Time Flies When You’re Having A Good Time

Three aborted attempts at blog posting later, I have pretty much decided that I don’t have anything substantial to say for now.

It’s just taking up valuable time from actual gaming.

A Tale in the Desert

Part of the blame goes to my recent re-awoken interest in A Tale in the Desert. The thing about oldschool games is that they make you want to play hardcore. Or as hardcore as you can manage – which for me includes staying online for as many hours as I can spare, and staying up till 3am to join in a group event in order to progress one more teeny thing on one’s checklist of things-to-do.

I’m sure it won’t last, and I feel the burst of energy/activity cranking down, which is probably also why this post can be written.

Some day I’ll figure out how to properly balance my time in that game, but the design of it makes it very tricky. There’s stuff that once you start, you have to check back in at various intervals or bad stuff happens or things simply don’t progress.

I generally avoid games that do that because I feel it’s an artificial constraint placed by a developer to force addictive behavior or negative gaming patterns, but for some reason, ATITD has a ridiculously compelling draw for me that offsets it.

I think the key is that it’s not enforced or compulsory. It’s player-chosen, in the sense that you decided to do this activity or build that thing – which requires this other thing that needs you to check back in at set intervals or every now and again.

You don’t have to. You could go use someone else’s already built thing, or choose not to do that activity or bypass it in some other way and do stuff that doesn’t require the login-like-clockwork maintenance.

But since I decided that such-and-such was my goal, then for the next few days or weeks, I have volunteered to impose the schedule on myself until I get the things I want and then stop or continue on as desired. That autonomy is a big deal for me.

I’d love to write more descriptive posts about aspects of ATITD in the near future, but I’m having serious difficulty separating out each bit.

In the two weeks I’ve renewed my alt’s sub and been regularly playing again, I’ve built an extra water mine (figuring out my nemesis of glassmaking in the process) in order to get cuttable sunstones, massacred possibly 40 of them on a gem-cutting table and finally obtained the last full-eye sunstone I needed, with which to build an automated flax gin.

That was the start of the attempt to move into the automation age like everybody else – I desultorily tweaked my brick machine (though I honestly prefer manually making bricks), worked on getting mechanics skill levels for my characters to tune the automated machines, built a limestone auger to automate limestone harvesting, which is still awfully slow at basic levels and set up another goal to make a springbox to speed it up, which led to finally figuring out how gearbox designing works, which necessitated a lot of forge and casting time making small and medium gears, which in turn meant I needed to mine and smelt ore into metal, and also meant I needed to convert lots of wood into charcoal.

To top it all off, I need a spring and a cotter pin for the springbox, which means I either need to get very good at blacksmithing two objects, or break down and give up and look for another player blacksmith who doesn’t massacre the object’s quality like I do.

Speaking of gears, getting a handle on gearboxes meant I could quarry with two characters, so I did, and busted up the one Osyster Shell Marble quarry I owned, which necessitated going out to prospect for two more, and gathering the materials for those quarries. And why did I need Oyster Shell Marble? For a Test called the Ritual Tattoo, which involves identifying herbs and visiting odd locales satisfying criteria like near 2 cactuses and a road, or within a certain altitude – which by the by, meant I needed a barometer to measure the altitude with, which meant glass making once again. Oh, and I still need more Oyster Shell Marble for Acid Baths, which are used to make metal salts, for pyrotechnics (aka fireworks) which I’ve never played with, and chemically treating metal.

Chemically treated metal is also needed for a bunch of other things involved with automation, but I haven’t built myself a chemical bath yet, which requires acid (yet another thing to do) and on and on… I think you get the idea.

There was also flax, camel-catching, papyrus growing with newly built papyrus tanks, aqueduct-building, vegetable growing, beetle tending and competing, silkworm feeding with thistles, beer making, wine drinking and grape tending, a new citrus grove planted with indonesian bee hives, and learning about and attending festivals for another test, just to name some of the other things I did.

I hope to cover them all in greater detail some day, but for now, my focus was just on catching up (just a little) and restarting the fires of industry, so to speak.

Guild Wars 2

Coming along the tail end of a slightly flagging energy level in ATITD, is recently revitalized interest in GW2.

I’d been doing the dailies faithfully and sneaking looks at the Living Story while on effective break, but as the end of Feb patch dropped, I got off my arse and applied to a new guild.

As much as I’m a proponent of the peaceful immersive wandering about Tyria in a guild of one (or living a self-sufficient hermit lifestyle in ATITD unhassled by guild drama or the demands of other people,) I have to admit I also derive a certain enjoyment from seeing lively chat scroll across my window and friendly recognizable names/faces.

It’s about balance, I suppose.

The new guild has given me an opportunity to get back into WvW again, this time fighting for the Toast (and teh RPs!) and I’ve been enjoying myself thoroughly. TC appears to have a current numbers advantage on their two opponents during NA times, and it’s a low-stress reintroduction back to part of the game I’ve ignored for some time.

It’s been interesting to observe how different servers use different strategies. TC places siege a lot more readily than IoJ ever did, especially defensive siege. I haven’t seen a major stress on portal bombing yet – perhaps the meta has shifted while I was away and wasn’t looking, apparently counters were developed for it or some such. I’ve seen some brilliant speed siege builds and ballista sniping of opposing siege in just a few days of WvW, and shitloads of superior siege used, something I’ve barely ever seen while on IoJ.

Conversely though, I haven’t yet seen the very patient and methodical catapulting and trebbing that [ND] or Never Die was fond of using, with their massive guild defending the siege emplacements while opposing team morale whittled away under the relentless pounding. Different guilds, different strats also, I guess.

TC also seems to like to run in massive zerg balls, sometimes ridiculously massive, which makes me fear that in a higher tier, more mobile smaller guild groups of 10-15 like how IoJ fielded in its prime would run supply camp circles and havoc around the TC mass – but I guess we’ll see how things go in later weeks. The nice thing is having a numbers advantage immediately puts opponents on a slightly more defensive footing, so to speak, and makes morale shakier (for PUG participants, anyway.)

Dipping a toe back into WvW encouraged me to re-attempt some fractals, though I’ve been sticking to the lower levels for now. I just don’t feel like I have a specialist build good enough for over 20 fractals yet, I capped at 18 and already felt very torn up. It’s either my generalist build – to which there’s no solution until I level my new Guardian alt, I’m just too comfortable with the current one for farming and roaming and WvW and all to go changing it back and forth, or the lack of Agony Resistance to which the only thing to do is continue to accumulate fractal relics at a doable difficulty while I decide which, if any, Ascended Gear I want to buy and how.

My opinion on the Ascended Gear debate?

I don’t know. On one hand, I feel the gear difference between yellows, oranges and pinks is not that wide, and therefore I don’t feel the stress or urgency to max everything out.

My PTV exotics have served me well for a very long time, I still haven’t upgraded all my jewelry to exotics yet, there are still two yellows that I’ve been thinking I might just jump up to pink with, rather than ‘waste’ crafting an exotic to serve for a short time for not too much effect.

On the other hand, I’m feeling the decision about what stat arrangement to get one’s gear in to be a lot more constricting. I’ve been so far happy with my PTV and Berserker mix for a sort of off-tanky dps hybrid, but sometimes I worry that I’m not being as team-friendly as I could be by specing into something a lot more supportive, be it with boons, shouts or heals – which would suggest Cleric gear, or just not as tanky as the cookie cutter AH guardians – which might also mean a look at either Knight’s, Cleric’s or whatever stuff has mixtures of Toughness, Healing Power and what not.

Then again, my current main is not really meant to be a group-focused support guardian, my upcoming asura is destined for that. The main activity I end up doing with my Charr, besides WvW, is farming. LOTS of farming. Orr Events? Yes please. Dragons? Sometimes. One man genocide on wildlife? You bet.

And I’ve been feeling lately that my yellow magic find power/prec gear is not as hard hitting as it could be. The thought of blinging myself out in exotic magic find, plus one or two Ascended magic find pieces via the Laurels, is oddly… tempting. (And a new look, Vigil armor or racial armor might be cool. I’m getting tired of looking like a polar bear – the fur on the crafted armor was the only place I could think of to make use of the Celestial dye I gulped down without thinking.)

Thing is, there are only so many ways to get Ascended gear, and while I appreciate the fact that there are alternatives that suit different playstyles, it becomes somewhat tricky for a dabbler in many playstyles (but never professionally serious in one) to figure out which piece he should get where, by what means and statted how.

Faced with the prospect of three or four armor sets (x 6 slots each) and two or three jewelry sets (x 8 slots) to juggle in one’s bags, it’s enough to make said dabbler (who mind you, was never serious enough to pick one and stick with it) just bury his head in the sand, continue to save up currency in the bank and not upgrade any gear at all.

In a few months, there will be enough guild commendations to complexify the issue even further…

Which brings me to the other controversial issue raging in the GW universe. Guild Missions.

To be honest, I’m reserving comment. And waiting to see.

While I certainly appreciate that smaller guilds are feeling that it’s an impossible milestone to hit (let’s not even talk about my guild of one,) my reigning impulse is that it’s way better that fewer massively large guilds test this stuff out, than numerous small guilds that might later feel very jipped if stuff bugs out.

And I hear stuff is already bugging out.

I also have to admit that there is a certain community-building and player-retaining value in incentivizing people who might otherwise be loners like me to get off their arse and join a big guild.

While running around in my guild of one was fun, it also did feel somewhat disconnected. All I saw were other people with unique guild tags, roaming about by themselves or in duos, and they felt like strangers. Friendly strangers, to be sure, thanks to GW2 encouraging cooperation, but people I probably wouldn’t see again. If I weren’t long term committed to the game and the lore, I can easily understand why someone might feel discouraged or lonely and quit.

Being part of a big guild and seeing the same tag out and about in big events or WvW creates a bit more of a bond with fellow players. For me, at any rate.

Our guild’s first Guild Bounty mission was mind blowing in terms of how the leaders managed to organize some 60-odd players across various zones in teams to go hunting for the NPCs. That’s an experience one just wouldn’t have without the crowd.

On the other hand, one nitpick I could see was that the big guilds kept running into each other and grabbing bounties at inconveniently staggered timings. Not at the same time, so that both guilds hitting it could get their own credit for the activated bounty. Not well after each other so that one guild would be done and gone before the other started. But just a few minutes before so that the mob would die and respawn somewhere else, making the slightly later guild end up delaying once more while the poor team in that zone ran about looking for the damn bounty again.

And these were just the big guilds. I don’t want to imagine what would happen if every small guild could activate their bounty and be hunting at the same time. There would no doubt be a lot more screaming at each other over chat. (Little unanticipated kinks like these is one reason why I’m ok with stress testing via big guilds first, btw.) Weekend prime times are a bitch.

I like the idea of each player being limited to 2 guild commendations a week. You get them as a personal reward with the first boss you take down, so you aren’t necessarily compelled to stay for an entire extended event if you’re time pressed, nor do you have to follow some hardcore raider-like schedule of gaming at set times three or four or five or more days a week for maximum optimized rewards. I managed to make it to my guild’s Saturday Guild Bounty, but had Sunday available for other real life concerns, even though they ran it again for those who couldn’t make Saturday, and also to max the guild’s reward of whatever its currency was.

I’m not sure what good solutions would be for guilds of moderate size stuck in the middle. Alliance or multi-guild chat would be a good start, imo. In more ways than one. Enable guilds to talk to each other in-game. Enable players to hear and talk to their separate guilds in-game. At this rate, you’re forcing guilds who want to coordinate with each other to use a third-party voicechat program.

Alternate missions that smaller guilds can do more easily might be something good for future development. Though those things necessarily take time. Or allow guilds to sync their missions with each other for an alliance. Though I don’t want to imagine how much coding that would take.

And frankly, I have no idea what they were thinking gating the stuff behind Art of War.

Obviously someone thought that guilds weren’t using their fortification buffs enough or something. Perhaps defending places were balanced with that in mind, which is why attackers seem to have a pretty good advantage when not many people are defensively minded enough to begin with (cue lack of siege placement, lack of siege usage, lack of defenders, and lack of guild buffs.) A well defended place by a determined guild is actually a bloody tough nut to crack. It tends to eventually crack, since the attackers want in and won’t give up most of the time, but yeah.

But it’s a heavyhanded and clumsy move, and PvE and WvW move in different circles. It’s like asking PvPers to go run dungeons before they get geared enough to duel.

Rather nonsensical.

Anyhow, that’s what I’ve been up to in the last few weeks. I’ve been playing browser game Fallen London in between spurts of ATITD and GW2, and sampling their other StoryNexus games. My Steam list is still a mile long. I do kinda want to check out TSW and/or DDO again. SWTOR has been deleted, I just couldn’t feed their cash shop in good conscience.

Others can look forward to Wildstar or what-have-you, I won’t be there until much later and only when a free trial comes out.

I just have no time left between the two mainstay MMOs.

GW2: New Shiny Armor

Shock, horror, a post that -isn’t- about WvW!

The last patch on Tuesday finally unbugged the Temple of Melandru and I could pick up two more pieces of the exotic armor I wanted.

That left one more rare to replace with an exotic, and I sat down, bought the ectos and crafted it.

Now to worry about the jewelry and the weapons, the former of which are all green karma rewards and the latter yellow rares. The weapons will probably keep, the jewelry is a mite embarassing. I seriously have no idea how to make enough gold to buy them off the trading post, I’m a terrible money earner and spender. I’ll probably buckle down to craft up to jewelry 400 on an alt at some point, it earns xp after all, and the alts can make use of them too.

But that’s a goal that can be achieved in its own time.

I sat around for a bit, playing with my available dye colors and reminding myself of the simple joys outside of WvW.

Halp, a ghost!

So in one of those incredible moments, a celestial (white) dye was one of the first dyes to pop for me when opening an unidentified dye. I stared at it for a while, knowing how much white sells for in GW1… then on impulse, double-clicked it to own it.

I don’t know if I regret it or not. White is actually not a color I need on this Charr, it’s too bright on shiny heavy armor most of the time. But the sheer specialness of having the color is nice. I just refuse to look at how much it’s selling for on the trading post now.

It makes for an interesting way to start deciding how to coloring in one’s armor though. Looks funny too.

I settled for a red and gold-ish color scheme.

In part because it was the darkest color I had to hand, and light to medium grey metallic is so boring… and as a thematic nod to the Blood Legion he belongs to.

May be overdoing it a touch, perhaps. 🙂

I rather like it, it reminds me of a Warhammer 40k Space Marine (probably Chaos and Khorne to boot) with the skulls and the spikes and the tabard-like thing that hangs down from the belt. (I have no idea what it’s supposed to be called. Dress vocabulary = zero.)

And still has that encased Charr in heavy armor look.

And it’s NOT blue and white and grey, which seem to be the typical guardian “knightly” colors. Fits a human maybe, but not a Charr.

For the record, the helm and boots are crafted Draconic armor. The rest is karma armor pieces from the Orr temples, Melandru specifically, but Balthazar’s also seemed to look the same when I last checked.

The main color is Wrath dye. It looks almost entirely similar to Brick dye, if you ask me, except that Wrath dye seems to produce a darker black in the shadow areas.

Accent color is Antique Silver, which is more muted and realistic looking than the gold that came in the starter set.

The chainmail in shadow is Midnight Rust, the darkest color I had. Turned out for the best as I like the brown tinge it has, as opposed to something more grey or black.

In a way, it is almost fun to limit oneself to the color palette one has from the dyes you get, rather than trying to buy the exact color on the auction house.

(I sold unidentified dyes for a while when they were 5-6s, but now that they’ve dropped to 4s, I’ve been tempted to just open them for the fun of it, like cracking open a collectible card game pack. You know full well that the value of what’s inside will probably degrade the moment you crack the seal, but it’s paying for the thrill of the lottery and the discovery. I have plenty of alts that can use ’em still anyway.)

I also made an interesting observation. Under best appearance settings with the shaders and all turned up, the dye color looks a fair bit different than the lowest appearance settings (no shadows, low everything) that I have on for surviving in WvW (or Lion’s Arch) without crashing out of memory after an hour.

Seems like folks with much better graphics cards and less outdated systems than mine are running around a world that looks more realistic, whereas knocking everything down low still looks decently good, but looks more stylized and dare I say it, WoW-like cartoony. Or at least, brighter colors.

I need to do more PvE soon. I’ve nearly forgotten how good Guild Wars 2 can look.