The SAD Project – Day 4 – Random Panda Bravely Dungeon

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First off, here is your nifty screenshot of the day.

I haven’t been visiting the guild hall to harvest random materials in a bit, but today, while idly looking for stuff to do, I hit the “visit Guild Hall” button.

Our guild recently (and when I say recently, I mean maybe 1-3 months ago, I live in geologic time when it comes to GW2) swapped over to the Lost Precipice guild hall area.

This is generally a very rocky, arid, barren, cliffside landscape, so I was rather surprised to see some decorator had gone plant-happy across the entire guild hall, presumably cleverly making use of strategically placed trees all over to act like bushes and hedges.

It makes the whole hall look great. But my favorite is this lil panda in the bushes, seemingly assembled from snowballs and chak gerent eyes.

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I start with that, because the alternative is screenshots that look like this.

I’ve been spending the last two days mostly staring at various characters’ equipment screens, wondering if I can consolidate agony resistance into some characters’ up to the point of T4 fractals and wondering -which- characters and also wondering if I can stand making the effort.

The first point: consolidating agony resistance.

Previously, I had a 150+ AR necromancer, cobbled together with some mix of the +5 versatile infusions and +8 to +10 agony infusions. I’d also been working on bringing a PS warrior up to 150, but ran aground somewhere around the 87s.

Some patches later, necromancers are see-sawing in status, no longer quite masters of the epidemic bomb and undisputed sole rulers (except for one druid) of T4 fractals. Power PS warriors have also taken a massive hit in perceived popularity, and at T4, condi is king, anyway.

Since I run a condi PS warrior for raids, you’d think it’d be easy to just transfer AR over to him, but a) staring at my old characters, I realize that half of their infusions are the old type of +5 infusions and probably don’t work anymore / have to be traded for the new type or something, and b) I really want to min-max this guy and work on upgrading him slowly with infusions with +5 condi damage stats – which cost a bomb, compared to the normal type.

Then comes the second point: -which- characters should I consolidate them on.

I’m regularly terrified of and/or loathe fractals and most group content.

This reaction is mildly amusing to me, considering one of the recent topics in the MMO blogosphere seems to be a general nostalgia towards running dungeons and missing the feeling of contributing in some role (healers, mostly).

I figured it out though. There are a couple things I really really -hate- about group content.

One is the unpredictability of PUGs.

I like my group content runs smooth. Now that my raid group full clears regularly, I find I am actually enjoying my weekly raids in GW2. I like the predictability of the encounter. I know my teammates, I know -this- healer will regularly save my bacon when I run out of health doing a mechanic, I know to expect certain things at certain times, I know when I am supposed to do my part pulling other peoples’ bacon out of the fire with a well placed rez banner and so on.

Try -that- in a PUG.

O. M. G.

Seguing into this is the disparity of skill levels in a PUG. I hate it.

I am not super keen on having to carry some helpless barely contributing folk through an instance, though I can tolerate it if the overall run is smooth and easy.

At the same time, I am also keenly aware that I have zero skill level when it comes to higher level fractals and the mechanics therein, particularly the newer ones, so to others at a much higher skill level, they are no doubt keenly aware that they are carrying ME and the embarrassment is unpleasant.

(It is a catch 22 that you will gain no skill if you do not even make the attempt though, so the only alternative is to suffer embarrassment, risk being kicked or singled out/be carried, and try to suck less with each go at it.)

Then also, if you lack the critical mass of competent people to carry the less competent, the whole encounter turns into a roiling, time-wasting mess of wipes, silent leavers, and waiting for more.

Which brings me to point 3: waiting to play a game.

Maybe I’m old or something,  but it has been blowing my mind lately when I watch Twitch streamers play various games like Player Unknown Battlegrounds or Friday the 13th or pretty much -any- multiplayer game.

They sit in a lobby for an amazing amount of time, waiting for sufficient players to fill up the team.

Thereafter, there is like a 45 second countdown before the match even begins.

During the match, there seem to be interminable amounts of waiting or quiet periods where absolutely nothing happens, interspersed with a couple life or death seconds of combat.

If you’re on the losing end, welp, you can now watch other people play the game until the match ends, or you can join another lobby to wait for another match to begin.

The common rejoinder of the hardcore fractaler is to say, “welp, make your own group to do X” and you know, I gave it a try, starting a few groups with an easy daily recommended fractal.

Almost immediately, I realized that I was going out of my mind WAITING for someone to join.

It got so bad that after a couple minutes, I dashed into the fractal myself – Urban Battlegrounds, comes with NPCs – and started soloing, because what the hell, right? At least I was doing something.

The NPCs and me had pretty much taken down Dulfy when finally, a second person joined.

I changed the LFG to “31 already in” and we finally had a full complement by the time we were breaking through to the final room.

This is all very well on easier difficulties, but on higher levels, where soloing would be slightly less easy, it becomes a really difficult decision between waiting in the lobby slowly going gibbering mad or slogging through like molasses and/or wiping in the attempt.

It also seems somehow less polite to start first at high levels, when one should -theoretically- begin and work as a team.

So there’s the choice of characters. My condi warrior does -not- solo well. At least, not in the condi PS raid spec, which is built to provide lots of helpful offensive TEAM buffs. It is also pretty darned squishy when the TEAM isn’t quite a team… like one might encounter in a PUG. You know how to look like the weakest link in a PUG? Being the first one to die and/or keep dying.

The necro can solo, but it’s not very group-oriented, and it tends to be slow as molasses, slowing down teams that might actually want to work as a team.

What kind of character might be able to carry a PUG team to victory in fractals? (Remember, I want to -smooth- out my runs as much as possible.)

Caveat: I am not -that- skilled at individual fractals AT ALL. That rather eliminates clever things like mesmer portals and blinks, thief stealth and shadowsteps, and truth to tell, the thought of running low hp reservoir guardians or elementalists in a PUG gives me the screaming heebie jeebies. (Besides, I can only operate a guardian blindfolded.)

So it came to pass that I actually *heave, deep breath* entertained the thought of healing, as a druid.

A bit more research suggested that going full magi would be extremely counterproductive, fractals expects damage output from 5 players, not 4 players of possibly questionable skill and 1 dumb druid trying to spam heals.

A condi druid, though… I already have full viper’s for a condi ranger. It was just a matter of switching some traits and skills…

Oh, and actually knowing how to USE those skills and a druid’s celestial avatar.

I’m still working on that part.

I gave it a spin in a level 7 Cliffside, and only managed to go into CA twice (how the fuck is astral force built again, maybe things died too fast), only managed to put spirits down for the last fight, and all the while, my juvenile lynx was possibly causing absolute havoc with the chanter run because I left it on guard mode until some long suffering soul targeted it, and it occurred to me that “huh, where did my lynx go? errrr, spamming my “follow me” key doesn’t seem to be working so well… hemm…*quietly switches it to passive mode in lieu of any better ideas*”

Somehow, I don’t think I should try to druid in a T4 fractal just yet.

Incredibly, there are even players attempting fractals that are far more worse off than me.

This was the transcript of a level 54 Chaos fractal chat. One player was having some difficulty making the multiple jumps to the first fight.

In a previous run of the fractal, when I was busy fucking up the jump myself, I’d learned that as long as one player makes it there, everyone else can just type “/gg”, kill themselves and respawn at the new checkpoint set. Hoorah, pain avoided.

Player 1 (LFG Leader): ! / gg!

(a couple tens of seconds later, when it was obvious that the struggling blue dot on the minimap wasn’t)

Player 2: just /gg

(more tens of seconds later, the blue dot moving around, getting confusion debuffs, losing health, not quite dying, healing up again)

Player 3 (Me): type ‘/gg’ you will respawn here

(because I totally do not believe in issuing unclear commands without explanations)

(one minute later, with no attempt at communication or typing from the errant 5th blue dot)

Player 4: just die please

(a few more seconds of struggle later… Player 5 quits the team without a word)

Player 1: !!?

Player 4: ok

Player 4: that was nice

Player 4: lol

Player 2: xD

Yeah. I feel for you, unknown player 5. But you are not exactly helping yourself if you don’t communicate, follow well-meaning instructions, or at least ask a clarifying question either.

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Then there was this absolutely mind-screwing encounter where I somehow managed to attract a whole bunch of aggro and conditions, barely clinging to life as the boss dropped in hp, and finally gave up the ghost around 25% of the boss’ health…

…whereupon the other four party members danced around the boss for another thirty seconds or so, with his health bar barely moving, whereupon the last unlucky guardian taking the brunt of the damage that I’d been absorbing finally ran out of his self-heals and dropped dead…

…whereupon the other three party members did a bang up job evading all the mechanics, and slowly hand-rezzed the both of us…

and the dead guardian went: am i onl yperson with any kind of aegis or group heals lol

dead guardian: tf (sic, maybe he meant wtf)

dead guardian: answer yes all necros and a theif

and inside my head, I was like, “well, strictly speaking, I’m running transfusion, so that -is- a group heal” and “but but- there’s another dragonhunter with the same icon as yourself in the party, what the hell?” and “why are you obsessing over aegis and group heals, when we’re trying to break the bar?!”

But anyway, I eventually got hand-rezzed by the thief and the other dragonhunter, the dead guardian got picked up, and we got the rest of the health bar down and the boss died…

…though I still wonder why the other three didn’t just kill the boss, since they were evading all the mechanics perfectly anyway…

…unless they really really needed my dps or cc or something in order to successfully do so…

The more I think about it, the more my brain hurts.

Maybe I -should- install arcdps to get a better read of these various fractal encounters and how much my contribution is, compared to everyone else’s.

Maybe I’m better off not knowing.

But yeah, I really don’t know how to best deal with these fractals. There are randoms. There are people with far more skill than me that think I’m a deadweight. There are people with far less skill than me that I in turn think are deadweights. It is random. It is unpredictable.

I’m really really safe on a necro (which makes for relatively smooth runs), except when I’m not.

My condi PS buffs the whole team and generally provides a lot of offensive power and cc, except when I’m dead.

My condi druid might conceivably make life easier for a PUG fractals team, except I’d actually have to know how to play it well.

*sigh*

I suppose I’ll just have to keep dabbling away at it, dipping a toe in as much as I can stand, until I myself am familiar enough again to jump into a T4 without totally embarrassing myself.

The SAD Project – Day 3 – Goddamnit, Sarge

I have been in the mood to revisit sci-fi alien shooters.

I have two main games for this top-down shoot-all-the-aliens genre:

Alien Breed 1-3, of which I can never seem to get beyond the first game, not because it’s bad, but because it’s slower-paced and more story-oriented with seemingly a lot of ground to cover, so I never finish it before getting distracted by another game.

And Alien Swarm, which came out as a free game on Steam some time in 2010.  I -loved- that game in its heyday. It stressed an amazing amount of thinking person’s teamwork and strategy, between the different classes (officer, tech, heavy weapons guy, medic) and the friendly fire (please don’t) and the need to wait in locales for some machine to trigger (hoorah sentry guns) mixed with the need to be on the move or run out of ammo and be swarmed to death.

It was also pretty durned hard on its higher difficulties. I will never forget the spectacular Insane difficulty achievement run, which I somehow managed to PUG, with two Ukrainian guys who also really really wanted it, and a string of randoms as the last filler. We played the campaign mission multiple times over, at least a dozen, ever so increasingly refining our strategy more and more efficiently until final success. The three of us became a really well oiled team before the night was done.

It also took pretty much all the desire for teamwork out of me at that point, having hit the limit of what could be achieved (imo) in PUGs.

When Brutal difficulty came out (one step higher than Insane), I wussed right out – feeling ever so keenly that pang of wishing for three other friends in the same timezone, with the same level of skill in perfect lockstep with each other and desire to play the same games at the same time – and never went back to Alien Swarm.

To my surprise, checking it out today, I find out that a new updated Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop just launched this year in April 2017.

It has the same campaign and classes, with apparently added improvements.

Supposedly it supports up to 8 person multiplayer, though I haven’t tried that yet. (That sounds amazing, if hellishly chaotic with friendly fire *smirk*)

There’s a lot more campaigns than the basic Jacob’s Run that the first game came with.

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And doubly amazingly, it also supports singleplayer with bots, with the ability to both give bots basic instructions, manually fire team-based skills with buttons, and hotswap from character to character to take over, while a bot helps out with the consciousness of the character you just left.

Imagine that. However you want to, or like to play, it gives you the option and the control. With tons of difficulty levels.

Free game.

Why more people aren’t playing it, I dunno.

Of course, the bots could stand a bit of improvement here and there…

alienswarm1

I picked a random new campaign, selected some characters at random, and trundled through the map, mournfully realizing that I’ve forgotten entirely how to play this game and trying my best not to friendly fire the bots (who do not exactly make it easy with their erratic movements.)

We wind up at the climax of the mission. I’d picked up a chainsaw, and was gleefully taking up position on the stairs besides the Officer bot (Sarge), creating a lovely chokepoint with which to slaughter aliens.

Unfortunately, Sarge ran out of ammo, and decided the best thing he could do was wade into the fray and melee the aliens. Right in front of my chainsaw.

Which spinning constantly with my very held down mouse button.

I saw his hp plummet, not exactly sure if it was ME slicing him to bits, or the dozen aliens on him pummeling him back.

Reflexively, I let go, turning the chainsaw off, backing up in confusion, turning it back on, trying to surgeon slice aliens around but not into the absolute chaos…

alienswarm2

It didn’t quite work out.

Goddamnit, Sarge.

The SAD Project – Day 2 – Predator Pew Pew

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You probably guessed this one was coming.

I set up a bunch of buy orders for Tier 6 materials and the remaining orrian truffles last night.

When I next logged back in, everything was ready for the grand assemblage. Aka, clicking and dragging lots of materials out of hoarded storage, visiting some NPCs to buy one item or another with one currency or another, mystic forging some things and crafting some others with the correct alt that had 500 leatherworking or 500 huntsman.

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That’s one shiny item icon.

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I took it out for a spin.

Immediately, I was like, “Why has this NEVER come to my attention before?” “Why hasn’t anyone blown whistles and banged drums and made a immense furor to this world about this sweet sweet gun?”

You know what’s most striking about it?

Its SOUND.

(Disclaimer: Not my video. Pretty much the only one on Youtube that lets the rifle speak for itself without loads of commentary. And it’s amazing how many are dated from 2013-2015, with very few Predator videos after.)

It has a reverberating laser pew pew sound that at first seems a bit at odds with the looks of the sniper rifle, but sounds immensely epic in scope and befitting that of an item with legendary status.

The second awesome thing is the fiery projectile that comes out of the rifle. Besides looking awesome, it also lights mobs you shoot on fire, and they die with the special flaming death animation that the fiery dragon sword skin also produces.

In a way, it’s good that I didn’t realize this until -after- I made the legendary.

Because I’m not sure I would have been able to wait as long as I did, and would have spent a lot more money/effort chasing it.

All’s well that ends well. Everything got prioritized nicely, I’m now the happy owner of Rodgort, Kraitkin, a set of legendary heavy armor, and the Predator, and I feel like the tension of the last year or so with immensely long term goals hanging over my head has wound its way to a close.

I feel like I can close the book at the end of this GW2 chapter, so to speak, and just dabble or putter around with much shorter term goals that were being put off (e.g. various Living Story chievos, try to get into fractals -again-) and/or wander off to other games.

Sometime in the future, I intend to idly creep my way towards stuff like Astralaria, Chuka and Champawat, a set of legendary light armor and so on, but that is a long way off, so no need for any concrete plans as yet.

Plans are for the end stages, to kickstart myself into actually doing things (like put W, X, Y  and Z into the mystic forge and click buttons, which I’d otherwise put off).

For now, I’m happy to have no more long term plans or ambitions.

The SAD Project – Day 1 – GW2 World Exploration

To whatever readers I have left:

After this long fallow period of “I feel like I have nothing to say”, this is your forewarning that the next 35 days on this blog will be (hopefully) spammy, to the point of being annoying and necessitating your own version of filtering me out.

Today marks the start of something experimental on this blog, a switch up in format for a month or so, before we re-evaluate the state of things.

Bottom line is, I miss blogging and want to get back into the habit of posting.

As anyone who has tried blogging knows, this is HARD when you’ve fallen out of the habit, and doubly hard when you’re feeling blocked and uninspired.

To lower the barrier of entry, my demented brain has concocted The SAD Project – or rather, The Screenshot-A-Day Project.

(I am enjoying the deliberate irony of the abbreviation though, as I’m hoping for this intentionally “sad pathetic” daily effort to build up steam in my boiler once more.)

Let me set expectations straight – this is going to be an experimental “low effort threshold” format from May 29 to Jul 2.

Not every screenshot is going to be a gorgeous gratuitous landscape or carefully posed action shot. (Unless I feel like it.) Most are probably going to be full UI monstrosities from whatever game I happen to be playing that day.

There may or may not be captions to go along with the screenshot. (Given my tendency to verbosity, a “minimal captions” intention may wind up turning into a paragraph regardless.)

All post headings are likely to wind up titled with a lazy variant of The SAD Project – Day #. (Because trying to be too creative with a blog post title is a good way for me to not even start.)

I just miss the sensation of being able to track what game I’m currently playing over the passage of time.

I figure, a screenshot and short description will do that job just fine.

Second bird killed with one stone, I get back in the habit of clicking “New Post” on the blog.

Who knows, maybe we’ll get a bonus oratory or two along the way, once the muse gets re-inspired. It’ll be a journey of discovery. Who’s with me?


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I am winding up on my second world completion with my favorite regions in Guild Wars 2, the autumnal Ascalonian plains.

World completion is a massive pain. Going from point to point filling in the landmark dots is a fairly boring too-Achiever-for-me-most-of-the-time grind, when all the Explorer in me wants to do is break free from its confines, race to the next horizon, hit a few harvesting nodes along the way, get diverted by a dynamic event and zig zag like a drunken worm across the map, while the “map completed percentage” remains stubbornly still and unmoving.

If you want a Gift of Exploration though, world completion is what you have to do.

And after putting it off for two years (in favor of first hoarding materials for a Legendary Armor set), I really -really- want my Predator legendary rifle.

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I am supremely amused by this Hero Point challenge. This charr asks me a set of multiple choice questions about Almorra Soulkeeper.

I am gung-ho with all things charr, and I select the “let me skip all the buildup, OF COURSE I know all about General Soulkeeper, ask me your dang questions” second option without even quite realizing what I am in for.

Three questions in, I am starting to think I am getting in way over my head… “What -rank- was Almorra Soulkeeper when the incident happened? What exactly happened to her warband? What were they actually supposed to be doing when it happened?”

Uhhhh, I haven’t done this hero point in… oh… over three years?

I put in my best guess answers anyway, and ask the charr NPC how I did.

BLAM, my charr gives a victory fist pump and gets the hero point. First try. Guess I still know my legion lore after all.