One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

I thought I was getting better.

Two days ago, I took this screenshot feeling relatively good about everything in general, wanting to share a burgeoning optimism that maybe quarterly class balance updates would be decent for overall game functioning.

newdervish

After all, I had around three months to giggle about getting into Viper’s gear before the crowd demand sent Black Diamond prices soaring sky-high, and then play a Burnzerker – a build that I would probably not have ever gotten around to on my own, but really tickled the pyromaniac-loving part of me that loves any class that throws around fire, fire and MORE FIRE.

The Burnzerker nerf was expected, and I was pleasantly mollified to see that it wasn’t knee-jerk cut down into absolute uselessness, but more or less on par with most other normal condition classes/builds. (Minus the present bug where two burnzerker fields are ineffective, thus don’t bring more than one, until it gets fixed, eventually.)

Of course, we still have two annoying player subsets to contend with – those who won’t accept anything but the current most OP builds – that crown has gone to a certain specific necromancer/reaper build using minions and epidemic apparently (not sure, I haven’t looked into it yet); and those who are blatantly ignorant and jump to conclusions based on hearsay without any actual attempts at measurement or objectivity.

The latter are a pet peeve, as arguing with an idiot tends to wind up with descending to their level and them beating you with experience at being a stubborn ignoramus.

So I usually don’t try, beyond a calm factual statement or two, and then let the facts speak for themselves. (Brought a burnzerker to VG, red either still died before blue and green, or exactly on time – so either blue/green group is incompetent and/or the condi output is acceptable. Not OP anymore, but acceptable.)

Another funny side story about those who think they know everything: I was on my way to my last Lunar New Year firecracker for the daily.

As my charr bullrushed past one or two people standing around, random bystander guy spoke up and said, “You have to glide to this firecracker. FYI.”

I have no idea if he was addressing me (since I did bump the pillar/pedestal on my way to said firecracker) or if he was talking to the other player standing nearby, but eh, what if that player didn’t own Heart of Thorns? Was he SOL?

Without missing a beat (since I was really truly on my usual route to the firecracker anyway), I ran right past, jumped up the side of the glass dome, ran along the roof and then promptly fell down through a gap in the roof onto the pedestal where the firecracker was.

Sans glider.

Random bystander quickly shut up and decided that now would be a good time to walk/run away.

I might be revealing my deeply flawed human nature here, but I couldn’t stop chortling to myself for some time after that.

But I digress.

The screenshot above is my new *cough*dervish*cough*

Okay, it’s really just the thief Elite spec Daredevil with a staff skin.

But it captures the scythe wielding part of the GW1 dervish decently well, even if the avatar changing utility skills have more or less wound up with the revenant.

Again, without the meta in dramatic upheaval every three months, I find that it would be quite unlikely that I would have gotten around to this build.

Mostly, I was looking for a secondary replacement class for the burnzerker, so that if a particular raid already had way too many might stacking PS warriors or revenants, I could at least offer a current ‘common knowledge’ ‘OP’ class/build. (When in Rome and all that, you know, why fight it?)

It also took out what was probably a month’s worth of materials hoarding and savings by the time I finished decking him out with the appropriate runes/sigils, Ascended weapons, trinkets, and about three pieces of Ascended armor.

As personally painful as it was to dip into the treasure hoard, I have to admit that a certain amount of forced spending and need for materials is good for stimulating the economy. Also, it acts like another kind of hardcore tax beyond expensive food/wrench consumables.

I was excited enough by the feel of playing and learning a new build/playstyle to go out and kill a bunch of core Tyria stuff, adding up toward core Tyria mastery, as well as start formulating specific HoT plans for improvement/progress.

One goal was the Ascended Bo, which I found cheapest to just go ahead with the collection. That made me partake in one round of Auric Basin and one round of Dragon Stand in order to get the last bits of stuff I needed.

I idly also laid in plans to score some HoT mastery points, since way too many repeated raid failures had already capped me in xp for the HoT mastery tracks. I just need about 12 more mastery points I haven’t gotten around to earning.

Unfortunately, the last two days have put me into a bit of a foul mood yet again.

I idly made a reply comment in a Reddit thread rant that described how many problems the player was facing while trying to enjoy/play through a HoT meta event.

At the time, it was just a bit of a speculative thought I had, an idle remark on the many levels of abstraction that the guy’s story had become about, that his narrative had become more “struggling with the game, as game” rather than an immersed narrative about the world as obstacle.

I was sort of thinking of the same issue that Warhammer had, with their all encompassing Tome of Knowledge, and PvE leveling that wound up staring at the quest UI going “OK, I need X more organs from Y mobs” and mostly out-of-world game-meta related thinking that made the obvious focus manipulating game mechanics and rules, rather than actually enjoying the world as presented.

It blew up on me rather surprisingly, garnering some 200+ upvotes.

It made me think about how many people are out there, feeling a bit like me, feeling a bit like some of the old guard like that_shaman and other familiar Reddit names expressing a certain malaise or discontent.

And then I read new guard comments in the GW2 reddit, who LOVE raids and think they’re awesome, except that they’re also constantly whining that dungeons have been gutted, fractals have devolved into Swamp of the Mists (apparently, I haven’t bothered to set foot in there for some time) and that they’ve already cleared the raid wing on reset day and have nothing else to do and are now bored and going off to play another game, while waiting for more stuff to do.

And here I am, -struggling- to find enough groups every goddamn week to even get a guaranteed vale guardian kill, having to push aside my dinner time so that I might even get into a raid group that might or might not kill VG…

… and I just get angry. And bitter.

(To add salt to the wound, apparently TTS training raids are now off the calendar, diminishing yet another avenue for raid groups, and it’s back to waiting for an invite into the next experiment, a specific TTS raid guild, to see if that works any better. Strung along, yet again.)

And then I read a post like Azuriel’s, wherein he Gets/Doesn’t Get GW2.

All I want to do is bang my forehead against a flat surface really really hard.

No offense taken from Azuriel’s honest reactions, by the way, I think he’s a great representative of the subset who give GW2 a shot, just can’t find any impetus to level up further and then start posting on Reddit asking, “is that all there is? how do I level fast? map completion is boring, how do I like this game? unosweiter.”

But I can’t help but scream, in a rather enraged fashion, that Heart of Thorns threw in all the fucking endgame for people like this – who need a reason to keep leveling (masteries), who want a PvE endgame to look forward to (raids / collection grind)…

… and apparently they’re not even making it to level 80!

They can’t get past the open exploration aspect of leveling, so they quit before hitting 80.

Meanwhile, those that liked the open exploration aspect, now face the bait-and-switch achievement endgame, just like -every other fucking MMO- out there.

WHO THE FUCK IS ANET CATERING TO ANY MORE?

They try to reach the hardcore raiders, and the hardcore raiders are throwing it back in their faces by locusting the content and diminishing it to triviality.

In the process, they’re infuriating the casuals and those in the middle.

The PvPers are twitching ever since the PvP league ended and they’re forced to mix with the hoi polloi in unranked.

Meanwhile, they’re scrambling to apply CPR to the most neglected portion, WvW, because that’s a post-expansion priority now.

Everyone else is just going to have to wait their turn.

#grumpy

Furthermore, I hear news from Trion’s end that they’re revamping payment models and my second-favorite “MMO-like” Trove is going to start charging real money for classes, no two ways around this.

This makes me grumpier.

Mind you, since I started early, I’ve already reaped most of the benefits and unlocked every class but the Gunslinger (which still reputedly needs help to be brought back up to par) so it’s not exactly going to impact me considerably except moving forward, if I ever desire a new class introduced.

But I just don’t know if I can bring myself to play games that don’t feel fair, payment model or level playing field-wise.

So Trove may be a write off too.

Maybe it’s time to relook at Path of Exile or Minecraft again…

GW2: Point of No Return and the Vinewrath: Thoughts from a Jaded Vet

I wish I knew what to say about Point of No Return. (Yes, there will be spoilers beyond this point.)

Bhagpuss and the Mystical Mesmer have covered the episode a lot more aptly than I can, so I’ll point you over to their coverage of the episode.

Truth is, my main reaction is less about stunning revelation, but more of an “about time, can we get to something good now, please?

Maybe I read too much Reddit, but I’ve been operating under the assumption/knowledge that sylvari were originally destined to be minions of Mordremoth for a long time now.

How much clearer did it need to be, especially with the holographic records of Scarlet nee Ceara taking a mindtwisting turn for the worse after “What Scarlet Saw” – a thorn root of Mordremoth winding up the Pale Tree attempting either to reclaim its champion or kill her for being wayward – and going completely batshit crazy attempting to reject both masters (and likely falling under the sway of Mordremoth the loonier she got, being that one of the Elder Dragon’s spheres is that of the Mind.)

Having already accepted the premise long ago, I found myself mostly more thrilled at seeing echoes of Guild Wars 1 back in my Living Story, walking in the footsteps of my ancient ancestors reliving the Ascension trials, fighting off one’s doppelganger, etc.

squee

(How a charr has an Elonian human ancestor, I’m not sure, but let’s just handwave it like the Hall of Monuments, eh? I inherited dat fiery dragon sword dead to rights and no one had better dispute that!)

The rest of the story was pretty ho-hum, just moving the plot along, nothing much to see here… Oh, I guess there was one tragedy.

muchsad

Victim of a dolyak hit-and-run.

Seriously, please check where your minis show up. Doesn’t this undergo testing? Maybe “emotional impact” is not one of the criteria on the checklist.

I have to give kudos for relatively bug-free this patch, anyway.

The fights themselves are decent.

I note with an amused smile that they again try to place stress on other concepts besides DPS all the things as quickly as possible.

For example, it is possible to kite or control mobs out of the circle representing the Throne of Pellentia, and if you do it early, you won’t get waves and waves of ever-so-annoying ghost mobs plus siege wurms, and instead merely need to play run-around-the-mulberry-bush-er-pillar with an Arcanist Echo.

This assumes, of course, that one is sturdy enough to deal with getting sniped at by a mob, plus able to control one’s rabid tendency to autoattack anything red.

(A total failure to organize in a pickup group, I might add, which I joined for the 8 minutes time achievement. The group sported two rangers and a mesmer, who were exceedingly on-the-ball with knockback skills, shoving all mobs out in under a couple seconds… who then absolutely failed to maintain this state of affairs by promptly killing them with autoattacks, causing new mobs to spawn in the circle. *sighs*)

bringit

The Shadow of the Dragon fight was moderately fun, with the added concept of ‘teaching how to recognize and coordinate with skills from allies’ along with the standard pattern recognition of mechanics.

If the GW2 forums are anything to go by, it seems the devs still have quite a lot of work ahead of them in training a certain subset of the population how to cope with fights like this.

I suspect most of them that are frustrated have simply missed a crucial concept that would aid in solving the fight.

  • Have a problem with smothering shadows? Solution: Pick up the divine fire by walking into it, and then land any bit of damage on the shadow. Shadow explodes, divine fire buff expires, need new divine fire buff to light flame.
  • Have a problem with getting interrupted by the dragon while lighting the flame? Solution: Look out for Braham’s sanctuary, which will apply stability, and light that spot. It will not protect against the upward rising dragon’s mouth, which will still launch upwards through stability, but it’ll stop getting interrupted by the dragon’s groping paw.
  • Have a problem with the plants? The plants are triggered by the tripvine in between them. Either go around them, or run through them in the direct center. Sometimes, it is easier to clean up the arena by just running through all four pairs of plants and making them explode, then one has more room to work with.
  • Have a problem with the shadowy tendrils? Beyond targeting the same vine as Marjory’s minions, which will help nom on them, ranged attacks are a lot less frustrating to land over trying to position melee attacks while trying to avoid vine knockback plus rocks. (Not that it can’t be done, I got my warrior through it with pure melee, cos lazy to swap weapons, but it’s a lot less annoying, imo.)

It happens. I remember misjudging the size of the explosion in one Living Story fight, which produced great perplexity in how exactly one was supposed to kite the exceedingly-slow moving mob to each prepped node in the time limit for the achievement… and some whining within partychat with friends… wherein it turned out that all one really had to do was AoE all the prepped nodes and voila, mob ded through massive explodey.

Bah. Sometimes you just overthink things, and sometimes the cues for the mechanics aren’t as clear as would be ideal. Happens.

Just as apparently nearly everyone was mistaken in propagating the “No AoE” notion at the Copper Husk, something I personally didn’t subscribe to either. I always thought that kiting the offshoots and poison away and exploding them away from the husk made a lot more sense, but required way too much organization and effort to achieve, so my personal solution was pretty much always to avoid the hell that was Copper and let the players there bicker and squabble and fail or succeed as they pleased. The difference between partial and total success just wasn’t worth getting upset over.

Getting back to the Shadow of the Dragon, I liked the inclusion of the challenge mote at the end, which made trying for achievements a lot less painful by only having to go through the lengthy dialogues once.

I got a decent amount of replay value with the achievements, especially since it took me a while to realize that diving straight for the divine fire in second phase often meant diving headlong into the path of the exploding rock column.

Took me a couple tries and a fair measure of repeating “patience” “patience” “LOOK around carefully and check the situation before you leap” to myself before I finally avoided all the rocks successfully.

The plant thing was also somewhat fun, because it changed up my priorities. ‘Spode all the plants first. Every time. Shadow going for a divine fire wall? Sorry, I’ll eat the setback, gotta make all the plants go boom first.

And finally, I guess the big unveil were the two cutscenes at the end of this Living Story.

For the purposes of building hype for their big PAX South announcement, I guess they succeeded. I’m mostly antsy for the announcement because the cutscenes mostly don’t indicate anything beyond “Pact tries to attack Mordremoth. Pact fails miserably. Something’s definitely up with the Sylvari. Soon(TM).”

Ok. Great. Future stuff.

That’s all very well, but what do I do -now-?

couldbeme

Grind, apparently.

Kill more Mordrem like my hero Rytlock with a fiery sword.

Like a good little player, I am obediently working on the Luminescent collection for lack of anything better to do – and also, because I really want that “Light in the Darkness” title for vanity’s sake, which is always a good motivator.

Thankfully, I hoarded a decent amount of each Mordrem part bag in the prior weeks (around 5-7 of each) and opening them got me most of the eyes and kidneys required.

Camping at the last two that I needed over the weekend -eventually- got me the parts I needed, though I managed to build 3 whole Thrasher bladders before getting an eye (yeesh.)

All I’m missing now is one more carapace chest box, one more headgear box that I could either buy or run another character through the Living Story, and one more Ascended thingummy that will need to be bought.

Mostly the chest box.

vinewrath

The Vinewrath has been a decent enough world boss, set at a level that most players appear to be able to manage (with the few below average exceptions getting pasted on the ground each fight.)

There are only a few crucial mechanics for people to remember, which makes it easier to communicate as well:

1. The Beekeeper / troll creates bees. Running into the center of the rings and out, will call aggro of some bees onto you. Lead these to the honeycomb to build it up.

Take cover behind the honeycomb when the troll runs in front of the Vinewrath.

Most people will already have positioned themselves there, which is all very well, but does sometimes attract troll adds to the area as well. Best to kill the troll adds if possible, so that insect swarms don’t stack and cause runaway damage.

If no one built the honeycomb, then well, it’s your fault for blindly autoattacking away and assuming someone else will do it!

2. The thrasher is fought like a normal thrasher, with plenty of reflects for its spinning-poison projectiles running along the floor phase. Keep distance if reflects are not up, so as to give yourself the best distance to strafe left and right to avoid the poison projectiles.

Pustules pop up and explode after some time if not killed. Destroying the pustule before that releases some spore clouds which give friendly player buffs (turning them pink.) The thrasher can also pick up this buff, so watch out.

When the thrasher runs in front of the Vinewrath, run towards it as well and take cover in the white cone in front of it. Feel free to keep attacking the thrasher in the meantime.

If you die in this fight, it’s absolutely your fault for not getting into the white cone yourself.

3. Dark Wing the terragriff, generally has standard terragriff-y attacks with some extra leap/pounce things. There are flowers that also spawn and need to be attacked/destroyed in order for them to open.

When Dark Wing runs in front of the Vinewrath, hop onto an opened flower for safety.

To be really sophisticated, make sure your opened flower is near the front so that you can keep attacking Dark Wing with ranged attacks. If you lack an opened flower nearby, it’s totally your fault for failing to ensure that one is opened before blindly autoattacking the terragriff!

The NPC escort of the carriers put a considerable amount of stress on control and support abilities as well.

Stealthing the carrier constantly can eventually put it out of combat, allowing it to regenerate up to full health.

There is also the standard water field elementalist and blasting to heal up the carrier as well.

I’ve been getting a considerable amount of mileage out of Healing Breeze (yes, it’s a guardian heal!) that can top up the carrier’s health ever so slightly, and Tome of Courage – the spamming of which can top up a decent amount of health, and if you’re in the right position to land a full heal with number 5, it can pump up a good half or more of the total carrier’s health bar.

In full zerker, too! I briefly considered switching to celestial or clerics, but decided that the healing was already sufficient in zerker, given the weak healing coefficients, and the inconvenience of switching gear to fight/kill things after supporting later.

PSA: If you’re doing nothing for the carrier, do not stand on it and suck up heals/support meant for it.

Nothing pisses off someone trying to save the carrier as dumb ass players in perfectly good condition being prioritized for ally support skills merely because the skills prioritize nearby players first.

The good news is that most of the time, the dumb ass players are either too scared of the oncoming Mordrem and are thus plinking from really really far away, or totally distracted by the clump of Mordrem elsewhere and have failed to notice the carrier trundling off away from them.

This provides gaps of opportunity for an enterprising guardian to be the only one near the carrier and sufficient time to charge up Tome of Courage 5 so that it’ll go off as the carrier is walking by.

There is generally enough time to swap back to a more functional heal for the boss fight, even if one’s elite is on cooldown.

As for control, it’s a knockback / interrupt / fearing players’ dream as there is plenty of opportunity to shunt oncoming Mordrem into the walls and away from a carrier’s plodding path.

(There is also plenty of opportunity for observers to groan at poor control skills… like knocking back a chasing Mordrem further ahead and into the path of the carrier that is desperately trying to get away from it.)

Generally and thankfully though, the fight is fairly resilient to the vagaries of a PUG matchup. If a lane fails (I’ve no idea how, frankly, but it does – presumably folks failed to distribute themselves equally), another lane can take over the champion that it was supposed to face and progress the fight from there.

Given the locked-in tunings, it’s actually quite easy to distribute oneselves fairly equally. Those at the amber troll boss before should go south and face the beekeeper, allowing for one more troll part with an extra extractor.

Those at blue and platinum’s thrasher should go mid and face the Vinewrath’s thrasher, for a chance at an extra thrasher part.

And those at indigo and gold/silver terragriffs should go face the Dark Wing for an extra terragriff part, with the husk people splitting themselves up among the three lanes.

(All these well laid plans go right out the window if a lane fails, of course, but meh, I guess people will learn in time. More often than not, the previous fort bosses are succeeding, so it’s just a matter of time before folks become comfortable with this fight too, I suspect.)

I can feel myself dropping quite easily into fairly jaded veteran mode already – so aggravating to see dead people lying around scaling up mobs, I always waypoint and run back and often get back faster than the dead people that are still chilling on the ground – so to combat the temptation to be snide out loud, I mostly just shrug, tell myself people will learn eventually (or not, preferably without me there) and look out for organized instances to join, and gamble with PUG instances  when I feel like gambling.

Fortunately, one more chest box has already dropped for me, so I just need to stick it out for one more lucky run. I figure there should be enough organized instances for long enough for that to happen. *crosses fingers and prays to RNGesus*

I did, however, encounter a nice newbie during today’s Vinewrath.

I got a whisper out of the blue from someone who just asked me, “So what are we supposed to do in this fight, what are we doing here?” during a Vinewrath lane defence.

I glanced through all my friends and follower lists, and nope, did not know this person before this. He was at least clever enough to send a random tell to someone to ask, even if he was too nervous to openly ask over say or map chat.

In 4 tells, I summarized the fight for him. Paraphrased: “For now, we’re defending the carrier to the vine wall.”

“If all goes well, we will face the Dark Wing terragriff. Fight like a normal terragriff, it charges and all that.”

“When it runs to the front of the Vinewrath, hop onto an open flower.”

“Flowers will spawn before that, and need to be opened by destroying them before that.”

Guess what. He didn’t die.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him make it to a flower for the first go. Fail to make it to a flower for the second time, taking a hit that took off 7/8s of his hp. Then the terragriff died.

Hooray. I trust learning has taken place.

tequsual

In the meantime, I’ll just be over here, puttering about, doing my usual things, grinding for one more box (I was right about dem boot boxes by the way, got 6 by now, good thing I didn’t fall for the temptation of buying them!), contemplating maybe gearing some alts in sinister and testing new builds, and waiting for the PAX South announcement.

Please, oh please, let there be news of a way to save/load builds… I’ll trade a good many things for that.

GW2: That Awkward Moment Where Story Meets the Open World

lonechallenge1

Of course I can!

I’m the Commander of the Pact, Slayer of Zhaitan!

*hypes self up for heroic, legendary, awesome solo battle*

This is the strangest definition of "alone" I have ever encountered.

This is the strangest definition of “alone” I have ever encountered. *turns down graphics in order to not lag*

Wut?

Wut? Not that I want to contradict you, Eir, but did you see the slavering horde the megaserver brought in?

Between all the bugs where a horde of players descend on a dynamic event that was never meant to cope with 40 players charging it at once and promptly breaking it for the next batch of players to come along…

Traffic jam in front of the stubbornly not blowing up gate.

Traffic jam in front of the stubbornly not blowing up gate. Anet person was helpfully crowd controlling by letting everyone know the team was aware and working on a fix, and suggesting either to find another map instance or leave the Living Story be for a while. Meta stuff like this cheerfully dropkicks you out of immersed-in-story mode.

…and the possibility of a landscape that’s forever going to look trashed like this so that players can continue their ‘permanent’ Living Story episodes…

I really liked golden Ascalon a lot better.

I really liked the golden Ascalonian plains a lot better than yet more dragon corruption. Can we get around to fixing the Kessex Hills tower yet?

… I think I’m leaning a lot more towards story staying in instances.

I’m sure there are ways to have a satisfactory batch of open world dynamic events – the scarlet twisted clockwork invasion, marionette and lion’s arch stuff comes to mind (possibly because there was tons of loot involved with the increased scaling of the event) but I’m not really feeling it in this third episode.

All it feels like is a bunch of unwanted interrupted breaks in between a story I’m trying to experience – somewhat like how the Personal Story keeps breaking off so that you need to go visit a bunch of hearts or get more levels.