Here We Go Round the Grindberry Bush

You’d think I’d learn by now.

I don’t know why I even try to expect consistency from myself.

Not a few days after changing my blog layout to favor bigger pictures, in the expectation that I might be playing more simulation style games with lovely scenery like theHunter or new games where screenshots would help to illustrate the experience, I have suddenly decided that NOW is the perfect time to re-focus on the same old games and make a concentrated push for long term goal projects.

This mostly means that I’ve traded off staring nightly at stuff that looks like this:

lake_deer

To this:

legmedss

Well, in the case of Warframe, I know why.

At the end of April, they announced the Prime Vault was unsealing to make Loki Prime earnable once more, as well as Volt Prime.

I have neither of them and I’ve been enjoying the basic Loki’s invisibility for certain missions of late, so this was very motivating for me to declare “farm relics to get the unvaulted primes” as a long term goal until July 3 or done (Preferably done way before that final vault sealing date.)

The less fantastic news is that relic farming is always intentionally grindy.

So I thought I may as well stretch it into a long term project rather than burn out attempting to farm 12 hours without stopping the first few days. (Yeah, right, who has that kind of game time any more? Dang college students/unemployed/retirees.)

I guess these things come in cycles.

Having indulged the inner Explorer for a couple months, now the inner Achiever demanded to be let out to do its thing.

The problem with the inner Achiever (or at least with mine) is its intense desire to have whatever it’s aiming for -now-, stat, with very little clue about just precisely how it’s going to get there and very little tolerance for how long the whole process will take.

I get very very antsy.

In my befuddled brain that is the usual state of affairs, it tends to imagine that whatever it wants will somehow magically be presented to it, if it thinks about it hard enough, repeatedly enough, and keeps chasing after it like an overenthusiastic dog.

Project planning is a skill I seem to have largely missed the boat on.

Traditional project planning, much like traditional outlining, has never worked for me.

In the old days, it was pretty much do it that waterfall way or the highway, and I usually just opted for careening down the expressway flying by the seat of my pants and winging it by dealing with the loudest and most urgent thing and proceeding from there via subconscious guilt and nagging brain prompts.

In this enlightened Internet day and age, there are apparently more options than the two extremes, as consultants and professionals attempt to describe what the more average folks -actually- do to get by in their day to day lives, and then give it shiny new names and a marketing buff and polish to sell the technique back to us.

One such methodology that I randomly stumbled across is the Improvement Kata, something purportedly based on what Toyota’s management culture practices.

Beyond the business speak and filler for packaging into a format that can be sold as training to corporations, it seems to be based on a core common sense (which is never very common) concept of iteration.

  1. Have a direction that you want to head towards, and an idea of the challenge you’ll need to overcome
  2. Have an idea of where you currently are
  3. Define a reachable “next target”
  4. Experiment your way from 2 to 3
  5. Repeat 2-4 until you reach 1, if ever

Besides the useful and common concept of breaking down your goal into smaller realistically achievable parts, I really like what Improvement Kata brought to step 4, where it is explicitly diagrammed as not a straight linear path, but a series of winding experimental steps where the path zigzags

This helps to assuage my perfectionist mind that it is okay to have backward progress or sidetreks in the course of attaining the target.

That like Edison’s light bulb, you may have to try a whole bunch of different things, fail, realise and learn what -doesn’t- work, in order to finally hit upon something that -does-.

That chasing up side avenues is fine.

That whatever gets you motivated to just keep making starts is good, you’ll learn more as you experiment your way forward.

That it’s more important to just check in now and then on where you are, on what you’ve learned since the last check-in and to keep refining those plans based on what you know now until you get where you want to go.

I tried out the practice on the Relic Farming project.

1. Overall Big Picture Target – Own Loki Prime, Volt Prime and maybe Odonata Prime

2. Where Am I Now – originally nothing; now, see below

wf_relicgrind

I am almost there on Loki Prime, just missing the rarest and most annoying to obtain component. I got lucky cracking open relics, so I’m a little further along on Volt Prime than I’d dared to hope. No progress on Odonata, but that’s fine as it is the least priority.

3. Next Target – Loki Prime Systems

4. Experiment

Experiment-wise, I’d already conducted a bunch in the previous week to find out the best sources of relics and what tools I had at my disposal to obtain them, given my quirky limitations of preferring to solo, not wishing to buy stuff outright with platinum and being more limited than a max MR player

Several false starts and some time measurements later, it has boiled down to running through Void, Marduk – Sabotage with a Loki at my very average and not extremely fast pace of ~5min per mission to have a 6% chance of popping the correct Axi L4 relic.

I am collecting a great deal of other relics in the progress.

When bored of the former, the secondary fallback is that I can also do a Void, Mot – Survival up to 20 min for a 13% chance at the Axi L4 relic with a Nidus.

But survival with void enemies doing 4x more damage and needing to stay for an uninterrupted 20 minutes tends to be a little more nailbiting than running around mostly invisible.

So I wind up by preference going for 4 chances of 6%, as opposed to 1 chance of 13% to get what I want.

Is that better? If I remember my math classes more, I could probably figure it out.

(My hunch says: the combined probability of -not- getting the relic I want each time is 94%, multiplied by itself 4 times. So 0.94 x 0.94 x 0.94 x 0.94 = 0.78. So the chance I might have popped the relic after 4 goes is 1 – 0.78 = 22%?)

Dunno. I await someone better at math to correct me. Intuitively, it kinda feels better, so we’ll run with that for now.

You’d think that project is sufficient to keep me occupied for the present, but between ArenaNet’s slightly improved communication and the anticipated release of the final Living Story 4 episode, my attention has been somewhat drawn back to GW2.

charmingmug
Not to insinuate that the game is some sort of many-armed monster, but… maybe.

To be honest, my relationship with GW2 was in a very bad place at the beginning of the year.

Some of the words that easily came to mind were “frustrated” “bored out of my skull” “burnt out” and “pushed beyond tolerance at the change in community sentiment.”

(Call me paranoid, but I rather suspect that similar emotions were running through a number of ArenaNet staff pre-layoffs.)

I just hadn’t reached a “quitting” frame of mind yet.

I was just stuck in a weird limbo of “I still kinda like the game, but I don’t like where it is nor where it seems to be going.”

Eventually, I decided that I’d delay reacting to it and give ArenaNet sufficient time to get their last few story episodes out and reassess what I felt about GW2 in April-May.

I guess I’m finally getting a little smarter with age and figuring out that delaying decisions can sometimes be a way forward.

The ArenaNet layoffs seem to have been a wakeup boot for the company. Not a great thing to happen to anyone, but making lemonade out of lemons is about the best one can do with a bad situation. Communication has stepped up a little (possibly due to certain policy makers voluntarily leaving). It’s a fire under them that forces a re-focus on what they’re trying to achieve with GW2.

From a steadily dropping and close to zero percent confidence level in the future of GW2 pre-layoffs and pre-communication, it at least feels like there’s a 35% chance now that there might be somewhat interesting future things for GW2. (Note: I’m a cynical pessimistic person by nature, so these are pretty decent numbers for my skewed viewpoint.)

Pursuant to figuring out how I will feel about the whole GW2 franchise once Living Story 4 draws to a conclusion, it occurred to me that regardless of me quitting or continuing, I should finish some of the long term goals that I always wanted to complete.

The biggest bugbear on that Unfinished Tasks list was Legendary Medium armor.

It is with some irony that I note that the raids part of it was completed long ago and by no means a bottleneck.

It was more a lack of motivation due to it being ugly as sin (and that’s giving sin a bad name), and the eternal time-gated nuisance of faction provisioner tokens which requires serious organized diligence to remember to feed various NPCs daily with the required objects for weeks on end. 25 days if you’re rich and go for 12 tokens a day, and for cheapskates like me, 42 days going at a 7 token a day pace.

That and the crippling cost of helping to sink a shipload of crafting materials by buying them with gold from other players.

Hence the spreadsheet, keeping track of what I have and still need:

legmedss

The Step 4: Experiment stage of this has been surprisingly more entertaining than first anticipated.

Mostly because my miserly soul refuses to buy outright expensive things off the TP if there’s another way I can obtain them at a decent enough clip.

I’m time gated by provisioner tokens anyway, so it’ll be early June before I can be done.

The question is: what activities can get me more of what I need?

grindberry

The various experiments in answering that have led me to do long ignored HoT metas, chase down the Winterberry farm once more for Unbound Magic to open bundles to see if their contents were worth anything, and learn more intently about the Living Story 4 maps that contain Volatile Magic as a reward, as those can be exchanged for trophy shipments.

It’s gotten my not-quite-raider self out of closed instances with my ego continually frayed by ever-excessively competitive people (not that it’s wrong, but type As exhaust everyone else around them – especially when they decide type B aren’t worthy of respect, or would be better off dragged up the mountain and would appreciate it once they see the view at the top)

TypeATypeBCartoon
Cartoon taken from https://www.simplypsychology.org/personality-a.html

and back out into the open world where things are either slightly more chill, or where I can solo in peace.

I finished most of the crafting and mystic forging. I ran through a HoT meta or two and picked up most of the tokens I’d need.

I bought stuff I’m not likely to be able to farm for myself in good time from the TP.

My timing is terrible, as the legendary greatsword is coming and prices are no doubt rising in response already. I rationalized it by my supposition that prices will rise and stay high for at least the next month once the legendary launches and everyone realizes they need the stuff I also need for legendary armor, so I may as well get what I need now for peace of mind, and any extras I earn I can sell at the presumably more inflated price later.

The last step is T5 and T6 trophies. They’re in sync because there’s two major ways I figure I’ll get them.

One is mystic forge promotion. I buy the T5 and then convert them on my own penny crystalline dust and spirit shard-wise for T6. That economy is generally sensitive enough that it should always be somewhat cheaper to do so than buy the T6 outright, barring a sudden glut of T6 drops from some event or another.

The second is volatile magic converted into trophy shipments. The return seems to be fairly decent. So I’ve been all over the LS4 maps harvesting nodes, killing stuff, doing hearts, buying daily stuff off vendors, collecting glowy magic objects on mounts, doing dailies, doing metas and trying to figure out if anything gives a decent return and is hopefully more personally interesting to me than doing a million Great Hall/Palawadan meta cycles.

It’s still pretty grindy though.

In that I’m repetitively doing a whole lot of things mostly to get the end result. I’m not not enjoying it (if you can parse that.)

As in, it’s not something I would just do for fun (it takes a bit more focus than relaxation), and it’s not something I outright hate either (those I wouldn’t do. I decided to buy the fractal stuff I needed off the TP, all 140g of it, because I still loathe that game mode and the dislike deepens further with every new fractal I’ve never tried and ever-divided PUG scene. What’s gold for if not to trade with, right?)

It’s more a focused reason/excuse to repeat some things I might not repeat otherwise in order to get to a final goal.

In the repetition, I have a reason/excuse to actually be playing the game, and you know, it’s not half bad an activity to be doing.

…Hmm… Maybe I still sorta like this game after all.

It’s a strange kind of convoluted thinking that I haven’t quite got my head around yet, but it’s an improvement from -not liking- for sure.

We’ll see how things go from there.

The SAD Project – Day 2 – Predator Pew Pew

predator1

You probably guessed this one was coming.

I set up a bunch of buy orders for Tier 6 materials and the remaining orrian truffles last night.

When I next logged back in, everything was ready for the grand assemblage. Aka, clicking and dragging lots of materials out of hoarded storage, visiting some NPCs to buy one item or another with one currency or another, mystic forging some things and crafting some others with the correct alt that had 500 leatherworking or 500 huntsman.

predator4

predator3

That’s one shiny item icon.

predator2

I took it out for a spin.

Immediately, I was like, “Why has this NEVER come to my attention before?” “Why hasn’t anyone blown whistles and banged drums and made a immense furor to this world about this sweet sweet gun?”

You know what’s most striking about it?

Its SOUND.

(Disclaimer: Not my video. Pretty much the only one on Youtube that lets the rifle speak for itself without loads of commentary. And it’s amazing how many are dated from 2013-2015, with very few Predator videos after.)

It has a reverberating laser pew pew sound that at first seems a bit at odds with the looks of the sniper rifle, but sounds immensely epic in scope and befitting that of an item with legendary status.

The second awesome thing is the fiery projectile that comes out of the rifle. Besides looking awesome, it also lights mobs you shoot on fire, and they die with the special flaming death animation that the fiery dragon sword skin also produces.

In a way, it’s good that I didn’t realize this until -after- I made the legendary.

Because I’m not sure I would have been able to wait as long as I did, and would have spent a lot more money/effort chasing it.

All’s well that ends well. Everything got prioritized nicely, I’m now the happy owner of Rodgort, Kraitkin, a set of legendary heavy armor, and the Predator, and I feel like the tension of the last year or so with immensely long term goals hanging over my head has wound its way to a close.

I feel like I can close the book at the end of this GW2 chapter, so to speak, and just dabble or putter around with much shorter term goals that were being put off (e.g. various Living Story chievos, try to get into fractals -again-) and/or wander off to other games.

Sometime in the future, I intend to idly creep my way towards stuff like Astralaria, Chuka and Champawat, a set of legendary light armor and so on, but that is a long way off, so no need for any concrete plans as yet.

Plans are for the end stages, to kickstart myself into actually doing things (like put W, X, Y  and Z into the mystic forge and click buttons, which I’d otherwise put off).

For now, I’m happy to have no more long term plans or ambitions.

Blaugust Day 30: Raids… Crap, What Happens to Everything Else? (GW2)

This morning, I woke up with my mind buzzing from a certain amount of worry.

At first, it was just the expected personal problem of wondering how the hell I was going to fit my personal schedule around the concept of raiding in GW2… especially since I’m in the GMT+8 timezone, making essentially all NA and EU guilds verboten, and even OCE guilds start raids about two hours earlier than I can really afford to be present while holding down a job.

Especially since the intent was to make sure said 10-person group undergoes repeated headbanging failure before maybe succeeding, after a great deal of build tweaking and coordination and practice.

That means a relatively regular group is needed, no?

Then I started wondering about how TTS was going to handle the introduction of raids…

The habit has always been for about 90-120 people gather up for Karka Queen, Tequatl and Triple Trouble Wurm. That’s about the most OCE/SEA critical mass that can be pulled at any one point in time.

Would they do the same, then split them up into groups of ten?

But wait, there might be a problem of lack of organized leadership… which means the number of each potential group that can be formed shrinks…

…which means there’s going to be competition for the desired raid spots… and resultant ill-feeling if you don’t make it in… sorta like how the 160th person sulks if they can’t manage to get into a Triple Trouble map… (except that we almost never hit that kind of number with TT, and we’ll definitely exceed that with a ten person raid)

And what if a huge chunk of leaders decide that they are just going to go form their own specialized raid group instead…

…what happens to the inclusivity of the Teq/Triple Wurm schedule?

And then it hit me, and my commenter Athie also drilled down to the root of the problem, WAIT, NO ONE IS GOING TO GIVE A DAMN ABOUT TRIPLE WURM ANY LONGER.

Why? BECAUSE RAIDS NOW OFFER COMPARATIVELY THE BEST ARMOR IN THE GAME.

Dungeons? Pfft.

Fractals? Fucking Ascended rings, right? And now reduced to one fractal each time. Meh, that’s for casuals.

Triple Trouble Wurm? A lame ass chance at Ascended armor with stats you probably won’t be able to use, and more likely, 5 lousy champion bags and some blues and greens.

EVERYTHING will be shoved aside, and the ALL IMPORTANT GODLY RAID will be placed on a pedestal of awe and desirability.

THAT is going to be a problem. The lack of any other alternative to get one’s mitts on Legendary armor, making raids highly desirable and causing everything else to fall by the wayside and look bad in comparison.

What’s going to happen to our friendly community guilds that welcome any influx of new players cos it means hitting critical mass then?

Torn apart, that’s what. You won’t want new players to learn the complicated raid dance if it sets your group back by weeks. You want the same regular group of 10, period. That forms exclusivity. That forms elitism if that pack of 10 gets all the shiny Legendary armor that no one else can get.

Now I have a sunken pit of dread in my stomach that isn’t going away.

I hope Athie’s right and GW2 makes a dramatic and unpredictable direction swing several months later, because the extrapolation from here is not looking good at all.

GW2: Being Restless is Dangerous to One’s Wallet

I suddenly got it in my head at work today that I might have been feeling aimless because I was missing a sense of prolonged accomplishment in GW2, that slow grindy build up to something that one wanted.

For months after all, there hadn’t been anything I wanted, just logging in to chill out, do a couple social events, tick off some dailies for the feeling of easy accomplishment, log out.

Equally insanely, another thought popped into my head that I had two Venoms sitting in the bank – the first being the /only/ precursor that ever fell into my inventory (in WvW, a long long time ago, in a roundabout way) and the second an impulse purchase under the logic that it was the absolute cheapest precursor ever and I might want a “Twice-Told Legend” title some day. (Yes, on some days I am plainly not in possession of my mind.)

Just how much did Kraitkin cost to make anyway?

I had accumulated about 700g in the bank, which is by far the highest sum I’ve ever accrued, and only speaks of how unactively I’d been doing anything lately besides earning a gold or two every day.

I’d been banking all my T6 materials as per normal, and Rodgort the T6 vacuum cleaner had been a while back.

(Apparently 1.5 years, give or take a few months, is my average for casually accumulating sufficient mats for a legendary, or at least enough that I can stomach the last push/focused expenditure for the rest.)

Turns out, the ingredient list wasn’t -too- horrible.

The dungeon required was Sorrow’s Furnace tokens, and while I was suspecting that I might have to set a goal to purposefully run a few to get the 500 tokens, when I logged in to check my in-game wallet, I had 900 already accumulated, just from super-irregularly running path 1 and 3 every time a friend asked.

Orichalcum ingots, cured hardened leather squares, all fairly normal. The only thing that would really damage the bank was amassing T6 materials, especially since the thing needed 500 Armored Scales (which were currently in the 35-40 silver range) and a bunch of crystalline dust.

The bank, fortunately, already had a pretty decent stock of T6 and ectos from salvaging rares.

Had to get 77 Mystic Clovers, so I cheerfully spent a whole bunch of the 900 skill points on my main for Philosopher’s Stones (and a bloodstone shard. He still has some 600 points remaining, and probably 3 stacks of skill scrolls in the bank) and knocked off 800k of the 7 million karma in the wallet for Obsidian Shards. Did the one at a time recipe methodically and that yielded up a little extra T6 as a consolation prize for eating some 120 ectos.

After that, it was filling in the gaps by virtue of taking out large sums of gold from the bank and throwing it at the Trading Post (plus buying Icy Runestones for 100g, and 20g for the two gift recipes.)

Some 300g poorer, I was all set.

I decided I wanted to “roleplay” the making of this second legendary in a similar vein to someone I read about on Reddit going to the heart of Mount Maelstrom to forge a fire-based legendary.

Kraitkin, of course, needed an underwater location.

I was making a beeline for the Temple of Abaddon when it hit me that I should really look for a krait-infested location instead.

Since my necromancer’s map of Timberline Falls was a giant blank fog of war with no waypoints, I settled for the Kessex Hills krait instead. Well, they’re kinda special too, being all toxic after Scarlet’s influence, and that fallen tower was no doubt the site of some powerful magic.

Right underneath it, naturally, is the Lair of the Blood Witch.

As expected, she was up, and I got massacred a few times while assuming I could power through and kill her with UI hidden and trying to take screenshots to document the adventure.

Turns out, she has a very constant and nasty hitting attack that is almost like an auto-attack in its consistency, very hard to pre-emptively dodge and too frequent to dodge reliably.

I had to bring my UI back up and waypoint rez for a second “serious-face” try, carefully alternating a Shadow Fiend and a Bone Fiend to tank the attack and desperately scrabbling around with death shroud and dodges during the downtime.

Fortunately, her shrinking healthbar brought in one or two lowbies to add on a little extra damage, reducing the amount of time required to hold out, and she died just as I was starting to panic with most skills on cooldown, having already been downed once and forced to rez by killing a nearby minion.

bloodwitchlair

Taking over as the new Blood Witch.

forging

Brought up the mystic forge, slid the four expensive components inside and hit the button. Badabing badaboom.

plus5ap

Probably one of the more expensive ways to get 5 AP.

sideview

It’s a pretty understated legendary, which possibly explains its lack of desirability, even among underwater weapons.

It adds on a white misty aura, which isn’t too different from the one that a Wintersday aquabreather gives you, and you get a school of tiny eel-like fish that spiral around you in a small cloud when you draw the trident or weapon swap.

The rest of it is small but tasteful motion, the three eel heads twisting and flexing and breathing poisonous fumes and two streams of water spiralling around the shaft.

According to the wiki, it apparently has a night/day cycle, which changes the motion of the water streams slightly and gives the eel heads a faintly green glow, but I can’t really see that much of the difference myself.

If any, its bioluminescence is as understated as that of my sylvari’s.

kraitkin-day

Day

kraitkin

Night

I do like it, though. It matches really well with my necro’s color scheme.

Now I just need a non-pathetic spear. *gulp*

And I’m down to just one Venom taunting me about Twice-Told Legend.

Since I’m back to hitting the poverty line again crafting mats-wise and wiped out half my gold stash, neither is likely to happen pre-Heart of Thorns, and then there will probably be something else shinier to catch my attention for a while.

Was fun though, and at least, I now have a mild “gotta restock and hoard stuff again” impetus for playing GW2 a touch more seriously… whenever I get around to it.

GW2: What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been

rodgort

Vanity has demanded this weapon pairing since the beginning of time.

Or rather, 533 days ago, according to /age.

Or approximately 1.5 years.

Which is rather the length of time I predicted for my ambling stroll towards someday-maybe-eventually accumulating enough shtuff towards it.

Admittedly, I made a spreadsheet last August to figure out I was about 2/3 of the way there, but the remaining third was all the hard expensive things, so the plan went back on the backburner for a while.

Then I pulled it up a few days ago and decided to make a slightly more serious asset-clearing mystic-forge refining push at it.

My materials stock is now at an all time low.

I only have 1.4 gold left in liquid assets to my name.

But dang, do I love fiery particle effects.