GW2: What Would You Do, Before the Last Day?

“The last day dawns on the Kingdom of Ascalon. It arrives with no fanfare, no tolling of alarms. Those who will remember, will speak fondly of the warm morning breeze. People carry on with their daily lives, unaware that in a short while… everything they have ever known will come to an end.”

All of Tyria is threatened.

There is no turning back.

You will face a decisive moment.

The point of no return.

gw2-noturningback

All this messaging has set off an interesting Reddit speculation thread, choice snippets of which I include below:

reddit1reddit2reddit3

Nah… there’s no way… they couldn’t…. could they?

Our desire for static unchanging persistence, for “permanent” content, for lack of change, screams “NO.”

Apparently, the promise of an MMO for the bulk of its players is not that it is “living” or simulates the real world with changes that ensure you can never step in the same river twice, the attraction is more the promise of permanent persistence, that it is always there and constant and piling on more and more stuff, a hefty elephant getting bigger and bigger and clunkier as it gets older.

But this is a company though that has proven willing to kill its babies, its already-built content. Stuff gets removed, replaced, new art assets come in to take the place of the old. Changes and iterations, in search of the next optimal or best.

The sylvari didn’t start out looking like how they do now.

Kessex Hills and Lion’s Arch are forever changed.

And you know what, as much as we might hope for rebuilding to occur, for some of that old beauty to return, truth is, we really can’t step in the same river twice.

I don’t think Anet will ever be so lazy as to just patch back in the original art assets and go, hooray, rebuilt!

If Lion’s Arch does get rebuilt again, one day… it might harken back to the old, but I bet it’s going to look different… hopefully better.

But you know, just like that Reddit user said, “I still have this pre-searing feeling…”

Let’s think about it.

Anet wouldn’t want to split the playerbase. Chucking in an expansion’s worth of zone content into a normal expansion box pretty much means that everyone who wants the new stuff will have bought a box and gallivanted off to the new lands. What about the slower players who haven’t played through Tyria, do we make them go through it before they join us in… say, Elona or Cantha?

Well, if open world Tyria isn’t habitable anymore, that kinda solves that problem, doesn’t it?

New players might just start as new Canthans, or new Elonans, or new visitors to the new land. If the content is still spread out on a 1-80 scale, they can pretty much level up in Elona or Cantha without ever knowing Tyria, with completely new personal stories that our Tyrian-origin characters won’t have.

Lore-wise, the waking up and movement of an Elder Dragon means a swathe of destruction on a scale that we as players have never witnessed in person before.

It may not happen abruptly in real time. Anet appears to have learned that a two week/four week pacing seems to keep most players on track as far as story beats are concerned. For something of this scale, they may let it stretch out to months (which also gives them time to polish up the next dribble of content.)

How better to create demand than to also artificially create scarcity?

What if we knew that Tyria as we knew it was going to be no more… come… oh, I don’t know, Q3 2015 or something.

Six more months to do whatever you want to do in Tyria, before we say goodbye.

Wouldn’t it be enough time? A new player could buy GW2 and pretty much play up all the Tyrian content in that time, if they wanted.

If they wanted to come in, like, one month to world’s end, there is also always the possibility of saying, “hang on, wait a month and then you can buy GW2: the Elonian edition, the standalone expansion and come play with the rest of us in the Crystal Desert” or something along those lines.

Well, all this is still hypothetical, until we hear what news they choose to share with us at PAX.

But even if it never happens and they’ve got some completely different ideas on the table, perhaps, just perhaps, it wouldn’t hurt to play the game as if we were never going to see Tyria again.

If each zone as you knew it was going to blow up the next day and be wrecked, or even just change and be lost in some other way, what would you have wanted to see or save or preserve in your memories?

gw2-spiral

This weekend, I’m entertaining thoughts of and trying to formulate a plan to carry out The Great Screenshot Pilgrimage.

The scope of it, I’m still trying to nail down, given the supremely limited time I have available and all the other more achiever-oriented things I also want to do.

Ideally, I would want to preserve each zone in my memories doing a walking tour like what I did for Orr, just ambling around and taking screenshot photos of pretty much anything that catches my eye. There’s a lot of unpredictable beauty in GW2’s zones and it’s simply the best way I know to stumble across a scene composition that just sends chills of awe down your spine. But jeez, it takes time and can use up 2-3 hours in one zone. There’s like 28 zones in Tyria. I can do that over a period of months, not this weekend before next Tuesday’s update.

So I started brainstorming a whole list of options for a screenshot project, that might be completed in differing spans of time:

gw2-thaumanova

  • Take the -one- defining picture of the area or zone. Or take a picture of the first thing you think of when you hear the zone’s name. (Those may not be the same thing.)
  • Take 3-5 representative pictures of the zone, covering the major landmarks and scenery.
  • Do it encyclopedia or wiki-style, a picture for each point of interest or vista or named landmark.
  • Do a walking tour of the zone to capture pretty much whatever catches your eye.

gw2-oakheart

Basically, I think my primary desire is to take sufficient “photographs” to recreate my memory of the place, with the secondary desire of wanting to capture unexpected moments of perfect beauty to share with others.

I -was- hoping to kill a few birds with one stone and use a character that needed to a) map explore and b) travel to all the dungeons, but I found out to my dismay that the camera height for an asura is set so low to the point that /sleeping doesn’t really hide one’s body from the image.

Grrr. It’s still possible, but very annoying to try and find workable angles on the asura, whereas I can pretty much just hide interface and /sleep on a charr anywhere and not have to worry about it, beyond the odd shoulder or arm spike getting in the way *hides everything.*

So it looks like I will have to do my screenshots with my tallbies, one of whom has completed map exploration – which would at least make waypointing convenient, but not get me anywhere in terms of map completion, or with the rest at some 40-50% completion, the partial fog of war making it a bit hard to figure out just where I’ve been or not that particular session… bleh, still deciding.

One thing’s for sure.

I tried experimentally doing Metrica Province and Caledon Forest today to get an idea of the time it might take for each zone, and I noticed that I was absolutely playing the game in a different manner, with my goal to look for beauty, rather than the next thing on the to-be-completed list.

gw2-caledon

The act of photography really prompts a lot more in-the-moment mindfulness and a new way of seeing, making you more aware of things you would previously not have seen, being so focused on doing your other mundane things.

Perhaps we should all try playing (or even living) as if we might never see the zone we’re standing in again, rather than assuming it’ll be around for forever.

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GW2: Looking Back, Looking Forward & Plans

It’s fun to read about what different bloggers are focusing on in Guild Wars 2 – what they have and haven’t done speaks volumes about the amount of content for different playstyles that ArenaNet has crammed into this game.

Over at Kill Ten Rats, Ravious (and Bhagpuss in the comments) exchange notes about their game experience so far.

I’ve decided to chime in with my own and add one more data point, so to speak.

/age reports I’ve played a total of 537 hours and 39 minutes over the last 2 months, and 454 of those hours were clocked in on my present main, the level 80 charr guardian.

He’s got a total of 754 deaths… I hope those just reflect how much WvW I do, rather than how much I suck. Falling off cliffs shouldn’t count, I don’t think. (Maybe they do.)

The up and coming alt is a thief who is lvl 57 and climbing. That’s my present interest at the moment, I’d really like to get him to 80 before the rumored backstab nerfs or whatever hit and at least try it out. (Or perhaps I will just pop into the Heart of the Mists one day soon and experiment on some dummies. Something to consider, yes.)

The other alts are babies: lvl 22 necromancer, lvl 12 elementalist, level 4 ranger and to be honest, the necro gained 10 levels via maxing Jeweler and he’s effectively parked at the Grove’s crafting tables for now, inching up his Weaponsmithing whenever I feel like it. The elementalist is my Cook/Tailor but is only about 100-150 in either for now.

The guardian has maxed armorsmith and sub-150 artificer, and thief barely past the 50s in huntsman and nearing 200 or so leatherworker. Yeah, I realize that this means I might have to spend extra karma down the road buying those rare and exotic insignia recipes per character for both weapons and armor, but I don’t really have an issue with karma gain as yet.

I’m sitting on 200k karma on the guardian, after spending 42k x 4 for Orr armor, and I fed the thief the new liquid jugs of karma which gave him 80k, plenty of spending money on the hearts vendors he encounters on his way through Tyria.

I’m in no hurry to get a legendary, so 500k karma is a goal that can be achieved over a year if need be, if I finally tick off all the smaller sized goals I want to get done first.

In an interesting contrast from Ravious, 100% world completion is not one of those must-do now goals for me. I fancy myself an Explorer too with a healthy subset of Achiever, so, eh, what gives? Mostly there is an underlying terror that I might get bored if I do ‘finish’ the entire world on one character. I have alts that want to see new things, dammit.

I took it real easy on the guardian and just wandered where I felt like after giving up zone completion midway through Gendarran Fields. I didn’t even bother doing all hearts and stuff. I just went through the zones that seemed thematic aka Charr war-like and did lots of DEs and lots of fighting because he’s Blood Legion, and Charr love to fight, rarrr! (And I enjoy solo farming so I’d just sit and kill minotaurs or bats or whatever for a while.) Plus some WvW, all story dungeons except CoE (never found a group for it while leveling up) and completed his personal story because I wanted to get to Orr and kill Zhaitan (we will not talk about the minor letdown that was the cannon ‘fight’ any further here.)

On the norn thief, I find the character has more reason to be a open-minded traveler. On a meta level, I’ve explored nearly entirely new zones with him, going through the snowy Norn ones, before following the zones the personal story led to. Now that I’m not in a hurry to get to Orr, and more minded to check out every heart vendor to see what they sell (and buy cooking ingredients,) I’m doing zone completions of the major maps he’s spending time in. I’ve also stumbled into a few jumping puzzles and smaller secret things that way, which is nice.

Again, it’s an interesting contrast to another guildie I know, who has methodically cleared out all his jumping puzzles (presumably for the 10 ArenaNet points and the completed achievement feeling or he just likes jumping challenges, who knows?) No doubt he’s consulted some guide to show him where the entrances are, if not watched a video of them in their entirety.

For me, that would be spoiling the fun, so I refrain. I only check the video if I’m at my wits’ end clinging on to some beam or ledge or falling in circles lost with no idea where the next ‘proper’ jump should be. And I usually stop playing it once I see that one jump, so that I can figure out the rest of it on my own. (Clock tower excepted, I played that in three parts to learn each section, time limit pressure being what it is.)

Both characters are still hovering around ~50% world completion and until I get more alts to 80 and finally want a legendary, that is fine with me. The guardian was a Vigil man (or Charr.) The thief just recently completed the whole story from initiation into the Order of Whispers, all the way to Claw Island, so I finally get to understand what all the Tybalt discussion was about.

(Begin spoiler warning)

For the record, yeah, he’s pretty lovable. It’s also obvious he was intentionally made that way, with his face expressions and all. One of the things I most appreciate about Tybalt is that he has a history and little flaws that we learn about as the story progresses. It makes him feel a lot more believable as a character, some depth to his surface quirks. Forgal of the Vigil, on the other hand, mostly had a bit of oldbie-youngbie friendly banter going on. If there was any more depth to him, it couldn’t have been very memorable because I don’t remember any more of his story.

Putting aside the questionable necessity of the story enforced sacrifice at Claw Island, Tybalt’s courage was a lot more significant because of his backstory – crippled, desk job, but heart wanting more.  And boy, did he have a lot of heart.

My reaction to Forgal was mostly a soldier to soldier reaction, it’s more expected that such a thing might happen, the old veteran dies to give way for the new young ones, remembered with respect but he’s had his full life and this is just a grand cap to his legend – going out soloing the legion of Risen and that badass dragon and all that.  He’s Norn, he’s Vigil, why would he want to live forever, eh?

(End spoiler warning)

It’ll be fun to see the Priory storyline with another alt later, and compare that mentor later on.

As for my daily log-in routine, I’ll play either guardian or thief depending on my mood, and get the daily achievement done. The phrase is a bit of a misnomer, because it’s not as if I check off 20 gatherings and stop, then go on selective wildlife genocide, then find fast chained together events and rush through it. It’s more of a meander.

If I’m leveling the thief, then as he goes on his way to hearts and stuff, the gathering happens, I’ll make it a point to hit one or two of different types of mob, the kills are a no-brainer, and I’ll stumble into DEs as they show up.

The guardian may wander through Frostgorge Sound and do it, and I might luck into a Claw of Jormag fight happening. (I don’t watch dragon timers.) Or I may get most of it done in WvW without realizing it. Or I spend time in Plains of Ashford because I feel most comfortable/familiar with that zone – it being the charr starter zone and all – working on it while waiting for LFM calls for AC explorable.

I do a lot of AC ex runs. To the point where I, a little embarassingly, haven’t done or learned any other explorable dungeon yet besides a chance guild run through one of Twilight Arbor’s paths.

It’s decent money for me, since I don’t find the customary Orr farming terribly appealing or have the wherewithal to flip stuff on the trading post. It’s scored me most of my secondary exotic weapon collection cheaply and relatively painlessly over the last two weeks or so, aka scepter/shield combo and a staff. I like the look of the skins, so it works out well.

I’ve even bought a Gift of Ascalon, because I entertain this vague medium-term hope of crafting Foefire’s Essence as my secondary greatsword. (Sword/focus is still my primary weapon combination of choice and those were cheapo mystic forged and a crafted bought off the TP respectively for the stats I wanted.)

Today, I bought the Gift of Light recipe for 10 gold, exactly half of my stored savings. Ouch. (Oh well, more dungeon runs should have it recover in time. Any extra tears will likely go to the underwater weapons fund.)

It’s going to take me a lot longer to work on the insane quantities of orichalcum and charged lodestones and all that. Some targeted Orr farming will no doubt be in future plans.

Idly reading a reddit thread, I may have found a legendary that I actually like the look of. The torch Rodgort is pretty spiffy, and would match the fiery dragon sword very well. Even better, it won’t overlap with any other weapon I’ve been obtaining so far. This however will be an ultra long term goal. The only step I’d take towards it now is “learn CoF” so that I can start collecting the tokens for that dungeon and have it as part of my repertoire like AC.

To my surprise, I’ve accumulated 483 badges of honour from WvW, so it’s not that far away from the 500 needed. But I don’t even want to begin to look at the Gift of Fortune breakdown until I have a lot more earning power, so forget it for now.

Fortunately, I don’t collect minis or seriously collect dyes so that’s less completist collections to obsess over. The only thing I do hoard at this point is crafting materials. Haven’t sold a single one on the TP yet, which may be why I’m so broke. But I want to get all my crafting professions across the alts to 400 sooner than later, so I’m sure I’ll find uses for them.

Gem-wise, the only thing I really want at this point are character slots. I have this urge to make the Charr warrior I had in beta. But I’m still a little stingy at the current price of gold to gems, I may wait a little and see if they fall a bit once the Halloween stuff comes off the shop.

It all boils down to “I need gold” in the end. Which for me, looks to be best gotten by both working on the thief alt’s zone completions and learning more dungeons in my spare time. So that’s probably what I’ll be doing next.

Along with some WvW if I feel like it.

And it may also be time to do some experimenting and theorycrafting and reading up build guides to get new ideas and playstyles for both.

Lots and lots to do in GW2.

TSW: Early AR/Blades Build Rework for Savage Coast

Speaking of specs, and back to a more normal tone of voice, I’m mildly thankful that I started detecting some problems with my first build while in The Savage Coast.

I hear Blue Mountain is the place most people get a cynical wake up call. I prefer to begin practising revising builds when things are not so critical and I can still gain AP and SP while questing around in the second zone.

I was putting it off because I was expecting to have to do a full and extensive speciality dps, heal, tank gear finding and new skills triple build rework. The situation got a bit critical when I kept wiping on a particular amusement park quest that had to do with surviving waves of things.

(In retrospect, I suspect proper positioning and lots of movement and running would have helped me survive it better, but it was a good excuse to look askance at my current build.)

The good news is that I discovered I could keep putting off the massive gear hunt and build rework to a later date. A bit of skill tweaking of active and passives was sufficient to improve performance in my current mix of 1-2 tank talismans and the rest DPS stuff.

(I haven’t experimented with healing gear yet, not decided on just how much self-healing I’d like to do. So far the large hp reservoir provides enough to get by on mob spawns while constantly doing damage, regen is quick when out of combat and there’s always a spare energy drink heal for emergencies.)

My current two weapons are Assault Rifles and Blades, and though I started from a ranged AR focus, more and more, I’ve been increasingly keen to just keep running in and chopping things up because the blade is such a meat grinder and I get a big kick out of seeing penetrating hits. I guess our preferences show in the end. I’m a melee person at heart.

Nothing like reworking your build while being entertained. The demon and the draug decided to have it out with each other because I didn’t want to play with either of them.

My first build was a sloppy mix of starting abilities from both the AR and Blade inner wheels. It sorta reflected a desire to do both single target (ST) and area of effect (AoE) damage, with the knowing tradeoff that I wouldn’t be healing, I would be glass cannoning. I previously had Anima Shot in at one point, but it felt so slow to run around kiting and Anima Shotting, and I gave it up to try and stack afflicted=>penetration synergy.

Actives

1) Safety Off – AR builder – ST burst damage
2) Fire at Will – AR finisher – AoE damage
3) Delicate Strike -Blades builder- ST damage
4) Blade Torrent – Blades builder with hate – AoE damage
5) Balanced Blade – Blades finisher – AoE damage
6) Dancing Blade – Blades finisher – ST channeled damage
7) Slow the Advance – AR elite – AoE ground-targeted damage with Hindered state

Passives

1) Extra Bullet – bonus bullet to Safety Off
2) Delicate Precision – bonus 10% penetration chance to Delicate Strike
3) Perfect Storm – Blade Torrent adds Afflicted DoT
4) Eagle Eye – 10% bonus AR damage
5) Sharp Blades – 10% bonus Blades damage
6) Dark Potency – Blood passive, improved penetration rating on appying Afflicted
7) Fluid Defense – When you receive a glancing blow, you gain 1 stack of the “Minor Ward” buff.  Whenever you make a Penetrating Hit you gain a buff that increases all damage by 5% for 10 seconds.

 

Okay, it’s a little sloppy on examination now, but it did fine in Kingsmouth. I basically had the capacity to attack from range with AR and apply AoE damage, kite as long as necessary, and then let mobs close in and finish them off with Blades, either AoE a group down, or the single target stuff.

I threw in the option to improve penetration for increased blade damage by spamming blade torrent (hate doesn’t matter if you’re alone) until the five buff stacks had accumulated and then change to single target as needed.

What this build was missing was any semblance of survivability.

Like the poor Draug.

So I went and found a suggested AR/Blades starting build to try out for comparison purposes – Aela’s My First 60 AoE and Survival Healing with AR/Blades. Bear in mind I’m barely 1/3 into the Savage Coast and just started in on the 9 AP outer wheel skills and leery of taking more without any focused plan. I’m leaning towards branching into one or two more inner wheel weapons to give myself more potential flexibility as I later hit Blue Mountain before going too deep into the outer wheel, honestly. So a “My First 60” build sounded more doable, rather than some uber endgame build.

Active Abilities
Blade Torrent (Blade)
Forking Paths (Blade)
Balanced Blade (Blade)
Stunning Swirl (Blade)
Fire at Will (AR)
Fire in the Hole (AR)
Anima Shot

Passive Abilities
Lick Your Wounds (Fist)
Perfect Storm (Blade)
Sharp Blade (Blade)
Expose Weakness  (Blade)
Anima Boost (AR)
Fluid Defenses (Blade)
Immortal Spirit (Blade)

Well, one problem was immediately apparent. I didn’t have enough AP for Forking Paths, but I went and put in all the other abilities and just left Delicate Strike in as a placeholder.

Testing it out on some convenient demons by the Overlook Motel, I liked the smidgen of extra survivability from the self-healing and Anima Shot, even without Forking Paths and without any healing focused gear. I also realized that Fire in the Hole was a very nice ST finisher I was missing from AR, though I found it disorientating to have to keep switching targets to alternate Fire at Will and Fire in the Hole. And that I liked Stunning Swirl a whole lot more than Slow the Advance.

Let’s face it, I’m a melee person. A slow is more useful for a primarily ranged kiter. The grenade AoE in Slow the Advance looked cool, but I wasn’t exploiting the Hindered state much. The Impaired state yields valuable survival time, and it was a convenient interrupt for any mob’s big attacks they were charging up.

I really missed doing sexy single-target damage though.

So I saved the above as an AoE build, pending Forking Paths for completion, and started tweaking.

They were really going at it.

I settled on the following for now, mostly because it’s what I have unlocked, and it lets me go crazy single-target meleeing, with the added bonus of a good single target finisher for AR, while still having basic AoE and ranged kiting options as a fall back plan. And it has some basic affliction=>penetration and impaired synergies.

Actives

1) Grass Cutter – Blades builder – ST damage, bonus damage to afflicted targets
2) Dancing Blade – Blades finisher – ST channeled damage
3) Anima Shot – AR only builder – ST damage, small heal leech
4) Blade Torrent – Blades builder with hate – AoE damage
5) Stunning Swirl – Blades elite – AoE damage, adds Impaired state for 3 seconds, useful interrupt
6) Fire in the Hole – AR finisher – ST damage, simulates delayed grenade, explodes after 2 seconds
7) Fire at Will – AR finisher – AoE damage

Passives

1) Immortal Spirit – HoT on penetrating hit
2) Expose Weakness – Improved penetration chance on applying Impaired
3) Perfect Storm – Blade Torrent adds Afflicted DoT
4) Anima Boost – AR leech boost
5) Sharp Blades – 10% bonus Blades damage
6) Fatal Flourish – Blades passive, improved penetration rating on appying Afflicted (Dark Potency is identical to this)
7) Fluid Defense – When you receive a glancing blow, you gain 1 stack of the “Minor Ward” buff.  Whenever you make a Penetrating Hit you gain a buff that increases all damage by 5% for 10 seconds.

 

The basic idea is to snipe with Anima Shot to build the AR combo (Blade already starts out a full 5/5) and dump Fire in the Hole to finish. The mob usually closes into melee range by this point. (For a ranged mob, you can continue sniping with these two skills and laugh maniacally and slowly wear it down while not being hurt much, thanks to the leech, or just close the gap when you’re bored.)

Dancing Blade to dump the 5/5 Blades combo. Then Blade Torrent to build up improved penetration rating stacks, and affliction and Stunning Swirl to mess with the mob’s big attack or just impair for the heck of it. Fire in the Hole to use up the AR combo, Dancing Blade to use up Blade combo, both of which will roughly finish at the same time amusingly.

Grass Cutter now for more damage, mixed with a Blade Torrent or two to keep up affliction and penetration stacks and the two finishers whenever necessary. Mob is usually dead before the grenade can hit.

For mob clumps, fall back on Stunning Swirl, spamming Blade Torrent and Fire at Will. Clean up remnants with single target damage.

Retreat and kite with Anima Shot and Fire in the Hole if really running out of hp, which can add a couple precious seconds of hanging on time, but not an endless amount. Supplement with a healing energy drink if thinking correctly and not in a panic.  Should have been running from such an awful mob in the first place if the health bar wasn’t denting initially on first contact.

So far so good in the Savage Coast. Should be able to tide me over picking up a couple more inner wheel stuff for another two or three weapons, and then I’ll maybe look back at the outer wheel stuff and think about what else can be upgraded and improved on as Blue Mountain approaches.

 

P.S. Rift Martyr 1. Draug 0.

ATITD: A Little More Alloy Conversations (and Mines)

To recap, I was just a few steps shy of making my very own Raeli Oven. Over the last two days, in between City of Heroes huffiness, I got a lot of progress in. Nothing like having a less favored thing to do to cure procrastination.

Step 1) Obtain 25 Moon Steel Sheeting (and a bit of copper wire)

Alloys. Lots and lots of calculation, followed by alloy making. Each Moon Steel Sheeting is made from 8 Moon Steel. 1 Moon Steel is made from an alloy of:

One can’t just multiply directly the materials required, we have to take into account crystallization success. Assuming I only accept 70% crystallization success and higher, each batch will give me 7 Moon Steel or higher. I aim to produce to 210 Moon Steel (a little extra to keep in stock never hurts.) So the total is 30x. I will need 210 Steel, 90 Brass and 90 Pewter.

Each one of those suckers is an alloy in themselves. So MORE alloy calculations follow.

For Steel:

Assume we accept 75% crystallization and higher,  each will yield 5+ steel. We will need 42 x of the above, in total, 294 Iron, and 42 Tin.

For Brass:

Accepting 66% crystallization, each yields 5+ brass. We need 18 x of the above, 126 Copper and 18 Tin.

For Pewter:

Accepting 66% crystallization, each yields 6+ pewter. We need 15x of the above, 105 Iron, 60 Antimony and 15 Brass. (Hey look, another alloy snuck in. 15 brass means 21 more copper, and 3 more tin.)

Totaling up everything, that eventually added up to 399 Iron, 147 Copper, 63 Tin, and 60 Antimony.

To my surprise, I had all that metal already standing by in my metal warehouse. I was a bit afraid that I’d have to go look up a public mine location for antimony and cart ore back to smelt, but apparently I already did that a while ago. It would leave me a bit short on copper, but I could always mine more later.

So 1-2 hours of furious alloy making later (to the accompaniment of the Bastion soundtrack courtesy of the Humble Bundle V), I was sitting on 222 some Moon Steel and some spare odds and ends of the other alloys. I have to confess that I found this staring at white circles on a black background changing positions a lot more relaxing and enjoyable than the repeated tries I had of the City of Heroes Magisterium trial – for one, I was having incremental success and accumulating my way towards a goal and for another, I was alone – so grind really is in the eye of the beholder.

On went the forges, and I made some extra charcoal to load them up while waiting, since the alloy making had drained my charcoal stocks.

Clink clink clink went the Moon Steel as they got hammered into Sheeting, and then I threw on the copper to extrude into copper wire. (I did accidentally turn off one forge before I remembered I had yet to make them, so oops, 40 charcoal wasted turning it back on again.)

Optional) Mine Copper While Waiting

Since I had to wait for the forges, I got some copper mining done.

This Telling, I was fortunate enough to have unknowingly placed my compound very near to both an iron and a copper vein.  It’s the most convenient lack-of-running-required I’ve ever had with mines of the two most commonly needed metals.

Mining has changed since Tale 5 and 6. When I first joined in Tale 4, mining was an activity best left to macros.

Mines used to look like this. A pile of poo with seven crystals within. Depending on the type of metal you were trying to mine out, you had to click on the correct crystal for that metal type. This could be anything from “the odd crystal out,” “the least blue crystal,” “the least saturated crystal,” “the most yellow hued crystal” etc.

If I recall correctly, iron used to be the odd crystal out. This sounds easy and quite okay to do manually. Until you realize that computer color vision and human color vision are worlds apart. Computers use RGB and HSV to determine color. What looks least blue to humans, may not be the same thing to a computer which is calculating it based on the lowest B value, for example.

And you get things like the above picture. I -think- the odd crystal out in the mine above is the top left one, but it’s so close, it’s impossible to tell. Players were using color pickers to help them differentiate between colors (not even the color picker is helping me on that mine above, to be honest.)

And it was a short step from there to fully automated mining with macros that analyzed the crystals for you – just help the macro to mark the pixel locations of the seven crystals as seen on your screen.

Mines also used to break, and require repairs that cost increasingly expensive amounts of leather. This influenced player behavior accordingly, making fewer mines public, and causing them to drop lots of spare mines along an entire vein or metal patch, hogging the all the resources so that they didn’t have to paid absurd amounts of leather just working on one mine. Freeloaders were not welcome, because there was a cost to be paid in leather, and the mine got more and more expensive to use. There was much drama about mines.

The new mines don’t break. They cost comparatively more now, but they don’t break. One simple game design change, and player behavior adapts in response. Now more people are open to making their mines available for public use, and there’s less need to litter an entire row of mines along a vein, one for each guild, clique and individual person who can afford a mine to use for themselves.

I placed my mines to make it convenient for myself, but left them open to public use, since I’m settled very near the Chariot Stop of my region.

(Some person has taken advantage of that by erecting a personal warehouse right behind the mine. I’m not terribly fond of the eyesore, it’s very near to where I flax and within sight of all my compounds. Still debating if I should contact the person to talk it over. I find it a bit rude and presumptuous to building that there when you don’t even own the mine in question. If I turned the mining rights off, a fat lot of good the warehouse would do you then. I wouldn’t be that vindictive, but yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me. Most people are fine making multiple runs to get and convert all the ore they mined to more portable metal. My gyration cell is sitting there in the background, available for public use, allowing them to turn 1495 ore to 150 metal as long as they bring 50 charcoal per run.

Not to mention, no one has visited it to clear it of the ore lately, which means it’s just junk trash sitting there on the off chance they maybe might want some later and come by to get it. What the hell, why hoard it in ore form, just convert it to metal and -take- it with you. It’s also COPPER, the most common metal, there’s veins criss-crossing everywhere, why not just make your own mine nearer to where you live?

On the other hand, I’m not fond of drama and it is relatively small stuff not to be sweated over, they may have thought it within the boundaries of the Chariot Stop and thus fair game and common use ground. Living near the Chariot Stop has all kinds of potential eyesore disadvantages and territory issues that my hermit self is not entirely used to, along with all the bonuses of short runs to anywhere. We’ll see.)

The new mines pop up a big set of crystals as above. More complex metals may have more than eight crystals too.

The crystals can differ in a number of ways. By their color, by their main body shape, by the shape of their base, by the additional crystals sticking into the main body, etc.

The more common metals are easier to mine. So in this case, there are only two factors to look at for copper. The main body shape and their color.  (Base shape, and additional top crystals remain the same.)

One must select a set of three or more crystals that are either ALL THE SAME or ALL DIFFERENT with regards to the above factors, to successfully mine some ore.

So if you take a look at the cyan crystals 2, 4 and 6… they are all the same color and all three have different body shapes. 2 is round, 4 is a triangular fin, and 6 has four lumps sticking out of it like a primitive hand. These are a valid set and will yield ore.

3, 7 and 8 also work. They are the same grey color and the same primitive hand body shape.

1, 4 and 5 is also fine. Different colors, same triangular fin body shape.

5, 6 and 7 would not work. Though they are different colors, 6 and 7 share the same shape, but 5 does not. They must be all the same or all different for each factor.

Continual successful set formations per layout appear to yield increasingly more ore on average, and if you use the same crystal seven times successfully when forming sets, the crystal breaks and the mine yields some gems that differ per region. (Gem mining is best done with sand mines for least factors to consider when set making.)

When stuck, or all possible sets formed, click on the mine and “Work the Mine” to get a new layout with new crystals.

This new method of mining favors the human ability to see and make patterns a little more over the power of computers to repetitively click. It’s quite fun and relaxing a minigame if done in the proper mood, with an easy metal. It also can be a small group activity, as multiple people can attempt to form sets together.

Of course, never underestimate player ingenuity in cyborging with the help of computers.

Players have developed two methods of mining with computer help. One is to brute force all the solutions. Cegaiel’s Autohotkey macro does this in-game.

If your brain hurts thinking about stone combinations, and you don’t mind being slow and steady, you can let the macro take a whack at every possible stone combination there is. The macro asks you to select all the stone locations by middle-mouse button clicking, assigning each pixel location to stone 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.

Then the macro bangs away, hitting stones 1, 2 and 3. Then 1, 2 and 4. 125. 126. 127. 128.

Then 134, 135, 136, 137, 138. Then 145, 146, 147, 148, on and on, until it finishes with 678.

If it hits a valid set, you get ore.

If it hits an invalid set (and there will be lots when you’re brute forcing), it automatically detects the pop up that announces your error in picking an invalid set, and hits the OK to close it for you.

The whole thing clicks with precision at a much faster pace than you can as a human, so it can generate a tolerable amount of ore over time. Not as fast as an intelligent human operator would be, but a lot less taxing on the brain when you don’t want to think.

Method number 2 is to solve for all possible valid combinations out of game with a third-party tool. Then you just follow and click the correct combinations.

Docsaintly’s Stonecrusher is the premiere tool for the job. It takes a bit more work to set up the mine layout, so it is most useful for the really complicated metals where you want to maximize yield, but the whole layout looks like a massive pain to even see any patterns, let alone all of them.

Taking the above mine layout as an example, one would enter in all the stone attributes. Let A be the color of the stones. 1, 3 and 8 are grey, so let’s call them G. 2, 4, 6 are blue, so B. And 5 is red, R.

Let B be the shape of the stones. 1, 4, 5 are Triangular. 2 is a Circle. (Technically, sphere, but hell, it’s my naming convention.) 3, 6, 7, 8 are Hands (beats calling it misshapen sphere with four spikey lumps on top).

One Calculate button later, all the valid combinations are displayed for you to click. Just remember which stone is which number.

Multiple ways to manage the same task. That’s the beauty of A Tale in the Desert.

ATITD: Kilns, Forges, Ovens and Alloys

Continuing the saga of the Raeli Oven Project, the 3000 Wet Clay Bricks needed firing. I went ahead into even further expansion on the kilns, mostly because I couldn’t bear the thought of 17 or 25 repeated firings.

A bit of serendipity happened: I had left some space in front of the kilns for other kilns, but there was a chest on the left in the way of stacking the kilns in a perfect grid formation. I could have jumped one kiln and proceeded to stack them, but I suddenly realized that offsetting the front row of kilns meant that I could kinda peek around them to check whether the back row was filled. More easily than I could have done with them perfectly stacked anyhow.

So I went ahead with the offset, and put in enough to total 25 kilns. Now I just needed to fire them 10 times, and chuck the bricks into the warehouse. Done.

Next up, lots of forging:

Forging itself is simple. Have forge. Select forge. Fill with lots of Charcoal. Light forge. Forge eats some charcoal (4o for student’s) to begin with. Forge continues to eat charcoal at 1 a minute (more for the master versions.)

Select whatever you want to make from a long list.

Wait.

Wait some more. Depending on the type of item, it can take 1 minute to 15 minutes to more.

Again, economies of scale. Some people make a lot of forges to finish faster. I’m not much of a metalworker and don’t like the initial burn-off of so much charcoal per forge. So far I’ve been able to get away with less. Tradeoff, I wait longer.

Typically, I just fill the forges with a couple hundred of charcoal, not bothering to calculate how much I need precisely, set them to whatever item I want, and go off and do something else until the little forge chime to say my item is done, next item.

I did need charcoal for the forges though, so a’ charcoaling we went.

By the period of this telling, we are using charcoal ovens, which return 200 charcoal per 209 wood + extra wood used to burn them. In the early game before the technology is unlocked, charcoal hearths are used with lower return (100 charcoal per.)

Making charcoal is an active minigame. The goal is to keep the heat bar over the halfway mark for faster progress on the charcoal, while not letting the danger bar hit the maximum, which would set all the wood and charcoal aflame and burn them to nothingness. Successfully reaching the end of progress bar yields charcoal.

Like most things in ATITD, it’s deeper than it looks on first glance. Novices are mainly concerned with being able to operate one oven to success, until they get the hang of the minigame at least. Then you can start getting complicated in search of efficiency.

One can ramp up by increasing the number of ovens you operate at one time. With practice, 3-4 can be handled. To be honest, it took me a while, until this telling to try 4 ovens. I find it most comfortable and less hectic with 2-3.

One can macro the ovens. One kind of macro just duplicates your clicks across all the ovens you’re running, so essentially you manage one oven and the macro clicks the rest for you. If done quickly, within the tick, all the ovens match up. Another kind of macro strives to automatically run the oven for you based on the color and pixel positioning of the progress bars. Personally, they don’t work well for me. Maybe it’s my geographic location causing extra lag/latency but I can never get all the clicks between ticks, my ovens always desync after some time. And the automatic macro either breaks, or eats so much wood over manually controlling the ovens that I end up wincing and being that guy who snatches the controller and says “Let ME do it.”

Y’see, there is one more thing to consider in making charcoal: wood efficiency. The main way to raise heat is by clicking the ‘wood’ button to add 3 wood per press.

Obviously, the more wood you use in making charcoal, the more costly your final 200 charcoal becomes in terms of total wood consumed. The efficiency ratio ranges from ~1.25 (very good) to 1.3 (decently good) to 1.5 (somewhat wasteful) and higher.

This becomes a trading opportunity for those who have mastered the technique and enjoy making charcoal. If they are certain they can maintain 1.2-1.3 conversion efficiency, it is quite common for them to offer 1:2 charcoal:wood trades. Bring them 2000 wood, and they’ll return you 1000 charcoal, and keep the extra wood for themselves to convert to charcoal.

Opening and closing the vent to alter oxygen levels can also affect heat, as well as danger levels – only practice can tell you when it’s appropriate to play around with those, to maintain or alter heat or danger levels without adding wood. There is a more in-depth description as well as video demonstrations available on the ATITD wiki for those new to the process to learn. I’ll just comment that the method shown is not the only way to do charcoal, so don’t be afraid to just play around with the oven. Their technique demonstrates a very wood efficient way of burning charcoal – when I tried it, I got 1.25 efficiency, but I found it hard to sync multiple ovens and I found it slower than the method I commonly use.

Mine involves maintaining wood and oxygen levels to be as even as possible, and both tend to hover near the 1/4 to 1/3 mark. This can send danger levels flying high if you’re not careful, and either lower the oxygen to lower the danger (if it’s not rising too quickly) or dump one click of water into the oven (which drops danger and heat considerably).

To get the heat back going again, I’m not afraid of clicking twice on the wood button, or more. Which is a bit wasteful on wood, but it works for me.

One other trick I learned on my own to jump start a failing oven whose heat seems to be dropping beyond repair. Open the oxygen vent to high, dump in about 3-5 clicks of wood, and then switch the vent to low immediately without clicking on the middle option to cut oxygen dramatically. This typically gets the heat roaring back up, but again, wastes wood.

Sometimes though, after sitting for 5-6 minutes and seeing the progress bar -almost- there but not quite, you’re willing to squander the wood rather than the time. I’m not terribly fond of the ovens, I rather go collect more wood with the time I saved, so that’s another tradeoff to consider besides wood efficiency.

I made a couple thousand odd charcoal or so, and started the forges making the random assortment of shovel blades, iron bars and so on. Casting boxes were lit too, to make medium gears. They operate the same way as forges, but require beeswax in addition to the metal raw material.

To kill the waiting time, I started work on alloys. I needed 10 Bearings to be cast after the medium gears, and Bearings require bronze, an alloy of copper and zinc.

Alloy making is another interesting minigame in ATITD.

Alloys are made in Reactories. Which again can be done in multiples. I like to have two Reactories going at once. People really into alloys might run 4.

The goal is to get all the white circles overlapping with each other as close as possible to have a perfect result. Something like this:

One of the things that was hardest for me to grasp about alloys is letting go of perfectionism. I don’t know if it’s learnt from other MMOs, that so-called “sense of entitlement” that says I should be able to do it all and do it perfect every time, or if it’s just a character flaw. I would spend a long time on alloys, searching for that 100% crystallization, and get very frustrated every time I hit 10%, 20%, 30% – 60%, 70% crystallization.

I eventually thought about it in this way. Attaining Perfect Crystalization of a particular alloy is worth an Achievement in-game, so it’s meant to be a relatively infrequent event. Sometimes the tradeoff of time spent is more important than maximum conversion efficiency of the raw materials (especially if the raw materials are cheap.)

To make things more interesting, the return rate of each alloy can vary, there is a floor below which you get nothing. In this case, 30% crystallization yields 1 bronze,

And 50% gives 3 bronze.

One deals with it by setting yourself an acceptable conversion efficiency for the metal, in this case, I settled for 70% crystallization yielding 5 bronze, effectively 62.5% or higher efficiency. Any time my crystallization hits that amount, take the alloy that is formed. If not, then re-heat the metal (using up charcoal) and repeat. This allows a balanced tradeoff between time, amount of alloy produced, and conversion efficiency.

So how in the world do you move the white circles anyway? By clicking. The wiki explains this far better than I, and also includes a diagram of suggested places where to click or not click.

But essentially, wherever you click, the circle nearest to your mouse cursor (as defined from its centre) doesn’t move, and all the other circles will jump towards that circle with a distance determined by how near they are to that circle.

If two or more circles get near enough to overlap, it congeals and the whole thing crystallizes according to how many circles overlapped with the last click. Generally, any two circles overlapped at a distance nearer than 1/4 the diameter will end up congealing the whole thing.

Here’s an animated gif of the process: (I very nearly thought it was going to end up a disaster, but lucked into being able to spread out the circles far enough)

Not every layout the Reactory gives you is solvable. More often than not, it’s not. Like this below, which has 5 circles far away from the main mass, and will never come close enough to make the result worth anything. The trick is to not get frustrated that the stupid reactory gave you this, nor rail that it’s not fair, nor waste time clicking at something that won’t yield good results. Just shrug, and re-heat the thing to reset the layout.

And sometimes you end up clicking yourself into a corner, if you’re not that good at it, like me.

In the case above, all the circles are too spread out to overlap neatly into one final circle, yet near enough that they will likely congeal on my next click no matter where I click. Again, once you see this, there’s not much to be gained from brooding over it, click your best shot, see what the result is (probably not satisfactory) and re-heat.

70 copper, 10 zinc, some charcoal and resin and time later, I had 59 bronze. That’s about 73.75 metal conversion efficiency, not too shabby.

20 of the bronze went into the casting boxes for Bearings, and a short stock take later, my Raeli Oven warehouse was sitting on the following list.

Two more major things left. I’m going to need Moon Steel Sheeting, which involves more alloys, and likely some mining as I don’t have some of the rarer metals on hand. Mining will be another nice minigame to talk about, it was changed for Tale 5 and Tale 6. I’ll be forging copper wire at the same time as the moon steel sheeting, because I forgot to do this session.

And I’m going to have to worry about cement and plaster. I am most likely going to take the social solution out for now, and join one of the scheduled digs and cement stirs this Saturday that is organized by a very friendly and helpful veteran – He runs them for newbies who would not be able to get a hold of them otherwise. This community service probably plays a strong part in retaining the new players who might otherwise give up.

The only thing is that it’s set at 3am, 5am and 7am my time. 🙂 So we’ll see if the alarm clock functions… or we’ll go back to Plan B after Saturday.