NBI: Talkback Challenge #4

Joseph Skyrim’s NBI Talkback Challenge couldn’t have come at a better time.

This weekend has seen me going on a meta quest to learn about learning (this Coursera course is amazing for the vast number of links to read up on and make connections to – I’m seeing the principles apply for games, for writing, for martial arts, sports or exercise, for music, for languages, or yes, even regular school subjects or other things an adult learner might be interested to pick up.)

One of the topics that came up was the importance of mindset, as popularized by Carol Dweck.

Some people stay in a fixed mindset, that intelligence is innate, that creativity and talent are inherent and that these cannot be changed in any meaningful way. To people who were brought up with this mindset, it becomes more important to look smart, to seem competent, to hide mistakes and avoid failure in order not to feel bad and diminished in their eyes and the eyes of others. (Apparently, all it takes is a single line of the wrong type of praise to sway children in one direction or another, which ultimately all adds up to habitual patterns of behavior.)

A growth mindset, meanwhile, recognizes that people can train and practice to become smarter or perform better. This mindset looks upon “hard” things as a challenge and failure indicating that there’s always something more to learn. Valuing the process more than the end goal, holding this mindset lets you pick yourself back up again and persist in the face of obstacles – persistence, after all, being a generally more successful trait in the real world than smarts per se.

Like any other popular philosophy, it’s probably more than a bit simplified, while holding valuable grains of truth or insight.

There’s probably -some- innate differences in aptitude for various things based on our genes, but if one doesn’t practice said thing repeatedly, that innate aptitude isn’t going to be noticeable regardless.

And you probably wouldn’t want to hold a growth mindset 100% of the time blindly either, since you’ll then be forever trying to persist on both important and unimportant things. Prioritizing the things that you value and want to persist about is likely a good idea.

But in a broad general sense, it seems valuable to realize that these two mindsets exist and to recognize when it is appropriate to use either.

(If your boss has a fixed mindset, I wouldn’t suggest persisting in trying to change his or her mind about it. I’d just worry about projecting the desired image until one can find a new job with less dysfunctional people in leadership positions. That’s just me, your mileage may vary. Perhaps you’d be more interested in becoming your bosses’ boss and changing the organization that way or whatever.

Ditto trolls. You -could- persist in attempting to change their mind or perspective about something. It could equally be a waste of some of your valuable time on this earth.)

In that vein, examining one’s perspectives and mindsets on gaming seem valuable for understanding more about one’s relationship to games and learning.

Lust – Do you enjoy games more if they have scantily clad and “interestingly proportioned” avatars? Do you like playing as one of these avatars? Why or why not?

Considering that I can play and enjoy ASCII games, I probably don’t enjoy them “more.”

I likely would question the provenance of the game and whether it would be worth playing it if that’s -all- they had, since it would indicate a rather adolescent viewpoint at work in the creation of said game, and other design choices that might make a game more fun for me might also be missing or not shared by said creator/designer.

I don’t have issues with them including those avatars in a game though. I’m happy to have the more choice and options the merrier, and I know -some- people like ’em. If that’s also a target audience for paying the devs money, then so be it.

I can’t play scantily clad buxom D-cup yet anorexic ladies with any sense of immersion, so no, for those. Conversely, I admit to being partial to unrealistically proportioned hulk-like muscled males (scantily clad is optional, fur and bestial features is preferable,) so yes, for those.

I think, ultimately, that avatars are representational. For some people, realism or consistency in a fantasy setting or creating a persona that resembles their real world selves is important, and these players lean toward the more average-in-looks avatars. For others, they are sort of an escapist fantasy, and they go for more archetypal, exaggerated “superhero” symbols.

Playing big buff monsters is, for me, a representation of my love for melee combat, for running in there and being a sturdy protective tank, for wading in and kicking ass, of being the big supportive guy in the back of any group photo. It’s being someone I wouldn’t have much hope of being in real life, genes being what they are (eg. by and large, Asians are not known for being able to develop massive height and muscularity, as opposed to say, someone with Nordic ancestry, where they -might- have some hope.)

The virtual world enables people to walk in someone else’s shoes. May that never change.

And it’s why I’ll happily defend the right of straight white guys to play their over-sexualized female avatars, ostensibly to ogle their butts and boobs and throw on the brightest or clowniest lipstick and makeup ever. Who knows, maybe the avatar is a representation of some kind of fantasy in their heads, be it sexual or just trying to get in touch with their emotional feminine side, often repressed in real life from cultural mores. Maybe they’ll have the experience of seeing the world from a different perspective, if others treat them differently based on what their avatar projects. From that, is laid the groundwork for open-mindedness and respecting diversity, in small steps.

Gluttony – Do you have a game backlog of unfinished games but still buy new games regardless? Why or why not?

Hell, yeah. Who knows, maybe there will be a great games industry collapse and I will need new games to play on my desert island some day!

Well, seriously, I try to buy games that I’m interested in (and so much catches my interest) to support the devs who make them, so that I will never encounter that scenario.

However, since I am not a rich billionaire made out of money, I generally wait until nearer the tail end of their lifespan to buy ’em for 75% off. I’m a generalist that spreads 1-5 bucks across various games rather than pay $80 outright for one new game to specialize in.

Thus I tend to accumulate a whole boatload of unfinished games – I’ll play ’em for a couple hours to experience what it’s like, to appreciate what this one game is about, but I generally don’t have time to finish via repetition all the maps and levels of each game unless I really really like it in some way, maybe it’s the story or its design or it’s unique in some way or it’s just short enough for me to complete in a reasonable time.

I have decided that I’m okay with this. I’m not breaking the bank or my budget this way, and I’m indulging my love of games in general.

Greed – Do you enjoy hand outs in a game? Have you ever opted to NOT do an action / in game activity because the rewards were lacking? Why or why not?

It depends. If it’s a developer hand out, I assume they are giving the freebie for some kind of purpose, eg. encouraging someone to log on, celebrating an occasion or saying thank-you for something, and I’m happy to take it and appreciate it and enjoy it.

I’m less keen on player hand outs. I suppose it’s okay once or twice as a goodwill gesture, if the context is just that they’re being friendly or helpful. I do find it smothering when taken too far. If someone does everything for another person, they will never learn or go through the process, and that -journey- is the joy, not the reward at the end.

It again depends if the rewards are lacking in a particular activity. If the activity isn’t something I’m interested in to begin with, yeah, I’m liable to prioritize going somewhere more rewarding, in terms of both enjoyment and the goodies at the end. If I -want- to do that activity though, I’m still going to do it once or twice just to say that I experienced it and did it, even if I get zero or negative goodies out of it.

I’m generally a more intrinsically motivated person, so I tend to avoid games that offer external reward loot showers for doing stuff I don’t enjoy. In fact, I’m more liable to bitch and complain about “forcing players” if the game did put an exclusive desired goodie at the end of an activity I didn’t enjoy, rather than endure the activity repeatedly for the reward.

Sloth – Do you ever leech or AFK in a party? Do you discourage others from attempting things that you feel are difficult? Have you ever seen someone that needed help, but decided not to help them? Why or why not?

I wouldn’t ever intentionally leech, it’s just not me. I’m a perfectionist that needs to be effective or at least above-average in optimal to feel like I was contributing to a group. I’m a lot more likely to quit a party if I ever get pissed off at something, rather than passive-aggressively hang around trying to be annoying.

If I do go AFK, it’s a forewarn kind of thing, it’s just manners that I learned from my old games “AFK, bio” or “AFK, phone” or what have you, and only for a couple minutes and I try to minimize that whenever possible.

hate people who are not respectful of others and decide to wander off for half an hour or more eating food, or wrangling with their kid or parent or cat that has suddenly decided something absolutely critical has come up. You’re making 4-5 other people wait for you. I understand that RL emergencies happen. Just fucking come back for a minute, apologize that you can’t continue and leave the group and let them get on with their lives with someone else. I am very likely to bail from one of these dysfunctional groups if shit like this happens.

I generally don’t discourage others from attempting difficult things. I’m fond of encouraging others to stretch themselves, in fact. However, my one exception if this difficult thing is reliant on the whole group getting it done right and I don’t have time or patience that day to make repeated attempts at it, having not joined or been forewarned that such a goal was in mind. Then I’d much rather they attempt the difficult thing on their own or with a group specifically put together to attempt it.

I’ve seen plenty of people who needed help and decided not to help them. One, they won’t learn to help themselves if they are always being helped. Two, they may not welcome the help, especially if they are the obnoxious “I play how I want” sort of person that is not open to improvement with a fixed mindset. Three, I might be on the way to doing something else, and they don’t specifically need my help, just someone to help, and someone else was already going to help them.

I generally only stop to help if no one else is there, and they genuinely look lost or in trouble, as opposed to just being lazy and expecting someone to help them as is their “entitlement.” Or if they are what I define as a “promising young newbie,” someone keen and eager to learn, asking intelligent questions, communicating in full sentences, interested in moving from beginnerhood to more understanding. Or if they try a few times on their own and fail and I realize they need some scaffolding or coaching or support in some way to grasp a concept they’re missing.

Wrath – Ever get angry at other players and yell (or TYPE IN CAPS) at them? Have you ever been so angry to stalk a person around in game and / or in the forums? Why or why not?

I do get angry at other players, though I try my best not to these days, it’s better for my own blood pressure and health to change my perspective about that person’s behavior.

I generally do not yell at anyone. The most I might do is forcefully point out a combat mechanic of some kind, if they’re being very thick about comprehension and I’m getting frustrated by the group’s overall failure and I think that grasping this basic concept might in fact improve the existing situation. I guess I get more angry about a situation or a failed fight than with any player per se.

If a player is obnoxious enough to make me angry, that person usually qualifies for an immediate block from me, probably a report to whatever game authorities they are, and possibly me leaving the group as I no longer want to succeed with that group and enable that person’s bad behavior (assuming no self-penalties for leaving the group, eg. in a PvE dungeon instance, else I usually give up success as a lost cause and work on a personal improvement goal instead with the remainder of the PvP match time.)

I really have better things to do with my life than to stalk an individual that makes me mad around the place. Exactly what would that achieve besides making me even more mad to see a person I detest MORE often? Report to someone who gets paid to look into these things, block (so I never see or hear their ugly mug again), and done. Finito. On to less bloodboiling matters.

Envy – Ever felt jealous of players who seem to be able to complete content you can’t? Do you ever suspect they are hacking or otherwise cheating? Why or why not?

Ok, I confess that jealousy and envy are fairly alien emotions to me. Perhaps I have to thank my parents and childhood for that, but I never really grew up with a sense of scarcity, of feeling that someone had stuff I wanted and couldn’t have. My mum basically taught me to “suffice” – we may not have it all, we may not even have all of what we want, but what we have is enough and can make us happy. Other people may have more things, but who knows, they may not actually be happy even if they had more things.

I only experience such feelings on super-rare occasions, such as when I failed an important language exam by the world’s most catastrophic margin while everyone else in the class was bright-eyed and cheery and in the top god-knows-how-much percentile… and I generally felt super-helpless that there was absolutely nothing I could do to improve my grade further because the exam standard was presuming a linguistic background I didn’t have (years of foundation speaking it) and no amount of effort was going to help this in the time frame I had to improve for the next one… then I felt somewhat jealous of all these other peoples’ A grades and assumption that absolutely nothing was wrong, while I had fallen through the cracks over here and no one (including the teacher, who didn’t want to make any eye contact) had a clue of how to help.

See, here is the basic thing. I generally have a growth mindset for most things, including games. (The one time I felt intense helpless jealousy, it was exactly that, I was helpless, felt utterly inadequate, and didn’t have any avenues I could think of for improvement, so the last resort was just wishing that I was somehow magically better and like everybody else.)

So perhaps this player can complete content I can’t, or plays at a much higher level than I can right now. I take it as meaning that I can improve myself to that level if I work at it. Maybe not immediately today, but eventually.

It’s hard for me to be jealous of that player, it only means that player put in a hell of a lot more time and effort playing that one game or mastering that one aspect that I either am unwilling to put in the effort right now, or haven’t gotten around to doing it yet. If I wanted to, I could work at it too. It’s just a matter of deciding if I want to invest the time to do so.

As for whether they are hacking or cheating, maybe, sometimes it’s hard to tell in certain first-person shooters whether a person just has played so often that they can do snap headshots on reflex and instinct alone, or if they have some kind of aimbot that automatically tracks for them. Still find it hard to be jealous either way though. Either the person worked hard (in which case one should respect that) or the person’s a cheater (and how one envies someone acting so low, I don’t know, they’re only cheating themselves in the end.)

Pride – Are you one of those people that demands grouping with other “elite” players? Do you kick players out of your team who you feel are under-performing? Why or why not?

I guess this one is my deadly sin. I can do a pretty good Lucifer impression.

I won’t demand an elite group, but I do -prefer- smooth runs that don’t go all pear-shaped on a regular basis. I tend to take it very personal if I keep ending up face first on the floor (I’m working on that impulse through conditioning via PvP and dungeon solos. I get it bad in PvE groups though, it’s an image thing. I feel incompetent in the eyes of others if I keep dying and no one else does, whereas if I’m alone, death means I didn’t get the right strategy yet, and in PvP, death is just a thing that happens to everyone.) That does usually mean a base level of competency and efficiency.

I don’t like dungeoning to begin with, so I’d rather things end fast and I get the shiny at the end that I wanted. I rather not have to devote 2-4 hours to a herculean epic struggle against heroic odds where I end up having to coach three other players how to play in order to get through it every time I dungeon. I don’t mind it in the initial stages of discovery of a new dungeon, where it’s all new to everybody and that’s what we do to learn as a populataion, but once it gets old, my exploration drive totally loses interest and I end up only going along due to my achievement urge.

I generally do not kick underperformers who can’t help themselves. Perhaps they’re new to the dungeon, perhaps they’re (stereotyping intensely here) someone’s healer girlfriend, perhaps they’re still struggling with MMO controls in general, or all three. I’ll get frustrated at the group’s lack of progress and repeated wiping due to one (or worse, three) part members not carrying their own weight, but it seems cruel to kick someone who is still learning and trying to get the hang of it. So I bite my tongue and coach and try to think of any and all creative non-standard strategies that might eventually let us progress and wipe along with them until we either get it or some party members run out of time to continue (thank goodness.)

I am, however, very tempted to kick (and usually -will- support kicking) an underperformer who doesn’t care that they’re underperforming and expresses they have no interest in getting better or helping the group succeed. It shows a lack of respect for the group (that they joined, duh?) If you’re running around Leeroying triggering stuff and generally not communicating or cooperating with the group, if you refuse to alter the way you play and it’s getting the group killed as a result (as opposed to playing in a nonstandard fashion and the group -still- succeeding), that kick is likely going to come. Probably not initiated from me, but I’ll say OK, if anyone else has had it with you too.

It’s very situational. Honestly, I think too many self-styled “elitists” aren’t actually that good themselves and are just pointing the finger at other people in an attempt to cover up that they’re weak players themselves. If you copy a cookie cutter build without real understanding of why someone chose those choices, you’re really not an “elite” player, you’re just using someone else’s solution that works, a cook following a recipe, a pattern-emulator.

The real question is, what can you do when the situation changes? Can you solve new challenges with the patterns you’ve learned? Can you adapt on the fly and switch your build to whatever best suits the situation? Can you work with your group to formulate than execute new strategies?

Yes, I’d much rather group with players that show through their actions that the answer is ‘yes’ to all those questions. Things die faster, the group functions more smoothly, I learn a lot from what the true elite players do.

But I really don’t sweat it if “optimal dps” is not being performed at every last second, or whatever. Did things die? Did we complete the dungeon? If so, great.

Are we still in the dungeon two hours later? Did we die a dozen times already? If so, fuck.

GW2/NBI: Dungeon Soloing Is A Lot Like Writing

Wurms, wurms, they're everywhere....

Dear Reader,

You will not believe how many times I have pressed backspace or delete on this post.

I have a half dozen false starts and zeroth drafts of things I could say, and things I might want to say, while maybe these other things that I did type to myself should be left for my personal viewing.

I tried coming at the topic from a million and one angles, all of them maybe sort of potentially viable, yet somehow not yielding up a complete post.

Not yet. Not quite.

In the end, I just went back to my blog and forced myself to hit the “Add New Post” button and told myself I am just going type the first (but hopefully not the last) post on this topic directly into the post editor.

(If you could call continually pressing backspace to erase a turn of phrase and retyping a new one “directly,” that is.)

So, prior warning, this post is going to be rough around the edges. Not slick. Not smooth-sailing and superbly easy to read. Rough. Blocked. Start-and-stop and probably just as much struggle to read as it was to write.

The act of writing this post has been amazingly similar to my attempts to learn how to solo dungeons (or a dungeon – let’s keep our goals modest here.)

False starts, lots of deaths, intense frustration at certain ‘stuck’ points, a lot of thinking and trying and maybe some success and an equal or greater amount of failure and surrender (for now.)

You know, it’s not something that is often publicized.

Writers hide the struggle against the blank page, generally proffering only the finished product for an amazed public to ooh and aah over – unless you talk in-depth with writers on their craft or read books specifically on the art and craft of writing to begin to understand how the whole process works.

(And bear in mind, that process is different for different writers, of course. Some plan every last scene, some type by the seat of their pants, and so on. Whatever yields a ‘readable’ product at the end – I can’t even say ‘finished’ because it never is finished, for some writers.)

Looking into the art and craft of the GW2 dungeon solo reminds me a lot about the above.

Solo dungeon runners proudly show off their final product, a beautifully cut-and-edited video of their best and most impressive speedruns. Who can blame them? Watching flawless victory is a lot more entertaining for an audience than sitting through the many hours it must have taken them in real time to perfect their technique to the point where they can record their final product. The point, after all, is to show that the mountain can be conquered, not the many many falls it took to get to the peak.

The ordinary layperson tends to fail to grasp this concept.

They see the finished product and they think, “All right, I want to write the Great American Novel! In a month! Cos Nanowrimo is a thing!” Or they expect flawless nuggets of verbal gold the moment that they begin writing. Or they demand that their favorite authors churn out books like a factory for them.

Basically, they expect perfection in a multitude of unrealistic ways, and it’s a bit of a letdown (understatement of the year) when they don’t quite get what they expected.

Confusing the whole damn affair further are the bystander comments, some of which may very well be true for them (“yeah, I finished my novel during Nanowrimo! It’s awesome! I’m getting it published next month!”, “I just sit down and start typing every day and I got 50,000 words! Actually, 100k! Cos you know, I’m naturally a member of the wall-of-text club!”) or just internet exaggeration, who knows… but may very well not be true for you in specific.

So here we have a big morass of maybe helpful and well-meaning advice, some of which may or may not work for you, mixed with a quarter-pound of just plain look-at-me-my-prowess-is-better-than-you trolling and a lot of ill-formed personal expectations about how long it might or might not take, how successful or not it’s going to be, and somehow, from there, you try to sift through and eke out some information, some strategies on things you might possibly try, and then the bottom line is… you’re just going to have to sit your butt in the chair and try it out for yourself and see what works or doesn’t work for you.

Yeah.

Writing is a lot like that.

Dungeon soloing is a lot like that.

The stuff you read on Reddit asking about dungeon solos tends to come from innocent yet ambitious individuals who think it would be cool to be all super-elite and solo things like Arah and oh yes, make lots of $$$$ in the process, because selling Arah paths is a thing. How can they start learning how to do that?

(I’m sure writers have smashed many a forehead – theirs or the askers’ – against a hard surface when yonder innocent yet ambitious individual lets out that they think that writing a book would be a great way to earn royalties, make money and become super-famous and awesome like their favorite celebrity writer, and what would be the fastest and most efficient way to do so?

Of course, confusing the issue is that there do exist exceedingly prolific writers who write by a set formula and churn out bestsellers or the next bodice-ripper with a regularity you could set your watch or calendar by, and novices of their particular subset of craft can and do successfully join them in their $$$$ accumulation.)

Of course, not every individual asking on Reddit is exactly like that. Some of them do recognize there is a serious learning process involved and are merely trying to get any helpful advice they can from individuals or experts that have already walked the paths they’re hoping to travel on. Anything to make that very challenging learning process a little easier or a little more structured or just a bit more scaffolded, like out of the many dungeon paths there are, instead of blindly throwing oneself at all of them, are there any that are more doable or slightly easier to learn than the rest, and so on…

…except the answer may apply to the individual that suggested that X is easy, but not to the person receiving the answer… (maybe due to the class being used, maybe just due to individual player differences, whatever)

…well, they recognize that too, but they just want some guidance or a direction they can try, regardless. Which also makes perfect logical sense.

So you have people trying to be helpful, and people earnestly receiving that helpful advice, and then they go ahead and try it and…

…well, I don’t know if there’s a gruesome car wreck or if there’s great success, because again, this totally boils down to the individual yet again.

Which leads me to the interesting problem of trying to decide how exactly I should blog about my attempts at dungeon soloing…

Trust me, there are a lot more car wrecks at this present moment.

There’s no way I’m writing an ‘expert guide to dungeon soloing,’ as much as some people might like, because a) I’m definitely not expert status at this point in time, and b) I guess I lean slightly more to the exploratory school of thought that kind of cringes at the thought of people rote following a preset solved-by-someone-else tactic without real understanding.

To me, that seems to contravene one philosophy behind trying to solo a dungeon, which is to test yourself and your understanding of your class and the game mechanics and how best you might arrange things so that you can get through a particular encounter.

(Obviously, other people may have different philosophies in play. Some may enjoy purely the execution / reaction aspect of the exercise, and see no problems with imitation being the best form of flattery. Some may simply want to give themselves the best chances of success by being as optimal as a number-cruncher has calculated for their class. Some don’t give a damn about any glitches or exploits because lol, it’s up to the devs to fix the bugs in their game, if we can break it, we’ll use it, that’s what players do, we’ll do it fast and easy and painless.)

To be frank, I’m still trying to figure out where I stand on the various spectrums of these philosophies, which leads to a great degree of confusion in planning.

My life would be a lot simpler if I prioritized fast, efficient, painless like some other players. Ape everything – class, gear, traits, movement and positioning strategies – and just practice understanding fight mechanics + reaction time, everything else has been solved for me.

I think the problem is that I’m curious about too many damn things at once.

I want to know how it feels on the builds that I already have. I want to know how it feels on the ‘optimal’ builds. I want to adapt and customise new builds to solve various encounters.

I kind of want to figure out how to adapt various strategies for a different class (because look, every class has ranged and melee attacks and lots of blocks and evades and there’s always dodging) or to figure out other viable strategies (a warrior might dps and evade but maybe my guardian can reflect), yet I don’t have an issue with imitating a strategy that works either, especially if my attempts at new solutions aren’t working out that well.

Then there’s my damn morality about glitches and exploits. They make me cringe, in more ways than one. I don’t like the easy way out. I don’t like breaking the game or an encounter just to do something painlessly. And I sure as hell don’t want to get banned for an exploit.

It makes me bloody frustrated to go look up a video about how someone else has solved this problem and oh, the answer they’ve taken is to glitch something. Argh. Of course, they glitch it because the alternative is utter painful hell, and I find that out the hard way, and then I wind up stuck and dead-ended and frustrated.

Yet I’m sure that I’m not an extreme on the glitch morality scale, because I don’t have issues with things like skipping encounters by running or stealthing past, or using corners to block line-of-sight and pulling and leashing or constantly readjusting and making use of AI pathing to reduce damage taken. Those seem to be normal things that most everyone does in dungeons.

And frankly, I don’t have personal moral issues with using height and ranged attacks to get past an encounter (done it before in other MMOs, the system is supposed to declare the mob invulnerable or let it regen back tons of hp if that’s not kosher, standing on a rock or tree to shoot things feels like a natural human thing to do, the very point is that I’m trying to be hard to reach here, mobs could be given a ranged attack or some kind of cc to get us off the perch, it feels good and intended to outsmart a melee mob) but since Anet appears to feel that abusing the Z axis ventures into exploit territory, I avoid using that as a valid solution in GW2.

Kite around the mulberry bush, it is. No standing on the mulberry bush. Pft.

And I’ve followed the mulberry bush entirely off the point because I’m no wiser about how I should blog about my turtle-slow learning process.

I thinking that I may not want to show pictures and strategies and a breakdown of each encounter, because doh, that leads to blind imitation, right? (Or some bastard leaving me a note in the comments about how I’m doing it ALL WRONG and you should DO IT THIS WAY INSTEAD cos GLITCHING IS FASTER.)

And yet, I have a piss-poor memory and if I don’t make a record for myself about how far I’ve gotten through with each dungeon, and the strategies I figured out for how to get through it, I’m liable to forget what the hell I did and have an utterly miserable time the next time I try to make progress or practice.

And yet, maybe leaving some kind of record of the process is valuable for those that want to come after, in the same exploratory spirit, since what works for me may not exactly work for them, right?

And maybe it would be helpful to get comments and suggestions on areas where I am stuck, or having trouble. (Yet well-meaning comments can sometimes be helpful and sometimes infuriating – like trying to get someone to comment on or edit your writing. Maybe they have a valuable point. Maybe they should just go stuff it instead.)

And yet it would be kind of exceedingly stupid to publish a thorough solution that an ArenaNet dev can look through, decide they don’t like something about it, and proceed to get it fixed in the next patch, causing mass consternation (no small amount of it from myself either since that would invalidate a hard thought out strategy.)

I think “conflicted” and “confused” are good words to describe my present state of mind, yes.

Dunno, no real answers. Can’t decide.

If anyone is curious, at this present point in my experience, I would recommend AC story as a good starting point to learn dungeon soloing.

After all, it’s the only one I’ve managed to get through, start-to-finish.

Did have some deaths while learning, but they seem to be easily avoidable deaths with practice. My guardian main gets through it pretty easily. I tested it on an older guardian alt for fun, and that character also managed to get through it while in knight’s gear and berserker trinkets.

The upscaling makes it fairly forgiving to somewhat wacky, not quite optimized builds, with zero food or consumables.

Tried it on a sinister necro for fun, and wow, it hurt a lot more. It’s probably my lack of familiarity with the class and precise dungeon mechanics (which tend to get masked on guardians since they’re so block-filled and heal-y) but it was also eye-opening to try and figure out how to solve it from another perspective.

No, Eir, -I- need help. Your job is just to be a meatshield.

No, Eir, -I- need help. Your job is just to be a meatshield.

(Got super-duper frustrated when the Lovers bugged out on the necro. They became immune to conditions. Vs a NECRO. In SINISTER gear. It was fucking awful and repeated massacres for a long while. Nearly wanted to quit and decided to just give it a few more shots, switching over to zerker and a stabby dagger. Had to essentially waypoint kamikaze to get past the bug.)

Rate of return, beyond satisfaction in completing a dungeon by yourself, is not very high though.

No real NBI prompt for this post. Just this one thing: Give yourself permission to write a sucky post and get it done. All just part of the process.

And yeah, this advice may or may not work for you.

Only one way you’re going to find out.

Path of Exile: Milestone Achieved, Many More to Go *Twitch* (Pun intended)

Much of the Easter weekend was spent furthering my noob adventures in Path of Exile.

In the span of time a pro PoE player probably takes to get to level 80 (likely in hardcore to boot), I have been slow crawling my way in softcore past my prior lifetime peak of level 66 and moving officially into mapping (and farming, and getting semi-bored out of my mind, and farming some more.)

I’d been entertaining the vaguely optimistic thought that I might go from 62 to 70 on Friday, 70 to 75 on Saturday and maaaaybe 76 to 80 on Sunday.

Of course, I very well knew that a) Path of Exile’s level curve is decidedly exponential – no linear GW2 easy mode here, and b) there was the possible danger of running out of maps for one’s optimal level range, so I expected to not quite make it and possibly need to go another week to finally hit the magic 80.

I end Sunday at level 77, so… not too shabby, considering I’ve never done this before.

poe-library

Fearing that I’d run out of maps too quickly, I spent a while farming in the level 67 Library zone in Act 3 merciless while I was still in the range for it. (+- 7 levels, apparently, so I could theoretically hit 74 before I started getting an xp penalty.)

I also learned that I don’t quite have the mentality for repeatedly farming the same damn map over and over again, because it started getting awfully boring.

If I hadn’t set myself the goal to reach as many of the 1 month challenges as I could, I would definitely have stopped and went to play another game by now.

However, necessity is the mother of all invention. I discovered that I -could- farm quite well if it wasn’t the only thing I was focusing on (perhaps my safe flame totem build was also a bit boring to play, but hey, let’s not knock what was actually working to level me up.)

It ended up being a great opportunity to catch up on all the Swan Song and Mirrorshades roleplays in the other screen, led into being tempted to subscribe for ad-free video-on-demand on itmejp’s Twitch.tv channel, which then meant I needed to -make- a Twitch account and on the side, begin investigating this strange phenomenon of ‘Why would someone watch someone else play games when they could play ’em themselves?’

I’m still working on figuring that one out.

Sure, it’s kinda fun to flip through games on Twitch like flipping TV channels, marveling at how many people are just sitting around broadcasting themselves playing games, but really, I can only last for 15 seconds at best on most streams before I end up boggling at how this disgustingly low resolution stream has several thousands of viewers, or how that streamer’s voice grates on my spine, or how amateur the production values are on that stream, or hey, absolutely nothing is happening on this stream because it’s one of those PvP sandbox games where the idea of someone else playing the game for me -does- appeal… except that it appears to consist of a whole bunch of standing around waiting for something to happen and my attention span only lasts so long.

Well, maybe I should choose games closer to my heart, where I can actually understand the UI and the jargon and where I don’t have to fear spoiling myself.

So I try to watch a few GW2 PvP streams, which aren’t too shabby, except that GW2 is so active combat that my eyes have to stay glued to the other monitor to keep up, and that doesn’t work when I just want something to vaguely glance at while -actually- playing Path of Exile in the main monitor.

Oh hey, maybe I should watch a Path of Exile streamer being all pro in one screen while I noob it up in the other screen, that sounds all meta and stuff… Except that I realize it becomes -doubly boring- to see two little figures endlessly farm loot and xp, and it’s also depressing to see how the ‘pros’ do it – apparently they party up and trade a lot, both things that I don’t wanna do, thanks, and am ok with being slower as a result.

So I’m not exactly learning anything by watching how three people co-op and kill things much faster than my lonesome (I would rather watch them when they are solo racing to learn that particular fast playstyle) which makes this channel worthless too. Bah. *flip*

I end up going for the one type of Twitch content that -does- make sense to me, competitive matches with a commentator, because watching eSports is way cheaper than paying for a cable TV sports channel over here.

It so happened that an ESL Evolve tournament was going on, which was nifty. Here was a game that I know how to play, know how the game is supposed to be played, don’t have the time to play it and certainly not at a competitive level. I still ended up bouncing channels because one of the commentators in one stream sounded like they knew absolutely nothing about the game, which got on my nerves, but it was a great Path of Exile farming accompaniment for a while.

Until the third time I died by accident just standing around and letting a wandering mob beat on me because my attention was riveted on an exciting monster vs hunter play in the other screen.

Bah.

I’d have more use for Twitch if I was still playing A Tale in the Desert, that’s for sure. Now there was a game with hefty amounts of downtime.

I ended up following Youtube links for audio music instead, but that’s another story.

poe-1stchallenge

Somewhen during the weekend of endless farming, I finally caught up with the one last Tormented ghost I needed and completed the first of four challenges. Hurrah!

On Sunday, I got around to setting up a hideout and getting some Forsaken Masters established in my abode for the daily missions, so as to increase my chances at filling in some of the missions needed for another challenge.

I also finally managed to get a first sighting of Zana, the mapping Master, in a level 70 map and quickly ran her mission and got her set up in the hideout.

poe-mapping

Her daily mission was delicious in terms of maps produced. (Beginner’s luck, maybe, but there was a cartographer’s strongbox in the mission and it popped a ton of -admittedly low level- maps.)

A week or two more of this and I suspect I should be able to get at least three of four challenges done.

As for the last, I have no clue if I’ll ever get to high enough a map level to meet one of the unique bosses I’m supposed to kill, or whether I’ll get brave enough and venture in to Atziri – I have one complete map of the four vaal fragments sitting in my stash, but I’m thinking I’d rather hit level 80 first.

I -think- the non-uber version is only level 70, but y’know, it’s a fight I’ve never done and I don’t know how many deaths and re-entries I’ll get (usually 6 if it follows the other maps).

I peeked at a video and it -almost- looked doable, except that I worry that I a) don’t have enough dps, and b) don’t have a good solution to running out of flameblast aoe yet. That video someone was using lightning warp to zap out of there, but it’s definitely a reduced duration lighting warp and I don’t have that gem yet (sad face.)

I’m kinda vaguely entertaining the hope that it’ll drop during my farming and get me set up that way… or I could bite the bullet and send someone a whisper (the horror) or, and this just occurred to me while writing this, I could go check out the possibility of another travel movement gem instead of slavishly following the forum build (leap slam or flicker strike comes casually to mind.)

We’ll see.

Honestly, I’m getting very antsy and kinda want to start another alt (or two or three). I’ve dropped a stash tab full of uniques that look great for leveling, a whole bunch of skill gems that make me want to make a bow character, a lightning tendrils or arc character, but but *twitch* I just need to stay the course a little while more until I hit level 80.

The focus I’ve been devoting to Path of Exile also reminds me that I could be doing the same thing in Guild Wars 2 and leveling and playing all the lowbie classes I’ve been ignoring for a long time. Which I kinda want to do once my PoE stint is done.

Certainly there’s no shortage of things I could be doing until Act 4 in PoE arrives (and Heart of Thorns in GW2 too.)

In other news, they say that Path of Exile is going to get a customizable item filter soon, allowing one to hide junk and highlight desired items in different colors and borders.

poe-itemfilterneededyep

Yep, can’t wait for that functionality.