dodge, wait I didn’t dodge, I’m stuck, and now it just hit me with a really painful egg spit, how to heal now, panic!” variety.

There were still times when all blocks hadn’t recharged and it was a matter of life and death dodge timing, but less strenuous compared to before, and signet of respite heal was able to keep up with the occasional inescapable accidental egging.

To get rid of the immobilize, condition clears were prioritized – smite condition and purging flames, and maybe focus 4 if it could hit.

A lot more condition clears really couldn’t hurt, but my attempt at excessively retraiting to pure of voice didn’t help the first time, and I went back to my old selfish zerker build and managed it, so welp, whatever worked.

Now all I have to do is keep trying to repeat the same feat every time I visit for rich platinum veins…

That -might- be a little trickier.

Well, -some- day, I’ll not be afraid of the itsy bitsy undead spider any more.

Grouping and Soloing in Terraria Hardmode

Cowabunga!

Over on the Terraria end, hard-mode has been my drug of choice.

I find that I enjoy the challenge of facing something difficult and initially pwns your face off, but then steadily working out how to defeat it via better and creative tactics (and possibly incrementally better gear.)

The big BUT is that I can accept this quite easily in a singleplayer or small multiplayer game, but somehow the flow seeking for optimal challenge seems to break down in a big MMO.

One major difference that I can think of is that Terraria allows creativity of block placement and the ability to alter your scenery. You get to dig trap pits, walls and barriers to shield yourself, plot and plan and set up regeneration stations (<3 my honey pits) and the eventual reward of this industry is the capacity for “easy fun” when the mob progresses to the “on farm” phase, where you stand around, hold down a mouse button and cackle as things die and loot drops.

In a big MMO, progress is more measured by how good your gear gets, and how well your group/raid members play.

In Terraria, there is incrementally better gear as well, but progress on that front is generally a lot faster.

RNG chances of 0.5% – 1% are a LOT more palatable when you can go through one mob in under a few seconds and can generate hundreds of them in under an hour.

Contrast this with an MMO raid where you only get to test the favor of the RNG gods once a night for maybe twice a week at best and things start to get annoying very quickly.

Mobs in Terraria can be soloed. I’m not at the mercy of waiting for others to match my timings and praying they or their gear is up to the fight.

They’re also easier in a group, so there is still incentive to come together when everyone is online.

And of course, the most fun in Terraria arises from the creative collaboration. Taking the ideas of one person and then running with it, being inspired by and improving on it.

arena

The old new arena, you may recall, was a clean glitzy place marred only by the record of our untimely demise at the hands of Skeletron when we summoned him on a whim a little -too- close to the dawn.

Post-hardmode, one thing has pretty much led to another.

Our group ‘boss’ project has been the Pumpkin Moon event, a series of 15 waves to be fought during the space of night. Logically and rightfully, it’s a lot easier to push the waves when there’s more of us around than attempting to solo. (But you could always summon it solo and still try it out, so there’s no nasty restriction there.)

Eri and I once attempted the event as a duo, and got to something like Wave… 4? Memory fails. From there, we noticed the tendency of mobs to start falling into certain locations, like a lake bed, and the idea was born to start playing mechanic and wiring up traps to defeat the smaller mobs more easily. (Also conveniently getting all of us familiar with the new stuff to boot.)

Each person has built upon the ideas of the other, and our new arena is pretty danged lethal. (Note: Keep hands and feet and body away from machinery when spiky balls are in operation!)

newnewarena

The assorted junk at the center of the arena was also a collaborative effort. I stuck a honey pit and campfire (and later a heart crystal) there cos I loves me some stacked regen. I put a clock there too cos I hate shuffling around my accessories trying to check when night was coming via a GPS.

Eri set up teleporters for kiting bosses, and a bed spawn point, and a chest and other conveniences have popped on in.

I wanted to play with asphalt.

I had 999 pieces of gel to use up, and the thought of running places at double the speed was very appealing to my lazy soul. Especially for getting to the dungeon quickly to farm all the goodies inside.

What better to use it on than Eri’s already set-up highway?

Followin' the black brick road...
Followin’ the black brick road…

Of course, sometimes collaboration has a cost. It involves compromises.

The new and improved lethal trap corridor below our arena necessitated the removal of a scenic lake. Someone’s *cough* lazy draining methods have turned it into a somewhat boring rectangular underwater reservoir.

reservoirdeath
I see it also claimed the life of its builder. Hooray for turtles and their were-merfolk ability!

Of course, all this means is the ability to re-collaborate and re-improve on the design.

I’m still pondering what to do with the stored water. I recently worked out how to pump liquids with pumps and wires and am somewhat eager to play with it. Just need a good idea.

I installed a bit better lighting because turtles are still blind as a bat (need to farm my nice white light off dungeon mobs at some point), took the opportunity to redecorate my tunnel in the gaudy fashion of someone who really likes those crystal shards but has no real sense of what’s appropriate, and stuck in a new door for one more minor mob speedbump before they pop in to plague me in the midst of crafting stuff.

Oh, and I also repaved the new way up (the one that doesn’t involve flying head on into a hundred spiky balls) with asphalt, just because.

It makes a hilarious fun slide into the other pond on returning from the castle.

And the cost of the speedy new west highway?

pumpkintunnel

Someone’s pumpkin has a hole in it. A very straight worm drilled through it. That’s what a little bird told me. Yes.

Halloween’s over. Pumpkins rot, y’know?! (At least, partially.)

My creations tend to be more on the ugly but functional side of things. Especially for speeding up farming of items I want, but am too impatient to spend hours waiting for.

Terraria has been kind enough to allow increasing mob spawn rates by standing by a water candle and drinking a battle potion, so farming seems to be very much a part of the game.

I want the ability to summon Pirate Invasions, because they’re fun, and that requires a pirate map consumable that is used up per summon. You get a pirate map off a rare chance killing mobs in the Ocean biome. That involves walking to the edge of the map and lots of swimming, and I’ve already killed so many sharks in a prior search for a diving helmet that I could make shark’s fin soup if such an item existed in Terraria.

Solution? Enter the meteor farm. Placing 50 pieces of meteorite anywhere turns it into an artificial meteor biome, and in near end-game armor, a helpful leaf crystal acts like an autoturret that can one-shot the meteor heads that spawn to accompany the biome.

sunsandandmeteors

Ugly, but functional. And the wooden platform below catches most of the drops.

It also allows for more active participation when desired, because I can only AFK so long before getting trigger happy.

The other thing that I regularly amuse myself with is the artificial biome project.

I guess I just enjoy taming the wilderness by encasing it in easily accessible little bubbles that preserve its habitat for posterity. I don’t even mind the mobs that keep spawning from them, they make life fairly entertaining (though I do have a certain hatred for a giant fungi bulb that insists on throwing nasty spores in the air that whack an unaware person for 56 damage per spore.)

Home sweet artificial biomes. All trees finally growing.
Home sweet artificial biomes. All trees finally growing.

All attempts at preserving natural antlion populations are failing miserably. I think I need a longer desert.

All attempts at preserving the natural antlion populations are failing miserably. I think I need a longer desert.
Work has begun on an underground jungle, though so far, it's more of an underground fish farm.
Work has begun on an underground jungle, though so far, it’s more of an underground fish farm.