TSW: THAT Guy – A Soliloquy on Preferring to Solo

Self, I gotta question for you.

Go ahead, shoot.

Why is it that you’ve just spent the better part of an hour slicing and dicing these Goliaths into itty bitty pieces by your lonesome? Aren’t you sick and tired of repeating the same thing over and over?

Not really, no. Do ya see how easily I’m taking them down now that I spent half an hour reworking my build into something more efficiently survival-dps based? See how sexy it is to finish them off with my flashing chopping blade? I’m Slayer-ing them good.

I forgot to screenshot cos I was having too good a time, but I’ll let this Surf Hulk thing stand in for the Goliaths.

And the green crap that has been dropping is pretty spiffy, from a providing crafting raw materials perspective.

Who knows, maybe a blue will drop, you see that blue chaos focus (that I can’t use) that dropped and shocked me?

Maybe it’s a really rare chance, a jackpot chance that’s not likely to happen, or just bugged because of extra players in the vicinity, but I won’t know until I slice and dice a hunnerd of them or so, right?

Why don’t you just go to that Polaris dungeon I keep hearing about? You got that “Dead in the Water” quest sitting in your mission log like so much deadweight. I hear tell you can get blues in dungeons.

Well, self, I got lots of issues with grouping right now. And I’ve been thinking as I meditatively chop these hulks down to size, I’m thinking they all ultimately boil down to  “THAT guy” problems.

Huh?

First off, self, it’s not like I didn’t try. Look, I’ll show you, I got into a group, I got on board that damn plane, and I hit the instance. I lucked into one of the DPS slots, so I won’t touch on the holy trinity perception problem until later.

I think there was some kind of cutscene. About a ship, maybe. I don’t rightly know, I kinda blank out on any group-related storytelling because I’m too worried about the actual grouping mechanics and details and not dying horribly.

There was a guy there, he said he was gonna tank. There was another gal (who could be a guy) who was gonna heal. And two other DPS people. And me. So far, so good.

Then one of the DPS guys said he needed a sec, he was gonna respec and rebuild some stuff. Ok, no problems, it’s a new game, the first dungeon, a lot of us are all coming into this cold, let’s give him a minute for him to get set and ready.

The tank and I hadn’t done this before and said so. No worries, said the last DPS, I done this dozens of times, it’s nothing. Don’t worry, said the healer, I’m a dang good healer. We wait. And we wait some more. Then the healer accidentally aggros a patrol (oops, my bad, she says later. No problem, to err is human, after all) and the four of us jump it and hey, it’s really not so bad, this trash mob, quite easily killed and wowee, the xp is good.

We wander over to the first boss, and since it’s a boss, the tank says, we better wait for the last guy. We wait longer. And more.

Finally, there’s life down the group chat bar and he’s done. Where are you all, he says. Couple minutes later, he finally finds us. Woot, now we’re a team. Now we’re set to rock this joint and we charge the first boss. And straight away, the last DPS pulls aggro from the tank and he ends up the impromptu tank. Gee, the tank says, maybe you could have told me you were rebuilding to tank, and I coulda put some DPS into my build. There’s seriously no way I can pull this aggro back, I’m trying and it’s not working with the tools I got right now. The guy says nothing, just keeps pulling aggro.

Good thing the healer was right and she really was a damn good healer cos that DPS guy stayed upright, if at half health. I feel obliged to help out a smidgen with Anima Shot, which I tossed in by taking out my hate generating blade AoE because I didn’t want to be THAT DPSer guy who yanks aggro from the tank. Everybody stays alive, probably cos first dungeons are first dungeons for a reason and relatively forgiving.

We go through some bosses. There are a few mechanics to take note of. Don’t step in this or that. Burn adds down fast. That kinda thing. Self, lemme tell you something honestly.

What’s that, self?

I really hate that kinda group learning mechanics thing. Or at least, it’s been wearing down on me bad.

I did lots of group dungeons in Rift, because it was easy to get a Looking for Dungeon team with their tool, and at least I could queue as support, which is something that fits my psyche and after investing a couple hours reading guides and forums, respecing, following a template build and parsing, all of which were quite tedious, at least I was sure that I was contributing a satisfactory amount of damage and healing and I wouldn’t be shouted at for dragging the team down.

But the problem was that there were so many mechanics to learn and remember and perform to exacting standards, otherwise you wipe the whole team kind of deal, that I always had a dungeon guide/walkthrough sitting open in my other screen so that I was aware of the theory, even if complete learning had to be practiced by repeatedly doing. That kinda spoils the discovery aspect of the thing, you know? The joy of exploring and finding out that I like so much. But I don’t want to be THAT clueless guy running ahead into every damn trap the designers set up either. Because I’d look fucking stupid in front of a lot of other people.

It’s not like I’m so good at the game that I can perform well 90%, 100% of the time either. I’m probably a 50%-75% average to above average player, optimistically speaking. But you know what’s the biggest difference when I solo and when I group, self?

Hmm?

If I fail when I solo, it just affects me. I fall over and die. I respawn and gotta run back. Shit, I wasted my time, but it’s my own time to waste. I’m not screwing over other people.

Then there’s the locus of control. If I’m alone, it falls to me to examine what my problem is, to fix my spec, to experiment and try until it’s good and I’m killing the mobs and not vice versa. It feels good when I take myself from fail to success, cos I did it, my invested time to strategize a build and my skill hitting appropriate buttons at appropriate timings.

With other people, it’s not just a two dimension problem. Me fail or me succeed. The ideal is me succeed, they succeed. Then everyone’s happy and the dungeon is run at picture perfect speed with perfect execution, badabing badaboom. But then there’s me fail, they succeed. Which would make me feel really bad at being THAT guy.

Oh come on, you’re not that bad. Maybe you’re a 75/25 person, which is pretty good already.

Hell, self, even if the whole team was made up of 75% good people, we have an inherent problem. If two people succeed 75% of the time on their own, mathematically speaking, they got a 9/16 chance (or 56.25%) of both succeeding at the same time. If three people, then well, we’re looking at 3/4 x 3/4 x 3/4 or 27/64 = 42%. Five people, 23.7% chance that all will perform to perfection.

At other times, at least one guy is failing and the other people  have to compensate. Or the rare chance that everybody fails, at which point, they total party wipe. On the bright side, there’s no one to blame if everyone fails together. Otherwise, there’s always THAT guy who is screwing something up, somewhere, somewhen.

That’s just a bit aggravating to me. I don’t know why, but it is.  I know it doesn’t make logical sense, but emotionally, intuitively, that’s how I end up feeling on these things. Maybe I’m just reading a bit too much into it, but I do. I can’t help myself.

Anyhow, I was complaining about mechanics before I sidetreked into this. I did a lot of this in Rift. Realized I didn’t like it much. I did a lot of this in City of Heroes too, on Incarnate trials. Which was even worse because it was just way too many people to keep track of and overwhelmingly exhausting on one’s situational awareness. And those were just baby raids if that. I have no clue how people can stand it in games like WoW because it seems mathematically impossible that with 10, 15, 25 people, at least 3-5 people must be screwing shit up at any one point in time, the cat herding exercise is already blowing my mind in theory.

Well, maybe people put up with it because they want the shiny rewards at the end.

Self, I don’t really give two fucks about shiny rewards. Well, I do, just a little, but I got big issues with how they’re distributed, see.

Need/Greed systems always screw me over. Lemme tell you, self, I see a reward drop, I want it. Call me selfish, but that’s how I’m built. When I solo, I can get it all. Shit drops. I take it. It’s mine. It goes into my inventory. It’s clear cut and easy.

In a group, I gotta be mindful of the three or four other people with me. I gotta be polite. I gotta be courteous and build my rep, so I don’t look like an asshole that no one wants to group with ever again. I gotta share, and the way the crazy developers think is the fairest method of sharing, is for everybody to keep rolling individual dice rolls for individual items.

Self, I am crap at lotteries. The dice never go my fucking way. Every time I greed something, I never get it. Period. Probability already says I got a 80% chance of not getting it, if there’s five people all greeding it. That 20% chance? Doesn’t really happen for me. Some people are naturally a little luckier and I guess there’s the opposite to balance them off, and I’m it.

Well, that’s why they have the Need part of Need/Greed.

Right. The part that tests your speed reading skills when you have to mouseover the item real quick-like to see if maybe the stats are an improvement over what you’re wearing and make a snap decision as to whether you can legitimately Need it without folks shouting at you for being a ninja looting whore. I read fast, but I don’t like the stress and the pressure, thank you. And there’s usually someone else what Needs it too, and remember my sucktastic luck at dice rolling?

I end up more irritated than not if I run a dungeon expecting to get any loot out of it. I’ll be content enough just sightseeing. Makes me calmer and more Zen that way.

Okay, okay, I get it. So just go sightsee. What’s the problem? It’s a bloody MMO, innit? Mul-ti-play-er, they’ll keep stressing to you, cos yer being thick.

Self, I’m also lazy and I don’t like responsibility. I play a bloody MMO to have fun, for escapism and immersion purposes. And holy trinity group MMOs can go hang themselves.

I don’t heal. Don’t like it. Am shit at it. Playing whack a mole with green healthbars is not my idea of fun. Getting blamed or shamed for letting someone die cos their defences or hp sucks ass is ridiculously dumb and just makes my misanthropy levels rise further. All in all, not healthy and not my idea of a good time. So nix full healer-ing. That’s right out.

I confess, I half-like tanking. But tanking is a lot of work. You end up needing to find gear that is the equivalent of welding giant metal plates on yourself – great for withstanding hits and useless at doing anything else. And taking a lot of skills that are basically about you yelling your momma insults at the poor dumb mob. And you gotta know the dungeon cos folks expect the tank to lead them properly and not off a cliff or something equally stupid. Which is not great for first time experiences and winds up being a second job for an alt or some such.

So that leaves DPSing and hybrids thereof. Which nearly everyone and their momma is. Which means competition for spaces and slots and loot is fierce and you’re basically expendable and interchangeable. All of which also winds up reducing my enjoyment of the whole ‘grouping’ prospect.

The sad thing is, I don’t think The Secret World cleaves that tightly to holy trinity. I’m sure if City of Heroes can manage it, and if even Aion managed to get away with some flexibility, a heal/tank and 4 DPS/heal hybrids would do absolutely fine, among other blends and variations. But people are creatures of comfortable routine and habit and if holy trinity role specialization works, that’s what they’re going to stick with cos that’s what they know. And I don’t have four friends that constantly play at the same time who can tailor their builds to something so experimentally esoteric.

Anyway, self, there’s one more reason I’ve been holding back on joining another Polaris dungeon in The Secret World.

And what’s that?

You know that earlier story about the one and only group I joined? I ain’t told you the bitter end yet.

We got to the penultimate boss, which was all about burning adds at intervals and avoiding periodic aoe knockback or some such.

I shoulda stayed here assault rifling. But no, I had to go blade crazy on it cos everyone was melee’ing too.

Then I accidentally was a split second too late in avoiding the marking on the floor and I got knocked back. I got knocked back SO goddamn hard it crashed my client. It went beyond mere crashing. It literally hung my entire computer with the audio on a stalled loop.

I presume it’s really because I’m on a Win XP 32-bit system and memory issues were finally too much with the extra adds spawning that I got knocked into, but it was really sucky timing. I had to reboot the computer, and The Secret World loads like an oil tanker steers.

It took ten whole minutes to get back into the game, with my blood pressure shooting through the roof from the frustration and stress. Obviously, I loaded in face first, on the floor, out of the dungeon, and apparently back in my home dimension, out of group.

The team leader didn’t respond to my tells and I can’t blame them, really. Either they were madly fighting the last boss at the time, and/or they probably recruited another interchangeable DPS to make up the shortfall. I myself wouldn’t want to be hanging around waiting for the ten minutes it took for me to load in anyway.

See, so I ended up being THAT other guy too. (Through no fault of my own, but seriously, most THAT guys don’t do it on purpose, unless they’re griefers, right?)

Sheesh, you just can’t win, can you? You loser.

And that’s why I’m minding my own business over here by myself, harming no one but me and a bunch of electronic monsters. It’s a lot less annoying for everyone.

(Until the next time I decide I can put up with all the potential aggravation again, at any rate.)

ATITD: The Clay “Grind”

And now for Clay on a slightly more personal scale.

I’ll also take the opportunity to talk a bit about economies of scale and macros, which are some things that are decidedly uncommon for many regular MMOs.

More Planning for the Raeli Oven Project

Previously, I shared my hopes for working towards the building of my own personal Raeli Oven. Among other things, I’m going to need 3000 Clay Bricks and 20 Clay-Steeped Wool Cloth for that grand project.

Just how much total clay in raw materials is going to be required?

I already have the Wool Cloth, so I just need to soak it in my tubs. This requires:

1 Wool Cloth
10 Clay
20 Water in Jugs

The Jugs themselves are not consumed, just the water, so it’s no biggy. That’s 20 x 10… 200 Clay for the cloth.

12 Wet Clay Bricks are made from 8 Clay and 4 Sand.

This -is- a desert, so sand is essentially free. Just wander over to an area with sand, and pick up as much as you can carry, any time you like.

That makes 3000 Bricks / 12 * 8 Clay = 2000 Clay

In total, 2200 Clay will be needed.

*gulp*

By the way, as previously mentioned, if not for this blog, I really wouldn’t plan as much. I’m more of a go-with-the-flow kind of person, so I would probably just log on, work on making as many Clay Bricks as I possibly could until I got bored, and then proceed to change up activities or log off. Repeat until one day I count 3000 Clay Bricks sitting in my warehouse. Point is, it doesn’t matter if you lean towards being Type A or Type B, it is still possible to play a sandbox in the manner which you enjoy.

However, if you’re more of an obsessive Type A planning sort, A Tale in the Desert will definitely feed your penchant for plans and to-do lists, and you’d probably get there a lot faster than the laid back Type Bs. (The Type Bs would probably enjoy themselves a bit more though and run less risk of burning out.)

Clay Automation

In the usual paradoxical manner of ATITD, if you have an upgraded Raeli Oven, you can actually set it to automatically dredge up clay for you.

Obviously, we don’t have one yet.

(Grrr.)

The societal shortcut route is always possible in this game. It’s how latecomers to the Tale can catch up. Those that came before had it harder, and their work can make things a lot easier for those coming after. It is always possible to get into a Guild with upgraded Raeli Ovens, earn enough trust to be allowed to operate them, and get your Tiles that way, or Clay, and the guild probably already has a ginormous stockpile of Clay somewhere. Or you could trade for it, etc, etc.

I do have social ties to some very nice veterans that I can always ask for help, but you know, it wouldn’t be as fun. Often, I find I like having those ties for the company, the community, and just reassuring backup that if all else fails, there’s always the guild option and asking for a loan. Continually begging would wear down on one’s social reputation, diminishing trust (it’s all interrelated in this game) and worse, I would always feel so inferior and needy and never learn and improve. That’s one of the things I love in ATITD, coming up with one’s own personal methods for generating resources.

You see, it’s all about those economies of scale again.

With 1 Jug or 10 Jugs, collecting 2200 clay is going to suck pretty hard. You’d have to repeat the “Get Water into Jugs” step too many times and interrupt the process of clay collection.

Typically, players have already made themselves upwards of 100-500 Jugs, depending on how much you can and feel like carrying.

Rummaging around in my warehouses, I eventually locate my Jugs (haha) and find I have 360 to hand, which isn’t too bad. Remember, it’s that whole finding your personal balance point thing again. It’ll take a much longer time investment to create 1000 Jugs rather than 100 Jugs, and only you can decide when enough is enough, or when it isn’t enough.

I pop over to the nearby water source (this is why many players live by the River Nile, and a nearby water source is something new players should bear in mind when looking for a site to call their own) and fill them up.

Quick recap: With 360 Water in Jugs, position oneself over a clay patch, and click on the red clay icon.

“Clunk” goes the sound effect, and 1 Clay pops into your inventory. The icon disappears.  Now you’ll have to move a few steps until the red clay icon appears again, and click once more. Rinse and repeat until you run out of Water in Jugs.

Moving a few steps can be done in two ways:

  1. Click a spot to move there, aka click-to-move.
  2. Minimizing chat channels, then using the arrow keys (not WASD) to move left, right, up, down.

Pop quiz for the math inclined. How many clicks (and key presses) is it going to take to collect 2200 Clay?

Frankly, I don’t know. I’m really poor at math. And Diablo, this game is not.

But it -is- hardcore, in its own way.

It’s a sandbox. You COULD choose to manually click your way to 2200 Clay. No one will stop you. (Though they may point and laugh.)

(Just kidding.)

On The Care and Feeding of Macros

One of my most favorite things about ATITD besides the nice, welcoming community with a small-town feel reminiscent of MUDs, is that the use of macros are legally allowed.

The only thing that is illegal is UNATTENDED macro’ing. If a GM or staff member catches you unable to respond and your character busy botting away, then you’re looking at a ban. There goes your character, your sub and your everything, permadeath essentially. Who says ATITD isn’t hardcore? Moral of the story: Sit and look at your screen and be able to respond and all will be well.

Macros are something that all players should try giving a go with. It’s like a minigame of its own, sitting there planning out your scripted moves, testing, re-testing, until sweet success, stuff works as desired and all that prior time and effort invested will save you time and make it more convenient for you later on. (Sound like the rest of ATITD to you? Yep.)

I have the fondest, nostalgic memories about doing similar things with the MUD I used to play. Some MUDs ban the use of macros and scripts, but mine was always okay with them. So I’d sit and play around with speedwalks (a quick list of n, e, s, w directions to quickly move from place to place), aliases (shortcut abbreviations expanding out to whole word commands), macros and triggers. I was supremely competitive at the time, and found that all this stuff gave me a significant edge over those who didn’t use such things, and won plenty of contests as a result. These things are not just plug-and-play add-ons though, the user is also important in identifying the things that are best shortcutted, customizing all the inputs so that it becomes second nature and knowing how and when best to use the tools.

In many of those old MUD contests, they’d test your knowledge of the quirks, trivia and lore of the MUD too, and that’s not something macros can help with. You yourself the player must have the knowledge and the skill. The machine, the macros, are your tools. I coined my own term for this interrelationship of human input and macro response to produce results quicker than most people can conceive or attain – I called it “cyborging” and it’s an exceptional experience. For me, it hit a flow state very quickly, and all those expressions of “How the fuck?” “Wow” “Goddamn, you’re good” just added egoistical icing on top. Until the burn out, but that’s another tale.

So, back to ATITD. Can we macro clay?

You betcha. In the community spirit of ATITD, people come together to help each other out, and many exceptionally skilled people (far far better mathematicians and programmers than I) have written things for others to use. Macro scripts and even whole programs or macro engines specifically for ATITD. Convinced that ATITD is hardcore yet?

There’s plenty to pick and choose from. As these blog posts progress, I’ll show you the ones I like to use. Who knows, maybe it’ll be helpful for a new player looking for tips, because a lot of this stuff is NOT obvious at all. When I first started playing ATITD as a newbie, I remember feeling absolutely amazed, out of my league, and unable to conceive just how other players were so gosh-darned productive. Even now, I observe a lot of people logging in, trying out the game, encountering stuck points, and then giving up and disappearing for good without making the leap to a level they can be comfortable at and contribute to the community.

I had the good fortune of meeting some very nice veterans every Telling I played and joining guilds where I could observe how better players play. Plenty of wiki reading, people watching and experimentation paved the way for me to talk about this. Fair warning: I am by no means as skilled as most of the veterans in this game, I’m probably not as efficient as it’s possible to be, but I’d like to share all the same.

Do bear in mind the central theme of ATITD – “finding your own balance point,” what works for me may not work for you or someone else, but it’s nice to see what other people are doing and learn from them and find what works for you.

Sorry. Clay now, I promise. I’m fond of the first program I used way back in Tale 4. Rogarian’s R-Cubed. (Yes, you can truly attain fame in this game, this sandbox gives plenty of opportunities for people to specialize, shine, and put their names on things. Like programs. Are you tired of me saying this word yet? Hardcore.)

It’s very simple to use. Still gives you plenty of control – I’m not fond of full automation, I find it either has a tendency to break or you get so bored of watching the program play the game for you that you either ask yourself what’s the point of me being in the picture, or you walk away from the computer… don’t come crying to me later if you get banned then.

And R-Cubed will stop the moment you alt-tab away from the active window, so it has honesty built into its very core. You -will- be looking at the screen and at the game (unless you walk off AFK, but see above.)

It’s fun to see how ingenious players can get, by analyzing how each macro or program works. R-Cubed looks for the clay icon (or grass, or slate) by periodically checking the color of a pixel on your screen, location and color selected by the player. When you start the macro, hit ctrl and your mouse cursor turns into a cross and acts as a color picker.

Move the mouse cursor over to the red clay icon, check the eye to make sure the pixel color is something unique to the clay icon, and not the surroundings, and release ctrl. That’s it.

R-Cubed checks, and whenever it sees dark red (in this case), it moves your mouse cursor over the icon and left-clicks for you. Clunk, 1 Clay collected.

What it doesn’t do, is move your character for you. But it’s good, in this way, you have more options!

  1. You can opt to move yourself. Just click to run to the start of the clay patch, and your character will move slowly to that spot, picking up clay thanks to R-Cubed as they move.
  2. If you’re like me and crave a bit of twitch every now and then, or want fine control over the way you move, you can minimize your chat channels and use the arrow keys to move up and down, left and around, in circles and in stripes on your clay patch amusing yourself while R-Cubed does all the grunt work of getting clay.
  3. Or you can layer a second macro program with R-Cubed that will actually move your character about.

There’s nothing as boring as repetition, so I actually use all three options for the sake of variety.

In the case of the third option, I make use of my Logitech G25 keyboard because it’s quick and easy and I need an excuse to use it).

But one can always find another macro program that will press up (or left) for a set number of seconds, and then down (or right) for a set number of seconds, and repeat X times, or a program that clicks a location on the screen for you, or whatever. Personal choice and all. It often isn’t worth the trouble unless you really think you need to spend hours on obtaining Clay.

I actively regulate the amount of interactivity I have with ATITD tasks. I believe it’s part of the efficiency/finding your own balance point game. Fully automating it takes away the fun for me because I like some twitch and some input every now and then. For others, they may enjoy looking at the end result of their work in scripting the macro, but I still think it gets boring after just passively watching your character pick up the 300th piece of clay.

So I went back to clicking with the mouse every 5 seconds or so to indicate where my character should run and meditatively listening to the *chunk* *chunk* *chunk* of Clay being picked up and reading public chatter on various chat channels. (And taking screenshots and composing this blog post in my head while my hands were occupied.)

40 minutes of idle clicking later, I have my 2200 Clay.

Again, if I weren’t blog posting, I’d would honestly break gathering up into chunks so that it doesn’t feel too much like a marathon. 5-10 minutes of one activity, do something else, putter about, switch up the variety, and then go back to it.

It just makes it really hard to organize or write a blog post about how you’ve partially done 8 different things. 🙂

On “Grinding”

I believe there is no such thing as “grind” as long as you are aware of your own feelings and reactions and honest with yourself.

1) Are you taking any pleasure in the -present- activity you are doing? (Not looking forward to what you’ll feel when you reach the end, but actively, what you’re doing, do you like it?)

If you’re neutral, or just tolerating it, that’s a warning sign. Do ask yourself if the long-term gain will be worth it or if you might regret it later. And be on the lookout for emotional progress to…

Actively loathing is bad. Stop, stop now, before it’s too late and you ruin the activity for yourself for good. Take a break, go do something else. Come back only when you can honestly answer yes to the question, being neutral isn’t good enough once you’ve ever started hating the activity before.

2) Whenever you start feeling bored with the repetition, even though you do think the activity still has its positive sides, stop and do something else. Don’t ever try to ‘work’ through it or push yourself through a bad spot. It doesn’t work. Burnout lurks behind that self-rationalizing corner. It’s a game, it’s not meant to be a chore or an obligation.

RotMG: The Godlands

…And I’m right smack in the middle of playing Realm of the Mad God.

Realm of the Mad God is one of those games that defies conventional classification. It’s sorta kinda an MMO (in that there’s lots of people playing it at one time), and it’s also a Flash game (which follows the pattern of quick bouts of gameplay snuck in whenever you want), and it’s definitely in the bullet hell arcade shooter genre (plenty of projectiles flying about, but not too extreme.) It has Roguelike permadeath. But you know, it has classes and levels and grinding over and over for better stats and gear in order to get buff enough to kill bigger bads, and that’s gotta make it an MMO, right?

I really like the game. Steam says I’ve got 44 hours logged in it, and before that, I was playing it a fair bit on Kongregate.

I also probably suck at it. Because I’m nowhere near to being “expert,” “pro” or “hardcore” at this game, going by the level of all the leetspeaking folk on the game’s forums who seem to wander around casually in maxed out stats and amazingly good gear. But you know what? I don’t really care. I like playing the game and learning it on my own time.

What is definite is that I’ve moved on from the newbie stage. The newbie stage, imo, is when getting from level 1 to 20 is an adventure in itself, wandering the roads and rivers encountering all the various monsters is a big surprise, and picking up lower tier equipment is an exercise in glee because you sure don’t own anything better yet.

I’ll call myself in the “learning” stage. After you play for a bit and start regularly killing the Gods (monsters) in the Godlands, you start to accumulate a decent amount of T7-T8 gear. To the pros, this is probably still trash to be thrown into the chipper, but it’s enough for my new characters to walk around fairly unmolested and do slightly more twinked out damage, speeding up the process of getting to the max level of 20.

After having wandered the world sufficiently, one also starts to recognize the various areas and various monsters expected to be found in the various terrains. My favorite spot to level really fast is to meander off solo and walk around in the desert until one encounters the huge morass of Giant Crabs and Sandsman Kings that always seems to over-spawn in there. Some people join XP trains, but it seems slower to me – it’s a preference, I hate waiting around for other people before getting moving, I feel more constructive just regularly killing stuff.

So I’m at the stage where I can field level 20s regularly. The next stage is “potting up” or stat-grinding. By killing Gods in the Godlands, there is the rare chance that they’ll drop a potion with which to raise one stat by one point. (Some other event or boss mobs in dungeons also drop potions, but I still find them fairly rough going.)

Some really skilled guy made this video series where he records himself “potting up” a wizard from scratch. Me, I am nowhere near that confident of my skills dodging bullets. I think I went through 4+ wizards and a couple necromancers by taking silly risks in dungeons trying to learn boss fights, getting accidentally shotgunned by Oryx in the end-of-realm fights, and just lagging or being careless a couple seconds too much.

Having sated most of my curiosity (as I’ve ventured into most dungeons, only to Nexus out screaming from most of them when I find myself low on health, and seen most event mob fights), I’m determined to properly pot up a character.

I’m fondest of the wizard class, it’s the simplest to play (hence why everyone starts with it first), long ranged (giving more time to dodge and react), straight firing (easier to aim) and does a fair bit of dps (enough to qualify for soulbound drops on Gods, aka a good farmer!)

Now, general advice is that you earn pots for one character with another farmer – because hey, characters in active play can have shitty things happen to them – accidentally kicking the bucket and losing all your gear is already bad enough, losing all your stat potion progress would be even more irritating. Ideally, in order to get a truly badass wizard, I’d have another wizard on the side farming the pots for him.

Alas, my altholism also has me nurturing a lvl 20 rogue and lvl 20 archer on the side, and I’m unwilling to kill them off at present, nor buy any more character slots. So I’ve decided to try potting up the archer. He has higher defence than wizards, but slightly shorter range and a wider spread of fire. It’s not my best playstyle, but I get by. I also think his performance might get better if his stats improve, so I’m determined to give it a shot.

I had a bad accident with a lvl 20 huntress just a few days ago, which lost me T9 Roc Leather Armor that was from Oryx, a T4 Demonhunter trap that I had been hoarding up for some time and a free T10 Bow of Fey Magic that a nice random player gave me after seeing me plink away at Gods with a measly T5 Fire Bow. Ah well, easy come, easy go. That’s Roguelikes and permadeath for you.

The silver lining to the accident was that it freed up a slot for a dedicated wizard potion farmer, which I resolved to make, and keep re-making when it eventually bites the dust from another accident.

So… enter episode 1: In Which My Wizard Farmer Goes to the Godlands Again and Shoots up Gods in the Hope of Potions Dropping

Well, no, I lied. A couple careless deaths will teach one the value of proper preparation. I’ve made it a habit to always carry health potions before going to any risky areas. This gives me some reaction buffer time in case my health drops too low in a hurry, and lets me stay around longer before I’m forced to Nexus and leave the server and the fight. Oddly enough, the higher tier mobs seem to drop health potions rarely at best, and most of them are a pain in the ass to fight because they’ve got quite a hail of bullets.

So I wander around for a few minutes one-shotting mobs meant for level 1s. Conveniently, they still drop health potions. Sumos are a good source of health and mana potions when you find them. Well stocked, I teleport over to a group of lvl 20s in the Godlands. (This is always just a little bit risky because they could be in the middle of flaming bullet death, but you know, the 1% risk of inevitable death beats walking over.)

One thing I immediately found out is that it is really hard to get any viable screenshots from this game. It’s an arcade shooter with bullet hell wannabe pretensions. Stuff moves FAST. You must dodge FAST.

My left hand is on WASD. My right hand is aiming the cursor and my firing arc with the mouse. There is an auto-fire toggle key in this game, your own bullets can shoot helluva fast, especially once you increase your dex stat. Taking the hand off the mouse long enough to hit Print Screen is an exercise in significant risk. To make matters more interesting, my wizard farmer has pretty decent dps, so Gods evaporate in a couple seconds of being hit square on by my stream of bullets. Many times, I ended up taking pictures of Gods that weren’t there anymore.

Still, it’s interesting to note how far I’ve come. When I first started the game and got to the Godlands, I found it a very confusing, scary place with all kinds of unrecognizable monsters shooting all many of chaotic colors. I ended up huddling with the big pack of players that like to shoot up Gods together – most of them are looking for free XP, I suspect, though it is actually faster to kill stuff at one’s level range. It’s a big risk to go too low leveled into the Godlands because your speed stats are slower, so you dodge slower, you have less defence, and that means when you accidentally eat a faceful of bullets, you earn yourself a happy death announcement notice to the server – like that guy in the screenshot killed by a Djinn at lvl 5.

Between reading the wiki and just plain old experience, I can now tell apart the various Gods, and recognize all their firing patterns and colors.

Medusas are fairly nasty in that they have a red AoE attack they like to throw in front of them. The green stuff they fire starts close together, but spreads out, so keeping at range and dodging a couple milimetres works. White Demons are very easy, with the three ball pattern.

Treants shoot an orange shotgun spread too, they do it fairly fast and are a bit annoying.

Yes, there’s Gods in the snow fields as well. White on white, very tricky when you first encounter it, but really, it’s about knowing their patterns when you saw them on the grey rock already. Djinns used to confuse me with their flower like bullets, I couldn’t quite figure out where to dodge them at first. It’s still hard to describe in words now, but there’s a little gap between the fourth and fifth bullets that I usually just strafe left and right a little between, and one can maintain firing on the Djinn pretty much constantly. Djinn also release a circular ring of bullets when they die, so when you see that, you know they’re dead, even if you’ve dodged off-screen from them. Ghost Gods are nothing special, a spread of bullets as in the picture above, just stay in the gaps.

Stuff gets more confusing when there is more than one God at a time. It’s still about anticipating the patterns and knowing where to dodge. There’s a Flying Brain behind the Treant, they like to shoot very fast pink bolts. I’m not terribly good at dodging them but I try. Two Beholders shooting their star shaped pattern. Some of the Gods also shoot those asterisks, which all tend to be nasty debuffs like blinds and slows. I try not to get hit by any of them, period.

The Leviathan is one of the harder Gods. It appears to have higher hp than most, and it has a really complex bolt pattern it fires. Up close, it’s a horrible shotgun that can wipe out a careless character, so I just stay the hell away from the bullet spread and plink it from afar until it dies.

Eventually, you can even tell what Gods are beyond your visual sight range just by looking at the bullet patterns. In this case, at least 2-3 Treants, and a Flying Brain.

Interestingly, I find it easier soloing Gods because you pull them away one at a time or in manageable numbers, and you’re always backing away into a previously cleared safe zone, so blasts are more predictable.

My initial urge to huddle in a big group was actually counterproductive in more ways than one. For one thing, other people can do more damage to the God than you, killing it too fast for you to do sufficient damage to qualify for a soulbound loot drop. For another, various people are attracting more Gods and they are backing toward the big huddle from various directions, causing overlapping fire from different angles, and there’s all these people running about and shooting producing even more visual chaos.

I didn’t expect there to be much more to the story. I killed a lot of Gods. Had a meditative flow experience slightly broken up by the panic of trying to capture screenshots. Alt-tabbing to keep pasting Print Screens into a paint program is more than a little scary when you’re afraid some random guy will drag a horde of Gods into you while you’re not able to react and dodge in time. A few of them dropped stat potions – two defences that I recall. Yeah, miserable drop rates. Brought them back to my bank Vault to give to the proper character. Went back and fought the Gods some more.

Then serendipity happened:

I teleported into a group of lvl 20s who were attempting to break the Mysterious Crystal in the Godlands. Do enough damage, and it releases a special boss. I joined in. The crystal eventually gave way.

The Crystal Prisoner boss was released. I joined in, not really expecting much because I tend to get very hurt and have to back away and lose my damage on the boss or else bite the dust. Turned out there were sufficient priests in the mix that were shooting off heals, and I managed to actually get by and dodge properly. And to my immense surprise, when the prisoner boss died, a white soulbound bag (the rarest kind of soulbound bag, I am given to understand) dropped for me.

Jumping on it in glee, I pulled out my greatest haul yet. A Crystal Wand and an dexterity stat potion.

That’s the RNG for you. Into the bank vault it goes, until I have an open slot for a priest. (Which would, of course, mean me losing the current wizard to permadeath.)