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.)

A Surfeit of Goals

I fear that I am becoming a very boring person.

While nearly everyone is off on their personal quest to level 100 in Warlords of Draenor, plus whatever else is included in that expansion, I’m over here playing the same old three games and veritably drowning in goals, making merely incremental progress on any of them.

Marvel Heroes is my current fling.

I’m not at all playing it seriously, just popping in for 15-30 minutes to collect stuff that’s filling up my inventory, hit some other stuff, then log off.

After a brief period of agonizing over the very tempting Black Friday sale, I decided on a compromise. Instead of greedily paying $10 for two heroes of my choice, plus two random heroes from boxes, I settled for paying the $5 I felt the game was worth (given the supremely casual way I’m playing it.)

This let me pick up the main hero I wanted, aka Wolverine.

(Yeah, I am a superhero fan of no discernment, just another Wolverine fan among billions. X-Men is pretty much the only Marvel franchise I am conversant with.

Spiderman? Nah. Guardians of the Galaxy? Dunno, haven’t got around to seeing the movie yet. Hulk? I guess he’s okay, in a brute smash sort of way, but I can’t begin to tell you about his universe. Iron-Man? Ok, I at least caught the movies for that, and yeah, the tech suits and special effects are cool.

I guess I’m ultimately more of a DC Batman dark vigilante sort of person, or an otherworldly Vertigo Comics connoisseur.)

mh-wolverine

I can’t begin to tell you if he’s balanced or not, but well, he’s in his trademarked yellow costume, he goes slashy slashy with his claws a LOT faster than Colossus’ punches, and he takes more damage than Colossus does.

Somehow, that makes the game a little more interesting as it becomes a bit more challenging to kill before being killed. I’m also a big fan of fast attacks, so he has that going for him too.

His main schtick is a bit more like a standard MMO rogue type, imo, he has some kind of fury bar that he builds up with a simple claw attack builder, and then you spend it with other harder hitting attacks, such as an AoE claw attack, or a more damaging frontal cone claw attack and so on.

The only two things that still keep standing in the way of me playing and enjoying this game further:

1) I can’t shake the feeling that it is very gear and stat based vertical progression. Obviously, if I have more armor, or more damage, or more of such-and-such stat, I am going to be able to take down this bunch of health bars more ably than without.

How am I going to get more of that? Kill stuff and see what drops, I guess. Stack on various percentages of magic item find or whatever they call it in this game. (Don’t forget the ever-present cash shop booster temptation!) Crunch numbers and work out builds. Repeat to kill stuff with even bigger numbers. Yeah, okay. We know the pattern of these games.

2) Enforced level ranges are still a massive pain in the butt. I honestly cannot deal with the current story mode. It’s wading through hordes of enemies while trying to FedEx quest something from point A to point B. Except all these hordes of enemies are some screwed up level that probably won’t match with yours because you’ve gone and leveled three times while fighting already, making them super-easy snoozefests of unspeakably crap xp.

So I go play with the terminals and go to Midtown Manhattan, or the X-Defense in the X-Mansion, or some Holosim or other. Those give me nice bite-sized action chunks of varying objectives, lots of constant fighting and rate of xp gain, with nice jackpot rewards from chests or boss defeats.

8 levels later, I look up and realize I’m even more screwed with story mode again.

It just kinda utterly confuses me as to how I’m expected to level through this game. (Given that my waypoints seem to have carried over from character to character, perhaps I just have to grin and bear it and work through one Normal Difficulty story mode and then open out Heroic mode or whatever.)

Anyway, the Random Hero Box I got to open from the Wolverine purchase netted me the Silver Surfer.

mh-silversurf

Ok, cool, I guess. He’s pretty large. I have no clue as to who he actually is, being all non-conversant with the Marvel universe, but for my purposes, he has ranged attacks, which I wanted at least one character of mine to have, so that I can have a choice of varied playstyle whenever.

With that, I’m kinda content. I expect these three characters will last me long enough till next year even, or whenever they have another one of these promotions again. Chances are also fairly high that my interest in Marvel Heroes won’t hold steady to the point that I need/want another character, so good enuff.

Minecraft: Agrarian Skies is the hobby I don’t have time for.

mc-house-front

Here’s the haphazard unfinished front of the modern house design I suddenly decided it might be a good idea to build.

It took a good hour to lay out the cobblestone island foundation it’s sitting on, plus search through all kinds of blocks looking for appropriate and cheap building materials (settled on stone bricks for flooring, paved whitestone for facade, with clear glass. Still wondering if I can find and afford really white and smooth blocks.)

In the midst of constructing the front, it struck me that I maybe should actually look for a picture of a modern house design and base it off some semblance of reality. (I found a few, but they also involve a really nice wall of alternating grey stone, or dark wooden facades – ahhh, more block hunting through the NEI!)

Then it also struck me that I needed to figure out what I wanted in the interior, in order to make it both beautiful and functional… at which point I kinda got stuck and also ran out of gameplay time.

mc-house-basement

I have this vague idea that I want the house to be wired up to an ME storage system. My present one is a little too humble and out of the way.

To do that, I need to have a constant source of redstone energy production… so I’m thinking some kind of generator in the basement… Just no clue what.

Anyway, I had to make a basement.

That involved getting around to making angel blocks, since I had to jetpack -under- the existing cobblestone island and lay down blocks underneath, and then construct a basic rectangular room for now. It’s also cobblestone, so presumably, has to be replaced by something more aesthetic later on.

mc-house-back

Here’s the experiment with a second floor of microblock panels, so as not to make it as thick and bulky as a regular one-block floor. I think there’s some promise in this.

Basically, though, I think I’m biting off more than I can chew here, and may just go back to building basic cobblestone islands and familiarizing myself with more of the mods first, since I don’t even know -what- I want to put inside this building, let alone how each component operates and how much space they need to function.

Guild Wars 2 is still my main time suck.

I don’t mind at all. After a period of nomading it through games, it’s nice to have a home game. Plus relatively stable and welcoming communities as a bonus.

There has mostly been incremental goal progress.

This week, I got around to working on the Silverwastes Luminescent gloves and shoulder collections.

gw2-lumi-shoulder

Yeah, I’ve been taking my sweet time with this.

The tendons and other stuff were collected quite early on, but I was sitting on the carapace shoulders, since the thought of completing Living Story Part 5 two more times on other characters was a lot more palatable than spending 1000 bandit crests right off the bat (given that we might need it later for the -other- wear locations.)

Problem is, most of my characters are buried over by Rhendak in Diessa Plateau… because of another Treasure Hunter collection, hoping to get lucky with a ring drop.

Eventually, I decided to pull out the thief to do the story.

I was pleased to discover that the Living Story is selectable, so you don’t have to do all the parts in sequence before getting to number 5, and that the end reward allows you to pick any weight class – so you don’t -have- to run a heavy, medium and light armor class through, unless you want to. (This spares my WvW/PvP necro, and allows him to maintain his perpetual PvE vigil at Rhendak. I suspect I’ll bring my Teq/Wurm warrior through the story next to finish it up some other day.)

I did, however, notice that I was struggling a bit more to finish Mordrem enemies on the thief than my guardian.

This is less an indictment on the class, than more of highlighting the fact that I am still utterly crap and unpracticed on a thief, and that my gear and build isn’t at all set up ideally yet.

I was running an experimental moderate toughness/vitality/power/precision build for WvW, and generally found that it was pretty much neither here nor there, PvE-wise. (It maybe isn’t that great for WvW either, honestly, beyond overall survivability and being irritatingly annoying but not very lethal.)

After half an hour of play, I was making a mental note that I needed a proper all-zerker set at some point to try that out.

So I switched to the earliest build I had ever for this thief, a condition P/D build… except that I had somehow chosen carrion stats (I’m not sure what the rationale behind that choice was, beyond survivability for WvW roaming), whereas my necro does a lot better with dire, so there was always the nagging question in the back of my mind that maybe I should try dire… or rampager… or even the new sinister stats at some point…

…and midway through struggling to maintain consistent bleed stacks on some Mordrem husk or other, I thought to check my runes and realized that he was still decked out in the old style of multiple runes for %bleed duration… except now those runes DON’T give bleed duration after the revamp.

AAAARGH. One more entry on the goals list. GET PROPER RUNES.

Fortunately, there’s not much actual fighting required in Living Story 5 – mostly running back and forth performing some kind of mechanic and being patient as hell to wait for the next buff or appropriate mob to spawn, so I got through it and got my second pair of shoulders.

That was about all the Living Story I could stand though, so it was time to switch activities.

gw2-lumi-gloves

Prior to this, I needed one more gloves box, and two more fangs – husk and thrasher.

Yep, that meant plenty of Silverwastes visiting.

I’d like to thank nostrom, who commented in a previous post that you still get the part even if your group utterly fails at killing the boss.

That suddenly made boss attempts a lot more palatable to me and got me off my arse to vary the bosses I visited more regularly.

In fact, due to the scaling, I’m more leaning towards finding a fort that is not so overcrowded now, as mobs at level 80 are very easily handled by my build and level 81 mobs are okay, whereas level 83 and 84 mobs tend to end up being much more of a pain.

I had one of the more memorable boss attempts at a non-crowded Indigo fort, where only around 3 people started with the Terragriffs (it built up to 8+ by the end.)

Things were a LOT more controlled, since it pretty much ended up with me being the only one to work down the gas bubble at the beginning, while a ranger backed me up near the entrance and helped when the ‘griffs were nearing the bubble (while the last one was chasing the ‘griffs in circles.)

They were level 80, so between the two of us attacking, we made pretty good progress with their health bars. After a few more popped in, we got the Silver ‘griff killed with a minute to go, and the Gold ‘griff was at half health or lower. It went down pretty quick too. (Sadly, the Platinum thrasher didn’t go down, so maybe the zerg was there in that map.)

I got lucky in one of the maze runs and managed to pop another carapace glove box from the Greater Nightmare chest, so phew, another 1000 crests saved.

I felt a bit guilty trying to kill the Copper husk on my guardian – burning ain’t really a condition worth speaking of – and my scepter kind of likes to AoE all the things between a sigil of fire and smite. I guess the biggest contribution I make is attracting all those little Mordrem things to my location, and running madly around trying to pull them away from the husks and the direct line of fire of the more long-ranged equipped folks, while trying not to eat too many bleeds and fall over and die – and oh, getting some scepter hits in every now and then.

But you know, I needed a husk fang, so I took a little alt vacation and brought the so-called condition thief over.

Playing the Silverwastes content on something a little less prepared and geared and naturally squishy makes me have a touch more sympathy for the average player, I guess.

P/D is very single-target, so while I was relatively pleased at how I could hold a husk’s attention and slowly melt it, I struggled with the Mordrem menders. Contrast this to my guardian, who normally just crashes right in with a flashing blade teleport and tosses them around.

I tried dagger/pistol on weapon swap to deal with them, and mostly just realized how much I still suck at the blinding powder/heartseeker combo for stealth… plus a backstab in condition gear is kinda laughable.

Eventually, I figured out that a shortbow and laying down poison fields might be more effective for a pack of Menders… but it admittedly took me a while to put two and two together. (And I still need more appropriate stats, sheesh.)

A thief is kinda cheat mode for the pac man maze though.

I ran around cheerfully abusing shadow refuge and dual/triple stacked stealth from D/P, shadowstep blinking around, plus the normal light balls. It was glorious.

The only times I got downed was me misjudging how long it would take my animations to finish before I went into stealth. That’s all me though – being inept, that is. Someone more practiced would have a much better time of it.

Anyhow, the experience does make me want to rework the gear on the thief… as well as maybe bring in other classes to see how Silverwastes plays and feels on them.

Last thing left is to attempt hard mode on Living Story 6, something I suspect I’ll get around to in the few days before the next Living Story content drop.

On the back of my mind, are the nagging ideas that I should get around to playing more of my non-80 classes and level them up.

I’ve been also considering the thought of buying a second GW2 account while it’s on 50% sale.

Multi-boxing is right out, of course, but I’m running two bank guilds and it makes me anxious to have only one account in them. If I accidentally click “Leave Guild” one day, I’m kinda screwed.

A second account would let me have effectively 5 more character slots – gasp, more storage space for non-account-bound stuff! – maybe a mesmer for simple ports so that I don’t have to rely on others being in the right place and right time for Rhendak and stuff (a hermit like me finds it easier to turn on the old computer and use a second mouse and keyboard than beg someone on mapchat) and I’d have a controllable player camera for those fancy screenshots where people bring all their characters to pose and later blend them together.

Also, it might be an interesting experiment to see how the dungeon culture has evolved (or devolved, rather), when faced with a character of low AP, as compared to my current account.

Knowing me though, I don’t know whether I’ll actually ever find the time to do all that, or if it’s all just wishful thinking and a waste of money.

We’ll see.

Anyway, the next Living Story drop will hopefully be a crunchy one.