The SAD Project – Day 7 – All Aboard the WvW Bandwagon

This Sunday, I dug my secondary guardian – the mothballed one intended for WvW – out of cold storage and forced myself to clean up his inventory.

oldinventory

An inventory that looked like this, and a task I was forever avoiding.

From left to right, ignoring the shared inventory slots:

Too many shapechanging tonics I’ll never use; a bunch of useless food; some giant pearls from the time the WvW battlegrounds still had quaggans in it that I’ll never throw away; a bunch of salvage items worth money that I was choosing to hoard in the unsalvaged form; old as fuck Queen’s Gauntlet tickets; a collection of three sets of exotic armors (soldiers, clerics and zealot stats) all of them now technically quite obsolete in this day and age of ascended and HoT stats; three minis from the Hall of Monuments that I never got around to throwing away when account bound minis became a thing; a set of exotic clerics trinkets that never really served a purpose beyond making me exceedingly tanky in WvW while hitting like a wet noodle; a soulbound exotic spinal blades backpack that I never converted to ascended because 15 deldrimor/elonian/silk whatsits are expensive while cheerfully and obliviously running around with a yellow rare backpack; 5 medical kit items from some NPC the intended purpose of which remains an obscure mystery to me; 75 really oldschool fireworks which I -think- a WvW commander got us to fire off once upon a time; a bunch of unopened PvP champion box loot from when I was using this guardian to PvP a little; a mordrem bodyparts extractor that I was highly unlikely to use in the Silverwastes again since the time of zerg killing underground bosses is over and bodypart collection is a pain anyway; the world’s largest collection of leftover Frostbitten gathering tools that I don’t really use while opening boxes looking for sickles; more oddball food; a now obsolete +5 simple infusion; two exotic weapons of highly questionable stat choice; 39 kite fortunes from when the Zephyrites still existed as a settlement not a refugee camp and had a festival; ¬†and the ever ubiquitious tomes of knowledge, empyreal fragments and dragonite ore that just find their way onto every character.

Long story short, I salvaged nearly everything.

(And threw away useless unsalvageable things.)

slightlycleanedinventory

Choosing to salvage the assorted sets of exotic armor is a milestone for me.

I think it signifies the acceptance that I have now moved my internal baseline to ascended stats only.

Also, because I was intending to use the immensely useful -functionality- of an armor set that you can only get via PvE raiding in an entirely different game mode where stat swapping functionality is a lot more helpful. Thank you, Anet designer logic. (I gotta get that sarcastic snipe in -somewhere-.)

statswapping

The new frontline guardian meta is Celestial, apparently. So it was a matter of stealing the legendary armor set back from the revenant alt I wasn’t going to use any time soon, and doing the above.

If frontline guardian didn’t work out as a role choice, I was going to give roaming PvPesque burst guardian a shot, and for that Marauder is apparently desired. STAT SWAP AHOY.

Finding the ascended trinkets was slightly more taxing.

I had a celestial ring that dropped off fractals once upon a time that I had hoarded. While it was possible to buy more celestial ring/accessories from the typical route – pristine fractal relics and guild commendations – I decided I was collecting too many oddball drops from raiding and used GW2efficiency to search across my characters and bank for any suitable unused trinkets.

I found myself lacking an amulet. Again, while there were multiple options to pick from, my eventual decision was to go with a Blood Ruby Pendant from the first Living Story 3 map Bloodstone Fen. Why? STAT-SWAPPING it is possible, at the cost of 100 unbound magic for a capacitator.

That functionality is too invaluable to be left only to legendary tier armor, dammit. I think they found a nice compromise with paying a cost to do so for ascended tier stuff, while purple legendary things remain free to swap at any time.

Same deal with Ascended weapons. I decided I wanted a greatsword over a hammer, because hammer animations are a little slow for me AND because I had Saladborg sitting around unused. (Ahem, I mean the reforged Caladbolg Orchida ascended greatsword that can morph itself into dagger, scepter, sword or shield as well. Morphing at the cost of 1000 unbound magic, which allows for a change of stats then.)

The one thing I -didn’t- want, is the giant “hi-target-me-now-I’m-a-dirty-PvEr-who-has-stat-swap-functionality-you-don’t-have-because-Anet-is-a-poopoohead” legendary armor wing animation appearing every time you go into combat.

winganimation

You know, the one that looks like this, that would highlight even an asura that is intending to be sneaky.

I actually considered, very deeply, footing out 700 gems (aka 10 dollar, give or take 100 gems) for an outfit to cover up the whole set of armor.

An outfit, to me, makes logical sense in WvW when you’re trying to be somewhat generic and lost in a crowd, while still looking nice.

Then I thought, you know, it’s still against my philosophy to pay real money for anything in the GW2 gemstore until that functional inequality between raiders and non-raiders somehow goes away.

(Since there are no plans whatsoever for another legendary armor set in another game mode, I am revising my qualified statement even further down the slippery slope and settling for having alternative sets of ascended tier armor that -can- stat swap somehow, even if in a limited fashion, and for a cost, similar to Caladbolg or Blood Ruby trinkets.)

So I tried something different, spending, in my usual miserly fashion, ONE transmutation charge to swap the chest armor cosmetically to another skin.

transmutearmor

As luck would have it, I guessed correctly, the giant wing animation is indeed tied to the chestplate for legendary heavy armor, and punching the shout “Retreat!” every so often no longer painted a ginormous target over my head.

Several hours of inventory shuffle later, the renewed WvW guardian was ready for me to put through its paces.

I jumped into WvW, only to find that Tarnished Coast is… in political speak.. in a “resting and recovery phase” after an apparently tumultous high drama period of transferring guilds, getting shit on by stacked T1 servers, more transferring guilds, and god knows what else.

Oh, there were people around in WvW. There was siege all over. There was generally a tag every map. but all names I didn’t recognize. (Understandable, I have been away from WvW a long long long time. A fellow PvE raider was amazed I only had 445 rank and was still a bronze WvWer. Welp, I WvWed when it wasn’t fashionable and was already on the downswing when those rank rewards came out.)

I squadjoined a random commander and my heart immediately sank. No Teamspeak usage. He was leading a rabble of a militia, trying to command them in text, because the TC militia apparently ain’t accustomed to being voice commanded anymore. Our first encounter with another zerg was also the last, because the poor guy ran in and no one followed, choosing to scatter instead. Textbook example of low morale peasantry. My celestial guardian, built to support a nonexistent frontline (you can’t have a frontline with no backline either) got pulled down and torn apart.

It was so bad, I actually logged off and started doing research on WvW mos millenium rankings. Tarnished Coast has apparently dropped to T3 and the state of organization kinda reflects that.

For the first time in 3+ years, post-Isle of Janthir exodus, I started seriously considering a server transfer.

But to where?

Bandwagoning Blackgate is all very for potential future skirmish rewards. In theory, it is so stacked, surely there must be population during Oceanic/SEA times. SEA folks are by and large pragmatic bastards who want to win by any means necessary, so logically speaking, I’m sure most of the self-styled hardcore population have wound up there eventualy.

Yak’s Bend is Bhagpuss’ server, and while it once had a reputation for being akin to TC and far more obsessive about siege, I’d vaguely heard it had an influx of fight guilds that had good and bad effects. Good, in that the militia learned more about zerg fighting, and bad in that fight guilds usually bring their share of political high drama as they sweep in and out of servers, with loyalty only to themselves. Also, I’ve never heard much about Yak’s Bend in the Oceanic/SEA timezones, so it is conceivable I might transfer and get zero satisfactory gameplay during my normal game times.

Besides, the above two servers are Full to the brim. Not only would I have to demeaningly pay ArenaNet more than twenty dollars when I don’t really want to pay them a cent, I would have to sit and watch for available transfer times like a hawk.

Jade Quarry was severely tempting. I’m really out of touch with all things WvW, but the rumor mill has it that it has a severely heavy Asian timezone presence. Granted, following zerg fights in half-Mandarin is not exactly my first preference. And it’s really hard to tell how healthy or enjoyable a server is going to be until you’re actually in it and experiencing it though.

Ultimately, the voice of reason inside me spoke up to say, “Wait and see.”

My first check-in with TC WvW was during the EU timezone on a weekend, so I think I can quite confidently say that it desperately needs some commanders to fuse together the militia in that timezone.

My next check-in was during the NA timezone. My Sunday mornings, their Saturday nights. What better time to get a feel for the pulse of Tarnished Coast? If weekend NA timezone was dead, it would be confirmation to run like hell away from the smoldering corpse.

charrunisbestrun

I’m pleased to say that the NA timezone made me hesitate and reconsider the server transfer all over again.

The militia was a bit all over the map when I first logged in to check it out, but at the start of the next Skirmish changeover, a team chat announcement went out that such-and-such commander was beginning his WvW raid and to squadjoin up.

Joining the squad brought up an automatic message to log into a Teamspeak, and getting into Teamspeak and asking to be verified got me a temporary verification as a non-world member to get into the proper channel.

The only problem, of course, is that this was a Gate of Madness commander. (TC got glommed together with Kaineng and Gate of Madness, apparently.)

My already shaky morale made me reconsider taking the WvW guardian, and I brought the hastily refurbished power PS warrior instead. There was surprisingly very little to change, given that zerker ascended was the recommended stats (with just some trait and skill changes to make yourself a little more tanky.)

I was also determined to have some fun abusing the hell out of my new Predator rifle.

See, my theory goes, the smaller the world population is, the less blobby fights are, the more skirmisher damage PvP-ish builds become important. Also, rifles let you reach out and touch at least a single person when you can’t run into a blob and melee.

WvW commanders would prefer a melee frontline that runs in and damages stuff in an AoE fashion, so I’d bring my greatsword along. (Movement skills are good.) But then to please myself and have me consider WvWing again, I want to kill stuff and do damage.

If I can’t do it as an AoE bomb group, then I’ll settle for peeling the enemy zerg one at a time if possible. The correct downed person(s) at a time can sometimes make or break a fight, and generate a morale surge in your own group to see downed people after a pass, after all.

I found out, I am a simple charr at heart. I just want to shoot shit and see 4 digit numbers appear, preferably the rare 5 digit monstrosity (even if it’s just hundred blading a keep lord.)

The Gate of Madness commander took us on a decent enough run of towers and keeps (man, I need to get back into WvW if only to refill my karma hoard.)

We had our share of running into a small group and winning (I don’t know how to call 20 people a zerg. A zerg to me is 40-50 strong. Hoorah T1-T2.) Whirlwind and arc dividing is pretty satisfactory when things go well. We had our share of overextending into a much larger group and wiping (ugh, but meh, that’s the only way commanders will gain battle experience.)

As the night went on, one or two drunk people in the channel started to make the whole place more ear-searingly annoying, and I decided that the end of the 2h skirmish would be a good time to cut and run, so I did.

Part of the reason for cutting and running is that an old well known TC commander had tagged up and started running his own squad. Stay or leave decisions really depend on analyzing the -TC- core, and how healthy the TC teamspeak was, not checking out Gate of Madness.

Good ol’ Jadon is well loved by the TC militia for a number of reasons: his unfailing politeness and civility, his positivity, his tactical sense and his knack for attracting a decent core of WvW combatants that can support a militia zerg and help it win battles, or at least have a good ol’ time holding out a losing battle with chokepoints and resistance, not an all out rout.

Much like Twitch streaming, a charismatic WvW commander knows how to have a good time with his following, who are looking for entertainment.

If Jadon can’t pull out the TC militia, then TC is doomed.

Well, it’s not. Not today, anyhow.

The zerg ran about 40-50 strong, there were a number of entertaining fights where I got to test and utilize the ranged part of the hybridized build because meleeing into the fray in zerker stats would be certain death, there were satisfactory moments of greatswording people in the face (especially those trying to rez another – sorry, buddy, you may be in Nomad’s for all I know, but crouching stationary¬†in front of a zerker hundred blades is still gonna hurt somewhat.)

Yeah, NA WvW isn’t too bad, and presumably more PvE people will be drawn back like flies to honey once the new patch drops.

It makes me reconsider, because let’s face it, I am not a hardcore WvWer. If I go to T1, it’s going to be zerg vs zerg nonstop, with presumably skillful roamers and havoc groups in the 5-10s making life miserable for solo people wandering around. The bonus would be having a commander zerg to join in most hours of the day – assuming they aren’t all elitist closed guild groups.

But isn’t all I really need a nice scheduled time every week – likely on a Saturday or Sunday morning – to fit into an NA timezone squad and trundle around for an hour or two? More than two days would be pushing it, given that I already PvE raid on two days. WvWing for all hours of every day is for people with far more free time than I.

If we’re looking for something sustainable in the long term, -that- sounds sustainable. Not expecting commanders to be available at all hours (hello, burnout), not expecting to stay online for 4-6 hours daily trying to hold keeps for an eternity.

The last part of the equation is the Oceanic/SEA timezone.

I’m really not sure what I want out of this timezone. On one hand, I’d like to be in a server populated enough to have at least -one tag- running across the whole of the four maps in the Oceanic/SEA timezone, organized enough to do zerg on zerg fights.

At the moment, my checking out suggests that we have a lot of population (maybe inherited from Kaineng too) and very little organization. Everybody still actively WvWing in this timezone appears to have shifted over to more roaming solo skirmisher builds.

This, of course, is hilarious for any commander trying to gather people and run them like a zerg. Either they die horribly and/or you see all the soloists break apart like archer skirmishers in Total War and either pick apart the opposing army to death due to eventually outnumbering them, or rout horribly when an organized zerg or higher number skirmishing force runs into them.

On the other hand, there’s something to be said for having a window of opportunity for a more loose scattered fighting style. One could test out roaming/PvPesque builds, for example. There’s opportunity for a scrappy 3-5 people to wander around, take camps, sneak attack towers. (Try -that- on a T1 server.)

I would rather miss the ability to just zone into the Desert Borderlands of the day (aka no one in their right minds likes this place) to get some WvW dailies done and solo take camps and shrines without interference.

Of course, the ability to do so is dependent on the other servers -not- having any semblance of an organized force in that timezone. If there is, then the only way to get anything done is to counter with another organized force… which leads me back to thinking about Jade Quarry again.

Except it might be a unicorn I’m chasing and maybe there’s no big organized force in JQ or anywhere else other than BG in the timezones I’m after.

All us adult Asians have this thing called work (and going home late, because a 42 hour work week is perceived as the baseline, aka underachieving) tiring us out. Plus overwhelming pragmatism leads us to more profitable activities in GW2 (aka -not- WvWing) or far more competitive games like LoL or Overwatch or Dota 2 if seeking competition, after all.

Weekday organized WvW, let alone one open to militia tagging along, may simply be unsustainable in this timezone.

Dunno. I suppose “wait and see” is the option I’m going to go with for now.

Maybe the Skirmish rewards will suck and WvW will empty out again.

Maybe the rewards will be so overwhelming that the PvE hordes will come back in droves and change the active population, while the guild groups hop from server to server farming bags.

Hard to tell. Best not to be hasty, I guess. Best of all, I need spend no money whatsoever. The track record can still hold, until the expansion launches.

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Where We Discover I Can’t Drive a Train (and Musings on Simulators)

Between some looming RL deadlines coming up in a week, Guild Wars 2 Final Beta Weekend, and Steam Summer sales, I find myself distracted from being able to put in sufficient time with The Secret World.

It’ll keep.

Meanwhile, here’s an interim post about me test driving Train Simulator 2012 – something I picked up for the hell of it while it was at 90% off.

Simulation games deeply fascinate me with their intense focus on simulating something as close to reality as possible. I also suck at pretty much all of them. Something about not reading the effing manual, I think, nor giving myself time enough to learn all the controls and nuances.

I used to be much better when I was younger – I recall hours and hours on the Amiga playing Silent Hunter, a submarine sim, or Gunship, a helicopter sim, or F-16 Combat Pilot. I think I even gave Flight Simulator a go, though I never quite saw the point in those days of playing something without any missiles. What? Just transport people around from place to place? How boring is that, like a glorified bus driver?

(Then I found a book about Flight Simulator adventures, and Threading The Seattle Space Needle sounded immensely fun…)

Of course, as a kid, the one thing I could never figure out was how to land the fucking airplane without crashing.

(Nor did the virtual Needle ever survive my attempts to fly through it.)

Oops.

I didn’t read the manual then in those days either.

Nor did I really understand all the stuff on the HUD besides basic radar and what weapons were selected. I pretty much just treated the games like toys and had my fun with them regardless, even if true sim grognards would be recoiling in horror.

That is, until an adult neighbor came by for a visit and by chance, I happened to be fooling around with a flight sim. He also happened to be a real pilot.

Intrigued by the realization that personal computers were actually sophisticated enough to run sims (presumably he was more used to practising with full scale aircraft simulator equipment), he asked for a turn with the joystick. While explaining what little keyboard controls I had discovered by trial and error to him, I confessed I had no clue what the hell all the other dials and knobs and lines were, nor could I ever master landing planes.

Laughing, he opened my eyes to the depth of the simulation, “it’s just like a real plane” and explained every single dial, altitude control and what not, while I attempted to pick my jaw off the floor and absorb even a smidgen of the information he was imparting so matter-of-factly. Then he promptly demonstrated landing the plane safe and soundly. He’d barely touched the game for five minutes.

Dayum. (Well, considering he landed real passenger planes as his job, he’d -better- know how to land the things smoothly without a hitch, but as a kid, it knocked my socks off at the time.)

And so began my unrequited love affair with simulator games. (I’d like to get to know them better and they slap me in the face, pretty much.)

First things first, this is -not- a review of Train Simulator 2012. Nor is it a first impressions post. It is the ‘first post’ diary of a complete and utter newbie to trains.

(They’re not really my thing. I go for tanks, battleships, gunships, submarines, infantry, airplanes, cars, trains, pretty much in that order. Mechs, spaceships and weird shit like farming or janitorial implements and construction equipment not included in the above rankings.)

The good news, I found, is that it actually has tutorial missions.

 

The first tutorial explains the simplified controls (another plus!), which basically consisted of a lever to work up and down (up for more acceleration, and down for deceleration) and a button to push to determine if you were going in forward or reverse.

Phew. I can handle that. Thanks for remembering the newbies, developers!

It explains the portion of the interface which shows where your train is in relation to the track, including the destination where you’re trying to stop at, the speed limit indicator, and passenger boarding.

Already, trying to predict and apply the appropriate acceleration/deceleration rate to stop a heavy mass like a train on what essentially seemed like a dime (but was in virtual reality, a station) was proving a challenge worthy of my nub lack of skillz.

I got through the first tutorial, albeit with some embarrassed reversing as I overshot the target, and a new appreciation for subway train drivers, even if most of the trains in my country are completely automated and driverless or run with ATO and a human operator for safety.

Having gotten more or less a grasp on the basics, I decided to try out a scenario with simplified controls for fun. There was a huge list of them, neatly sortable by the type of train or the route, and helpfully labeled with difficulty level and the expected time to complete (some of them running in the hours! Eep.)

Easy difficulty level went without saying for the noob. I was debating between the shortest two, 15 and 20 minutes, when a Coals to Newcastle mission caught my eye. 30 minutes.

Extremely tickled by the phrase, and the historical link, and with Sting’s Soul Cages and Island of Souls echoing in my brain, I went for it – though I was anticipating a good half hour of extreme boredom since this -was- easy difficulty level, on simplified controls.

I figured I could always try to roleplay it to kill time. (“Roleplay” is used in the sense of this article, which has an amazing paragraph on how you can even roleplay while playing Solitaire.

So how the heck do you roleplay while playing solitaire? There are no adventures or quests in a game of solitaire, no puzzles to solve, no dragons to slay, no princesses to rescue, no character attributes to build up – in short, none of the things we’d expect to find in an RPG. Well, in this type of situation, you have to roleplay in your mind. For example, you might put yourself in the role of a World War II Allied pilot who has been shot down and captured. Now, you’re in a prison camp. You’ve just been thrown into a solitary confinement cell for complaining about not getting enough food. It’s pretty dark, but a bit of light does manage to get in through the small slit window. And when the guards threw you in, they were laughing too hard or they were too lazy to bother searching you. As the result of this great stroke of luck, they didn’t find the dog- eared deck of playing cards that was in your pocket when they came for you. So you play solitaire. You play quietly so as not to alert the guards. And you play with a quiet desperation, not merely to entertain yourself, but to stave off the pangs of hunger – you’re getting even less to eat now – and to maintain your sanity.)

The briefing sets you in the mood already. It’s winter, there’s strikes happening all over, a backlog of freight to clear, and your job is to haul a load of coal to be transferred to a waiting ship. On time, or you won’t have a loading bay to unload in.

Turns out my ignorance of all things train-related yielded moments of skin-crawling anxiety and imaginary terror, mixed in with relatively bored uneventfulness.

I managed to get started okay, accelerating slowly, then fast, listening to the engine make strange noises in reaction and wondering if I was doing anything I shouldn’t. Then I debated with myself on the appropriate speed to maintain and settled on approaching as close to the speed limit as possible.

The glorious coal payload, and accelerating from 10.3mph to approach the 25mph speed limit. Gee, this is going to take a while…

Then the speed limit changed suddenly from 25 to 40. Eh? Er, okay, I’ll go faster.

Then to 85. Oooh er, should I be going that fast? What if I need to stop this thing?!

In retrospect, and as explained by the -second- tutorial mission, the one with the advanced train controls, the speed limits are actually indicated on the interface, highlighted in yellow. But I didn’t realize it then. I just noticed the speed limit changing at seemingly unpredictable moments.

Then there were the lights. The railway signal lights, that is. Remember, I know next to nothing about trains.

The first few lights I passed were facing away from me, but still glowing green. Okay, presumably those don’t apply to me. They must be for other trains and are just scenic ambience.

Then I passed some that were facing me, and green. Okay, green means go, presumably, just like normal traffic. But oh my god, what if they turn red, what do I do, what do I do, this train is moving damn fast, I hope there’s no railroad crossing traffic or an oncoming train switching rails, because it’s not going to be pretty with a noob at the controls. Come on, this is -easy- difficulty level, surely they won’t include such things until intermediate or hard, right?

Adding confusion to the neurotic worrying was the fact that as my train passed the railway signal, they changed from green to red. Oh god, does that mean I should have stopped? Or maybe they’re just indicating that my train is passing…

Wait, that one is yellow, do I slow down, am I supposed to slow down? Hang on, that’s hanging over another rail, there’s one nearer to my rail that is green.

After a while of this, it did seem like all the signals were green, and I decided not to worry about something that I probably didn’t have the current capacity to react to, anyway.

The rest of the journey went by in a mind-numbing haze, punctuated by me humming snippets of the Soul Cages, taking screenshots of passing landmarks, and experimenting with camera views as I succumbed to “What does this button do?” temptation.

Coupling view. Train tracks…passing… fast… Ulp.

I can see my house from here! (Nah, not really.)

At last, after numerous accelerations and decelerations, I reached the target yard. Wherein I discovered that I had no clue how to uncouple the coal wagons, nor where precisely I should be leaving them, and after a bunch of trial-and-error clicks, managed to decouple my engine from the entire string of wagons.

Alas, that didn’t seem to end the scenario – presumably because I was only supposed to leave specific numbered wagons, but had no clue how – and I ended up trundling my lone engine up the track further to no avail. Changed my mind as the 7.50 deadline was approaching, and went into reverse.

The plan was to back up to the abandoned coal wagons and attempt re-hitching and further trial and error. But having only two minutes on the clock made me a tide… hasty.

Going at way too fast a speed to brake appropriately (or rather the speed of a car going what, 30mph?), I careened into the stationary coal wagons and my engine swayed precariously, and promptly derailed.

ROFL. Oops.

Well, that’s one way to bring up the scenario end screen.

On checking the tutorial mission list, apparently How to handle freight is numbered tutorial mission 4, though number 3 is not currently showing.

I decided to sit through number 2 first, the advanced train controls, which was slightly more complex with a throttle, brake, and forward/reverse controls.

Alas, I overshot my passenger stop and failed the tutorial, and decided to stop there for the night. Until next time.