Bright = Shadowrun – Cyberpunk + LA Gangs

Over on Rotten Tomatoes, critics are roundly panning Netflix’s Bright, awarding it very dismal ratings.

brightonrt

Me, I’d rather trust the other score.

Frankly, since it was on Netflix, I’d already went ahead and watched it, before consulting the scores just to see where my opinion stood.

I’d go so far as to award an even higher score than Tyler F. M. Edwards over at Superior Realities.

I liked Bright. I liked it a lot.

I don’t think I can stretch it to “I loved it,” because it’s rough around the edges, but it was enjoyable and entertaining, and painted an audio-visual picture of a believable enough world that’s the closest thing to Shadowrun as seen on the big screen. For now, anyway.

The plot had a beginning, middle and end, and was relatively consistent and believable.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for a good number of movies which have you going, “Wait, what?” “Huh?” “How did plot point A that led to B suddenly leap to J and P and K, instead of logically following to C and D?” and then reaching for a mobile device to look up a synopsis on Wikipedia in the hope that someone summarized it in an understandable manner.

There were some cool story moments and subtle worldbuilding scenes (amidst more heavy-handed ones – just assume they have to include those to cater to a more mainstream audience’s ability to understand.)

Case in point, the worldbuilding at the beginning of the movie is spot on.

It starts very modern contemporary, just mixing in some fantasy from time to time.

Here’s some Orkish graffiti; here’s some Orcs so you know how they look like in this world (visually very akin to the Shadowrun backstory of Goblinization of humans as magic came into the world, even if the script indicates this world has had the fantasy races for far longer for some two thousand years); here’s this Fairy that’s not really considered sentient but more on the level of a pest and people treating this magical creature as a perfectly ordinary occurrence in this particular world.

bright2

Will Smith as human cop dad has a conversation with his daughter that situates the audience about where this world stands on fantasy race prejudice (a little bit heavy-handed, but mainstream audience, y’know.)

Then we tour the world ourselves as the protagonists drive to work.

bright3

The districts are separated by heavily guarded checkpoints.

The elves, well… see for yourself:

bright4

bright5

But right amidst all this really obvious situate-the-audience-in-our-world visual storytelling, there’s a small little subtle exchange that I totally missed on the first watching, and only understood on a subsequent rewatch:

bright6

The two protagonists look out their cop car and see another orc do that.

Then Will Smith’s character says, “Even the chauffeurs are snobs” as his orc partner frowns.

It’s not until you finish the movie that you’ll understand the significance of that moment. It’s an orc thing.

bright7

The cops exit Elftown, we see more district checkpoints, rich/poor juxtaposition… and oh hey, did you see one of the guards is really a centaur?

I didn’t, not until I took the screenshot for this blog. Frickin’ cool world.

In the orc ghetto areas, things are dirty, desperate, full of gangs and then in a nice wordless moment, we get to see how dang strong this world’s fantasy orcs are:

bright8

See, I think the critics get it all wrong by thinking Bright is trying to blend the genres of fantasy, buddy cop drama and social commentary.

No, no, no. Those are not the genres you’re looking for.

You can try to squish it into the above mainstream boxes in the hopes that the normals understand, but it will understandably fall short, because they aren’t aiming for those genres at all, but a mashup of mashups somewhere in between.

Bright is Shadowrun, minus Cyberpunk, plus LA gangstas.

bright9

Let me explain. Shadowrun is one of the more mashed up RPG world settings already.

It’s tech meets magic, urban fantasy meets cyberpunk, in a dystopian yet anachronistic future.

In Shadowrun, we have a far future world somewhere in the 2050s, as envisioned by RPG writers imagining said future from the perspective of the 1980s. This world contains a cosmopolitan mix of fantasy races that aren’t required to hide behind some secret supernatural masquerade, but are treated as part of modern life.

At the same time, Shadowrun is also a world of a Neuromancer-like dystopia where megacorporations hold sway and cyborg adventurers flit in the shadows like black operatives.

Bright has dropped the cyberpunk, possibly in an attempt to not violate copyrights and save money on special effects or just to simplify things for a movie-going audience. So, no hackers, no decking, no cyberware, no futuristic Blade Runner-like sci-fi.

But the “urban”, “modern,” “fantasy,” “cosmopolitan,” “megacorporation,” “dystopia” bits are still there, more or less.

Critics are going in the entirely wrong direction when they pick out heavy-handed racism depicted in the movie and call it thinly veiled, badly written social commentary on our own world.

Dudes, Bright doesn’t care. Bright is using your knowledge of “black vs white” racial politics and extrapolating it to help you understand a new, alternate reality, dystopian-esque world. Bright’s Shadowrun-like world that includes a dash of Tolkien high fantasy.

bright1

Fantasy is all about stereotypes. The exaggeration is deliberate. That’s the genre, people.

It’s good guys vs the Dark Lord. Fantasy is a genre where racial stereotypes -are- exaggerated – elves are pointy-eared snooty pretty bastards, that’s WHY they’re elves. Dwarves are short, bearded, gold-mining armored vikings and orcs are pig-ugly tusked muscular brutes. In general, NPCs follow these stereotypes. Then you break it up with a few exceptional individuals that tend to be the PCs.

So, yes, in the world of Bright, the police are racist, corrupt and more prone to brutality than not. The orcs, as a whole, are an oppressed race; the elves more privileged and holier than thou. It’s a dystopia. That’s the point.

It’s just that Bright steers clear of setting its world in the near-future of Shadowrun, and dials it back several decades, plonking itself right down in a fictionalized LA gangs/GtA-inspired contemporary 1980-2000s era instead.

Once you get that, it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the movie for what it is.

A Shadowrun adventure where you cheer for your protagonists known as “the party,” often made up of an ensemble cast of racially-diverse individuals, as they romp through a series of contained stories that will hopefully make up a campaign, amidst a backdrop of a world filled with far more powerful factions and deeper things going on behind the scenes.

bright10

And the buddy cop bit? It just so happens that the two main PCs are cops, one orc, one human. So you get some of that roleplay flavoring while they meet up with their third cast member that’s not quite fully a PC yet (but will probably be part of the party by the next session.)

So yeah, it’s not a full on cop procedural, it’s just got some buddy cop mashed into the Shadowrun-style story, that’s all.

bright11

The above is one of those cool story moments. One of our PCs makes an utterly momentous decision. A choice with consequences. After this, things will never be the same. We go from “normal” life to the Shadowrun adventure that makes up the rest of the movie.

Granted, the ‘magic’ part of Bright’s fantasy element is quite heavily simplified in the script. It’s a touch grating to hear the main MacGuffin of the movie named as a “Magic Wand” over and over. If an audience can deal with Voldemort’s Horcruxes, surely it’s not necessary to use such a simplistic, lore-unladen term for a major artifact?

The dialogue is a little hit-or-miss. Some lines work with some people and make others twitch and grimace. I just let it wash over me and assume the ‘obvious’ stuff is to help explain things to someone far less into a Shadowrun-style setting so they can appreciate and understand the story. (Still not obvious enough for the critics. Oh well.)

Apparently, the director David Ayer rewrote Max Landis’ script. So depending on who you detest more, you can pretend that all the bad lines came from that person. Guess we’ll never know for sure unless the original script comes to light.

Still, it’s a pretty fun romp overall.

I definitely want more.

Advertisements

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: Recent PvP Resources

It seems like the updates to GW2 PvP to put in reward tracks and ranked/unranked matches has been overall quite healthy for the state of sPvP. Especially with the new dailies that tempt me to get a game in nearly every day, just playing on a super casual and carefree level.

I’m probably not the only one.

And with this influx of new blood, there seems to be a larger appreciative audience of people interested in learning more about GW2 PvP and how it all works, which encourages skilled players to share advice and teach others.

I haven’t watched all the videos yet on the QQmore.net website but they all look very helpful.

I was especially fond of the Mindset and Avoiding Frustration text guide because it touches on something I’m still trying to work out and get right, how to react better when one is frustrated.

I used to get frustrated very easily and become very avoidant of things that frustrate me as a result.

I’d have very high expectations (of myself or of the result that I desired) and when I didn’t get it, man, anger, frustration, bottled up tantrums, all the bad feelings I’d try not to spew out onto other people (cos I did that in my early years a couple of times and that’s not nice or mature to take it out on others), and hey, I didn’t want to be the sole target of those bad feelings either, so… easy solution: don’t do the things that cause the frustration, right?

Well… avoiding works if you don’t care enough about the activity or result either way to get worked up about it, which works for unimportant stuff but not for stuff you actually wanna do.

Turns out that reframing one’s perspective and looking for constructive solutions/goals and small improvements to cheer about can be another way to deal with frustration – that’s still a work in progress for me, but I seem to be getting better at it via the Marionette, Tequatl, Boss Blitz, Lion’s Arch sequence.

Dabbling around in sPvP has been another way for me to work on this. I generally care very little about sPvP, or my reputation, what other people think of me, or how I look or perform (self-image-wise), which makes it easier to distance myself from whether I win or lose a particular match.

All I really care about is whether I’m performing to the best of my ability on a particular chosen character, and if I can keep learning or improving and getting a smidgen better or more familiar or more comfortable with that class.

Which ironically does frustrate me from time to time when I’m not doing well, but the guide’s right, if something’s frustrating you, that’s probably because it’s a learning opportunity, because someone is playing much much better than you and can be learned from, if one can just take away one’s ego from the equation. (Frickin’ super-ping sword/dagger thieves that just zip around and pwn. *coughs*)

Another fun resource that I enjoyed watching was Phantaram teaching Sodapoppin GW2 sPvP:

I gather that these two are streamers of some importance or other. The S guy being some WoW hotshot and Phantaram being a really good GW2 sPvP tournament player of some kind, who also turns out to have the patience of a saint when coaching. Mad respect.

This is very much worth watching for anyone interested in GW2 PvP – it’s very introductory, goes through some of the most common builds of all the classes and what they’re liable to do, and really shows off to an inexperienced player the potential -depth- of GW2’s PvP – which at first feels like a whole bunch of explosive lights and colors and someone’s dead, wut, but that there’s really some sophisticated stuff going on under the hood to pull that kind of thing off.

Buttons to chain in sequence to set up some spike damage or a kill (often assisted with some crowd control) and how to counter or escape someone that’s setting up to do that to you, and so on.

How one class can counter another and vice versa, and more besides.

It’s very much a taster, but it’s a very tempting taste, and even I’m tempted to start watching more of Phantaram’s and other streamers’ videos now… except for the whole need-time-to-do-so thing. Gah.

Wildstar: Odds and Ends and Approaching the End of the Road

End of the line?

It gets better the further up in levels you go, they say.

Well, here’s the stuff I found neat on my journey from 15-21.

ws_grinder

Mah bike looks cool.

I hear it is possible to upgrade the look of mounts later with rear and front flairs, which I think is a great system for further customization along the self-expression and showing off prestige front, and of course, the endless collection of mounts is a captivating system for collectors.

ws_2handers

Mah sword looks cool.

The teen levels appear to be the home of some really neat two-handed sword designs. WTB similar stuff appearing in GW2, just less cartoony and more fantastical.

I also discovered that the warrior sword skills count as a spell cast and were only being performed on button up by default, rather than button down.

Which was probably inducing further delay into the stately swings, between my latency and tendency to press down on keys rather than release quickly.

ws_combatoptions

I heartily recommend going into Combat Options and selecting “Use Button Down instead of Press Twice” and “Hold to Continue Casting” (which should select all three options.)

This allows you to still see the telegraph indicators for range, but also simulates a kind of auto-casting by holding down the relevant key.

(When you’re 200-250ms behind, any kind of automatic casting that allows you to sneak in more attacks is welcome for maintaining dps so that you don’t look like you totally suck on damage charts.)

ws_shiphand

The Shiphand solo instances demonstrate yet again why storytelling is best conveyed via a solo one which you can traverse at your own pace, and not be spoiled by some other guy in your party having done it already rushing you through it.

I tried the Hycrest Insurrection Adventure at lvl 15, a 5 man instance which is apparently set at a more lax difficulty level for casual PUGing.

They were… okay, I guess.

It was hard for me to discern story once again in a group setting, since one is always more concerned with not falling behind from the group than being able to take the time to read stuff.

There was a vote option of multiple paths to pick and choose, similar to GW2 explorables, except the option came up three times in that one Adventure, leading to presumably more branching possibilities and ostensibly more variation.

I say ostensibly because while my first group was probably entirely new to it and the majority just ended up picking the first option every time, my subsequent group had someone who had been presumably playing since Closed Beta, because that someone matter of factly announced, “2-2-3 is the best xp” and guess what path we ended up doing, by unanimous vote.

There was a fair amount of varied mechanics in that one Adventure, from snipers that shot at you from range and you had to dodge *ahem* dash to avoid being knocked down, NPC citizens which you stayed near to put on a disguise and thus ‘stealth’ through certain parts without drawing aggro, a timed portion to stop a moving convoy by defeating all its guards (bit of a vertical fight, one had to jump up on two platforms of a slow moving vehicle, have one person pull a lever which opened a door for others to go through and plant a bomb, etc.)

Bosses were usually two-phase or more, with varied shapes of AoEs to dodge and could move around quite a bit.

ws_firerocks

And of course, the odd room full of fire and falling rocks to sprint and dodge your way through.

At the end of the Adventure, a little scoreboard screen comes up to show you how you did.

ws_advbronze

It’s a bit odd, I suppose, in that it’s neither here nor there. You can’t compare how other people in your party did, though I suppose add-ons for that will pop up like a bad penny later.

I’m not sure what staying alive means, beyond extreme cowardice and maybe the least damage taken, which seems a bit unfair to tanks. Certainly -I- wasn’t tanking, I was safe and sound DPS with high armor and an itchy trigger finger on the dodge key.

The first was a group that didn’t really have a clue what we were doing, the following was being shepherded by someone competent doing the tanking. Albeit, a ranged engineer tank, which added some variety to the well-established holy trinity.

ws_gold

A scoreboard does set up a bit of an inferiority complex though. You keep wondering, maybe my warrior isn’t an optimal choice to bring versus say a stalker with much faster rate of attacks or some ranged dps which can spray and pray more sustained damage while dodging.

No doubt, the speedruns will come in due time, and groups who can’t finish in like 15 minutes or less will be considered lousy.

Finally, at level 20, the first dungeon. Stormtalon’s Lair.

Shades of grawl shaman fractal all over again...
Shades of grawl shaman fractal all over again…

People keep singing the praises of Wildstar’s dungeons, for some reason. Oh yay, it’s hard, it’s challenging, the trash mobs are actually scary and a threat!

I feel like I must have missed some super easy dungeons in the interim. Maybe because I don’t play WoW.

It felt like a normal oldschool dungeon where you are expected in a hardcore fashion to spend hours in, in order to complete.

The group finder suggested to bracket 75min for the dungeon, and horror stories talk of 3+ hours and PUGs disintegrating on the first boss, with folks cheering on this level of ‘challenge’ as refreshing.

There were trash mobs. There appeared to be two main varieties of spawns. One spellcaster with two melee animal mobs that could generally be tanked-and-spanked.

ws_normaltrash

Group up, AoE ’em down. The Storm Watcher appeared to have some spells that caused AoE that needed to be either dodged, or a good group could use interrupts to stop this.

The other main type of trash mob spawn was a melee and spellcaster healer duo, a sentinel and shaman of some sort, linked together.

Naturally, PUGs will beeline for the nearest target, ie. the melee one, especially if you have a ranged tank engaging and backing away reflexively. Which then sets up the unending chain of letting the shaman freecast heals and keep Mr Melee up for an indefinite period of time until sheer force of dps burns through it – assuming your own healer hasn’t run out of mana *ahem* focus to support the tank first.

The trick, as some people explained, was to go for the shaman first and synchronize interrupts when it tries to heal. This is, of course, much easier said than done in a PUG without voice comms, but my first not-so-coordinated but seemingly fairly experienced PUG managed to pull it off maybe 75% of the time, while the second fail PUG did not. I was probably the only person with interrupts on that one, whereas the first PUG had two warriors (so 2 interrupts each, plus one more dps with one interrupt. Land 3 at any one time to get stuff done.)

Really -competent- tanks will manage to pull the melee to the spellcaster so that both are grouped up and can be burned down together. (Which I thought was basic competency for a tank, but apparently the people who queue up in a tank position in a group finder are extremely luck-of-the-draw.)

Our first PUG by the way struggled with a middling engineer tank with bruiser bot, who left after three wipes on the first boss, and was replaced by yet another engineer tank without bot who was plainly geared properly for his role and very very competent. The healer remarked on how much more easy it was to heal him, and this veteran of the dungeon explained all the mechanics and brought our newbie group through with only minimal wiping.

The first boss also had a reputation of being a PUG destroyer. (Sorta like Kholer, I guess. Except this one is unskippable.)

He involved three phases. First one was basic tank-and-spank, but he did a plus shaped AoE that needed to be dodged out of. (Or interrupts coordinated, I’m guessing.)

The second one involved him going invulnerable while the four adds that surrounded him went vulnerable. Pick the right one that the tank is also focusing on to burn down. Random people get marked with a bomb AoE that is centered on them. Dodge out of AoE, but pros apparently -move- the AoE to the mob first before dodging out so that it gets caught by the AoE and damaged. A randomly moving static discharge AoE that caused stun would start to plague people as more adds went down.

Last phase was tank-and-spank again, except this time there were a lot more randomly moving static discharge AoEs to avoid or be stunned, plus the boss would do a BIG AoE that covered most of the room except a few defined safe spots. Except since the AoE pattern is -probably- based on the tank’s position, the safe spots may not necessarily be in the same place if the tank wiggles around too much, and the tank does have to move to avoid the static discharge stuns, so it’s fairly reflex based in a PUG that hasn’t coordinated any set way to make his AoE predictable.

Combined with my latency, this generally meant that I got caught if I was a split second too slow, but fortunately it only hits for around 3k damage with knockdown, around 1/4 to 1/3 my health bar, and eventually healable by a healer when they get around to it.

However, it -is- possible to coordinate interrupts and disrupt his AoE entirely, as we discovered by sheer chance one AoE pattern. (Or rather, someone had spammed an interrupt and I saw the interrupt armor indicator at 1 and -hadn’t- spammed my interrupts prior to this, so I banged down on my keys and got the knockdown through. Which was fairly satisfying.

Though I admit that I wasn’t a god of interrupts at any other time as muscle memory hadn’t set in, nor was one used to reading all the cues necessary while trying to avoid AoEs in a fight one was seeing for the first time. I’m sure it’s learnable though.)

ws_secondboss

Ironically, one member in my second fail PUG said that the second boss was, he felt, the hardest boss. Well, my first PUG would beg to differ.

Our patient tank explained the mechanics to us. Phase 1: Tank-and-spank. Phase 2, he splits into three adds, burn ’em down. Then he knocks everyone back and we have to run through a gauntlet of tornadoes, reach him ASAP and interrupt.

Perhaps, as I said, we lucked out with two warriors in this PUG. Our leveling bar tends to have two interrupts and we’re very used to spamming kick to knockdown so that we can actually get some decent damage in with our one spammable power attack. We simply cannot level at a passable pace without having learned to use what Wildstar calls a Moment of Opportunity, which is extra damage when the mob is interrupted during a telegraph and goes purple for a time.

While the gauntlet was indeed somewhat annoying – I kinda felt I spent most of my time in the air while running forward at a snail’s pace, we could at least fling our ranged interrupt once we got semi-close and then spam our kick when finally in melee range. Thump, went the boss. Repeat this twice more, and then done.

More trash mobs of the same ilk. One miniboss with some more shaped AoE to dodge and interrupt.

ws_stormtalon

And finally, the last boss. Stormtalon. Who turns out to be sorta shaped like a dragon.

In the words of our esteemed tank. “Tank and spank to start, don’t stand in front of him, has a cleave. He’ll knock us back and stun, gotta break out and rush to him to interrupt. Lastly he’ll target a random member, making a safe zone around them. Rest of the room will be red, we gotta follow that person as they circle the boss. Lightning bolts will constantly target them.”

Which actually went pretty well and was downed in the first go, though two DPS bit it at the last phase, me included.

ws_whoops

Oh look, almost exactly 75 minutes.

Since the tank and healer survived, along with one melee dps, they got the other quarter or so of its health down and dead.

As for what killed me: the safe zone in phase 3 was centered around me and I was perhaps a little too anxious about keeping still enough to not accidentally kill -everyone- by running around like a headless chicken, and I must have inhaled some lightning circles by staying too still.

Would I be keen to repeat the fight and get better at dodging all that crazy AoE?

Yeah, I would.

Would I be keen to repeat the whole Group Finder experience and gamble on random PUGs on the offchance that I might eventually reach Stormtalon again to practice the fight?

Ummmm…

No.

I’m afraid not.

If I were someone with a regular North American time schedule, had a guild full of friendly regulars to play with, and often ran together with voice chat, such group dungeons would be PERFECT experiences for an established regular party of five.

But since my times are more of an irregular sort, I’m left PUGing it in various games.

My second Wildstar PUG ended up with another engineer tank who was plainly in pure assault gear as the healer simply couldn’t keep him up. He was as fragile as toilet paper.

When he died, I stayed up for just about as long by mere virtue of having heavy armor, a health bar and being able to dodge, although I was no tank at all either, due to not having any tank statted gear, nor any APM or skills slotted for tanking or threat holding. Basically, it was four DPS dying in sync with the healer also biting it somewhere in the middle.

And no, despite my pleading for -someone- to use and slot one interrupt so that I could use my two interrupts to apply knockdown (something I wanted to practice at getting better at), at no time whatsoever did the interrupt armor on any boss drop from 2, leaving my interrupts ineffectual.

Naturally, we wiped three times on the first boss and ended up standing around looking at each other, while the healer tried to explain to the tank that he needed the right gear to step into the tank role.

One DPS ran out of patience and dropped out of the party. We re-queued, and guess what, the engineer wordlessly insisted on the tank role again. With the same healer. When he actually could have taken the open DPS slot.

We stood around looking at each other again, while one more random DPS joined. Then the tank opened a vote kick on the healer.

“…”

Since this was the epitome of stupidity, I was driven to sufficient trolliness to reject the vote kick on the poor healer, and then I subsequently opened a vote kick on the tank.

(It’s not like I have a reputation to maintain in Wildstar. This is cross-server Open Beta and I don’t intend to be here for long.)

The tank quit the instance before the vote kick ran its course.

Of course, we then opened up the queue again, but since we were running in off-peak non-NA times, 10-15+ minutes passed with no tank stepping into the role and the party broke up shortly after.

The healer maintained that this state of affairs was NOT a result of the holy trinity but more due to “tanking being hard to learn” and thus no one wanting to be tanks.

Whereas I’m sitting in my chair thinking that if this is the usual state of PUGs in traditional holy trinity MMOs, it’s no wonder that tanks hide, take refuge and tank only in their guilds, and that there is really no need to put up with all the inherent pains of finding the ideal holy trinity group when I could LFG and get a PUG in under five minutes in GW2 because no perfect trinity is required.

You might ask, why didn’t I swap specs and try tanking?

No tank gear, for one.

Nor had I looked at that portion of the warrior tree and skills that involved holding threat yet. But mostly no tank gear in my bags.

(I do note that Wildstar loot looked interesting in that Adventure and Dungeon loot seemed to contain a lot of supportive stats – which makes a certain kind of sense, people who like to group should run their group content and get gear that is relevant and useful for their needs.)

People say that Wildstar dungeons are fun. And challenging.

It really makes me wonder about how and what they define a challenge.

Mechanics-wise, yeah, they’re complex and interesting. But learning how to perform them well seems to be much less of a challenge than assembling a properly prepared (read: gear and build) group together in the first place.

If one considers the random nature of the PUG as part of the challenge in a difficult dungeon, then I could also say that getting a precursor in GW2 is so fun-and-challenging because one is battling a most cruel RNG in the form of Zommoros’ Mystic Forge.

Personally, I’m left feeling less ‘challenged’ per se, and more helpless.

It’s the same sort of challenge as the Marionette. You could teach until your tongue turns blue and ultimately, your progress is still at the mercy of someone else not screwing up. It is RNG.

RNG you could skew in your favor by joining an organized community – a hardcore dungeon guild, or TTS marionette-running instances, fer example, but still RNG, rather than a challenge that one can defeat through one’s efforts.

Maybe I simply over-analyze these things too much.

I’d love to hear from someone who found Wildstar dungeons fun and exactly why they found it fun, for them.

Are they running with a regular group of friends, for one?

Which would imply they could learn and improve together over time, whereas PUGs are forever luck of the draw – you cannot count on running into the same people again.

Or perhaps this is just a foundational mindset difference in perspective.

I enjoy GW2 dungeons because my deaths are my fault. It’s always in my locus of control to not die or to break off and run and prevent a death by letting the mobs leash if the rest of my party has wiped. I might even be able to save the day and rez three dead people with my warbanner and turn the tides or solo the thing if I can perform the mechanics well.

In some cases in Wildstar, my deaths are my fault. I stuck around in the AoE and failed to perform the mechanic correctly. Looking forward to doing better on the next try and the prospect of improving is exciting, yes.

However, needing to rely on a tank or a healer to not suck, or dps to be actually competent, and waiting for the stars to align in the correct position so that one gets a good group are things that are not within my personal locus of control and are a complete buzzkill.

Nor can I turn any tides if I’m set up to be DPS, I traded off aggro generation or survivability. So if the tank screws up, or the healer screws up, I’m paste. I suppose eventually one could have a damage set of gear and a support set of gear in one’s bags, plus two sorts of specs, but that’s going to be way ahead in the future, rather than in the first dungeon.

In the meantime, we end up with a blame game where everyone points fingers and blames another party for not pulling their weight, causing the death of the group.

How this is fun and enjoyable, I”m not really sure.

It’s these sorts of foundational underpinnings that lead me to suspect that I’ll be done with Wildstar by the end of the week, if not sooner.

I don’t really need to play a game that breeds hostility and competitiveness and elitism, and that’s simply what the traditional MMO model does.

I do enjoy the combat system that Wildstar has chanced into creating though.

Maybe one day someone will make a subscription-free single-player or cooperative multiplayer game with the same underlying combat mechanics – fast frequently recharging dodge rolls and sprints and lots of telegraphs to dodge – I’ll be happy to play that.

GW2: SAB – The Lemonade Perspective

I’m more or less killing time while waiting for tweaks to arrive to the Super Adventure Box, so I thought: I’ve already spent the last three posts kvetching, let’s try a positive post for a change!

I mean, if I didn’t like the SAB at all, I would have opted out like Bhagpuss and save myself the bouts of occasional grumpiness.

I’ve just been mostly puttering around in the World 1 levels because they’re a lot less stressful.

One piece of good news: The secret rooms are not once a day only like the dig locations.

The earlier rooms unfortunately only give 5 baubles or thereabouts, minus the one bauble spent on the bomb, which isn’t much profit for time spent but there are a few exceptions I’ve been marking out. Presumably someone else will figure out the most optimal route for least amount of time, but that someone ain’t me.

farming-1-1
This one in 1-1 yields a 15 bauble profit.
This one in 1-2 is worth 24 baubles.
This one in 1-2 is worth 24 baubles.

I suspect World 1-2 will still be the friendliest one to farm even after all the dig locations have been used up.

The other thing I think will become popular is unlocking chests. If you slaughter stuff until a key drops, the chests deliver anywhere from 20-40 baubles.

I mentioned before that I really appreciate the Quality of Life tweaks made to the earlier levels.

qol-1

Much ❤ for this barrel, since I can now take the “pro” route without pressing dodge-jump and praying to the latency gods.

qol-2

These trees now have friendly outgrowths so that all the monkeys are accessible, if you don’t like being pelted by them.

Maybe they’re used in Tribulation Mode, who knows, I haven’t watched a video yet or attempted it, since I do want to buy an Infinite Continue Coin for that mode, but am holding back until normal mode is less crazy.

(I have certain principles about contributing to datamined statistics, especially where a cash shop is concerned, and I strongly suspect the amount of people who flung their hands up and bought a convenient way out is already high enough. Slippery slope and all that. We may rant a lot but sometimes it boils down to numbers and wallet votes.)

I like that they’ve got a Mini Moto for 20 baubles and Mini Miya to forge. It’s a casual’s sort of reward, being less costly to accumulate than the weapon skins and thus easier to strive for.

The components for Mini Miya seem to be fairly readily available – they’re also avaliable on the TP. The wig seems to drop just by killing random mobs. I believe I got a dress out of a jumping puzzle chest. My tiara came from a Metrica Province Fire Elemental chest, so it looks like it’s a reward from chasing dragons (ie. the open world bosses on a timer).

Information for obtaining the nunchaku or chain-sticks from the secret shop have filtered their way into the Reddit hivemind, so today’s mini-goal was to farm up World 1 for enough baubles to revisit the World 2 level on Infantile and buy that upgrade.

With dig locations, which are sadly, once a day only, I got about 465 by the time I hit the Queen Bee Dog area in World 1-3 so I left before King Toad and slooowly clambered my way on rainbows to the correct location. (Seriously, still too large a map, as much as I deeply appreciate Josh’s enthusiasm and willingness to put in excessive overtime to make the SAB an epic experience.)

The chainsticks were absolutely worth it though. I tackled a few assassins after that and felt like I had better reach and slightly faster animation time per swing, which does help in scrums.

I finally noticed the sword assassins had a knockback – which led to a few deaths hurtling involuntarily from a long height – but did my best to try and position myself with back to walls and so on.

If I successfully dodged their first swing, the fights generally went well. Things tended to get more difficult if I caught their charge with my body because I would get knocked down, frozen in position with invulnerable on, and then slowly clamber up in time to catch another charge from the assassin, sometimes just as invulnerable wore off. I wonder if the charr getting up animation is slightly longer than other races, or just a latency problem?

Sorry, got diverted for a sec there. Back to positivity again.

You know the one part of the SAB I really really like? As a Bartle Explorer first and Achiever second?

Discovering nifty secrets.

Sometimes I just stumble into them without really trying because my eyes are always going, “what’s that funny thing over there, why is there like a path here that doesn’t seem to go anywhere?” then before I know it, I’m gambling away lives trying to get to places that maybe were unintended to get to, or maybe absolutely were intended.

Why is that flower all the way down there?
Why is that flower all the way down there?

Aiming in the most probable and suspicious location (always look behind waterfalls, you know?) and voila, secret passageway with cool stuff.

Bears' secret sign stash
Bears’ secret sign stash

That eventually leads to a chest and bypassing of the first bit of annoying rapids via high platforms. (WTB: More ways to bypass moving water.)

I told you all I was waiting for someone else to nicely compile dig locations in a guide for me, right?

I can’t help it, I am sometimes magnetically attracted to these things. Maybe why I take so long in levels is that I sometimes succumb to the urge to compulsively dig per square inch, because those dig locations are so finnicky, y’know? Maybe there’s something here no one else has found yet…

2-1-digloc
World 2-1: Just before the long bridge with the assassins that leads to the raft, take a right and slip down the edge of the cliff…
2-1-diglocb
…Sliding down all the way here and digging reveals a chest of 50 baubles! Yes, 50! Once a day, but still, not 5, not 20, 50!

There’s someone else on Reddit that has been nice enough to share the other stuff he’s found. There seems to be quite a bit in 2-1 that I’m quite eager to get to… eventually…

…I really can’t wait for the water / rapids / geyser bits to get tweaked a bit more. It actually is fairly peaceful to roam 2-1, if not for the lingering hydrophobia.

The best lemonade from malfunctioning water?

As usual, I got kicked off some rapids or other, flung bodily into the abyss, and somehow between lag and appearing and disappearing in funky locations because client and server couldn’t quite agree on which x,y,z coordinates my character was in… somehow managed to steer myself through a waterfall which I suspect was never meant to be reached.

The prelude to nothingness: a platform going nowhere.
The prelude to nothingness: a platform going nowhere.

I dug around, threw bombs, didn’t find anything, though granted I didn’t dig in every single pixel or tile.

When I got tired, I threw myself off the side, thinking to commit suicide and… ended up in another world altogether. (Ok, ok, at the very bottom of the map.)

Welcome to the LOVE MMO, GW2 edition.
Welcome to the LOVE MMO, GW2 edition.
There was something poetically awe-inspiring about running on all fours as a silhouette.
There was something poetically awe-inspiring about running on all fours as a silhouette.

You know me, I am so easily bribed by a memorable screenshot.

I’ll put up with funky water for a few days if it inadvertently leads to one moment of perfect beauty.

(Just a few days though. I can’t quite reach the end of the level by falling under it.)

I do have this to say, though: One of the best things about the SAB team is their willingness to interact on the forums, share their insights and respond to feedback.

Josh Foreman catches a lot of flak and negativity from frustrated people looking for an outlet, and he’s just right in there, soaking it up and learning lessons and being willing to iterate and learn lessons and make things better.

That’s a special brand of masochism right there, which probably explains why he can make and play through sadistic platformers in the first place. The “live, learn, and constantly iterate” attitude is worthy of serious respect, and for that, I salute the SAB dev team.

Please keep striving to make things better. As a player of your game, I am very happy that my devs care.

P.S. My prior grumpiness has pushed me off my arse and gotten me to update FRAPS. Yet another positive. I may actually dabble a little in videos now and then.

I present for your viewing pleasure (please have a strong stomach) World 1-2 cage fight on a charr.

It’s not a complaint, by the way. It’s not something the SAB devs can fix specifically, I don’t think. I’ve lived with it since the previous SAB, and I’ll live with it this time around too.

I just wanted to share, since sometimes people don’t see or think there’s a problem when they don’t see things from another person’s or computer’s persective.

Have a good laugh, give thanks that you main a human/sylvari/asura, and continue to have fun.

Signing off, your furry friend.

quotes-770