The Memoir of Obscure Wanderings

stagnum obscuria

n. the feeling of being swamped by countless innumerable little things to get done and valiantly treading water just to stay in one place… only to look up and realize that you no longer recognize where you are… a shrouded foggy gloom of sombre silhouettes stands in the stead of where you thought you were… and the only thought in your mind is that you are now irrevocably lost.

That was me four weeks ago.

And the above is my little copycat nod to The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a fun little word blog I discovered via a TED talk about made up words to describe inarticulable emotions, feelings for which simple English words like happy or sad or bored or angry just don’t encompass the entirety of the experience.

See, I wasn’t -unhappy-, I was just busy.

Busy getting necessary things done, at work, in real life, attending raids, getting the odd Pokemon caught and Pokestops spun here and there, not quite following the weekly priority wishlist of things I’d quite like to get done, but most definitely getting other equally pressing matters done…

… and before you know it, the week’s over and it’s time for a new week.

Eh, maybe it’s a bad week. We have all those at some point or another. Can’t expect every week of the year to be productive, right?

poe-mar1

The next week Path of Exile Legacy League launches. It’s a welcome distraction.

I jump straight into the new SSF (solo self-found) legacy softcore league, just to make things official and mostly to add to Grinding Gear Games’ stats, since I’d still be not talking or trading with anybody either way.

I’d previously been idly testing a life leeching axe duelist pre-Legacy League, wondering if I dared to make my own build and see how far it would get.

It seemed like a bad idea to try starting a league with a self-found melee self-created build though, so I went for a very safe previously-tested SSF starter, Pewpewpew’s cheap firestorm build that uses zombie meatshields. You can get away with ludicrously bad gear with this build and still function relatively well up to basic maps.

As RNG luck would have it, a +40% item rarity shield unique dropped very early on for me, and subsequently various rares all got rolled with +10% odd item rarity here and there. I went, “OK, what the heck, I guess we’re going to stack magic find instead of survival and see what happens!”

I end up collecting a stash tab full of uniques on my way to level 70, which is the point where my total disregard for any respectable resistances starts causing the occasional exploding into gory little bits by a single lightning spell hit.

Faced with the prospect of patiently re-gearing with more upgraded stuff and giving up the item rarity… and a bunch of shiny unique axes that are screaming “I would be awesome if you played a melee axe user…”

I decide it’s time to make an alt and try the experimental self-build, now armed with some shiny uniques.

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It’s a mix of sunder for long ranged rectancular AoE and lacerate for closer single-target or small AoE cone, a bit of life leech and the plan is to go for as much evasion / life as possible and stretch into acrobatics and spell dodging.

I have no idea if it will work, but the fun is in the trying.

It’s a strange little revelation that hit me in the midst of leveling this fellow, at like literally level 5.

poe-mar3

I was thinking, “whoa, two uniques have dropped,” “this melee cleaving is pretty fun” “I’m sure this will be really fun in the level 30-40s, though I have no idea how high I’ll reach before the build starts to not work”

and then it hit me, “So what? Killing things at level 30-40 kinda feels the same as killing things at level 60-70; cool unique stuff will still drop; you don’t trade so you have no standard of comparison as to what’s more profitable or no, everything to you is a potential cool thing that a new alt could use.”

I made it to level 82 or 83 once a long time ago with an ancestral warchief marauder, so the Atlast of Worlds and mapping is not exactly unexplored territory, beyond the bosses that are still beyond one’s knowledge and gear capacity.

So there isn’t any actual need to keep pushing ever so higher and higher. Ladder climbing is not a personal motivator. Until Legacy League ends and the ten acts of Path of Exile drop, one is essentially repeating the same scenery over and over in normal, cruel and merciless difficulty anyway.

The fun is in the random loot drops and the testing and tweaking of one’s knowledge of the game, and if I have to explode a hundred times from mistakes to do it, why not? 

gw2-deimos-hard

The last couple of weeks has also been tiresomely methodical on the GW2 front.

My raid group has developed an obsession with defeating Deimos on challenge mode, going for some 3 hours once or twice a week, not counting the additional normal clear day that is used to get all 13 normal mode bosses/raid encounters out of the way.

The issue with Deimos, and working as intended, is that one single person making a mistake essentially causes a raid wipe.

Since we keep going for three hours with no success, one can indeed conclude that mistakes were made.

It’s not any one person. It’s all understandable mistakes (or bad RNG with insufficiently thought out backup strategy.) People in critical roles like the tank or the flak (ie. nasty looking pink hands) kiters are under high pressure, they slip up once and bang, they die. Whoops. /GG. Restart.

Less adept people who have been carefully placed in less critical roles make the occasional mistake and slip up. Whoops, there goes the oil expanding and wrecking all in its path and the careful positioning and timing needed. /GG. Restart.

A teleport gets put on someone unexpected; people dodge reflexively in a different direction than previously agreed on; people miss a dodge; adds in later phases overwhelm players’ ability to process the encounter, causing panic which leads to a mistake…  /GG. Restart.

Well, it is challenge mode, after all.

And I believe the intent is to have some encounters that are difficult to the point of requiring a group to keep practising for days and weeks until they get the execution just perfect, collectively. Some people like that kind of thing, after all.

And I don’t actually hate it, or have a strong opinion about it. I keep showing up, after all. It is interesting, in a way, to keep rehearsing a particular part in a performance and analyze one’s mistakes and try not to keep slipping up in the same way (mea culpa: the moment I panic, I dodge early…enter flying soon-to-be-dead asura).

It is, however, tiring as fuck. Especially to do it for three hours after a long day at work with no dinner.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not something I want to stop doing. I’m an opportunist and opportunity in my kind of timezone rarely knocks twice.

But it does put me through the wringer. And after two, three days a week, it pretty much drains all energy and desire to do much of anything else. Especially anything else GW2-related. *shudder*

At the same time, accomplishments in any game feel increasingly meaningless.

Today, I’m level whatever in Path of Exile. Or I collected X number of resources leading to Y goal in GW2. Or I caught a Z Pokemon for the collection.

It’s a made-up goal that the developers have designed, that you’ve agreed to suspend disbelief to want, for the purposes of “playing” the game.

I start getting restless and game hop.

I go for a short spin in Trove to revisit things. Still colorful, still pretty amusing, still laggy as anything for my geographical location.

I poke my head into my singleplayer ARK game, die a couple of times to random dinosaurs while trying to remember how to play, wind up with a lucky violent dinosaur-free respawn, build a slightly less pathetic thatch hut that is four squares big, and bully a couple of low level dinosaurs – mostly because they’re stuck in trees.

ark-mar

It takes forever and a few wiki browses before I re-remember how to tame anything.

ark-mar2

Huzzah, I have a tame turtle.

It still feels meaningless. Collect thatch. Collect wood. Collect berries.

I briefly consider playing my Minecraft: Terrafirmapunk game, but wuss out at the thought of needing to collect more wood and stone.

shelter

I give Shelter a go, it’s been on my Steam list forever and unplayed.

Before long I realize that I’m either emotionally dead to the plight of badgers beyond the metagame of trying to see which badger is the lightest in color to feed before it starves, or conversely too afraid of the eventual lesson of nature that one of the badger pups will wind up lost along the way or that death will inevitably come, for the badger mum if nobody else.

So I stop. The only way to win is not to play, and all that.

slime-rancher1

The real winner of my restless game wanderings is this delightful little Early Access game that was going on 33% off on Steam – Slime Rancher.

I almost never buy Early Access games.

I pretty much -never- buy a game at only 33% off, preferring to wait for 75% off, or at least 50% off if I want it badly enough.

I impulse bought it, mostly because the reviews were very positive and I -really- needed some cheering up and this seemed colorful enough to do it.

I don’t regret a single cent.

It is really that good.

It is unabashedly happy and cartoony and ridiculous as befits a game that is about collecting and selling slime poop… er, plorts.

It is also a game that works, has interesting content and a decent progression path, which is something quite unexpected for an Early Access game.

The slimes jiggle around and display interesting behaviors. If they’re hungry, they’ll mash themselves right against the walls of their corral, yearning towards the nearest piece of food they can see.

They start stacking atop each other, making little slime stack ladders, so that one or two of them will eventually hop over the walls and get out, the devious little blobs.

slime-rancher2

There are tabby cat slimes that will grab objects near them and play with them, tossing them willy nilly.

The fun is in the discovery though, and rest assured, there are more interesting slimes and and other things to be found in this game.

There are a few zones and objects still under construction, but by and large, the game is very playable even without them.

Recommended.

Especially when you want a mood lift. *Blorp*

GW2: The Nerfs Will Continue Until Morale Improves

The watchword of the day is annoyance.

I suppose this is a change from the past month, where the operating phrase was “cruise control.”

However, I am not sure this is a terribly positive change.

The silver lining, of course, is that I finally got frustrated enough to break through into coherence on this blog again.

Most of last month was me questioning myself, “What are you feeling when you play the games you’re playing? Do you have anything to write or blog about?”

And the reply, as always, was “ehh… nothing very much. I’m not sure I’m feeling anything. Kinda numb. Empty. Just cruising. Kinda contented, I guess. Not happy happy. But not depressed or sad either. I’m just doing what needs to be done.

“A chore is a chore is a chore. It’s not super-tedious, but it’s nothing to get excited over either. You do it, mark it off the to-do list for the day or week, and proceed not to think about it any longer. You certainly don’t find a dire need to wax eloquently on a blog about brushing your teeth, bathing, cleaning the house, picking up groceries, paying the bills, doing GW2 dailies, doing PoE dailies, -every- day and -every- post.

“You know what? This is too much thinking about trying to write about nothing. Let’s go play Path of Exile. Your next build is waiting to be leveled or improved incrementally.”

The result: zero blog posts.

Until now. Where ArenaNet’s somewhat overzealous nerf of the standard chronomancer and necromancer raid meta builds promises ripple effects that will shake up the meta, in as yet unknown ways.

Doom and gloom has a way of spreading across Reddit and the forums though, and the knee-jerk reactions of others are not doing wonders for -my- mood either.

The reason why I’m blogging about it though is mostly a need to work out a bunch of conflicting emotions, and having no other outlet but to lay it all out here.

I have an underlying foundation of stability throughout whatever the hell excuse for “balance” occurs in GW2. The fact is that it is possible to own one of every class, if not more. I am also quite confident in being able to equip each class with whatever the hell is defined as “good” in the next meta, even if it will cost time and money to do so.

So even as one class gets hit with the nerf bat, another class will naturally be in ascendance, and if I have to equip and change to that class, SO BE IT. It is doable.

I know that I can -eventually- adapt to whatever’s needed. My raid group is full of people who can multiclass, so chances are fairly good that eventually the team will sort itself out into a new configuration that can cope – even if we might have to wait for the new strategies to be developed and then faithfully ape in cookie-cutter fashion.

Of course, doable does not mean easy, cheap or enjoyable.

Some classes aesthetically appeal to different personalities more. Some classes are easier to play without having to manage a concerto on the keyboard. Some classes have cheaper builds or less specific role responsibility to tax one’s concentration and reflexes.

I’d previously found a very happy place in raids as a condi PS berzerker-warrior.

I fulfill a support role by buffing might and providing banners. It even gives fury and added condition damage. Adding on burns on a boss ups the dps of the necromancer-reapers, who get a serious amount of burns to epidemic bounce.

I enjoy condition damage, it’s strategically different from straight up direct damage, there’s having to pay attention to layering on stacks and yet being able to pause and dodge and deal with other mechanics for a breath while still pulsing damage.

Also it is FIRE. My readers should know my pyromaniac obsession by now. I have the most luck sticking to classes and builds that let me play with fire, be it City of Heroes, Path of Exile or GW2. Fire particle effects just make me happy.

dropbearonfire

morefire

Not terribly original, perhaps, being a darkity dark lord with shoulder spikes and on fire, but who freaking cares when you can watch the world burn?

coh_worldburn

Warriors are straightforward. They hit things with their head. A perfect match personality-wise. They’re fairly survivable and sturdy – which is good because I tend to be clumsy and insta-die on squishier classes.

They contribute a decent amount of control. Condi PS especially excels with immobilizes, and I have felt successful in my niche but not terribly demanding role holding Gorseval spirits and escort wargs.

And I am now sulking and in a spot of mourning because it looks like the ripple effect is going to catch condi PS warriors in its wake.

The “common knowledge” being bandied about is that condi PS can no longer keep up 25 might stacks without a mesmer’s signet of inspiration to help it along.

This is true. If you’re in the standard condi PS build.

I spent a fairly fruitful if moderately frustrated night of testing with the dps golem ways and means to keep up 25 might stacks on a condi PS.

After a bunch of experiments, I determined that it was possible to stretch boon duration in various ways (with the understandable tradeoff of a slight drop in personal dps.)

Instead of rare veggie pizza, for example, one could eat dumplings and gain 20% boon duration at the cost of 20% condition duration. This, of course, is not terribly desirable.

So I invested a bunch of gold, leveled a scribe to 225 (hoorah for hoarding materials), and made a superior sigil of concentration. Dump that on the bow, dump a sigil of battle (cheap option, I was ready to go two sigil of concentrations if needed) on the torch, and voila, extended boon duration and a few more might stacks at the cost of some bleed dps from two sigils of earth.

Actual raid testing proved it was possible to maintain 25 might stacks with blasting might on the bow, For Great Justice and a bunch of extended might duration from sigil of strength crits.

Unfortunately, even as that bit of personal testing proved a success, our raid group was discovering the other ramifications of the nerf.

No one brought a rev, so our break bars – which were previously heavily dependent on rev breaking – ended up getting broken more slowly.

No one brought a necro, except in a few odd tests after repeated failures with a new comp, so the group struggled with mechanics that previously the necros with their many minions were taking care of. So… cage on trio caught a bunch of damage from adds that were previously tied up with minions and downed by epidemic. Conditions were flying left, right and center on Matthias and to a lesser extent, on sloth, without plague signet. Unmanaged adds on Xera were lethal distractions.

Without minions to heal, the druids had less astral force to go into celestial avatar and less healing ability, which was not really able to keep up with a spoiled bunch of clumsy souls used to getting topped off despite mistakes. Said clumsy souls were also mostly adapting to new builds or rotations and distracted, hence the mistakes.

It’s unknown what strategy our raid group is going to settle on. We were previously very necro heavy and banking heavily on conditions and epidemic bounce. I don’t know if the viper horror minion nerf means they are now off the table for good – the only hope for them is if their epidemic bounces are still strong enough to deal sufficient dps – but it’s not looking terribly promising.

This puts my condi PS warrior in a really bad spot as well, despite managing 25 might stacks, because to me, I exist to help boost necromancer epidemics with plenty of burns. The fact that a ranged build is easier to play in a number of these raid encounters was a bonus.

If there are no more necromancers, there is much less reason for me to be playing condi PS in a raid.

I am better off going normal power PS, in melee, where I can pretty much close my eyes and shit out 25 might stacks without working as hard for it.

Bonus, a power PS has more break bar management than condi PS, which would compensate for the loss of a revenant. They support direct power based builds better, because they never have to decide whether to trade off burning arrows for empower allies, and it looks like the new golden children are going to be elementalists (what’s new?), guardians and thieves, all of whom are direct damage builds.

*sigh*

redvsblue

Again, there’s an odd sense of conflict. I -shouldn’t- feel too terribly upset.

I already have a staff elementalist decked out in ascended (which I still barely know how to play, but have managed successful kills in some off-class runs.)

I have a decked out thief, which I’ve taken to Gorseval before, and can play (but somehow don’t terribly enjoy. Either I don’t have a thief mindset, or I can’t gel with how that particular thief character looks.)

I have lived and breathed guardian life for four years. I can play a guardian in my sleep. My main is a guardian, albeit I was waiting for legendary armor before upgrading his still exotic armor. I also have a second guardian alt that I can easily resurrect – especially since I decked out a revenant which never saw much play (thank goodness, I wasn’t terribly comfy with it) – so I can easily just transfer a whole bunch of ascended heavy armor weight stuff over, if need be.

I have an 80 ranger-druid (that I was going to practice on via world completion, eventually) and a boosted 80 mesmer and engineer (that I was eventually going to take beginner steps to learn, so that I can at least appreciate what the other classes bring to the table), and enough leather and magnetite shards and random ascended drops hoarded that it’s not going to be impossible to equip whatever is needful.

A change in the meta is theoretically a good excuse to learn how to play a new build, and be exposed to more variety in gameplay.

So why is it that I just generally feel annoyed? Like something that was tolerable just got even more tedious?

Well, for one thing, changing over builds means I have to look at my completely unmanaged inventories and try to get them in some semblance of order once again. I have to think and make uncomfortable decisions over which currency to use to buy X ascended item, or grapple with crafting and the mystic forge to make said item or switch stats.

For another, the change in meta means that raid team roles are now in flux once more, and my particular raid group hasn’t even settled on a workable raid composition, let alone who will be in which role most of the time. This leads to discomfort, rather than the numbing comfortable familiarity of knowing that such-and-such player will be here and doing this, and that player will be there doing that.

And while discomfort is all very well when you want to incite players to step up to the challenge and adapt, every time I hit a frustration or discomfort or pain point these days, I start asking myself, “it’s been four years, maybe it’s enough, maybe I’m done with discomfort?”

At the level that I’m playing Path of Exile, there is no discomfort whatsoever –

plagueoffrogs
– only a plague of frogs.

(No doubt at the higher levels, there is great unhappiness every time a patch comes and throws something out of whack. But I have to point out that in PoE, there’s usually something else that can be the new OP thing that patch.)

This leads to a path of least resistance where I find myself double-clicking the PoE icon on the desktop a lot more often than the GW2 icon.

I’m not quitting GW2, of course. I think I’m still too attached to it for now, even if the -developers- seem to be checking out more than moi. (Hi, Amazon Game Studios!)

Both me and my raid group are likely to settle for the path of least resistance too, which is to just wait until the theorycrafters with the interest and too much time on their hands publish their “findings” (regardless of how true the facts are objectively, what is copied and repeated becomes history.)

Or it’ll hit a drama patch and break up. (Always have to prep for that possibility as well. Human nature is human nature.)

Whatever.

Even Legendary Armor can’t get me excited these days.

(I will leave it to a new generation to bitch about exclusivity and lack of alternatives. Bitching implies caring or giving a fuck, something I no longer have the energy for.)

Yeah, it looks pretty acceptably great. The heavy version, anyway, which is all I care about. I can only hope that it doesn’t look fugly as sin on a charr or asura, which are the two main body types on my character stable.

The new raid will probably arrive some time in November, after Halloween. Perhaps there will be more collection steps to work on then. With enough patience, I presume my raid group will eventually get there. Or it will be sad pug life like many others already suffering now to steadily unlock the collection. Or if it proves too painful, then the other alternative is giving up. Then I’ll move on, to some other game.

I can neither get excited or feel stressed about it either way. What happens, happens.

All I am, is a little bit sad about my condi PS, and a little bit annoyed that I have to suffer through more ‘work’ and unenjoyable bits, in order to arrive at a self-chosen goal.

(Not complaining, it’s self-inflicted, delayed gratification is a thing… but just…annoyed.)

In the meantime, in order to get over my annoyance and forget everything but the cheerful meditative smoothness of things falling over and dying without a struggle, I’ll be over in Wraecrast, procrastinating on GW2 stuff I probably oughta do but can’t be arsed to yet.

uniquestrongbox
Likely more exciting loot than I’ll ever see in GW2.

Of Fish and Blenders

The problem with playing singleplayer games is that it almost never occurs to me to share what I’m doing.

I mean, the very -point- of a singleplayer game is to toodle around doing things on your own having experiences of your own, right?

In contrast to some players who find they must have company when playing modded Minecraft, be  it for general camaraderie or friendly competition or to show off what they’ve made/done, none of those are very strong motivators for me when playing.

I mostly play to assuage my own curiosity, to learn the ins and outs of a particular game, to tickle an underlying achiever urge, and to be lost or immerse in another world/story for a time. None of which particularly require ‘sharing one’s experiences’ in order to tick the checkbox.

So I conveniently “forget” I have a blog and let it lie fallow, in favor of oh… playing Stardew Valley for an extra hour or two.

sd1

We’re now into the Summer of Year 2, and getting a minuscule bit more serious with the farming thing. I’m trying to earn enough moolah to afford the larger animal barns, because it’ll be a really boring Winter if I don’t.

The fishing craze continues, and I’m fast running out of Summer days to catch my new obsession, the legendary Crimsonfish that lives in the east ocean.

It’s not that it doesn’t bite. Oh no. That dang varmint has chomped down on my bait more than ten times now.

It’s that it twists around so wildly, even at level 9 fishing skill (with an extra +3 from a Dish o’ the Sea reward I got from the community center, so I’m capped at 10)  that it escapes me every time. It is officially “the one that got away.”

I have been -sooo- tempted to install an easier fishing mod, just to nab the varmint, but that would probably just cheat myself of the satisfaction.

I spent the hour after I quit playing reading up on Tackles on the wiki, and am going to try a few new ones and see if they make the task any easier. I can also level up my fishing skill one final time to level 10 and see if that does anything. Failing which, there’s modding as the very last resort.

I got so pissed off by the Crimsonfish, I actually ran into the Sewers one night after an entire failed afternoon/evening at the ocean, thinking to use the last 30 seconds of my +fishing food on an attempt at another legendary fish.

sd2

Well, it wasn’t an attempt. It was one hit, one reel. Super easy.

At least it proved there was nothing wrong with my fishing rod, or my fishing skill.

CRIMSONFISH, I’LL GET YOU NEXT TIME, I SWEAR.

On the Path of Exile front, I’ve been finding new fancy things to spent microtransaction points on.

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A currency stash tab is the newest thing GGG has come up with, and I immediately nabbed one.

Some people felt it condensed their wealth too much, into a numerical value that they couldn’t feel the tangibility of (an image I now can’t locate on Reddit said it best, a roomful of cash Scrooge Mcduck style versus a bank account transaction slip listing only numbers), but you know what, I don’t care.

I only care that I managed to empty the two Stash tabs full of currency that I had on the Standard league into one nice neat tab, and got 1/24th closer to having a usable stash in Standard (maybe it’ll happen, one day.)

Having a condensed currency page in the Perandus league ain’t bad either.

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I was mildly amused to see that Path of Exile also had its own share of lockboxes.

Albeit a fully cosmetic-only lockbox wherein you are confirmed to get the full value of the points you spent (just that you get purely random things you may or may not want), and the forum announcement also requested you to “spend responsibly.”

I dunno if that had any effect on the whales who promptly dropped some hundreds of dollars for 2000-3000 points to open a ton of them, but hey, people spend hundreds of dollars on various hobbies, so who’s to say they were irresponsible?

Everyone has their own spending limit.

I was feeling mildly curious, so I decided to open three. 75 points, or $7.50 USD. That’s more my kind of spending limit.

I popped a gargoyle decoration for my hideout, which I was quite chuffed about, and a radiant gloves that some people might have liked, but I personally didn’t like the look of, and decided to stop there, one less than originally planned.

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The hideout menagerie grows…  (The biggest gargoyle is the decoration.)

A day or two later, the infernal footprints went on sale, and I gladly nabbed those, to finish off the whole cosmetic look – essentially you leave fiery footfalls behind, just like carting around a GW2 legendary.

On the non-spending and actually -playing- front, my Righteous Fire/Searing Bond totem Marauder officially ascended to Chieftain a few days ago, by visiting a very outleveled Normal Labyrinth.

The Labyrinth is interesting, but the necessity to stay connected for an extended period of time sorta puts a damper in my enthusiasm to run it, as I don’t have that kind of time except on holidays/weekends, and I’m not 100% sure the servers will stay up even when I do have the time.

Instead, I’ve been enjoying running maps. He’s level 73 now, and still climbing, in spite of really horrible gear. I’ve been searching around desperately for upgrades and just not finding much of anything. The woes of the self-found.

Admittedly, I’m also reaching the limits of my understanding on how precisely to upgrade him further. Else it is always possible to grit my teeth and send a trade whisper out to someone when I’m feeling brave, but the truth is that I don’t even know what I want, how I want to slot further (even though there’s now a million and one skill gems available from the NPC vendors) and it’s going to take time to slowly work it all out.

In the meantime, he can still do maps, albeit exploding every now and  then when encountering the wrong type of boss sporting the wrong type of damage that he now lacks resistances to, because his gear ain’t up to snuff anymore.

For a change of pace, I decided to start up an alt, and make use of all the delicious uniques and stuff that the first character had been dropping.

On a whim, I decided on Blade Vortex, apparently a fairly new skill that was just introduced some few patches ago.

It took a bit of leveling with other gems to get past Merveil and the level you could start slotting Blade Vortex, but now that I’m in Act 2 proper, Blade Vortex is officially on the menu.

And it is hilarious. I now fully understand why folks say that this gem is for fans of “Will it Blend?”

poe4

Essentially for each button press of the skill, you conjure up one blade circling around you for 5 seconds or so. The more you press the button, the more blades get conjured and spin around you.

Eventually of course, you want Faster Casting and Increased Duration to increase the number of blades you can have spinning around you at any one time.

As of now, it’s about 12 as the max, holding down and spamming while being stationary, and to be honest, about 3-5 blades is all that is needed to grind the majority of the throwaway mobs running around the maps.

They run towards you and literally explode on the blades of a blender.

This is cause for much unbridled giggling.

No doubt, the weakness of this build is going to be lethal ranged attacks from afar, but well, I’m following a guide, and let’s see what defences they propose later down the road. It’s a problem for another day.

In the meantime, the answer to the question “Will it blend?” is YES.

 

Oversaturation Leads to Not Caring

Today’s mood: Nonchalant

A lot of blogs (too many to link, alas) are buzzing like a poked hive with the big news that Everquest Next will be no more.

Wildstar’s prospects don’t seem to be in ascendance either, with the news of a sizeable reduction in force.

What hit closer to home for me was news that Colin Johanson was leaving ArenaNet and GW2.

There’s been a very positive spin over the whole affair, but for the more jaded of us, there’s always a glass half-empty side as well.

Let’s face it, people don’t decide to leave a company if growth is in sight and things are going well. There are always niggling bits that push people out the door too. Maybe it’s not-so-great relationships with bosses or colleagues, work environment, family pressure, a pet project that got canceled, responsibilities that got taken away, new responsibilities being less easy to cope with than the old, no forseeable growth opportunities or openings to climb the career ladder, whatever. Not saying that any or all of the above might necessarily apply in Colin’s case, but who knows, right?

I do think HoT was a gamble that seems to be backfiring on Anet quite rapidly. (Launched last August; discontented rumblings throughout Jan-Mar.)

Reading between the lines, we see a bit of a scramble for extra revenue this quarter. Shared inventory slot bundle for $35? Glider wings of different color variations, $10 each? “Hey, guys, we’ve decided that March is going to be a whole month of discounted gem store sales daily! Keep logging in daily! Maybe you’ll see something you like!”

Translation: Daily-log in metric is falling.  Revenue is falling. We have a first quarter report to give to NCsoft soon.

Anecdotes suggest many casual players across various guilds have ceased logging-in over the past weeks and months.

Personally I’ve been seeing attendance at Oceanic TTS Teq and Triple Wurm shrinking. The Oceanic leaders called some kind of important community meeting yesterday. I’m kinda waiting to see the minutes to see what was decided.

Why couldn’t I attend and hear the discussion firsthand?

Ha. The exact same reason world boss raid attendance is shrinking, of course. I was doing the new content – Salvation Pass raids – and locked into my closed group of ten peoples (give or take 3-7 fillers.)

Presumably at least 50% of the people who would otherwise be filling up a TTS instance have been drawn away by  ten-man instanced raids, leaving the rest struggling to keep taxing in PUG fillers for world bosses or HoT zone events.

The inevitable divisiveness is upon us. The community has been fracturing into smaller and smaller bits, and I heartily doubt it’s ever going to recover.

We’ve been moving away from things that draw a server community together – megaservers, guild missions in the open world that can pull others in and let people meet, WvW server loyalty crumbles as the game mode diminishes, no large Living Story zone events like the Marionette or Lion’s Arch rescue, towards things that lock smaller and smaller groups of presumably likeminded people into instances. Players would now rather not play with others who don’t think like them. They would rather not waste time teaching new people stuff. Strangers are useless noobs who would drag the group down.

It’s been an interesting progression of emotions for me this past week anyway.

I’ve realized I can’t muster the energy to fight or complain anymore. I sounded the warning trumpets early on, and they were ignored and/or it was already too late to steer the oil tanker in another direction.

Certain Reddit veterans have taken up the grumbling about story being locked away in raids, while others are happily disagreeing with them. There’s rants about raid challenge – too much, too little, whatever. There’s people hating on raids, there’s people loving raids. Unsoweiter.

I have decided to resolve my dilemma very simply. Wallet vote. While the state of affairs that I personally disagree with continues, I’m not paying a dime for anything.

I like seeing new content. So as long as my current raid group holds up, I am also content to trundle along and see if there’s any chance of progressing further or no. Success or failure is up to the group as a whole. Patient play and practice will see the group through, assuming no critical fractures or drama – which would be also out of my hands and beyond my control.

The really interesting question I asked myself this morning, while I had breakfast: “If my current raid group falls apart, would I be willing to make the effort to find yet another raid group?”

At the moment, all signs point to no.

I have tried quite a few raid groups and most of them are incapable of rising to the challenge.

Nor can I seek out any more hardcore raid groups because those would be way too much stress (not to mention, they wouldn’t take a mic-less player anyhow.)

Most importantly, now that one has, more or less, gelled together into one static raid group, it has now become an in-group, out-group thing. Presently, I no longer care about the fates of anyone or anything outside of the nine other people, so to speak.

My time has been locked up /here/ and I can’t be /there/ or anywhere else. TTS world boss raids lack attendance? WvW needs people? Sorry, I’m raiding and it’s going to take up the evening. So… guess you’re outta luck.

If the raid group dies, I become yet another rudderless ronin once more.

It is -conceivably- possible that I could apply to join yet another group, undergo the gelling process once more and reattach to yet another nine people.

Or most probably, I would ask myself what would be the point of attaching to a game whose direction is drifting off god-knows-where or is pointed towards a destination I’m not interested in going anyway?

And then de-attach completely.

I mean, the process is almost complete anyway. I’ve stopped caring about the game as a whole. I’ve stopped caring about my server. I’ve stopped caring about the general game population. I’ve a teeny bit of care left about my mega-community and my personal guilds that is steadily crumbling as I stop attending the events held by them in order to run raids.

I definitely shouldn’t give a damn about any semblance of lore or story because it’s going to take a good half a year to get revealed every so slowly, and blocked by massive obstacles called raid bosses. If I see it, I see it. If I don’t, I don’t. Whatever.

Really interestingly, I’ve stopped worrying about the whole “competence” angle ever since Vale Guardian died.

Remember I had/have this little personal hangup and insecurity over whether I’m seen as competent in the eyes of others? Seems to be a number of reasons why this has become less critical, all of a sudden.

One, I managed to kill VG in different groups. So I’m evidently playing at a sufficient level that won’t automatically cause team wipes. This satisfies the baseline level of my insecurity.

Two, even if you’re competent, if too many of the group isn’t competent (yet), you aren’t killing VG or any other raid boss anyway. So personal competence does not correlate to raid boss kill success. The solution is merely plenty of group practice and/or teaching/coaching and addressing specific mistakes/issues (assuming the people in question are open to improving and won’t go defensively apeshit on you, which… can be a bit of an ideal dream.)

Three, apparently as I de-attach from caring or being passionately invested in a game, I also no longer care about whether I’m seen as an expert player or not. I mean, who do I have to impress? Nobody whose opinion I care about.

(My personal standards seem to be set much higher than the average anyway, so I may as well just listen to my own internal compass.)

I have “The Eternal” title now. Honestly, I’m not actually going to ever set foot into any PUGs that would ask for it to be displayed. Fear of strangers and toxicity is way too high now.

The only real meaning the title has for me is the memory of the nine people who came together to specifically help get me the title even after they already had theirs (and managed to not die, one by a thread, literally, he was downed as Sabetha died. Possibly another hero teammate managed to keep rezzing too.)

So I guess, six months later, I now have the answer to the question “What’s going to come out of the other end, once I fall down the raiding hole?”

A sort of separation aloofness, that can be perceived as a mild case of “elitism” by some.

A load of not-quite-burnout, but definitely detachment from the game.

P.S. I think it’s important to clarify what “not caring” means for me in this context, because the phrase often conjures up the image of a petulant individual throwing a tantrum and ragequitting, or someone with a trembling lip mumbling “I don’t care” while signaling with all their body language he or she patently does.

At the moment, it is very much an insouciant nonchalance, with a side sprinkling of resigned indifference.

In my mind, GW2 has taken a sudden drop in status to secondary game, and it seems the amount of importance I invested into it has also dipped as a result.

I still show up for raids, I still try my hardest because that’s the right thing to do when you’re participating in organized group content. If a kill happens, hooray. If a kill doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. It just means more waiting until the next time.

In between the actual mob fighting, during all the waiting and organizing and scheduling that would drive the sane mad, I just stand around AFK, swap screens and try to squeeze in as much alternate game playing as I can (Path of Exile is much better for this than Stardew Valley, since I can instantly drop from the former, while the latter only saves game progress per day.)

It’s better than taking delays like a personal affront, I should think. This maintains my mood to pretty cheerful levels all around and I end up looking at most things with equanimity. I like being mellow better than my youthful days of super-serious intensity.

In other news, my Path of Exile Perandus League character has just hit level 63. (Yes, I’m a noob. Yes, I take my time.)

He’s been doing pretty well with a dual Righteous Fire totems + Searing Bond build. It’s very gear-independent, I’m still sitting on highly backdated level 40 something gear with the barest minimum of slotting (Increased Burning Damage on the totems, is about it).

The Blasphemy gem is my new favorite thing (for some definitions of new, I think it was introduced quite some time back.) It can automatically apply curses slotted to it, as an aura, at the cost of some mana reserved.

Since Righteous Fire totems use no mana whatsoever, I’m running Flammability as an aura, that doubles as a very handy mob radar/spotter for shadowy areas as nearby mobs instantly light up with a glowy orange-red symbol on their heads.

I’m juust starting to feel the pressure in the Merciless areas, from insufficient resistances, armor and %life increases. So that’s my current focus, run around the lvl 60+ areas, kill stuff, hope some nice-linked on-level gear drops that I can upgrade for better resist and +life and hit the %life nodes on the skill tree each level from here till maps.

I Guess PoE and GW2 Just Swapped Places

A couple days ago, I dropped $110 USD buying a supporter pack for Path of Exile Ascendancy expansion.

That’s basically $105 USD for 1050 microtransaction points, and $5 for some fancy gargoyle pets and glowy particle effect weapon skins.

I then promptly spent 420 (or $42 USD) on an armor skin set that’s basically black metal and tons of fire, and another 420 points (aka $42 USD) on another armor skin set that’s dark gothic demon king-esque.

poeskin1

Mostly because I wanted to look pleasing to my own eye while playing Path of Exile and suspected the demon helmet would look great with the rest of the fire set, but also wanted the option to mix and match the other skins too.

I had a brief moment of doubt – in the sense that if a $20 sparkle pony was controversial and a $70 monocle was cause for riots, would I be doing something against my personal principles or in an overall ‘support ethical games’ sense to output $42 for an armor set or $110 in the name of looking awesome?

A month back, Tobold was whaling it up in various mobile game apps, possibly as a sort of experiential experiment to see how it felt.

Me, I draw the line at feeding with my wallet with games that purposefully use unethical tricks (such as loss aversion or creating delay roadblocks that ask you to pay to get past or create an uneven playing field between payers and non-payers.)

At the same time, I don’t really have an issue with personal convenience that doesn’t affect other players  or a payer looking shinier. (I have spent money on Freeblade and Dragonvale, both apps I enjoyed enough to support, and bought stuff that made life slightly more convenient for me, but I could still live without if I was playing free, that didn’t impact other players at all)

The moment I see apps that put paying players in competition with non-paying players, and gives them an advantage, I feel distinctly uncomfortable and only play the app for free, seeing how far I can get on it with zero money and more patience than the average joe. (eg. Dungeon Boss, in my book, and the current app I’m fooling around with, EA’s Dungeon Keeper, which has been the subject of considerable controversy and features more unethical tricks than other app’s I’ve toyed around with, in my book. As such, I’m hesitating on even footing out $7 SGD or $5 USD for this game, and will probably not do so.)

And yet, here I was, whaling it up (or at least taking steps into becoming a mini-whale) in Path of Exile.

Me, the person who normally sits around waiting for Steam games to go on 50% or 75% off before buying them.

Just dropped the equivalent of a collector’s edition box price set on PoE, both to support a game I’d gotten back into and was thoroughly enjoying, and to increase my immersion/involvement while playing by wearing some eye candy skins.

Weird thing was, though I couldn’t put it into words at the time and kept wondering why, I felt HAPPY. Overjoyed. Deliriously happy, even. It was like retail therapy to a deprived shopaholic.

I ran around in my own private hideout, admiring how awesome I looked.

I zipped over to maps with enemies on them to revel in how my outfit now matched the fiery incinerate skill I was using to clear packs and packs of mobs.

Enjoyment of the game went up about five-fold, because my character avatar now both looked the part and reflected the image I had in my mind’s eye, and also blended into the environment more (in the sense of looking lore-appropriate powerful, rather than a country bumpkin with mismatched armor pieces.)

If there was anything that was a downer, it was the twinge of apprehension I had when going to visit my stash in the various Acts’ public lobbies.

In a completely 180 degree motivation turn from what I’d expect a majority of folks who splurge on skins would want (aka to keep up with the Joneses and have the hoi polloi admire their bling), I was almost embarrassed to stand out so prominently and wondered if others would think badly of me for what could be perceived as flaunting one’s wealth.

Fortunately, I play PoE as a primarily solo game with zero need to interact with anybody, period, so barring a few stash runs, I was squarely back in my happy me place of HAHAHA,  FIRE IS AWESOME, I LOOK AWESOME, MUCH FIRE, BURN ALL THE THINGS before long.

poeskin2

PoE now allows you to have two pets out at a time. I couldn’t resist picking up the wolf pet either. For rather obvious reasons to anyone who looks at my web avatars.

(The gargoyle is also kinda fun because it’s essential a cat-goat thing. And we all know one other game with cat-goat hybrids, right? *ahem*)

Speaking of which, way to go, GW2.

Reddit just exploded this Saturday morning (my time) with an announcement that Mike O’Brien would be taking over from Colin Johanson as game director (for a little while, up to the point he hires or promotes a new one).

Goddamn.

I can only keep repeating the above word, for various reasons.

One, a changeup in game directors usually means somewhat of a change in game direction – even if the overall philosophy doesn’t shift to reflect what that head usually likes, each person’s take on things is going to be a little unique and the decisions on what to focus on is going to differ.

The big question in the air is… is that direction going to be swerving back to what I personally like? Or further on in a direction that I don’t like?

Magic 8-ball says, “The future is unclear. Reply hazy. Ask again later.”

The good news is that we’ve gotten a ton more clarity out of this one announcement in terms of Anet’s roadmap than we’ve gotten in the past year or longer.

Mike’s stated preference is to “do fewer things, but do them well.”

From that we can easily extrapolate that there’s going to be less trying to cater to all and sundry. There’s going to be a few niches they’re polishing, to hit possibly what they perceive as the majority of their players. Looking at the teams, that’s, in no particular order, Fractals, Raids, Living Story, WvW, PvP and probably not much else.

(There’s the “Legendaries” team too, which I presume covers that extended crafting grind, precursor-related quests, and bits of rewards sprinkled here and there to add up to the overall Legendary. More of a functional thing to enable new legendary skins/reward achievement sequences to be introduced, rather than a ‘new content’ thing.)

There’s also more of a high-level timeline being shared. The two week content drops appear to be essentially a dead experiment now. Just not feasible for the devs to keep up with and still produce content of a quality they’re satisfied with, apparently. The bad but realistic news is that players are going to have to wait longer for content.

On a not-terribly-encouraging personal note, getting the Spirit Vale raids out appear to be the biggest PvE thing for the first half of the year. We’d best be expecting Living Story 3 only in the third quarter soonest.

The other PvE thing appears to be coming in April, sort of a features cleanup and excess grind removal thing, that essentially seem to be  HoT expansion fixes, basically. Cutting back on the overenthusiastic tedious bits that came with HoT. Overdue. Needs putting in to refine a lot of HoT things up to enjoyable levels (random things I can think of offhand: zone timers, adventures locked behind event chain completions, provisioner token vendors locked behind event chain completions, guild hall costs, blah blah blah.) Just not going to be new /new/ per se.

Hey, maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll get Super Adventure Box showing up for April Fool’s (and they’re just keeping mum on it for now to surprise players. Hopeful, much?)

Iterating on WvW is going to take up the time between April to August or thereabouts, with a brief interjection of the last Spirit Vale raid wing…

… and I suppose PvP is somewhere in there-ish, though now seems to be its time, with season 2 ongoing right now (dunno, stopped caring a while back.)

Goddamn, Anet.

You sure know how to make me feel better.

About having spent $110 USD on another game.

I’m not quitting. I really appreciate the realistic roadmap, so my expectations are set appropriately.

It looks like what I’m going to end up doing for the next three months or more in GW2 is: dailies, 3-4 evenings raiding in various Spirit Vale wings (unless my raid group disintegrates for reasons that are out of my control), the occasional toe into whatever they’re testing on the public for WvW, the odd organized group world boss or zone meta now and then, and that’s about it.

So erm, I guess for the time being, GW2 is now going to swap over to become a secondary game, and I’m going to need a new primary game.

I suspect the two contenders for the crown are going to be Path of Exile and/or modded Minecraft.

To set my readers’ expectations realistically as well:

I think you can expect a lot less GW2-related and more PoE or general game (I have a really long Steam unplayed games list) blog posts in the coming months.