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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I Guess PoE and GW2 Just Swapped Places

A couple days ago, I dropped $110 USD buying a supporter pack for Path of Exile Ascendancy expansion.

That’s basically $105 USD for 1050 microtransaction points, and $5 for some fancy gargoyle pets and glowy particle effect weapon skins.

I then promptly spent 420 (or $42 USD) on an armor skin set that’s basically black metal and tons of fire, and another 420 points (aka $42 USD) on another armor skin set that’s dark gothic demon king-esque.

poeskin1

Mostly because I wanted to look pleasing to my own eye while playing Path of Exile and suspected the demon helmet would look great with the rest of the fire set, but also wanted the option to mix and match the other skins too.

I had a brief moment of doubt – in the sense that if a $20 sparkle pony was controversial and a $70 monocle was cause for riots, would I be doing something against my personal principles or in an overall ‘support ethical games’ sense to output $42 for an armor set or $110 in the name of looking awesome?

A month back, Tobold was whaling it up in various mobile game apps, possibly as a sort of experiential experiment to see how it felt.

Me, I draw the line at feeding with my wallet with games that purposefully use unethical tricks (such as loss aversion or creating delay roadblocks that ask you to pay to get past or create an uneven playing field between payers and non-payers.)

At the same time, I don’t really have an issue with personal convenience that doesn’t affect other players  or a payer looking shinier. (I have spent money on Freeblade and Dragonvale, both apps I enjoyed enough to support, and bought stuff that made life slightly more convenient for me, but I could still live without if I was playing free, that didn’t impact other players at all)

The moment I see apps that put paying players in competition with non-paying players, and gives them an advantage, I feel distinctly uncomfortable and only play the app for free, seeing how far I can get on it with zero money and more patience than the average joe. (eg. Dungeon Boss, in my book, and the current app I’m fooling around with, EA’s Dungeon Keeper, which has been the subject of considerable controversy and features more unethical tricks than other app’s I’ve toyed around with, in my book. As such, I’m hesitating on even footing out $7 SGD or $5 USD for this game, and will probably not do so.)

And yet, here I was, whaling it up (or at least taking steps into becoming a mini-whale) in Path of Exile.

Me, the person who normally sits around waiting for Steam games to go on 50% or 75% off before buying them.

Just dropped the equivalent of a collector’s edition box price set on PoE, both to support a game I’d gotten back into and was thoroughly enjoying, and to increase my immersion/involvement while playing by wearing some eye candy skins.

Weird thing was, though I couldn’t put it into words at the time and kept wondering why, I felt HAPPY. Overjoyed. Deliriously happy, even. It was like retail therapy to a deprived shopaholic.

I ran around in my own private hideout, admiring how awesome I looked.

I zipped over to maps with enemies on them to revel in how my outfit now matched the fiery incinerate skill I was using to clear packs and packs of mobs.

Enjoyment of the game went up about five-fold, because my character avatar now both looked the part and reflected the image I had in my mind’s eye, and also blended into the environment more (in the sense of looking lore-appropriate powerful, rather than a country bumpkin with mismatched armor pieces.)

If there was anything that was a downer, it was the twinge of apprehension I had when going to visit my stash in the various Acts’ public lobbies.

In a completely 180 degree motivation turn from what I’d expect a majority of folks who splurge on skins would want (aka to keep up with the Joneses and have the hoi polloi admire their bling), I was almost embarrassed to stand out so prominently and wondered if others would think badly of me for what could be perceived as flaunting one’s wealth.

Fortunately, I play PoE as a primarily solo game with zero need to interact with anybody, period, so barring a few stash runs, I was squarely back in my happy me place of HAHAHA,  FIRE IS AWESOME, I LOOK AWESOME, MUCH FIRE, BURN ALL THE THINGS before long.

poeskin2

PoE now allows you to have two pets out at a time. I couldn’t resist picking up the wolf pet either. For rather obvious reasons to anyone who looks at my web avatars.

(The gargoyle is also kinda fun because it’s essential a cat-goat thing. And we all know one other game with cat-goat hybrids, right? *ahem*)

Speaking of which, way to go, GW2.

Reddit just exploded this Saturday morning (my time) with an announcement that Mike O’Brien would be taking over from Colin Johanson as game director (for a little while, up to the point he hires or promotes a new one).

Goddamn.

I can only keep repeating the above word, for various reasons.

One, a changeup in game directors usually means somewhat of a change in game direction – even if the overall philosophy doesn’t shift to reflect what that head usually likes, each person’s take on things is going to be a little unique and the decisions on what to focus on is going to differ.

The big question in the air is… is that direction going to be swerving back to what I personally like? Or further on in a direction that I don’t like?

Magic 8-ball says, “The future is unclear. Reply hazy. Ask again later.”

The good news is that we’ve gotten a ton more clarity out of this one announcement in terms of Anet’s roadmap than we’ve gotten in the past year or longer.

Mike’s stated preference is to “do fewer things, but do them well.”

From that we can easily extrapolate that there’s going to be less trying to cater to all and sundry. There’s going to be a few niches they’re polishing, to hit possibly what they perceive as the majority of their players. Looking at the teams, that’s, in no particular order, Fractals, Raids, Living Story, WvW, PvP and probably not much else.

(There’s the “Legendaries” team too, which I presume covers that extended crafting grind, precursor-related quests, and bits of rewards sprinkled here and there to add up to the overall Legendary. More of a functional thing to enable new legendary skins/reward achievement sequences to be introduced, rather than a ‘new content’ thing.)

There’s also more of a high-level timeline being shared. The two week content drops appear to be essentially a dead experiment now. Just not feasible for the devs to keep up with and still produce content of a quality they’re satisfied with, apparently. The bad but realistic news is that players are going to have to wait longer for content.

On a not-terribly-encouraging personal note, getting the Spirit Vale raids out appear to be the biggest PvE thing for the first half of the year. We’d best be expecting Living Story 3 only in the third quarter soonest.

The other PvE thing appears to be coming in April, sort of a features cleanup and excess grind removal thing, that essentially seem to be  HoT expansion fixes, basically. Cutting back on the overenthusiastic tedious bits that came with HoT. Overdue. Needs putting in to refine a lot of HoT things up to enjoyable levels (random things I can think of offhand: zone timers, adventures locked behind event chain completions, provisioner token vendors locked behind event chain completions, guild hall costs, blah blah blah.) Just not going to be new /new/ per se.

Hey, maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll get Super Adventure Box showing up for April Fool’s (and they’re just keeping mum on it for now to surprise players. Hopeful, much?)

Iterating on WvW is going to take up the time between April to August or thereabouts, with a brief interjection of the last Spirit Vale raid wing…

… and I suppose PvP is somewhere in there-ish, though now seems to be its time, with season 2 ongoing right now (dunno, stopped caring a while back.)

Goddamn, Anet.

You sure know how to make me feel better.

About having spent $110 USD on another game.

I’m not quitting. I really appreciate the realistic roadmap, so my expectations are set appropriately.

It looks like what I’m going to end up doing for the next three months or more in GW2 is: dailies, 3-4 evenings raiding in various Spirit Vale wings (unless my raid group disintegrates for reasons that are out of my control), the occasional toe into whatever they’re testing on the public for WvW, the odd organized group world boss or zone meta now and then, and that’s about it.

So erm, I guess for the time being, GW2 is now going to swap over to become a secondary game, and I’m going to need a new primary game.

I suspect the two contenders for the crown are going to be Path of Exile and/or modded Minecraft.

To set my readers’ expectations realistically as well:

I think you can expect a lot less GW2-related and more PoE or general game (I have a really long Steam unplayed games list) blog posts in the coming months.

GW2: Prioritizing Things To Do, Post-Heart of Thorns

wyvernvsfrogs

We’re about two weeks into the Heart of Thorns expansion. I guess now’s a time as good as any to finally come up for air.

The 64-bit client has worked wonders for me as a stopgap measure to stave off memory leak crashes (at last, upgrading to Windows 7 and a new computer with 16GB of RAM has been rewarded.)

On average, it chomps about 3-3.5 GB of RAM just doing normal things and goes up to about 4-4.5GB consumed during insanely packed meta events where a hundred players are in the vicinity, all sporting their own combination of wardrobe and dyes and particle effects.

Bright side, it doesn’t crash (at least, not yet, *touches wood*)

(I stress tested it the other day by walking into the Svanir Shaman Frozen Maw daily with full default graphics and name tags on. I figure, if it doesn’t freeze up and die then, it’s probably okay.)

Thus I get to see more of Heart of Thorns on a graphical setting beyond potato.

halfabreacher

Granted, it’s rather hard to frame a screenshot sans UI when you’re worried about getting randomly gibbed by a Mordrem sniper, a punisher, or *urgh* a stalker.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve become rather relaxed about goals in the expansion.

A seasonal cadence of two weeks/four weeks lent a level of stress that encouraged me to grind out all the rewards I wanted “before it went away.” There was a “limited-time” pressure that was sometimes obvious and sometimes subconscious, which made me more prone to frustration and impatience.

Faced with a deluge of possible rewards to buy and skins to collect, one would think that I’d be freaking out right about now, but knowing its permanence (assuming the HoT zones stay unchanged reward-wise as long as Dry Top and Silverwastes has existed is likely a safe bet), I’ve been looking on most of it as a long term goal. The slow chase will likely last me another year, if not two, and I’m okay with that.

If anything, I’ve been confronted by that age-old lateral progression bugaboo that we veterans keep advising newbies about: “Help! I’ve reached X threshold, and there are so many things to do! What should I be doing first?!”

My usual naggy refrain to these folks is that beyond a certain point (ie. get exotic armor as a baseline, strive towards Ascended trinkets and more,) we can’t really tell you what to do next because it all depends on what you value and want to prioritize.

Like story? Like dungeons? Like shiny skins? Like gold? They all head down different roads.

Similarly, I look at Heart of Thorns and I’m like, “Masteries? AP achievments? Raids (be it prep for the closed ones, or open world ones?) Gold + Relaxation? (So many nodes to hit, so much money players are willing to spend *twitches compulsively*) Shinies? (Like chase a HoT skin collection, a core Tyria legendary, a core Tyria precursor, or prep for a Maguuma legendary?) So many collections? Aaahhh collect all the things? *falls over dizzy like Skritt in Tarir*”

So I decided to put my money where my mouth is and prioritize my own shit:

  • New Stuff
  • Raids (while new)
  • Harvest Nodes
  • AP
  • Certain shiny objects
  • Gold
  • Masteries
  • Collect all the things
  • Raids (when they’ve gotten old)

This totally non-scientific list was mostly ordered by just choosing two things at random, eg. “Chase AP or Harvest Nodes to Relax” or “Chase AP or Gold?” and deciding which one I valued more, or which I’d pick if I could only do one thing that day.

It’s a little fuzzy around the edges, because technically, harvesting nodes is my main gold stream, but given the amount of gold I’m liable to invest into chasing AP or if the gold had to come from other sources like chasing events or doing dungeons, then certainly I’d choose to focus on easier AP goals first.

Yet if you were to ask me if I’d prefer harvesting nodes to chasing AP, I’d only have to look at my still undone Golden Badges in the Silverwastes to tell you that I’ve been hitting all the nodes first over something like that. Eventually I’ll buckle down and shove that priority up a tad, but as a general guideline, the above list works for me.

New stuff goes without saying for me. I was camped out in Tangled Depths over two weekends and quite a number of weeknights trying to bring down the Chak Gerents (all four of them.)

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It may be potato graphics, but this reward chest has never looked shinier.

tdhole

The end result of succeeding the meta was mostly a great big hole blasted through to Dragon’s Stand, a couple of crystallized cache chests and a strongbox made accessible. Plus a piece of Mistward something that’s presumably used for making Mistward armor, when I get around to it. (Probably around the time I finally get around to making a Revenant.)

Once that succeeded once, it was like a great big load fell off my mind and I could start voluntarily choosing to ignore some raid sessions, knowing that more would be organized every day / every week. There would be time to accumulate the zone currency gradually. Now I could prioritize other things with my GW2 play time to catch up on other stuff.

Some of that involves getting more or less prepped for the impending *ugh* closed 10-man raids to hit GW2.

I’m still looking on that activity with a fair amount of dread – mostly because it’s hellish to try and match timezones and turn up at a regular schedule, plus there’s always that rejection feeling from an activity with such small number limits.

(Look at how guild missions have been complained about, when they inadvertently only reward 15 players, leaving the other… oh… 35 people who showed up feeling jipped? Or left repeating the same goddamn guild puzzle over and over until maybe most people get their reward, except a few that seem permanently glitched? Speaking of which, they really need to get around to fixing that. So bloody annoying. I was certainly never one who asked for them to make guild missions closed instances.)

Everyone’s also kinda dreading their reward scheme for raids – many because it seems like Anet’s reward adjustments feel like throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded, rather than following any sort of real plan.

Me, I’m bloody terrified that it’s going to be a one-way no-alternate-path “forcing” of players into their shiny new activity that they are so damn proud of and want to collect salty player tears on (What’s going on with that adversarial relationship anyway?)

Take the sudden account-binding of Nuhoch Hunting Stashes and fractal thingumies (I haven’t done fractals seriously post-expansion, I have no idea what’s been going on there.)

I had -thought- it was a clever way to provide players an alternate route to gaining currencies for activities they’d rather not prefer to engage in, while giving players who LIKE those activities an income stream from the players who hate it but want some of the rewards from that activity anyway. Meanwhile, the trade sinks gold via the TP. Win win, no?

No. Apparently, if you want Heart of Thorns zone currencies, you better just grit your teeth and grind events. Vice versa for fractals, though with all the bitterness coming from that front, it doesn’t exactly encourage me to do that activity until everything is given another look.

I don’t know.

My assumption is they’ll keep freaking iterating until they get it right, and we only need to wait until then, but damn, this iteration is SLOW.

In the meantime, I may as well do stuff that’s right in front of me, not get baited by a million and one design traps, and freak out only when there’s solid info to get grumpy about. (Like how I can’t actually prioritize a precursor rifle hunt because some poor bastard who wanted to do it first found out that bits of it were buggy and don’t work.)

One example of those things right in front of me is the revelation that I’m really most comfortable on my charr guardian as a main – I haven’t been playing any other character through Heart of Thorns for any long period of time – so I may as well take some small steps in getting him raid-ready. Like an Ascended greatsword and possibly a mace too – he already has an Ascended sword/focus and scepter/torch, but it’s been super-obvious that Heart of Thorns really really likes you to go AoE in certain scenarios… bottom line, guardian greatswords can do that and my nerfed (but pretty) Fiery Dragon Sword just can’t cut it.

I’ve a warrior and necromancer alt that also needs to be run through Heart of Thorns, and pushed towards raid-readiness, so that’s something to be doing too.

Considering that my warrior still hasn't finished the personal story, that's quite a bit of story chapters to go.
Considering that my warrior still hasn’t finished the personal story, that’s quite a bit of story chapters to go. It’s kinda nice to replay it all again, now that they’ve finally fixed the flow and put back the “greatest fear” arc, after leaving it broken for…how long?

Masteries, thankfully, I’ve knocked out most of the crucial ones, which leaves the nice-to-haves as a slow goal to work toward while doing other things.

Between that, attending open world raids, and maybe replaying the story for achievements, chasing mastery points and hero points for elite specs and harvesting all the things while the guild hall material demand is sending the economy into wild swings, I shouldn’t run out of still-viable things to do while waiting for fixes and iterations to the more egregious issues that have arisen, seemingly all over the game.

Looks like everyone, devs and players alike, will be quite busy until next year.

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Darkwing Tigercharr!
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Darkwing Tigercharr! (God, I love the charr gliding animation. It’s like they’re pouncing on some mice below. Also, winged cats are awesome. Not very immersion-y, but eh, that boat sailed a long time ago. Still awesome.)

GW2: Point of No Return and the Vinewrath: Thoughts from a Jaded Vet

I wish I knew what to say about Point of No Return. (Yes, there will be spoilers beyond this point.)

Bhagpuss and the Mystical Mesmer have covered the episode a lot more aptly than I can, so I’ll point you over to their coverage of the episode.

Truth is, my main reaction is less about stunning revelation, but more of an “about time, can we get to something good now, please?

Maybe I read too much Reddit, but I’ve been operating under the assumption/knowledge that sylvari were originally destined to be minions of Mordremoth for a long time now.

How much clearer did it need to be, especially with the holographic records of Scarlet nee Ceara taking a mindtwisting turn for the worse after “What Scarlet Saw” – a thorn root of Mordremoth winding up the Pale Tree attempting either to reclaim its champion or kill her for being wayward – and going completely batshit crazy attempting to reject both masters (and likely falling under the sway of Mordremoth the loonier she got, being that one of the Elder Dragon’s spheres is that of the Mind.)

Having already accepted the premise long ago, I found myself mostly more thrilled at seeing echoes of Guild Wars 1 back in my Living Story, walking in the footsteps of my ancient ancestors reliving the Ascension trials, fighting off one’s doppelganger, etc.

squee

(How a charr has an Elonian human ancestor, I’m not sure, but let’s just handwave it like the Hall of Monuments, eh? I inherited dat fiery dragon sword dead to rights and no one had better dispute that!)

The rest of the story was pretty ho-hum, just moving the plot along, nothing much to see here… Oh, I guess there was one tragedy.

muchsad

Victim of a dolyak hit-and-run.

Seriously, please check where your minis show up. Doesn’t this undergo testing? Maybe “emotional impact” is not one of the criteria on the checklist.

I have to give kudos for relatively bug-free this patch, anyway.

The fights themselves are decent.

I note with an amused smile that they again try to place stress on other concepts besides DPS all the things as quickly as possible.

For example, it is possible to kite or control mobs out of the circle representing the Throne of Pellentia, and if you do it early, you won’t get waves and waves of ever-so-annoying ghost mobs plus siege wurms, and instead merely need to play run-around-the-mulberry-bush-er-pillar with an Arcanist Echo.

This assumes, of course, that one is sturdy enough to deal with getting sniped at by a mob, plus able to control one’s rabid tendency to autoattack anything red.

(A total failure to organize in a pickup group, I might add, which I joined for the 8 minutes time achievement. The group sported two rangers and a mesmer, who were exceedingly on-the-ball with knockback skills, shoving all mobs out in under a couple seconds… who then absolutely failed to maintain this state of affairs by promptly killing them with autoattacks, causing new mobs to spawn in the circle. *sighs*)

bringit

The Shadow of the Dragon fight was moderately fun, with the added concept of ‘teaching how to recognize and coordinate with skills from allies’ along with the standard pattern recognition of mechanics.

If the GW2 forums are anything to go by, it seems the devs still have quite a lot of work ahead of them in training a certain subset of the population how to cope with fights like this.

I suspect most of them that are frustrated have simply missed a crucial concept that would aid in solving the fight.

  • Have a problem with smothering shadows? Solution: Pick up the divine fire by walking into it, and then land any bit of damage on the shadow. Shadow explodes, divine fire buff expires, need new divine fire buff to light flame.
  • Have a problem with getting interrupted by the dragon while lighting the flame? Solution: Look out for Braham’s sanctuary, which will apply stability, and light that spot. It will not protect against the upward rising dragon’s mouth, which will still launch upwards through stability, but it’ll stop getting interrupted by the dragon’s groping paw.
  • Have a problem with the plants? The plants are triggered by the tripvine in between them. Either go around them, or run through them in the direct center. Sometimes, it is easier to clean up the arena by just running through all four pairs of plants and making them explode, then one has more room to work with.
  • Have a problem with the shadowy tendrils? Beyond targeting the same vine as Marjory’s minions, which will help nom on them, ranged attacks are a lot less frustrating to land over trying to position melee attacks while trying to avoid vine knockback plus rocks. (Not that it can’t be done, I got my warrior through it with pure melee, cos lazy to swap weapons, but it’s a lot less annoying, imo.)

It happens. I remember misjudging the size of the explosion in one Living Story fight, which produced great perplexity in how exactly one was supposed to kite the exceedingly-slow moving mob to each prepped node in the time limit for the achievement… and some whining within partychat with friends… wherein it turned out that all one really had to do was AoE all the prepped nodes and voila, mob ded through massive explodey.

Bah. Sometimes you just overthink things, and sometimes the cues for the mechanics aren’t as clear as would be ideal. Happens.

Just as apparently nearly everyone was mistaken in propagating the “No AoE” notion at the Copper Husk, something I personally didn’t subscribe to either. I always thought that kiting the offshoots and poison away and exploding them away from the husk made a lot more sense, but required way too much organization and effort to achieve, so my personal solution was pretty much always to avoid the hell that was Copper and let the players there bicker and squabble and fail or succeed as they pleased. The difference between partial and total success just wasn’t worth getting upset over.

Getting back to the Shadow of the Dragon, I liked the inclusion of the challenge mote at the end, which made trying for achievements a lot less painful by only having to go through the lengthy dialogues once.

I got a decent amount of replay value with the achievements, especially since it took me a while to realize that diving straight for the divine fire in second phase often meant diving headlong into the path of the exploding rock column.

Took me a couple tries and a fair measure of repeating “patience” “patience” “LOOK around carefully and check the situation before you leap” to myself before I finally avoided all the rocks successfully.

The plant thing was also somewhat fun, because it changed up my priorities. ‘Spode all the plants first. Every time. Shadow going for a divine fire wall? Sorry, I’ll eat the setback, gotta make all the plants go boom first.

And finally, I guess the big unveil were the two cutscenes at the end of this Living Story.

For the purposes of building hype for their big PAX South announcement, I guess they succeeded. I’m mostly antsy for the announcement because the cutscenes mostly don’t indicate anything beyond “Pact tries to attack Mordremoth. Pact fails miserably. Something’s definitely up with the Sylvari. Soon(TM).”

Ok. Great. Future stuff.

That’s all very well, but what do I do -now-?

couldbeme

Grind, apparently.

Kill more Mordrem like my hero Rytlock with a fiery sword.

Like a good little player, I am obediently working on the Luminescent collection for lack of anything better to do – and also, because I really want that “Light in the Darkness” title for vanity’s sake, which is always a good motivator.

Thankfully, I hoarded a decent amount of each Mordrem part bag in the prior weeks (around 5-7 of each) and opening them got me most of the eyes and kidneys required.

Camping at the last two that I needed over the weekend -eventually- got me the parts I needed, though I managed to build 3 whole Thrasher bladders before getting an eye (yeesh.)

All I’m missing now is one more carapace chest box, one more headgear box that I could either buy or run another character through the Living Story, and one more Ascended thingummy that will need to be bought.

Mostly the chest box.

vinewrath

The Vinewrath has been a decent enough world boss, set at a level that most players appear to be able to manage (with the few below average exceptions getting pasted on the ground each fight.)

There are only a few crucial mechanics for people to remember, which makes it easier to communicate as well:

1. The Beekeeper / troll creates bees. Running into the center of the rings and out, will call aggro of some bees onto you. Lead these to the honeycomb to build it up.

Take cover behind the honeycomb when the troll runs in front of the Vinewrath.

Most people will already have positioned themselves there, which is all very well, but does sometimes attract troll adds to the area as well. Best to kill the troll adds if possible, so that insect swarms don’t stack and cause runaway damage.

If no one built the honeycomb, then well, it’s your fault for blindly autoattacking away and assuming someone else will do it!

2. The thrasher is fought like a normal thrasher, with plenty of reflects for its spinning-poison projectiles running along the floor phase. Keep distance if reflects are not up, so as to give yourself the best distance to strafe left and right to avoid the poison projectiles.

Pustules pop up and explode after some time if not killed. Destroying the pustule before that releases some spore clouds which give friendly player buffs (turning them pink.) The thrasher can also pick up this buff, so watch out.

When the thrasher runs in front of the Vinewrath, run towards it as well and take cover in the white cone in front of it. Feel free to keep attacking the thrasher in the meantime.

If you die in this fight, it’s absolutely your fault for not getting into the white cone yourself.

3. Dark Wing the terragriff, generally has standard terragriff-y attacks with some extra leap/pounce things. There are flowers that also spawn and need to be attacked/destroyed in order for them to open.

When Dark Wing runs in front of the Vinewrath, hop onto an opened flower for safety.

To be really sophisticated, make sure your opened flower is near the front so that you can keep attacking Dark Wing with ranged attacks. If you lack an opened flower nearby, it’s totally your fault for failing to ensure that one is opened before blindly autoattacking the terragriff!

The NPC escort of the carriers put a considerable amount of stress on control and support abilities as well.

Stealthing the carrier constantly can eventually put it out of combat, allowing it to regenerate up to full health.

There is also the standard water field elementalist and blasting to heal up the carrier as well.

I’ve been getting a considerable amount of mileage out of Healing Breeze (yes, it’s a guardian heal!) that can top up the carrier’s health ever so slightly, and Tome of Courage – the spamming of which can top up a decent amount of health, and if you’re in the right position to land a full heal with number 5, it can pump up a good half or more of the total carrier’s health bar.

In full zerker, too! I briefly considered switching to celestial or clerics, but decided that the healing was already sufficient in zerker, given the weak healing coefficients, and the inconvenience of switching gear to fight/kill things after supporting later.

PSA: If you’re doing nothing for the carrier, do not stand on it and suck up heals/support meant for it.

Nothing pisses off someone trying to save the carrier as dumb ass players in perfectly good condition being prioritized for ally support skills merely because the skills prioritize nearby players first.

The good news is that most of the time, the dumb ass players are either too scared of the oncoming Mordrem and are thus plinking from really really far away, or totally distracted by the clump of Mordrem elsewhere and have failed to notice the carrier trundling off away from them.

This provides gaps of opportunity for an enterprising guardian to be the only one near the carrier and sufficient time to charge up Tome of Courage 5 so that it’ll go off as the carrier is walking by.

There is generally enough time to swap back to a more functional heal for the boss fight, even if one’s elite is on cooldown.

As for control, it’s a knockback / interrupt / fearing players’ dream as there is plenty of opportunity to shunt oncoming Mordrem into the walls and away from a carrier’s plodding path.

(There is also plenty of opportunity for observers to groan at poor control skills… like knocking back a chasing Mordrem further ahead and into the path of the carrier that is desperately trying to get away from it.)

Generally and thankfully though, the fight is fairly resilient to the vagaries of a PUG matchup. If a lane fails (I’ve no idea how, frankly, but it does – presumably folks failed to distribute themselves equally), another lane can take over the champion that it was supposed to face and progress the fight from there.

Given the locked-in tunings, it’s actually quite easy to distribute oneselves fairly equally. Those at the amber troll boss before should go south and face the beekeeper, allowing for one more troll part with an extra extractor.

Those at blue and platinum’s thrasher should go mid and face the Vinewrath’s thrasher, for a chance at an extra thrasher part.

And those at indigo and gold/silver terragriffs should go face the Dark Wing for an extra terragriff part, with the husk people splitting themselves up among the three lanes.

(All these well laid plans go right out the window if a lane fails, of course, but meh, I guess people will learn in time. More often than not, the previous fort bosses are succeeding, so it’s just a matter of time before folks become comfortable with this fight too, I suspect.)

I can feel myself dropping quite easily into fairly jaded veteran mode already – so aggravating to see dead people lying around scaling up mobs, I always waypoint and run back and often get back faster than the dead people that are still chilling on the ground – so to combat the temptation to be snide out loud, I mostly just shrug, tell myself people will learn eventually (or not, preferably without me there) and look out for organized instances to join, and gamble with PUG instances  when I feel like gambling.

Fortunately, one more chest box has already dropped for me, so I just need to stick it out for one more lucky run. I figure there should be enough organized instances for long enough for that to happen. *crosses fingers and prays to RNGesus*

I did, however, encounter a nice newbie during today’s Vinewrath.

I got a whisper out of the blue from someone who just asked me, “So what are we supposed to do in this fight, what are we doing here?” during a Vinewrath lane defence.

I glanced through all my friends and follower lists, and nope, did not know this person before this. He was at least clever enough to send a random tell to someone to ask, even if he was too nervous to openly ask over say or map chat.

In 4 tells, I summarized the fight for him. Paraphrased: “For now, we’re defending the carrier to the vine wall.”

“If all goes well, we will face the Dark Wing terragriff. Fight like a normal terragriff, it charges and all that.”

“When it runs to the front of the Vinewrath, hop onto an open flower.”

“Flowers will spawn before that, and need to be opened by destroying them before that.”

Guess what. He didn’t die.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him make it to a flower for the first go. Fail to make it to a flower for the second time, taking a hit that took off 7/8s of his hp. Then the terragriff died.

Hooray. I trust learning has taken place.

tequsual

In the meantime, I’ll just be over here, puttering about, doing my usual things, grinding for one more box (I was right about dem boot boxes by the way, got 6 by now, good thing I didn’t fall for the temptation of buying them!), contemplating maybe gearing some alts in sinister and testing new builds, and waiting for the PAX South announcement.

Please, oh please, let there be news of a way to save/load builds… I’ll trade a good many things for that.