Where Did Jeromai Go For Most of July?

Well, the blog break wasn’t exactly intentional, but I have to admit it was a pretty refreshing change this month to not feel beholden to writing another post, or indeed, to end up locked in the same habitual cycle of logging in every night to GW2 to faithfully play for 3+ hours and then heading off to bed.

What’s the story there, you may ask?

It was a curious set of coincidences adding up to surprise revelations.

You may recall that I’d previously fallen into a GW2 routine of attending TTS raids every evening, which tend to occupy one’s time from 6.30 – 9.00pm, depending on how early I felt I could attend.

(In truth, I usually missed Karka Queen and Teq most of the time and only stood by for Wurm, having developed a habit of consuming dinner while watching the Dog Whisperer from 6.35-7.35pm. 8.10pm was my local gathering time for Wurm, so sneak in the daily in the half hour in between, done by 9pm, then do whatever else I felt like until bedtime.)

That I can recite the timings sight unseen might suggest how structured and habitual my gaming schedule had become.

On a whim, I decided to make collecting an entire set of Scientific weapon skins my new ‘chase’ goal.

extremeSisyphus

This broke the “attend TTS raid for lack of anything better to do” habit, and replaced it with new and novel (if obsessive) behavior of seeking out gold-earning tactics.

I get drops of Black Lion Salvage Kits faster than I can use them up. Surely there was something I could do with them? There’s the old standard trick of buy stuff off the TP, salvage it, sell the sigil or rune for a profit. But exactly which was profitable?

I ended up in a fun few days of Excel experimentation, trying to figure out how to pull from various trading post APIs (and settled on an on-demand if manual method of getting the JSON direct and converting to CSV for use in Excel, giving me more up to date info than the delayed half hour of GW2spidy) and create formulas for calculating profit.

Turns out, those niches are pretty well-covered by people a little more dedicated than I at playing with spreadsheets, and the profits per BLSK weren’t exactly mind-blowing at the level I was willing to trade at.

There was dungeon-running for gold, which I managed for a couple days before my nature just up and rebelled at the whole grouping thing.

There was sitting on the World Boss bus for rares/ectos… which led to some more novel experimentation with the GW2 Personal Assistant Overlay. Turned out quite handy, if you like that sort of constant UI feedback and had some hours to kill in GW2, making a boss timer worth it.

There was running around being a node miner/harvester while listening to music, watching Youtube videos or movies in the other screen – which I’m really partial to, and started paying more attention to waypoints with clumps of nodes in the vicinity that I could harvest and then waypoint off to some other destination.

Silverwastes chest train? Yup, did that.

Kill things for T6 drops? Did that too.

I even did the whole karma into crab-grabbin’ gloves into linen/wool for gold.

Generally, given the time I had to play, I was earning some 10-20g on the weekdays and more on the weekends, and was gradually and methodically able to afford a scientific skin every 5-7 days or so.

Then, ArenaNet threw a spanner in the works when they released their -next- Black Lion skin set some two weeks after, raising the price of the scientific skins to 3 tickets.

frustrated

For a brief space of time (turned out to be one more week or so, before a patch fixed it,) there was still one particular NPC vendor in the Lion’s Arch area selling scientific skins at 1 ticket.

That promoted a bit of a rush of prices skyrocketing, and I ended up pulling out all the ticket scraps I had saved up to get one or two more skins instead of paying the astronomical prices.

(I also threw some of the 4000 gems from the Heart of Thorns CE into buying 25 Black Lion Chests for the fun of opening them. No lucky ticket, but enough scraps to make up one ticket.)

Then it was a slow grind to accumulate more gold and wait for skin prices to dip a little before pulling out practically ALL my banked gold (and selling off a spare stack of ectos or two, thanks to prices rising from the new gambler NPC) for buy orders.

And I -still- hadn’t finished the collection and had about 7 more skins to go, meaning there was nothing for it but to grind for more gold and stick to the schedule of a skin a week, while hoping prices didn’t soar out of reach, now that the skins were officially 3 tickets.

sisyphus2

Talk about a voluntary grindstone I’d shouldered… for “fun.”

Some time in Week 1 of July, I encountered one of those pep talks about efficient setting of goals and was encouraged to put down on paper some work and personal goals.

One of those personal goals was naturally my structured/calendared plan for earning the remainder of those scientific skins.

The other has been nagging at me since time immemorial. There are piles of stuff around the house that have been in existence for a decade (or two) that need to be sorted, cleaned, decisions made on what to do with them, be it figure out a place to keep them, or somehow preserve their memories/essence and then let the physical object go.

Side by side, it was kinda obvious that the piles had been left there because I’d been happy to procrastinate on them and blow all my time escaping into gaming instead. (Why wouldn’t I? Gaming’s a lot happier an activity than mucking around with moldy objects.)

In fact, if you offered me 70-100 bucks to clean up the piles, I’d probably go “Ehh… that doesn’t seem like large enough a sum to undertake such an effort. Handymen and contractors are paid more to do simpler stuff.” (Some of those piles could probably be filmed as a lesser version of those found in Hoarders TV shows.)

It then occurred to me that it was a very curious thing that I was reluctant (yet sorely tempted) to spend the same objective 70-100 (USD 70 = SGD100) bucks on GW2 gems, and convert them into gold and just buy the remaining skins off the TP that way.

Some twisted form of equivalency just sat around in my mind going “Hey, you’re not supposed to spend $100 a month on a single game! You can buy a collector’s edition game at launch price for that kind of sum!”

Yet my obsessive motivation was such that I was throwing a good 3+ hours every day into the chase for skins, earning essentially a pittance in gold. Economists might talk about “opportunity cost” at this point in time.

A blinding revelation then hit me.

I wanted the skins really really badly. So badly that I was willing to move mountains for them.

That intense, obsessive motivation and three hours every night could be channeled into something else constructive, like finally working on those piles I’d been trying to ignore.

All I had to do, was demarcate clearing one area as being worth USD$10, that area $10, another area $20 and so on.

For a working adult, that’s essentially pocket money and not exactly motivating in an objective sense (eh, it’s worth a movie night, look at that highly intimidating pile to clear, nah…) but translated in terms my current OCD could understand… “IT’S A SHINY SCIENTIFIC SKIN, IT WILL FAST TRACK FINISHING YOUR COLLECTION.”

Suddenly, I had all the motivation in the world.

It just took mentally linking a cheesy reward that my weird self somehow valued so highly.

So for two or three weeks, gaming time suddenly became cleaning time.

GW2 time dropped off to the bare minimum for dailies. Blogging didn’t even make it on the priority list.

I finished digitizing the music CD collection. Case finally closed on that.

Clothes closet decluttered.

In certain parts of the house, the floor has actually become visible.

Digitizing the book collection is winding up to be a slower grind than the entire scientific skin collection, but significant progress has been made.

One bookshelf has been cleared, and has been replaced with a display case. The Rytlock statue from the GW2 CE has finally found a home, after being chucked unceremoniously under the printer table for the past… oh, several years?

rytlock

It’s not complete, by any means, but some major portions have been addressed.

All for the low low price of a hundred dollars promised to oneself to spend on something normally deemed too frivolous to fritter away on.

If only I’d realized this brain trick sooner.

A curious but beneficial side-effect was that it broke a number of routine habits (ie. GW2 all night long, blogging) and has encouraged a re-examination of goals and priorities and the creation of new projects.

I’m in my third year of supporting the Reaper Bones Kickstarter and I haven’t painted a single one yet. (Admittedly, some still look good in white, like accidentally gigantic Kaladrax.)

kaladrax unpainted

I’ve been meaning to try other games like Trove, Warframe, Skyforge, Path of Exile’s new expansion, and so on.

The declutter project still has subsequent parts 2 and 3 and more, though I’ll probably tackle those at a more dialed-back, less laser-focused pace.

And I’ll likely squeeze in a bit of time to pick up blogging again.

NBI: Whoops…

… I missed my goal to write every 1-3 days on the very last day of the Newbie Blogger Initiative.

But you know what?

It served its purpose anyway. All throughout the third day, there was this little alarm bell nagging in my head reminding me that I’m overdue, and I was like, “Yes, yes, but real life, and then need time for current games and sleep. Blog juuust a bit later.”

Goals are guidelines. It’s not the end of the world if you miss ’em, but don’t disregard ’em either and use them as a “I missed it, so I might as well not bother” procrastination excuse.

So here’s your stopgap post at 6.50am on Day 4 to stop the nagging in my head.

joker

This fellow’s the reason I missed blogging for a while.

Yep, Batman: Arkham Origins finally went on 75% sale the other day, and according to my “buy a lot of games” greed principle, that was the time to pick it up.

I remember there were a lot of complaints about it being buggy and glitchy and not very innovative when it first came out, but it seems that time seems to have given the developers a little more opportunity to resolve major issues.

I did still encounter two spots where something a little wonky occurred (a suspect got knocked into a wall and then the right click to interrogate option didn’t come up, a fight with a boss stalled when he appeared too soon and the little minions became invulnerable punching bags,) but revisiting the area later or simply  reloading the encounter solved the problem so it wasn’t game-breaking.

All in all, I was able to ignore the glitches in favor of the storyline, which is utterly riveting to me.

It’s a prologue for the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games, so you get to see all the classic hero and villains of Batman at a younger stage of their lives.

You play a Batman that is considerably more reckless and ruthless a vigilante – I was surprised to have the option to beat up cops instead of criminals at first, but later realized that the cops of Gotham were crooked at this point of time, so this younger Batman considered them fair game. James Gordon is still an up and coming influence and again, surprisingly at odds with this younger Batman, a rather pleasant narrative contrast to juxtapose to their later alliance and friendship.

I was thrilled to get a glimpse of Barbara Gordon in her teenage years as well, another nice juxtaposition to her later “eye-in-the-sky” Oracle role for Batman.

And of course, the game’s story tells an origin tale of that classic Batman relationship, him and the Joker. I can’t say more without revealing the plot, but it’s definitely a good ‘un.

batman

I’m still in the last few levels of the storyline, and there’s gliding around the map hitting side quests, solving puzzles and playing a few challenge maps, so expect me back a few days from now.

Dota 2 is still sorta/kinda going strong. Getting an average of a game in every day or so, give or take. Proudly managed to finish the tutorial, at least. More on that when I figure out how to blog about it too.

NBI Writing Prompt: If you’re reading this and a little nagging voice in your head is saying that you really haven’t posted in a while and really should, go ahead and give yourself permission to write a stopgap post.

Post an update paragraph of what you’ve been doing, or take a screenshot of one game and caption it with something. Done.

“Is It Too Late to Learn X?” aka a Newbie’s Decision to Start Playing DOTA 2

So I have to confess I only reliably recognize Juggernaut in this picture... (I had to go look up Crystal Maiden and Rubrick there.)

In the last couple of days, I’ve decided that I wanted to devote a little time to gradually (very gradually) learn a game that I’ve always felt was too enormously deep, time-consuming and overwhelming for a complete newbie to grasp.

In part, this was born out of reading the umpteenth post on the GW2 reddit of someone asking “Is it too late to join in / learn this game / pick this up now?” or “Help, I’m overwhelmed, I don’t know what to do!” or “I have no motivation / talk me into continuing with this game / etc.”

  • No, for heaven’s sakes, it’s never too late to learn to play a game (or learn anything, in fact) until the servers shut down (or your mind’s server shuts down.)
  • Yes, it’s a big game (or topic), overwhelm is natural, you’re not going to be an expert after fifteen minutes of reading about something, be patient with yourself and take it slow and learn bits and pieces at a time!
  • *spreads hands helplessly at the last* Ultimately, your motivation is your own business. We can certainly help to encourage or inspire you (in general) or advise or coach you (on specifics), if you’re open to that kind of thing. But if you’ve decided that something else is more attractive and worth focusing your attention on at this time, go do that thing first, no point hanging on to this thing like a sinking ship when your interest or motivation isn’t there.

(And for the Newbie Blogger Initiates, this totally applies to you too, re: joining in or learning to write and blog regularly.)

I decided that I want to have a sort of solidarity of experience with these unknown newbies or irregularly returning players, a bit more of a shared understanding of what they’re going through, and to try and record that beginner state for myself and for others on this here blog.

I’ve played GW2 for 1000 days, apparently.

I vaguely recall that there was a time where I fumbled around with putting weapon skills together to effectively do damage, where I had to stop and read all the tooltips and actively figure out “which button should I press first? then the next? and the next?” and then proceed to test out this chain on the next 100 karka or so (hey, solo karka shell farming is a thing, ok?)

I took this screenshot today. I just turned off the UI and killed two karka without dying.

I took this screenshot today. I just turned off the UI and killed two karka without worry that I might die. I was busy adjusting the camera with my right hand to get a nice angle and then lifting it to press PrintScreen repeatedly, the left hand was running on automatic.

These days, the muscle memory is just -there-. Shift+E triggers my F1 skill, providing 3 stacks of might, and lighting the next thing I hit on fire. 2 sends me Flashing Blade teleporting into whatever I’m targeting, conveniently blinding its next attack. I let the auto-attack of sword take over, only controlling my positioning via strafing to make sure I hit, while avoiding getting hit as best I can. I trigger 3 if I want a projectile burst and a shield to absorb.

In a split second I decide if I need to use my defensive focus skills or utility skills to protect myself (which are on longer cooldown and usually only triggered for harder stuff, not regular open world mobs), if not, I may weapon swap to land a smite, immobilize and head back out of range with scepter autoattacking, throw a spike burst with torch for a little more dps or cone AoE a group as appropriate, or just be lazy and let sword finish it off via autoattacks.

I don’t even have to think about it. I just do it.

Conversely, a newbie (or someone unfamiliar to the game) may be squinting their way through those couple of paragraphs, going “WTF? I didn’t understand a word of that? Well, no, I understand each word of English, but put together, those sentences contained zero meaning to me.”

So I’ve decided that I want to start at that total ground zero on a game that I’ve always admired and enjoyed watching the pros go at it, but never felt I had sufficient time to learn and do it any justice, DOTA 2.

League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth or Smite fans may be all “:(” over this decision, but I can’t learn four different games as a newbie, I gotta start with one first, and dammit, I want to learn the big granddaddy of them all.

(Also, I had about a weeks’ worth of exposure playing the first DOTA with some friends, so a few hero names are not completely alien to me.

And I love the pomp and shininess around the International, and the slickness of the whole client that turns messing around with cosmetics in the store, reading up for more information and spectating into a mini-game or sport itself – it’s nuts, you can spend money on DOTA 2 without even having played a single match yourself and still feel like you had fun, following your celebrity heroes or doing all the other stuff spectators do for other sports, like speculate/discuss/bet on match results or what not.)

My vague goal is to gradually learn enough about the game that I can watch the International streams (sometime in July or August, apparently, so that’s a loose deadline) and appreciate more of what’s going on, without having to rely on the newbie announcers to hold my hand each step of the way.

I’d like to be competent enough at the game that I can meet a random friend or colleague and go “Oh, you play DOTA 2 too? Cool, let’s play a friendly game together” and not look like a colossal ineffectual flailing idiot, ie. attain average to good levels.

To be frank, I see this as very much a process that will never end.

I have no illusions about becoming some top-ranked player on the global stage, nor any aspirations towards that end. I don’t need a high MMR or some platinum diamond super-black definitely-not-copper-or-bronze trophy rank (or whatever they’re using to depict high-level play.)

I generally don’t seem to get noticeable adrenaline or dopamine boosts from winning and am thus not attracted by nature to competitive play. I’m fully aware that I’m going to drop in and out of this like all the other games I’m fond of. (eg. Minecraft, Path of Exile, Don’t Starve Together are all out of the immediate loop right now. Still enjoy ’em, just not ready to dip back into them yet.)

What does draw me like a beacon is an intense curiosity about the learning process – I kinda want to observe the progression from n00b to decently competent – “just how do people learn things?” and the thrill of having something new to explore, new concepts to understand and practice and slowly attempt to master (if ever. Work-in-progress.)

It turns out that the topic of learning is a big thing in education circles, as well as games, and I’ve been going down one rabbit hole and another of reading and watching videos about this fascinating meta aspect while trying to get at least one game of DOTA 2 finished each day, so that I can -eventually- complete this massive tutorial chapter that requests you play 5 games vs bots, and 10 games vs humans, each game probably lasting 45 minutes on average, give or take 15 minutes.

I’m discovering a lot of interesting stuff. Now I just need sufficient time to synthesize concepts and put it all together in short enough coherent blog posts.

It’s gonna take a while.

But that’s what I’ve been up to in the last few days, so do expect topics along that vein in the next month or so, once I finish up with CoH nostalgia and the NBI.

(Not to mention, GW2 will probably throw a spanner in the works with some mindblowing expansion-related revelation or other, just when I think I’ve got it all sorted out.)