Game Triage

I’m with Liore and Belghast. Hype cycles are whooshing right over my head. And I don’t know what to blog about. So I go silent for a couple days, which sometimes turns into weeks.

Here’s the main problem:

Too many games. Not enough time.

I suppose one personal habit of mine that has already gotten entrenched is a deep resistance to buying most games on launch day. Or indeed, during the hype cycle when most people are talking about it.

The habit started when I skipped a year or two when I was schooling overseas, or unemployed and conserving money, and ever since then, I’ve been busy playing catch-up.

I don’t regret a thing.

I’m part of the long tail, I get my games cheaper, I still get a very similar experience for most things that ain’t reliant on launch day crowds, and I wasn’t much of a must-do-the-same-thing-as-my-friends-at-the-same-time person to begin with.

It’s a rare game that I buy full price – I must really love it – and often I see it going for much cheaper later, and it rubs in the lesson that I paid a premium for experiencing it at a critical time.

Hell, I have ‘old’ games I want to play again, and I don’t know when I’ll get around to them.

I haven’t quite crossed 1.5 years in Stardew Valley yet, I don’t think. One week I was playing it, and then I wasn’t.

I kinda want to play Don’t Starve again. I bought the latest tropical island DLC thing sight unseen and -haven’t- got around to even seeing any of its content.

I listened to Peter Hollens sing Skyrim and suddenly I want to start another game from scratch, for reals this time, a full second playthrough, and maybe play a different combat style and oh, actually try the DLC? Did I ever buy it when it went on Steam sale? I can’t remember.

Who am I kidding?

Path of Exile lies fallow once more, because Minecraft shoved it aside last week.

I raid now, in GW2, two weeknights of five. Three left.

I took up a real world art class Sunday morning, cos it grew increasingly obvious to me that I needed some form of tangible creative expression. Fills a spiritual, meditative hole. But it does mean that half a weekend is gone where gaming is concerned.

Half of a Saturday is on standby for work or real-life pursuits (eg. family outings) or game community ’emergencies’ (I’m gonna want to play WvW resets if the game mode ever takes off again; the raid group may need to assemble.)

3 weeknights. 1 weekend. (Minus the hour per day finishing GW2 dailies, cos that’s non-negotiable.)

I sit around with a to-do / bucket list, and I have to admit that the most pressing priority for the use of said 3 + 1 isn’t a game, old or new.

I have many epub books and digital magazines left completely unread. I picked up a Netflix subscription when it went global this year (and thus, available in my country.)

There’s also around two decades of accumulated clutter I’ve been trying to divest myself of, and it mostly means taking the time to digitize the stuff I can’t bear to throw away without saving it somehow.

I got started on the project early this year, set an ideal completion date of July, promptly got sidetrekked for two months with GW2 raiding, and really ought to get back to it now that things have stabilized to a place of relative contentment in Tyria… before the Living Story picks up and completely derails the best laid plans.

Between that, Minecraft, the blog and GW2, I am spread completely thin. (And it’s not like the blog is getting that much attention these days either.)

I suspect I’m not the only one with similar issues.

Interesting times we live in now, where our attention and focus has become such a commodity.

GW2: The Psychology of Self-Motivation

The more I keep thinking about it, over the course of one work day, the more I think that Anet quite possibly got it right (or at least, more things right than wrong) with this latest patch.

To make sense of this, a little homework is necessary with this TedX talk on self-motivation.

In it, Geller talks about the factors that contribute to feeling empowered and motivated – competency, consequences, choices and community.

We can see that the feeling of competency took a hit with the original HoT difficulty levels, adding up to feelings of apathy and learned helplessness across a fairly wide swathe of the population, who walked straight into HoT zones or raids and got pasted on the ground.

The new patch adjusts quite a lot of this across the board, from making Adventures and waypoints slightly more friendly and accessible, reviving renewed interests in dungeons (which can serve as a stepping stone and training ground of difficulty) and coming up with a fairly creative solution to dps meters by adding an in-game one in conjunction with test dummies in a private instance off a raid lobby. 

(Given the growing need for one, this seems a fairly good compromise that tries to avoid as much potential toxicity as possible. One can use it in private as a personal yardstick for improvement; static raid groups can use it to train their members – that is, it’s consensual if you step into said instance with other people with the intent to measure dps, and way better than a random PUG just spamming Recount numbers out of nowhere. 

Speaking of which, it’s also inconvenient enough that it’ll be a -really- motivated PUG who would hound someone into displaying their dps (by the time they test everybody’s stuff, they’d probably have been better off just using the oodles of Legendary Insights “elitist” shortcut.))

Anet has also spread a very lavish hand where -positive- consequences are concerned, aka the “Is it worth it?” part of the self-motivational question.

In many cases, yes, it’s certainly much more worth it than before. Which has quite the inspirational effect on many people.

The part that’s been sneakily growing on me the most is the -choices- part of the equation.

With a broad sweep of the patch brush, many aspects of the game feel either more -doable- (aka competency) or more -worth-doing (aka consequences).

This leads to a sudden surplus of choices for what one might want to do in a game session.

With choice, comes more of a feeling of autonomy and control. 

Suddenly, I’m playing a dungeon or raiding because I want to be, rather than because there ain’t enough critical mass for a HoT zone meta or there’s no point trying to do an Adventure that is impossible to get to and has ridiculous NA-calibrated target times anyway or because there’s no new content or story available -except- inside a stupid raid instance. (Ok, the last is still a little hopeful, presumably Anet is finally revving up for actual new content now.)

Lastly, community. As much as I’m fairly disconnected at the moment, I see quite a lot of opportunities for community to occur in this latest patch (though I’m not sure how much was intended by design or just a happy coincidence.)

Introducing daily jumping puzzles or mini-dungeons is BIG. This is so totally what the GW2 community needed, the opportunity for small groups of randoms to encounter each other in a small area, help and be helped.

The raid lobby is a clever way to group the niche community of raiders together in one place. I presume it’s going to be similar to the PvP lobby, or a more compact Lion’s Arch pre-megaserver. It’s likely raiders will keep seeing similar names hanging out there, and that familiarity is what builds solidarity and community (which is motivational to many.)

Reviving dungeon interest is yet another source for strangers or guildies to encounter each other and potentially bond. Especially if some are motivated by the thought of building some kind of static arrangement to speedrun their 8 dungeons.

The impending attention to WvW is another potential spot for community building as well.

I’m not sure just how much effect all the above will have on me, presently existing in a sort of externalized MMO geological time scale. 

The latest self-inspirational idea to hit me is the possibility of reviving solo fractal or dungeon attempts. I avoided five man group content for a really long time, but a few days ago, I attempted some low-AR daily fractals with my raid necro and it was both doable (with a few repeated tribulation-style deaths here and there) and satisfying.

Of couse, any damn fractal with a mechanic that requires more than one person (dredge pressure plates, Old Tom in uncategorized) is an impossible problem… Or is it? Apparently playing two accounts at the same time is not verboten, as long as one keypress does not control multiple things at once. 

The idle thought arose of having a client open in each screen, and quick swapping windows to position supporting secondary characters, whose main purpose would be perform the necessary mechanic and not die, during the crucial time, while I mainly soloed the fight on the primary character.

So far, laziness and lack of time to experiment stands in the way. I’d need to figure out how to bypass the restriction on having multiple clients open (there are programs for that, but I’m not the trusting sort and would rather kill processes by hand.) I’d need to ressurect my second account and actually level up and gear a character. I might need a third free-to-play account if two characters aren’t enough for the mechanics…

… But it is a tempting thought nonetheless. 

Or I could work on finishing one collection or another.

Or I could work on a second map complete so I can build a third Legendary someday.

Or Fractals. Or dungeons. Or HoT zone metas. Or HoT zone solo exploration and adventures. Or WvW.

Or I could just not get so attached to the idea of various GW2 goals and work on other real life ones instead, which are also pressing for attention lately. (I haven’t caught up with half a year’s worth of hobby magazines, for example, and I’ve been buying a bunch of sci-fi books and anthologies off Humble Bundle with the intent to actually get around to reading them.)

They all sound like good ideas. Bottom line, I don’t feel like I’m in any particular hurry. Just gonna continue on in geologic time and squeeze in a bit of progress here and there.

Itinerant Gaming

The past couple of weeks, I seem to be afflicted with an odd combination of focus and restlessness that I can only phrase as “itinerant.”

I don’t want to call it nomadic, because “nomads” to me implies a sort of following of the tribe, along preset migratory routes, following the seasons. It’s a good term for the sort of MMO gamer that follows every new game launch and joins the launch crowds, playing for the space of three months or so, before moving on with the rest to the next new thing… but it doesn’t describe my present state of mind.

I can’t say that I’m in the throes of wanderlust either, because again “wanderlust” in my mind implies a certain mix of curiosity and joy, an eagerness to see the next new horizon or exploring some manner of discovery, and even “wandering” implies a kind of contented ambling around.

On the contrary, I feel like I’m in the winter of my discontent, awaiting a summer that has not shown its face in some time.

It’s not all gloom. I think I’ve been marvelously productive in the short term across a wide variety of games. What’s weird is how I’ve been feeling after.

On the singleplayer front, I stuck my head into Savage Lands for 15 minutes and noted there were quite a bunch of improvements to this Early Access survival game, but that I wasn’t quite in the mood for getting stuck in (also, getting lost was discouraging.)

I dabbled with Endless Legends long enough to actually take out a computer-controlled rival empire, albeit on the easiest difficulty setting, and grow a fantasy empire to a size that was probably going to be competitive with the strongest computer-controlled empire around (that’s my usual cue to annex said threat and by subsuming it, become the uncontested dominant civilization around… just… haven’t found the urge to get back to that game yet.)

I gave L.A. Noire a go. Yes, that now-ancient noir detective game that I never got around to playing. Quite cute. Quite interesting. Solve mysteries, read facial expressions and what not. Got through the tutorial, managed one case, put the game down and well, the next case is waiting for me, whenever.

regrowth_redux

I found my way back to my old Minecraft: Regrowth world a couple days ago and engaged in quite the spurt of activity, digging out the beginnings of a new above-ground compound to support growing larger quantities of valuable-resource-producing crops, with room to expand for automation later.

The initial plan was to build a multi-story farm building for the crops, but I realized I was so fond of the open sky and view from the walls that I was reluctant to throw a concrete (ok, cobblestone) roof over it.

The revised plan is to do a dwarfy thing again and dig down, a second layer into the earth under this one and make a basement floor of crops, and then more floors under that.

How this feels different to me, I don’t know, it’s probably going to be the same number of floors, just recessed into the earth, but I think it’ll feel like less of an eyesore.

I even got productive enough to make my first ever Buildcraft Quarry block and attempt to operate it – a procedure made somewhat complex by the limited options for generating power in the Regrowth modpack.

See, the thing is there’s no ores in the Regrowth wasteland world. There are, however, ores in the Nether.

There is no water allowed in the Nether.

Practically all the accessible engines and generators in Regrowth need steam or some form of water-cooling in order not to do the explodey thing (or something along those lines. I dunno, I don’t really want to find out the hard way.)

After a lot of reading wikis and brooding, I settled for a fairly slow-paced Peat-Fired Engine from Forestry, which doesn’t exactly produce a lot of power, but at least has the decency to not go boom.

Some puzzled experimentation later, I got the quarry working in the Nether, albeit at a fairly glacial pace.

Then it broke down when it hit lava pockets.

This led to a series of rather appalling experiments to empty various liquids into the Nether to see if any would actually flow (and hopefully convert lava into something more solid), rather than evaporate into the hot nether air.

I say appalling, because the liquids I happened to have on hand were apparently of the energy-storing fuel variety, and many actually surprised me by exploding in my face and taking out chunks of netherrack.

I finally found a liquid that flowed in the ancient 0.8.0 Regrowth version I was playing – molten enderium – though it only seemed to convert the lava into cobblestone, rather than obsidian that I had hoped. (Perhaps it was because the lava was moving lava, rather than still sources.)

It unfortunately flows slow as molasses, so I was having to clamber around ladders like a monkey down a very deep 9×9 cuboid shaft, emptying and manually repositioning a molten enderium “waterfall” … in the Nether, with oinking zombie pigmen and other insalubrious modded mobs wandering around.

Inevitably, I fell (or, was pushed) down the shaft, into the floor of running lava that the flowing enderium hadn’t quite managed to reach yet.

This was a huge ragequit moment as I realized I was carrying all my favorite Tinker’s Construct tools and accumulated Botania bauble conveniences, such as a ring of magnetization, and some other speedy jumpy magical devices that I put together some time ago and had now forgotten what they were.

I spent some time poking around folders, hoping against hope there was some kind of automated backup mod (nope, Regrowth doesn’t have one) and being super-reluctant to pull an older backup that didn’t contain my new crop compound.

I eventually talked myself into starting up the world again and “maybe this is a good opportunity to make newer upgraded gear from scratch, instead of relying on your old tools. I mean, take it like a hardcore death penalty and start over,  your base is still there with all your resources, it’s just making all your tools again as you need them *wince* ”

So I took the one nether cobalt ore and one of the two ardite ores the quarry had mined up that my old steel tools couldn’t quite mine, and consoled myself by melting the pair into the best alloy possible, manyullyn, and pouring that into a new pickaxe head.

Long story short, I ended up realizing that my new pickaxe could mine nether osmium ore, which is a dearly craved resource that should eventually lead into the Mekanism mod and produce less annoying engines/RF generators.

So I dashed back into the Nether and yanked out all the previously discovered osmium ore pockets that were awaiting a better pickaxe… and while doing so, idly peeked into the chests of my nether quarry.

Huh. There were a couple gravestones in the chest. And wasn’t that the two iron pickaxes from the two hasty recovery attempts (that led to further lava deaths?)

Could it be…

… that my original grave still survives under all that lava, and that the items are inside it intact…

…and that the quarry can actually pull it out, items and all, without me having to go down there and physically extinguish the lava and pickaxe the grave?

I ran back into the overworld dimension, carefully storing the precious manyullyn pickaxe and osmium ore (lesson learned), and ran back nearly naked with only a bunch of peat to power the engine that powered the quarry, some ladders and a bucket of molten enderium (just in case the quarry got stuck and refused to dig because of too much lava)

A couple of agonizing minutes and watching the quarry slow dig its way down a few layers of rock, and joy of joys, I saw a gleaming yellow gravestone repelling lava away from its block.

A few more blocks later, the quarry finally hovered its drill head over the yellow grave and quietly sucked it up.

Opening the chest attached to the quarry revealed ALL MY THINGS, STILL INTACT.

I ran back to home base, a very laden, happy camper.

I guess it’s a good thing I talked myself into not giving up with the world.

I’ll likely be back.

On the Guild Wars 2 front, I’ve been completing a bunch of things, but left feeling… not exactly empty, but not exactly overjoyed either.

Kinda engaged while doing it, sometimes even ‘fun,’ but without much lasting satisfaction.

Super Adventure Box was pretty good for me, giving me some twenty one days of solo effort learning/adventuring content, to the point where I decided to ignore my blog in favor of just repeatedly running the zones.

I set out to complete my blue skin collection, and did so, earning enough bauble bubbles across the dailies and normal zone completes over time.

I ended up with a bonus complete green skin collection, when I decided I wanted to try my hand at learning world 1 Tribulation mode to the point where I could farm each zone 15 times for the remaining 15 skins I lacked.

The yellow skin ones can wait for next year. I couldn’t quite find the time nor urge to learn the lengthy world 2 Tribulation this festival. Each world 1 zone was a decent enough size, 1-2h when slowly learning, and improving to 15-30 mins as a beginner, and then getting it down to some 7-15 minutes when slightly more practiced.

The raids continue.

I’ve shifted my weekly schedule for the moment to accommodate 2-3 days of raiding.

I can’t say I feel overjoyed or angry about it either way. I just feel very… matter-of-fact about the whole state of affairs. As in, okay, here’s what we’re doing for now, and that’s how it is.

I wrote several paragraphs about the current state of my raid group earlier today… which promptly got somewhat invalidated by an impromptu incident occurring late in the night. Suffice to say, I think I’ll save the detailed coverage for another post.

The main summary is that I don’t feel anything different, pre- and post-.

It strikes me as more than a bit odd and maybe a little bit scary. You’d think a normal player would feel frustrated with lack of progress and feel fiero or satisfaction after a victory.

The main thing I get is.. relief, mixed alongside the odd serving of emptiness and a kegful of patient acceptance that reality is thus. Like, “This is how it is, you don’t have to like it, you just have to decide what you want to do about it, if anything.”

I just feel… stuck in a kind of geologic time, MMO-wise. Like my yardstick of measurement has expanded to months and years, and little blips of daily or weekly drama or excitement can’t quite move me in the same way it used to.

As I write this, the long-awaited April patch has arrived, with what seems like a meter’s worth of patch notes that I have only skimmed and will digest at leisure later.

There are changes.

Yeah, that’s my reaction right now. In this weird, possibly abnormal, state of indifference or detachment.

A lot of them seem to be pretty positive changes. I presume they’ll keep me busy doing stuff in the months ahead, if I choose to accept them and make doing something in GW2 a goal.

There’s plenty of small stuff to be doing, to tick off little checklists and earn what seem like a boatload of small ‘thank you for playing’ rewards.

(It’s just that I seem to be somewhat deconditioned from the desiring of extrinsic rewards at the moment.)

I think basically, trust, once broken, needs a great deal of time to repair.

There seem to be steps in a somewhat promising direction, but it’s gonna take more than one patch to build up my passion and hope again.

Home is where the heart is, and right now, I don’t have a home, virtually speaking, having been disconnected and divided and my larger community fragmented, and conversely coalescing into a small group of ten odd people.

My heart, as a result, is also MIA, scattered across the landscape of many games.

I trudge around, restless, aimless, casting about in random directions, hoping to find the pieces, a spark, anything…

…so far, nothing yet.