GW2: Oh Happy Day

lumi-collection

T’was a very fruitful weekend for me in Guild Wars 2.

The last carapace chest finally deigned to drop for me during a Vinewrath on Sunday.

I’ve pretty much lost count of how many I’ve done prior to this. You know those lucky bastards that get 3 carapace chests in like, 4 Vinewraths? I’m their polar opposite. Someone’s got to draw the short end of the RNG stick, I guess.

While banging my head on the wall of innumerable Vinewraths, I ended up with about 6000 crests in total across weeks of Silverwastes, minus a thousand or so for one of the Ascended accessories that needed to be bought for the collection, and not including the ton of Mordrem parts I haven’t got around to exchanging for crests taking up room in my bags.

It worked out quite nicely, as I decided to be lazy and buy my last carapace headgear instead of running a third character through the storyline.

Minus another 1000 for the last Ascended accessory that needed to be bought, and I had 4000 left over to pick up all the buyable Mordrem tonics and minis.

Turns out both the Mordrem husk and troll tonics are pretty good for screenshots, as you can scroll directly into first person view with them. The husk camera is set a little higher than the troll’s. I think I prefer the troll overall, but I’m sure there will be times I might find the husk one handy.

The most delightful thing for me about finishing the Luminescent collection is the title. I’m madly in love with it ever since I saw it, and ever since playing its namesake in the Personal Story. Happily wearing it now.

I’m really not sure what to do with the Ascended armor chest that was its final reward. I already own a Zojja’s chestpiece that was a lucky drop from a Wurm kill. If I continue decking that warrior out, each piece only increments by such a minute amount I feel almost sorry selecting a wear location other than the chest.

Or I could pick another Zojja’s breastplate and give it to my guardian main… except that would make all the colors not match and feel a little weird. It’s not like he -needs- Ascended, since he doesn’t WvW or do fractals.

Or maybe one of my many other alts could use it? What stats? Who? *brain shuts down at this point and I just throw it in the bank to think about later*

ambi-collection

And the last four Ambrite weapons that were still pending three weeks ago?

Yep, finally managed to pull enough fossilized insects after some weekly patient attendance at DTOP’s regular Fri/Sat ‘one hour after reset’ runs. (Or Sat/Sun morning for me.)

I almost didn’t think I’d get it done this week.

I lucked into an insect during Saturday’s two hours, and then promptly failed miserably to get one on Sunday, despite opening some two dozen chests over the two hours.

I bought my final sets of keys (about 12 of them all told) and logged out, intending to catch another sandstorm some other time and just run around opening chests, and never got back to it on Sunday.

I also start on about 14% of the Maguuma Wastes PvP reward track. Eventually, I’ll get the last fossilized insect that way, worse case scenario.

Monday morning, I wake pretty early before work, intending to get a blog post about the Luminescent collection done, and see that the clock says :57 minutes. Hmm, there’s three minutes left of a sandstorm! What if…

So I log on (thank you SSD for quick load times) and run around like a mad charr with CTRL held down, hoping to spy at least one chest before the sandstorm’s up.

I see one! It’s on a cliff! I grab the blue crystal and fail the jump several times, cursing under my breath, watching the sandstorm time tick down.

I get up there at last! I open it!

No insect.

Some random recipe that actually overloads me.

Baaaaaah. Much deflated, I look around for another chest. There’s under a minute of time left.

Encumbered, kinda half blind while walking around and scanning through my open bags settling on something to throw away to make room, I toss out some grey junk, and then another piece of grey junk to make one extra slot… just in case.

There’s another chest! Under half a minute left!

I run over and with 15 seconds on the clock, I throw it open and BAM, a golden fossilized insect slides into that slot I just opened up, while 8 bits of sand overload me.

THERE IS AN RNG GOD.

I fling 16 copper more of grey junk out my inventory to let the equally worthless sand slide in, then cradling the last insect, dash over to Divinity’s Reach to pull out the other three I’d been hoarding in the bank.

One quick waypoint to trade all the insects into the appropriate form, another waypoint back, and the celebratory crafting began.

Blog post? Err… Nevermind, I’ll write it in the night.

Besides those little bouts of satisfaction, I also got in a bit of leveling time during double xp weekend.

There was a spot of time the servers were being rather dodgy and the Silverwastes map was pretty much unplayable, so being neatly stymied in my attempt to get the last carapace chest, or do anything (like kill Tequatl or Wurm) that required a stable connection without dc’ing, I decided to power level my charr mesmer instead.

Boy, was that a little insane.

I’d never eaten so many boosters in my life.

Usually I settle for an experience booster and a killstreak booster at most, and food and a wrench consumable.

Since double xp was going on, I threw on a celebration booster from the log-in rewards too, for another 100% xp. I made some candy corn cake that gave 15% xp rather than the usual 10%.

I’m still too cheap to waste 5 experience boosters for a single improved experience booster, so I held off on that, and just nommed my usual stuff. Plus a speed booster, because what the heck, I was starting to accumulate too many of those.

Then I ran off to find yellow untouched mobs and hit one.

That 64xp mob? Coughed out some 500+ xp in bonus experience, and steadily rising from the killstreak booster.

Man, did that experience bar jump.

I calculated that 3 moas would move the bar by one tenth of the total experience bar. So 30 fully xp laden mobs equated to one level.

In one hour I jumped around 7-8 levels, and that was while wasting time chatting to a friend.

Said friend wanted to come along in the next hour, so that was what we did, scoring another 8 levels.

Level 25 to 33 to 41. Craaazy.

What eventually screwed up the streak was a whole spate of maps that we were in crashing and restarting, resetting all that sweet sweet bonus xp back to essentially zero (or the same amount as the mob’s usual xp.) Fields of Ruin? Crashed. Lornar’s Pass? Crashed. Harathi Hinterlands? Crashed.

WELL. That’s pretty much all the maps that are good for that level range. (Yes, we could downlevel, but you don’t get the maximum amount of potential xp that way, you get a lil less. And we were already spoiled from the crazy numbers we were scoring with each mob.)

So we ended up taking a break and it turned out that was all the time I could spare during the weekend for leveling because I got distracted by the Vinewrath once the servers stabilized.

Oh well, plenty of time to level at leisure now that my crazy collection obsession is sated, and I can slowly make a little progress on my Great Screenshot Project. (No mention of mass carnage and destruction for the expansion, so I guess I don’t have to hurry on this. Phew.)

I’m kinda looking forward to seeing what the whole horde of newbies who grabbed GW2 during the $10 weekend sale are making of the game.

The only thing that frightens me is the quality of mapchat in the low level zones. Prior to the newbie influx, they’ve tended to make my brain rot from the inanity and barrens-chat worthy phrases (I figure that many of the people still leveling lowbies during this time are not…hmm, shall we say very devoted GW2 players or veterans – vets are likely to have so many tomes of knowledge they have to use up or are perfectly fine crafting or EoTMing their way to 80 – and thus carry a bit of their usual MMO culture with them back into this game.)

I’m not sure I want to find out if it’s got worse or better or stayed the same.

I -am- having quite a bit of fun with the influx of newbie posts on Reddit though. I’m a little too hermit-y to consider helping random people in-game, but y’know, give me a soapbox and a comment space to write in and I can’t resist giving my twenty cents of advice.

Guess we all do our part to try and live up to that “fun, welcoming, inclusive community” moniker.

GW2: First Thoughts on the Feature Patch and the New Leveling Experience

Truth is, it’s going to take me a while to absorb everything that just came down in a big info dump in the Game Update patch notes.

I haven’t quite made it through all the profession changes yet, just sort of went through the guardian notes that are my primary interest and glanced at the rest.

collections

The Collections are interesting, if a tide underwhelming at present. I’d been under the impression that many little tchotchkes would become easy collections to get some achiever dings over – things like food, or drinks or bags of loot.

Instead, the only fun one seems to be the junk collector with the Honorary Skritt title and the rest look a little more laborious. There’s -some- food, but only steak so far. No burgers, no pizza, no soup or vegetarian collections or stuff like that.

There’s certainly potential to expand, and I hope it will soon(TM), but at the moment, I’m finding it more attractive to offload some of the named exotics I’d been hoarding in the bank, wondering if they’d ever turn into precursors – looks like they won’t, but at least they’re collectibles now – at the currently inflated prices.

combatlog

The Combat Log is something I’d really like to gush over.

I think it’s gone unnoticed by many, but it’s actually USEFUL now.

The color scheme used in the combat log is a touch eyebrow raising, but sort of oddly reminiscent of oldschool MUDs where stuff is color-coded with a bunch of esoteric meaning. Presumably, since only those interested in the technical and numerical stuff would ever look at it, it’s ok.

Purple is being used for condition damage and orange for direct damage and green for healing, as far as I could tell from a quick glance at it.

All the condition damage is being reported *swoons in ecstasy* and even my clone damage from exploding was captured, so I presume other professions’ pets are also getting logged. That’s really really sweet.

I don’t know if someone will figure out a way to parse this yet, but there’s at least some -clear- data here.

One still can’t see other peoples’ damage and so on, which I think is for the best, since that might lead to comparisons and exclusion, but in the interests of -personal- improvement or optimization/efficiency, this is at least a tool that can actually be read and used now – rather than having to video record stuff and manually count white damage numbers and guess at other things.

The Miniature changes are surprisingly underwhelming for now.

I bound a few of my favorite minis that had been sitting in my bags, but was mildly dismayed to see that it was likely going to be hidden all the time (even from me!) on my toaster settings anyway.

Considering how I normally struggle with frame rates, perhaps it’s for the best that I don’t even see my own puppy following me most of the time. (Though if I’m alone and wandering the open world, even if the map is crowded, you’d think I ought to be able to see my own mini until I walk into the equivalent of world boss or WvW zerg congestion on my screen.)

The Trading Post changes have been mildly disorientating.

I’m not sure if it loads faster, and I kind of miss the tab that was just for taking items away from the TP. Right now, I have to load the whole damn TP and extra info just to collect some money, feels a little more clunky in that respect.

I haven't sold a Foxfire Cluster in forever, those are definitely NOT "my latest trades."
I haven’t sold a Foxfire Cluster in forever, those are definitely NOT “my latest trades.”

I -do- like the new filters, though it takes a bit of getting used to, after you’re accustomed to the old way of doing things.

Searching for armor my new mesmer alt could wear, within his level range, and with some Power on it, was a lot smoother and gave easier to choose from options.

The new filters are nice.
The new armor filters are nice, as sifting through on my guardian demonstrates.

But then again, I tried to type “Superior rune of the flame legion” into the search box and ended up cut off before being able to specify “flame legion” – which led to a whole bunch of other superior runes displayed.

Instead, the right keywords to use are “sup rune flame” or something oddly truncated like that.

That character text limitation is a little annoying to work around.

selling1

-Selling- things feels like one has to absorb a lot more info than before.

Having to drag a slider bar when one could previously just click a button to sell all is a step up in annoyance.

Sure, you list both fees now, but you don’t even helpfully provide a net profit summation, so now we’re expected to mentally subtract both fees ourselves. I think it’s -far- more likely that more people will be deceived by the total price and continue to pay TP tax without realizing it.

It’s more than a bit annoying to see that only the last 5 prices are visible at any time and that you have to scroll down to see the rest.This is a lot more game-able than the old system which let you see more prices at a glance, -if- you looked up the buy prices. Many won’t bother to scroll down. Expect traders to put up little honey traps in groups of 5 to knock the old prices off visibility.

selling2

Take, for example, this random rare dagger that drops as random loot.

The first trap is easy to spot, someone posted one for 64.46 silver when the rest are selling at 66.46 silver.

selling3

If you take the trouble to scroll down past the 66 silvers, there’s a jump that’s almost invisible here, between 66 and 69 silver.

It is entirely possible that someone may buy up daggers up to this price on a fairly regular basis and that if you post this dagger for anywhere 69 silver and under, it’ll sell. How many people will be bothered to look through this, scrolling through a pathetic 5 prices at a time? Much less than before, I suspect. Expect lots of lazy selling at whatever minimum is offered.

I don’t know if all the changes really made anything clearer or not, it just feels like there are different places people will get caught out, and different places wily traders can come in to profit from those too lazy to work it all out.

And finally, the New Player Leveling Experience.

I’m not really radically against it, like many screaming over the forums and on Reddit.

I took a new charr mesmer up from level 1, playing through like a complete newbie, up to about level 9.

The tutorial tips that show up seem to be quite explanatory, with the option of leaving it up or quickly closing it via pressing the ‘X’ for close window. This catches that group of slower tactical learners who want time to read through instructions over just jumping in and doing it.

The leveling experience at low levels does seem to have been sped up slightly, which means that those used to the game can very quickly speed through the most limiting and annoying ‘locked weapon skill’ stage past level 2 and 4.

In truth, the only time I really chafed at the weapon skill lock was when I was trying to tag mobs in a crowded Defend the Armory from Flame Legion event, which had somehow attracted a good seven veterans or so – presumably in search of the new hearts. Only having mesmer scepter skill 1 is NUTS, it is so SO SLOW when you’re trying to tag or cleave as many things as possible before all these crazy exotic-geared 80s blow everything up. I got about 2 of every 4 mobs that spawned, if I was lucky.

I was really happy to finish that heart and get the event xp and then run as fast as my little clawed feet could take me out of there and go back to slowly and methodically single-targeting random mobs to death.

Going from heart to heart following the content guide did offer a more streamlined experience than previously, rate of experience gain included.

The profession loot seemed to be working for me, as I got a number of white and blue drops that were usable upgrades. Some +Power clothes that I could wear, and very attractively, new weapons like a sword, pistol (level 2, but not usable until level 7 when offhand unlocks, *gasp*), a greatsword and a staff.

Since I was getting bored out of my mind with the slow rate of the scepter autoattack – but the torment isn’t half bad if you can successfully block with skill 2 and layer 6-7 stacks of torment on , and the skill 3 confusion stacks are SICK, thank you combat log – I took advantage of this to swap and try out the other weapons, presumably as intended, though lord knows if new players will figure it out if it isn’t spelled out for them too.

Plains of Ashford apparently had two new hearts added to it. My memory isn’t the best, but it appears to be the cows immediately next to the starting drop-off point and the skritt/cannon area, which I did always think was a little weird that the area had nothing but a skill point and a dynamic event up there.

The clarity and fanfare with each level up does feel more pronounced now.

Can't you just hear the guitar riffs? It's as if a dev said, "Not rewarding enough, eh? HERE!"
Can’t you just hear the guitar riffs? It’s as if a dev was thinking, “Geez, they keep saying it doesn’t feel rewarding enough! Well, fine, HERE!”

Around level 9, I started getting a bit restless with the pace and took a break away from the content guide, heading into the Black Citadel and for the nearest Trading Post. Why they removed the handy one near the starting drop-off point is beyond me – too confusing for newbies? A little subtle proding to veterans seeking convenience to pop one if they want to use one, maybe?

There I grabbed all the usual twink gear – the cheapest +Power stuff at the off-level of 6, minor runes of +Power and level 10 +Power jewellery, wandered off the beaten track to hit a few yellow mobs and push myself to level 10.

Then I went through the Personal Story in a big chunk and rather enjoyed it. Mobs stayed at level 10, even as the Personal Story completions were awarding XP and pushing me through the levels, so things felt more doable and there was less of those old ‘stuck’ points where you were facing a +3 level challenge and unwilling to go off and get more levels before coming back, leading to repeated deaths and restart at checkpoints. I was level 12 by the time I finished.

Considering that I hadn’t even map explored through half of the Plains of Ashford, -HOPEFULLY- this will finally stop those ridiculous complaints of “help, I’m underleveled and have completed my starting zone” and the equally ridiculous advice to jump through portals and map complete another race’s starting zone to fix that. HOPEFULLY, newbies will find themselves level 15 at the point they’re really supposed to transition to the level 15-25 zone.

The one thing I did find a little disappointing was skill points being pushed so far back to level 13. This invalidates a number of skill trainers in the starting zone, which give you the “successfully passed” message and is somewhat disorientating, especially when you realize later that you’ll have to retrace your footsteps -back- to them to get SP. That’s… more than a bit weird.

So far, so good, I guess. I got to level 13 in a couple of hours, which -seems- like the pace that newbies would expect.

The biggest mixed feelings I get from this new player experience is the distinct sensation that we’ve moved over from stressing an Explorer experience to focusing on an Achiever one.

Personally, it doesn’t disturb me too much either way because I have tendencies in either direction. I can adapt to Achiever signposts if a game chooses to go that way, and I can jump into a sandbox with the best of them and explore and go read third-party wikis and websites to figure out what to do next.

I’m an EASK, after all, both playstyles are my primary and secondary, and I’m also strong enough an Explorer to figure out how to set the defaults back to the way I prefer it.

I mean, if I really let my inner elitist speak, I’d say, “If folks aren’t Explorer enough to figure out how to shut the upper-right compass off, then they’re the subset that the straightforward little arrow was meant for.”

That was the FIRST thing I went for, when I logged into my level 80 main and went, OMG, what is this awful thing in the corner, TURN IT OFF, TURN IT OFF.

So I brought up the Options menu, read through stuff, saw the new “Content Guide” drop down bar option, and promptly set it from Default to Off, glancing through the other options in the process and thinking, ok, those might come in useful when I’m leveling a new alt or going on focused map exploration. (It -would- be handy if we could set it per character, and not a one-size-fits-all account setting though.)

Then I went for my regular jumping puzzle visit, popped an Enchanted Map piece, went “Kewl, a sekrit to explore!” and promptly ran around visiting jumping puzzles I hadn’t visited for a long time, hoping to pop another map piece. Somewhere in Diessa Plateau, I overheard mapchat complaining bitterly about compass arrow, how it was hand-holding and so on, while another person asked if it was possible to turn it off, and the complainer went ahead and said something like, oh, I don’t think it’s possible until you hit level 80 or complete the Personal Story or something.

Rolling my eyes with the utter INCORRECTNESS of this, I had to speak up over mapchat and pointedly “handhold” the map into looking at Options => Content Guide, whereupon they realized, OH, we -can- turn it off, after all, while other people went, oh, these other options might be useful for map exploring, etc.

PSA: You can turn off the compass or content guide via the options here!
PSA: You can turn off the “compass” or content guide via the options here!

No, really, some things -aren’t- obvious to everybody, and I don’t see too much harm in clearly spelling it out for them if they require it. The clearly demarcated dodge tutorial, for example, at least ensures that more lowbies will figure out that they do have a dodge button. If that’s what they need to learn, so be it.

The only sadness I get is that it’ll be a bit trickier to guide an Explorer down this Achiever centered road now. Gone is the “world is completely open and ripe for the plucking” feeling from having weapon skills unlock from use, from having a wealth of skills and traits and options at an early stage. What is “overwhelm, too many options, too little direction” to an Achiever or a newbie is the “world is my oyster, ooh, so much complexity and depth” discovery feeling for an Explorer.

We somehow have to get the message out that it’s still going to be okay to turn off the Content Guide and strike out cross-country, immersing into the world, poking one’s head into every nook and cranny.

I know I will, on my other alts when I want the exploration and world immersion feel, but I’m used to the old way of doing things and can figure these things out for myself.

Maybe I guess it’s better to trust that the Explorers will know how to tweak settings to match their preferences over the Achievers. Maybe.

Did we want to risk losing the Explorer cohort in favor of the Achiever crowds? I guess one subset pays better than the other? Or many of the Explorers are already here and past the lowbie experience… the novelty of new content is still pretty far away in November, though.

Dunno. Certainly there’s still one thing Explorers can explore. The entire new level up system, its rewards and the whole ‘feel’ of taking a character through it.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see on how it plays out over time, once the knee jerk reactions to sudden change are done.

GW2: A Fresh Start

Probably not your average newbie...

I might be the only two-year old veteran of Guild Wars 2 that is excited about the recently announced changes to the new player experience.

Am I really the only one?

Most of the Reddit posts following the announcement are all in full-on bitch mode about how this change doesn’t affect or cater to players already at level 80, grousewhinecomplain, etc. so it’s hard to share any enthusiasm over there.

See, every so often in either Reddit or the GW2 forums, there’s always going to be this one scared newbie post about “help! I’m level X and I can’t level anymore / don’t know where to go next / getting bored shitless of these hearts.’

And these are the ones that actually bothered or dared to post, looking for help because they want to enjoy the game but don’t know how.

How many others just shut down the game and left?

Only Anet’s metrics know.

Somehow, these players aren’t connecting the dots.

I can’t fathom it personally myself, how hard pressing M and finding the next promising area to wander around in (of which, there are always at least two valid choices for each level range) could be, or what it is they’re doing exactly that’s leaving them bereft of xp.

My first character, I was just so thrilled to be standing in the GW2 world and able to -jump- that I combed every corner and talked to every NPC just because I could. I killed stuff along the way, did hearts until I got tired of systematically following them and then just went hog wild across the world instead, following the personal story through the open world, doing crafting, WvW, dungeons, the works.

Since then, I’ve been guilty of twinking up lowbies with +Power runes, food and wrenches, and those ubiquitous XP boosters and just running through packs of mobs that no one ever touches and gaining 2 levels every hour or less, never bothering with any goddamn stupid heart if I didn’t want to, so I guess my perspective is somewhat skewed by the leveling sandbox that is the open world.

Personally, I know I lost one RL friend to the leveling experience. Said friend came in after much persuasion, made an engineer, kinda halfheartedly got through Caledon Forest complaining the engineer felt weak and then I never saw him again past the start of Brisban Wildlands.

Might be he just didn’t feel like he had enough time to play an MMO, but I don’t think the leveling experience did him any favors either.

For -my- personal purposes, I’m pleased as punch to see the paragraphs:

“Players who don’t need direction can ignore this system and go exploring in any direction they want, do content in any order, and play any content they want exactly as they can currently in Guild Wars 2 as it’s available today.

There are advanced settings in the options menu for more experienced players that will allow you to change the functionality of the content direction system. You can select to disable it if you like the way the game UI functions now, or you can select “world complete” mode, which will focus only on providing direction to areas for world completion.”

That’s me. I level the explorer way, with my world at barely 41% complete before I’ve hit level 80, wondering how the hell do people run out of ways to get experience?

But somehow, they do.

I can only presume they don’t gather anything, don’t play personal story, don’t craft, don’t kill any mobs that aren’t an immediate “heart completion” task and never run into a single orange event because they’re unlucky.

So I’m really really happy that they’ll now have a developer-guided signposting experience that will give them the giant glowy arrows and immediate to-do Achiever list that these less-familiar-with-game-that-allows-exploration people seem to require.

It is, after all, an option. Different strokes for different folks.

Some people really need those warm fuzzy feelings from getting a guitar riff and trumpets blowing when they level up. Whatever helps them stick with the game and come to appreciate it more.

As long as the end result is more players playing GW2 and new blood coming in, what’s the harm?

(I can only hope that they won’t hit level 80 and become utterly confused and adrift at the perceived lack of endgame and no more signposting. But hey, WoW’s already given them an expectation of a bait-and-switch, so I guess they’ll just have to adapt to learning how to choose their own goals when they hit GW2’s endgame.

Worse come to the worse, they’ll have plenty of Living Story chapters offering a clear directed experience there too. Step 2: Pay 200 gems to unlock each! Step 1: Earn gold to afford 200 gems!)

A better extended tutorial experience that spells out systems so that lowbies coming in can learn and appreciate each nuance can only mean slightly more informed newbies when they hit max level. That’s a good thing, since they’re going to have to keep pace with practiced veterans getting older (and more burnt out or jaded) with each patch.

Hell, I’m excited to take at least one more character through the whole experience just so I can see if these new rewards are any more fun.

Maybe I’ll ditch the boring human mesmer and make a fun charr mesmer with a transmuted necro skull mask and run around confusing and tormenting all the things – new mesmer meta, yaaarrr.

Plus, a better paced Personal Story that actually gives you story chunks, rather than getting stupidly staggered out between levels where you’ve totally forgotten what happened previously by the time you’ve gone and helped some random Norn, fed feed to cows and cows to Charr, turned into random animals, fallen off some jumping puzzles, and now have got to go back to the Personal Story NPCs again.

Of course, the one worrisome casualty from this may just be key-farming. I guess those level 20 experience scrolls I’m accumulating will eventually have a use and equate to a few more keys.

Time to get a few more 20-minute runs in before the feature patch, methinks.

Playing As Intended, Nothing to See Here

Updating the blog is hard when there’s nothing new to say.

For the last week, I’ve been heavily playing two games as intended – the well-trodden routes that everyone should be familiar with.

I don’t think it’s terribly exciting to anyone else when you increment a level number, is it?

Path of Exile

Hype is super-ramping up for the Forsaken Masters release, and I’ve been playing the crud out of it as a result.

My ridiculously masochistic low-life dual-dagger first-build-ever summoner Shadow made it to level 65, on the back of a whole lot of Swan Song videos.

It’s at this point that I decided I was officially hitting the next ‘gear wall’ – there are a ton of things that I would love to five and six-link, assuming I have the gear, and assuming I even have the gems – which I don’t, since I’m staunchly anti-manual-trade (don’t try to change my mind – I didn’t use the trade channel in the old MUD I played, I didn’t trade for a thing in Spamadan in GW1, I hate text barter trading with people or bots, period. I’m still enjoying Path of Exile fine, and willing to pay more to increase stash size to play with my own self-found ruleset. Everybody wins, except the people who can’t tolerate someone they don’t know and will never meet – since I don’t group – playing less efficiently. Deal.)

This sounded like a good time to wait for the Forsaken Masters to see if they could help out on the less RNG gearing front, so I did.

In the meantime, it was time for a little easymode.

Obviously, not at all current-and-updated easy, because I’m busy noobing it up here, but a Geofri’s Baptism – a two-handed maul unique – dropped and was burning a hole in my stash.

And I was doing pretty well with a super-tanky molten strike / ground slamming Marauder  in hardcore mode previously, albeit -very slow and steady because hardcore mode = don’t die – so for casual fun, I made a new Marauder with a similar build in the standard league and dumped as much nice stuff as had accumulated in my stash onto him.

Guy whizzed past the levels in like 3 days.

Level 55 now and still climbing.

To the tune of Mythbusters videos mostly, since I’ve exhausted all the roleplay ones. (Anyone know any other entertaining roleplays in the vein of ItmeJP’s stuff or Will Wheaton’s Fiasco? They have to be watchable, not unedited – it’s boring as fuck to watch ordinary people um and ahh and hesitate for minutes attempting to tell a story.)

I did suffer a few deaths, the first and stupidest one due to getting chain stunned by a mass of bird-like rhoa (what is it with birds and stuns, GW2’s moas also daze…) and that was eventually fixed by picking up Unwavering Stance. It comes with the drawback of not being able to evade enemy attacks – but I figure I’m not gearing with any evasion to begin with, so whatever. 19% evasion or less seemed fine to trade off for not being stunned ever.

The Marauder side of the skill tree really looks a tide more organized to be newbie friendly than the Shadow side.

Went for all the life, and armor, and resistances and strength and two-handed maul damage stuff and seems to be working out fine.

Picked up the Resolute Technique keystone since Geofri’s Baptism couldn’t crit anyway, and one may as well experiment with consistent sustained damage on what is intended to be a more robust type of character.

It was around the 50s and entering Merciless difficulty that the gear wall started to make itself a little bit more felt – though in this case, it mostly means I have to stop playing braindead run-in hur-durr kill-everything and kite a bit more with groundslam, or use doorways and corners as chokepoints, or even *gasp* put a rejuvenation totem behind me to buff up my life regen and keep the hp reservoir full for long enough to wreck the onslaught.

I’m seriously playing with only 4 skills here. Groundslam AoEs everything in a cone, molten strike for single-target with collateral fire projectile damage, I picked up Warlord’s Mark as a curse since I got tired of the NPCs using it on me to such great effect and a little more leech couldn’t hurt, and rejuvenation totem for the times when a flask won’t cut it.

Groundslam all the things. They stun and pretty much sit in the cone.
Groundslam all the things. They stun and pretty much sit in the cone and die, with only a few managing to close in.
Molten strike spam with a rejuv totem sitting pretty.
Molten strike spam with a rejuv totem sitting pretty.

It… can be a little boring.

(It’s certainly a change from the tension and challenge of the noob Shadow, where it’s a mad juggle of summons in succession for long enough to dart in and out and hit things with daggers. Still, variable difficulty that one can pick at will by changing characters ain’t bad.)

I have Searing Bond slotted, mostly out of a morbid curiosity to see how high the dps goes as the gem levels. I generally don’t use it except when I’m just playing around. It looks like a totem-based Searing Bond Templar might be pretty fun, but apparently it’s also going to suffer a little dps nerf in the Forsaken Masters patch (aka less than 14 hours away) so we’ll see. Filed away for ‘play later, probably when no longer fashionable, because one is slow and late to everything.’

Geofri’s Baptism finally got replaced around level 53-54, with a very ordinary, but four-linked magic Dread Maul, crafted for physical damage increase.

A chance Ledge run for fun dropped a unique Dread Maul, which made me stop and stare, incredulous at how RNG -actually- dropped a weapon that fit the character I was playing at the time.

Naturally, once I id’ed it, it turns out that Murphy’s Law struck again.

voidhome

Decreased experience gain? Reduced item rarity? Is this thing for real?!

Some googling and research later, it turns out that opinions are mixed on this highly interesting unique.

On the plus side, folks were saying that this is a great farming weapon, when you don’t want to outlevel a map too quickly, and are going for currency. Instead of item rarity, put on item quantity and just hit things and watch stuff fall out of their pockets, essentially.

Someone else suggested that this was a good weapon to put on weapon swap – which made a lot of sense to me, since my second slot had been sitting empty for the past 50 levels – and that it was good for boss-killing, wail away until the last sliver of hp, then swap back to normal weapon for normal loot drops, and for bludgeoning one’s way past difficult levels for newbies when you’re only concerned about progressing through the locations and quests, rather than racking up xp or loot.

Which all seemed fairly logical, and what-the-hell, I had it, so let’s try it out.

The dps on this thing is CRAZY.

That 50% increased attack speed essentially doubles your dps, and the mana leech means you pretty much do not run out of mana. Gone was the regular needing-to-quaff-a-mana-flask-every-now-and-then.

I ran around the Ledge farming map like a lawnmower, holding down the ground slam button, giggling like a maniac.

Fun factor-wise, this thing gets a thumbs up from me.

Frankly, after thinking about it, if I’m killing things twice as quickly or faster, 44% reduction in experience gain simply means I’m gaining xp at about the usual pace. Ie. a necessary balance.

It turns out that between some other chance buffs on the items, I’m only at a -5% item rarity, so it’s not -horrible- horrible, I still pop rares now and then, but maybe less than previously. Anyway, the character wasn’t built for item farming as the main purpose – I don’t exactly own a surplus of Increased Item Rarity and Increased Item Quantity gems to begin with, so it’s not a major breaking point.

In a way, it’s kind of interesting that this sort of unique exists – where it isn’t a straight up across the board improvement – that forces you to think about tradeoffs.

I settled for putting it on secondary weapon swap.

If I could get by with normal experience and item rarity with my normal weapon, then everything’s good.

If I can’t, it’s nice to have a cheatmode weapon standing by, just in case.

Guild Wars 2

Over in wood-farming land, I faithfully farmed up Foxfire Clusters for seven days and sold a ton of them and made a lot of gold…

…before deciding today that I could no longer wait -another seven days – for the next stage of the time-limited backpack, and correspondingly spent a lot of gold.

Well, easy come, easy go.

Virtual currency is for spending and all that.

I guess I’ve discovered that my willpower limit is around a week.

I faithfully built the Cultivated Vine from scratch, producing a plant food of each type per day, and using all hoarded materials in the process.

There was a time when I was faithfully charging up Celestial quartz crystals, so there were 10 standing by and ready. I’d accumulated 100+ Sunstone Lumps, so no problems on that front either. I’d jumped into T6 Dry Top on the first day Dragon’s Reach Part 2 launched, and bought all the recipes and clay needed for the clay pot, etc.

Unfortunately, after the first stage was made, and I was left holding the next stage’s Pet Seed, I realized that I hadn’t -quite- planned long term enough, having staunchly tried to avoid reading the Dulfy guide for the backpack.

I did have 48 Foxfire clusters, ready for the Mist-Infused Clay Pot, and the next 7 days of Piquant Plant Food.

I didn’t have enough clay for another clay pot, and organized Dry Tops seemed to have dried up in favor of the Blix farm. Bah.

I didn’t have enough charged quartz crystals, I’d need another 3-4 days, AND I’d seen how much sunstone lumps were going for and converted everything I owned and offloaded it to make $$$ fast. I mean, what better time to make a serious profit on lowbie material hoarding?

I had 12 Pristine Fractal Relics standing by in the bank – turns out I actually do run more fractals than the few complaining that they’re ‘forced’ into the activity and scared of grouping, which is quite incredible considering I’ve only stepped in there twice or thrice in the last few months – and a crafted +5 infusion that had been taking up a bank slot since the Thaumanova Reactor fractal days.

And I really couldn’t deal with the thought of slowly waiting another seven days for freakin’ plant food before I got my hands on Mawdrey II. That’s seven days of bloodstone dust eating. (In return for crap greens, sure, but the prospect of freeing up inventory and bank slots is super appealing.)

So I talked myself into buying 7 of each type of plant food, a clay pot and a grow lamp.

I figure I should be able to sell off 7 plant food in the coming days, albeit at ever-decreasing prices, and only be short a couple gold when all is said and done. That’s seven days of not-obsessing over Mawdrey, and more potential earning power by being able to focus on other things.

The clay pot, one might as well eat as the cost of saving geodes for the next Ambrite weapon skin, assuming I ever find a T6 Dry Top again.

The grow lamp is the only one that kind of hurts a bit, but well, if I run around, mine nodes, and sell off all the watchwork sprockets and sunstone that pop out, it might offset the cost just a little. Anyway, spending 10-20 gold doesn’t sound that bad to speed up the whole process.

mawdrey

All that rationalization of spending later, it sure is a cutie.

I haven’t even decided on a character to put the vine on yet. Maybe I’ll check the sylvari necro later.

But it ate 150 Bloodstone Dust today, and I’m happy.

.

In other news, I haven’t done any of the Challenger Cliff Dry Top achievements, nor the hard mode Living Story achievements yet.

I just seem to be spacing out the content over time, given that it’s still going to be weeks before the feature patch, and months before the Living Story comes around again. Permanent content, ho.

I bit the bullet and did a few more PvP matches yesterday and today and picked up the last 9% on the Balthazar backpiece reward track.

(It was weird, I was on a big PvP kick for a while, and then I just sort of couldn’t muster up any enthusiasm for walking into a match and getting mauled. It’s funny how people give up and stack teams so quickly.

I braved Solo Queue for two matches, and turned up on the mauling side for once. That was nice, in terms of how we simply dominated the other side and stayed on point – though I couldn’t believe I managed to 1 vs 2 on home point and win, they must have been quite new – but I’m sure it was very much less enjoyable for the other team. So much so, one of them quit part way through, when the score was 250 vs 55 or so, and things only got worse for them from there.

Then I got impatient waiting for solo arena to pop, and went for the shameless hotjoin to speed up the daily. I ended up finishing the match and the daily with like 0.1% left on the backpiece track, so I had to sit through another match. Naturally, the randomly hotjoin server was already stacked, and I was desperate enough to join on the losing side for that smidgen of 191 rank points that would knock me over and earn me the backpiece.

That went as horrifically as expected – turned up on home to get ganged up on 3 on 1, went far since everyone appeared to be having fun executing the rest of my team on home and had a fun 1 vs 1 for about 20 seconds before another guy showed up, and then another. All not my team, of course. We started 1 man down, and were 3 vs 5 by the end. Only reason I stuck around was for the last teensy bit of blue bar to finish up the backpiece.

They really need to figure out more fun PvP gamemodes. Control point capture is only fun when both teams are communicating to their teammates and playing for points as intended.)

I pop by for the Triple Trouble wurm every day or two, jump by the odd world boss for a free rare and have ventured back into WvW for an hour or so each time (slow and steady so as not to burn out again.)

I still intend to get around to leveling the engineer and the elementalist and key-farming, though Path of Exile is sucking up my time and attention right now. (ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN, we’ve missed some of that adrenaline surge.)

I’ve not finished dress-up on the sylvari necro – still some dreamthistle skins worth a ton sitting in the bank, that I guess I’m just going to burn making him look pretty – and I think I’ve finally accumulated enough charged cores and lodestones since launch to make a Foefire weapon, but haven’t got around to checking that yet.

I dunno. I’m generally content and chugging along, with plenty of stuff on the to-do list.

I don’t get all the latest Reddit bruhaha about the Super Adventure Box, after what essentially amounts to a misreading of an amateur interview conducted by fans. “We can’t talk about that now” isn’t the same as “No, you’re not getting that ever” and doesn’t warrant collective hysteria or childish tantrums either.

All it means is that they don’t have the scope or schedule or resources to get around to it yet, or haven’t worked on it to a stage where it can be announced, and/or have to follow and respect Anet’s very draconian PR and community interaction policies (which sadly, make quite a bit of sense when you see the current example of how overblown some fans can get) and somewhat misguided and out-of-touch marketing department (given the prior track record of all their ad campaigns and marketing promotions. It’s sad when third-party Kongzhong does better marketing.)

Just take it for what it is, some clear statements about what’s being worked on, and what’s not yet being worked on and put on the back burner. Sheesh.

There are other games if you’re burning out of GW2. Take a freaking break. Go play Wildstar or Warlords of Draenor if that’s what’s calling you.

Come play Path of Exile if you want to be all excited with expansion hype. (It’s free too!)

Go muck around in Archeage and have fun – up until the point you get repeatedly mauled on multiple traderuns and lose everything and say ‘screw this’ I suppose.

Give the damn devs some time to build stuff, and come back and enjoy it when you’re ready.

And if you’re not willing to leave, this is the BEST time to start hoarding up materials in preparation for the -next- craftable thing they launch that’s going to skyrocket other raw materials in price.

It’s going to happen for sure. It’s just a matter of what.

GW2: You Get No XP For Running Away

But you get tons from attempted genocide...

This isn’t a leveling guide per se.

I’m not teaching any shortcuts, efficient paths to circle around or profitable events or other things people do to SPEED their way through levels. That’s power-leveling. Such abnormal rates are best left to veterans to figure out for themselves when they want to level their alts (eg. via crafting and tomes of knowledge and alt-switching in dungeons and twinking out an alt, etc.)

This is an exploration of the set of questions that seem to pop up on Reddit or the official forums every so often from inexperienced or newbie players:

Why am I leveling so slowly?

Help! I’ve completed all the hearts and mapped the entire zone and I’m still not the correct level to go to the next zone! Or visit my personal story!

Versus my own personal leveling experience, both then (at launch) and now, where this problem simply doesn’t exist.

To sate my own curiosity, I thought I’d make an effort to track the source of where my XP was coming from, as I leveled an engineer in the Plains of Ashford from level 12 to 15 for fun.

(Yes, I could skip with an Experience Scroll, but I enjoy the experience of leveling and wandering through a map.)

Two things, first of all.

The NORMAL rate of experience in GW2 is a level an hour, give or take 15-30mins.

GW2 has a flat, not exponential, leveling curve. In theory, it takes just as long to go from level 11-12 as 78-79. (Though you’ll find in practice, it’s easier to rush through the later levels from accumulated power and ample sources of xp.)

If one is used to other games where you can hit level 10 in under an hour or something like that, it’s NOT going to happen in GW2 on your first character unless one adopts the more abnormal methods of leveling, and those won’t teach you anything about how the game or combat works, nor how to play your character and class well.

The next thing I’d advise is the value of prep time.

The following method of leveling presupposes that you will take the time every now and again to keep all your gear current and that you’ve experimented with the class you’re playing long enough to be familiar with various weapons and skills.

That you’ve developed a build and style of play that you’re comfortable with, where you can actually kill a normal mob in 5 seconds or less. (Give or take a few seconds.)

-Take- the time to learn how.

Why do I consider this so important?

Because if you CAN’T, your first impulse will be always to run away from mobs, in order not to get locked into an endless fight which takes forever, or where you might die and end up back at a waypoint.

You get no xp for running away.

You are not going to level up fast by avoiding fights and skipping everything. (Unless you just want to trade real money for gems, convert that into gold and craft your way to 80. All power to you, then.)

Here’s an actual example to demo what I do:

(Obviously, this is not the only way to level. It’s not the fastest method by far, it uses no special boosters and such, but I believe this is an -affordable- way of leveling normally and enjoying the process.)

Preparation: A leisurely 20-30 min, because I’m not hurrying to break any records, just showing how I do it in the course of normal play.

engi-preprep

Logging into my level 12 engineer alt reveals that her equipment has gotten a little outdated at level 6 and under, when she’s hit level 12.

Time to visit the nearby town of Smokestead and the trading post.

I set up a preliminary broad filter of level 8-12 Fine (blue) equipment to check which is the closest level range that has Power stats.

tp-browsing

(To save my mind and too much scrolling, I only look for one type of armor, in this case, boots.)

I sort by price and notice that they’re all in the affordable 1-3 silver range (which is good, I try not to buy overpriced stuff and would rather look for the dropped equipment level ranges which have ample supply).

The closest to my level, with Power stats, is 11. Perfect.

tp-specificsearch

We proceed to narrow down the search to level 11-12, and swap between all armor locations to buy the correct weight class of armor. Medium, in this case, for an engineer.

(TP improvements to actually search by appropriate armor weight class can’t come soon enough.)

We can also look for jewelery by searching for Trinkets. Again, buy whatever’s closest to your level that gives Power, assuming it’s affordable. (If it’s not, it’s also possible to trawl the wiki and look for karma vendors that sell Power jewelery that is closest in level, but eh, that’s too much effort for me, personally. I have a crafter, and tons of stockpiles, so I craft it if I don’t want to buy it.)

Yes, this presupposes that a newbie has enough money to buy decent gear.

The solution is to gather and SELL all the things, especially on the TP.

Buy all harvesting tools from the vendor and go around harvesting nodes as you level. As gear you can’t use falls into your inventory, TP it off. Don’t sell to a buy order already sitting there, set the price and wait.

In my little leveling experiment for this post, I sold off all the copper ore, green wood logs, blue and white drops, etc. at the lowest sell order, just to see what a newbie might receive, and earned 40 silver without real difficulty. This can pay for decent equipment from the TP, and I didn’t even check each piece of gear to see if someone was sneakily posting stuff for a couple silvers cheap to flip and turn a profit that way.

tp-runes

This next part is the closest to twinking as it gets.

The idea is that we want as much Power for our stats as possible. More Power, more dps, less time taken to kill a mob, more xp/time and you won’t be tempted to run around a mob rather than just cut your way through it.

Search for “Minor Rune of” and look for all the runes with +10 Power on the first rune application. We will buy one each of a different type – the cheap ones – and then stick ’em onto every armor slot we have. Once you can wear helm and shoulders, that makes +60 Power. Every little bit helps.

Search for “Minor Sigil of Bloodlust” and if it’s affordable, buy one for your weapon too. As you kill stuff, this builds up even more Power to kill things.

I used to like to put a minor sigil of speed on too, to give swiftness as we kill our way through mobs and make running around faster – but the price has shot up to 8 silver currently for whatever unknown reason. I don’t need to be fast THAT badly. Yes, I am cheap.

(At higher levels, one can move on to Major Runes and Sigils once one can put ’em on one’s gear.)

tp-purchases

We finish our prep with a nice and cheap way to get an XP bonus.

Cheap consumables. That also preferably help us to kill things.

One can look up the GW2 wiki for food that best matches your level range, and I’m a big fan of +Power on kill foods. This is less handy for endgame folks who want an always-on boost, rather than have to always have something dead first and keep killing things within 30 seconds to maintain the buff, but when leveling, this is very easily achieved as you go through lots of small mobs, rather than big reservoirs of hp or players who won’t cooperate and die within the time limit.

And yep, more Power the merrier.

Get a food. Get a wrench. The sharpening stone tends to be less useful for raw Power, but it is cheap as hell, and adds an extra xp bonus that one may as well have on.

adventureho

Buffed to the gills, we set out on our leveling adventure!

So here’s how this works:

  • Check the map, pick a direction, probably towards an uncompleted heart, point of interest (POI) or waypoint (WP).
  • Head that way with minimal reference to the map, killing ANY mob in your way, red or yellow.
  • If you see an event, go towards it and do it.
  • If there’s a gathering node in your minimap, go harvest it.
  • When you eventually arrive at your destination, complete it and pick a new direction.

(Have your adventure along the way. No, adventure does not mean running past everything, not looking at it! You only get XP for skipping in dungeons!)

For instance, in this real example, I walk out of Smokestead to stumble on an active Dynamic Event involving harpies and mortars. This yields 880xp for kills, and 375xp for the event completion.

Finishing it, I head to the nearest vista to grab it, killing everything along the way. 123xp from gathering, 346xp from killing, and 90xp for the actual vista.

I’m using a rifle on this engineer, having experimented previously and decided I can operate it without too much problems. Autoattacking from range 5 times tends to kill most normal mobs. I have an immobilize on skill 2 to stop them coming nearer. I can go into close range and shotgun blast with 3 when I need extra burst damage, and pound on skill 5 to jump and AoE damage wherever my mouse cursor points to. I tend to leave 4 untouched as I don’t need such a strong knockback in regular PvE play – it’s an option to remember that one has, to be used situationally. Further AoE damage comes from F2, the tool belt bonus from having a grenade kit equipped.

When I need even moar AoE, I swap into the grenade kit and spam all the things.

Elixir H seems decent enough as a heal, and provides valuable boons both in itself and in its tool belt skill. Utility goggles is a stun break, gives fury, and its tool belt skill applies vulnerability. (Moar damage, the merrier.)

Couldn’t care less if it’s meta or not at this stage, just mostly concerned that it can kill things and that one is comfortable using it. Plenty of time to experiment as we level up further.

Next, I head into Barradin’s Vault for the POI at the end. Thankfully, the ghosts have been completed, but I shoot my way through all the veteran oozes just the same, rather than run blindly past. 35xp from gathering a mushroom, 311xp for kills, 90xp for the POI.

Onward to the next vista, and then the next WP, stumbling into Badazar’s Champion along the way.

badazar

For fun, I decide to solo it.

See, this is what teaches you the limits of your class and pushes you to improve your play. Never assume that just because it says Group Event, that it can’t be done, especially in lower level zones where mobs tend to be simpler.

If you can’t solo it, there’s something you haven’t yet learned about GW2 combat – be it dodging, how to read animations, kiting at range, how your class works, etc.

It turns out, that Badazar’s Champion can be shot quite safely from range, with only one big attack that he will shoot at you. This is telegraphed by him drawing back his staff and then thrusting it out with a lightning bolt that zaps its way toward you. DODGE when he draws back his staff, and you’ll EVADE his lightning bolt quite handily.

Now, if you don’t have ready access to Vigor to regenerate back endurance, you will run out of endurance on the third attack. This is a perfect time to figure out what other class skills you have that can be used to absorb it. In this particular engineer’s case, I just toughed it out by throwing on a random boom (hopefully it turned out to be regen or protection) and healing it up with the heal skill. A guardian can “block” this, for example, and so on.

41xp for the dead champion (with a champion bag that yielded 1 silver 26 copper), and 396xp for the event completion.

On and on through the Plains of Ashford, from one waypoint or POI to another, doing all the events along the way, and massacring every mob within view.

On the whole, people don’t kill mobs very frequently, and this, I suspect, is where they are losing out on hefty chunks of xp.

Especially if the mob has been sitting untouched for a long time, in an out-of-the-way place, and has loads of bonus xp. Yes, killing them and hoovering up the xp is your reward for exploring off the beaten path.

excel-xp

The final result:

3 levels in 2h 45min, at a leisurely pace which included one merchant/TP break of 10-15+ minutes, sucking up my food time, plus me stopping every now and then to record numbers down on an Excel sheet.

45.1% of my XP came from killing things (both along the way – about 2/3 of it – and in events – about 1/3 of it.)

The event completion reward yielded 22.5% of the total XP gain.

Heart completion reward yielded 11.1% of total XP gain.

The other stuff, gathering, reviving NPCs, visiting vistas and WPs/POIs were much smaller contributions individually, but combined, make up the remaining 21.4%.

And I still haven’t even map completed all of Plains of Ashford yet. Or touched Personal Story. Or crafted. All of which are extra sources of xp.

 

Now I’m sure if someone else measured their XP rates using a different style of play – say,  race from heart to heart, doing the bare minimum, and covering a much wider map area, I daresay their proportion of XP from heart completion will be much higher.

But here’s the thing: folks are -complaining- that they’ve run out of map and places to go, that they’re leveling super slowly and getting their asses beat up by mobs their level or 1-2 higher (which are perfectly doable if you take the time to figure out what weapons skills are the most damaging and how you’re going to mitigate damage), and are getting told to go visit all the other starter zones like some twisted version of the Grand Tyrian Marathon or something.

You don’t HAVE to do it that way if you don’t want to.

ahhghosts

Moral of the story: You can, and should, be killing all the things.

If you’re not sure how, EXPERIMENT and ASK.

And you’ll handle your character a lot more confidently when you get to level 80, and hopefully, have some exciting adventures along the way.