GW2: Tree Falls in Forest, No One Around To Hear?

The biggest damn tree of them all...

If constant, gradual change happens and no one can even remember how it was before, is it still a Living Story?

One man zerg of a now-ignored dynamic event.
One man zerg of a now-ignored dynamic event.

I’ve been taking advantage of the very subtle living story prompt to wander Kessex Hills on my necro alt.

The secondary purpose is very leisurely map exploration (since the checkpoints are there) and seeing if I get any lucky colored key drops, but primarily, I’m doing it because I like trundling along in the open world with a minion zerg going glompglompglomp, killing anything I see and denuding the place of any gathering nodes.

Given that the number of people I see doing something similar can be counted on one hand, on Tarnished Coast – reputed home of PvE crowds, I can only conclude that this activity is about as popular as street-sweeping was in City of Heroes.

Oh, the crowds are on the map, all right.

[Viathan Waypoint] [Gap Waypoint] goes my mapchat every so often.

They’re running in a little triangle between the wurm queen, the alchemist and the two possible spider queen locations. Chasing champion bags, keys and Living Story achievements.

It’s so crowded that getting the wurm queen shockwave jumping achievement is tricky because she only gets off maybe a few shockwaves before falling over dead. The best advice I got was to go guest to a less crowded server to do them.

(I went to Fergusson’s Crossing during offpeak, and was amazed to find only 3-5 souls having the run of the map and the champions. We get zergs of 15-30+ bumrushing every Nightmare is Over event – if you aren’t already waiting there, there’s not much hope of getting to it before it dies. T’was much easier to do the achievements when you have a chance of actually getting damage credit.)

But I digress.

The point is that I haven’t seen much comment on the more subtle changes to Kessex Hills that address the fallen tower’s aftermath.

Quaggan refugees are all over the various havens and outposts. This batch is the cutest, the calves rearing on their hind legs and staring agawk at the big village and the magic snow.
Quaggan refugees are all over the various havens and outposts. This batch is the cutest, the calves rearing on their hind legs and staring in amazement at the big village and the magic snow.
The Moogooloo village waypoint was staved in by collapsing debris. Overheard conversation: Quaggans planning to relocate.
The Moogooloo village waypoint was staved in by collapsing debris. Overheard conversation: Quaggans getting a relocation effort underway. The lake can no longer supply sufficient security, non-toxic food and clean drinking water.
Spillage from the collapsed tower appears to have made all the fish in the southeast outflow toxic. (Ok, so my necromancer probably isn't helping either.)
Spillage from the collapsed tower appears to have made all the fish in the southeast outflow toxic. (Ok, so the stuff spewing from my necromancer probably isn’t helping either.)
And what of Triskell Quay, where fishermen make their living? Many villagers have been sickened, in a new revision of the heart, which was originally to rescue them from kidnapping krait, iirc.
And what of Triskell Quay, where fishermen make their living? Many villagers have been sickened by toxin, in a new revision of the heart, which was originally to rescue them from kidnapping krait, iirc.
In Kessex Haven, a fisherman valiantly tries to offload his *hem* perfectly edible catch.
In Kessex Haven, a fisherman tries valiantly to offload his *hem* perfectly edible catch.
Much to a sharp-nosed charr's frustrations...
Much to a sharp-nosed charr’s frustrations…

How do we interpret this lack of reaction?

Is it that the changes are so small and atmospheric that no one thinks they’re worth commenting about?

Is that the changes are so small that they’re hard to notice?

Is it simply because no one is even around to notice them because they have no reason to walk around all of the Kessex Hills again?

Or is it the vagaries of memory putting a damper on the idea that we can have constant gradual change in an MMO that will be appreciated by players?

To be honest, even I don’t remember how it was before.

Overheard: Lionguard clarifying their stance with centaurs, and distinguishing themselves from Divinity's Reach. Was this conversation always there?
Overheard: Lionguard clarifying their stance with centaurs, and distinguishing themselves from Divinity’s Reach. Was this conversation always there?
I feel like there's more ruins exposed on this bandit hideout... but I suspect they've always been like that?
I feel like there’s more ruins exposed on this bandit hideout… but I suspect they’ve always been like that?

I can only highlight places where I think there was nothing before, but now have something.

Well, besides the honking obvious changes...
Well, besides the honking obvious changes…
...the Consortium is busy hassling quaggan refugees while the Lionguard are wondering where to put them all...
…the Consortium is busy hassling quaggan refugees while the Lionguard are wondering where on Tyria is safe to put them all… (while the idea of quaggans in tropical Southsun paradise sound great on paper, one can’t help but think we may as well grind them up and put ’em in a can labeled karka chum)
Other atmospheric conversations abound. I suppose this is why asura invented baby bottles and golem nannies very quickly, rather than suckle their young for long.
Other atmospheric conversations abound. I suppose this is why asura invented baby bottles and golem nannies very quickly, rather than suckle their young for long.

And the big question is, should the bulk of players care?

On one hand, no matter how the scenery changes, as a player, I still have a Kessex Hills to run around in. Metagame-wise, there’s always going to be mobs in my face to kill. Maybe a new dynamic event replaced an old one, or maybe the old one is still around as well. NPCs changing around me? Not part of my story, not on my attention radar.

What’s in it for me? The champions drop loot, the green names just spew endless text of one kind or another.

Inflict consequence, you say? Have players lose something for good? Something important that would hurt in its absence? Ah, then the crying starts. Wut? I never got to exploit this while the going was good! Unfair! The older players had an advantage I didn’t have!

Then again, if it wasn’t important, if it didn’t hurt, if there was something else in lieu of the other thing that went away, won’t we just run into the scenario of a big ol’ player shrug?

I frankly don’t know which way I’d want it.

Story and consequence-wise, one makes sense. Gameplay and convenience-wise, the other is a lot more attractive (and spares my bank from hoarding all kinds of stuff on the offchance it may disappear one day.)

Everyone's camping the shit up there.
Pretty much everyone but me camping the shit up there.

Obviously, a minority cares about the tiny details. I’m running around taking screenshots and forgoing goodness knows how many champion chest drops in an hour.

Then I hear for the umpteen time on mapchat, “Where is the tri-color chest?” and I have to wonder about the many players who can’t even bothered to look for a chest icon on their map and just demand their instant answers from the populace instead.

It’s enough to make a lore writer cry.

GW2: A Very Merry Leisurely Wintersday

Merry Wintersday One and All!

With Ascended Armor and multiple balance changes hitting us in the Dec 10 patch, not to mention two Living Story tabs of achievements, you might be forgiven for thinking that I’d go into some sort of OCD panic.

On the contrary, I feel rather relaxed and happy.

I’m sure the primary reason for this is the Living World 2013: Year in Review post, where we learn that:

a) The anticipated earthshaking story arc finale won’t hit us in December after all, but undergo at least one more month of polish and development time

b) The first update of 2014 won’t hit us until Jan 21

Yep, no Scarlet as the Grinch during Wintersday!\o/

What if... Scarlet was responsible for creating Ascended armor? (No, no, we're just not going there...)
What if… Scarlet was responsible for creating Ascended armor? (No, no, we’re just not going there…)

Furthermore, more polish on the updates can only be a good thing.

The storytelling of Queen’s Jubilee and Tower of Nightmares wasn’t -too- bad, for example, when they appeared to have time to lovingly polish stuff up, while the hack job of the Thaumanova story mode needs to be taken out the back and shot.

(If you actually do the fractal proper, there’s only Dessa’s voice for example, rather than an incoherent and unrecognizable chorus of altered speech.)

At least -try- to do the damn finale justice, eh?

Cinematic cutscenes are definitely a winner where storytelling is concerned.
Fer instance, cinematic cutscenes are definitely a winner where storytelling is concerned.

It would be a terrible letdown after stringing us along for a year if another hack job was done on the storytelling and narration.

The character snippets and knowledge-dropping in The Nightmare is Over aftermath aren’t too shabby though:

Quaggan thinks quaggan is in looOooOve! (dawwww)
Quaggan thinks quaggan is in looOooOve! (dawwww)

Also, I guess that means we have at very least three weeks and possibly up to six weeks to frolic in the Wintersday snow and deal with the aftermath of the tower collapse in Kessex Hills.

Which is a tremendously freeing thought.

The smorgasbord of activities that I could be doing in Guild Wars 2 has increased (Nightmare living story? Wintersday activities? Fractals? Dungeons? Tequatl? WvW? Work on an Ascended something? Experiment with new builds? Earn gold towards a gem shop luxury? Craft? Gather? Farm? Level a new character? Actually PvP for gold and rank?) but the time pressure has not correspondingly ramped up.

This is how I like my MMOs. Full of lateral progression options, so I won’t get bored of doing the same old one thing to death, but with stuff to do and no obligation to rush.

Oh, I’m sure certain hardcore fractal and WvW types are all about trying to eke out that tiny stat gain of advantage over others, and they might be feeling the pressure of all those slots to fill with Ascended stuff, but well, if that’s how they like to play the game, all power to them.

As long as it doesn’t become -necessary- for everyone else to do the same just to play the game. (I don’t think the culture will progress that far that fast, not until at least one more year has gone by.)

In fact, I’d say that where fractals and agony resistance is concerned – something I personally hate the concept of, incrementing a tiny stat that limits how high you can go – the addition of more slots has increased the options for how to get sufficient AR. Versatile simple infusions are cheap and go anywhere.

Fractal level being account bound finally allowed me to take my dungeon warrior into level 18+ fractals where my first badly built guardian bogged down. I finally crossed into the level 20 level range, where infusing rings for cheap and adding on further AR via all those +1 AR infusions that drop out of every fractal end chest was now another viable option.

I suppose I will get Ascended armor at some point, but probably later than sooner. I’m more of a fan of being flexible with multiple sets of exotic armor than pigeonholed into one role and build. But zerker heavy couldn’t hurt, given how many heavy armor classes I play.

To my surprise though, one month of salvaging nearly everything in my inventory in the search for magic find has granted sufficient gossamer and orichalcum to get my armorsmith up to 500 without -too- much expenditure.

I am now also sitting on strange stats like a set of Asssassin’s, Giver’s, and Celestial armor because I had extra T6 mats for those. I suppose since I have them now, it might be fun to experiment with them for a while to feel the stat differences firsthand. They can be salvaged later for dark matter, it’s not like they’re worth anything on the TP at the moment. Now just to figure out if I should try them out on a guardian or a warrior…

Whatever. These are month long goals. They don’t have to be rushed by tomorrow, or before the fortnight is out.

(I have a sob story about 11 days of fractals – some days double or triple runs – with no volcanic fractal to complete the Fractured Living Story tab. Only on the 12th day was RNG kind to me…)

It’s time to enjoy Wintersday.

five copper hilarity
Best five copper spent. Ever.
dolyak distraction
Dolyak clone distraction!

Let’s Play: Sleuth (Who Murdered Gypsy Syl?)

So you wanna be a detective...

(Continued from Part 1.)

Upstairs, the first door on the left leads into a sparsely decorated guest room.

A pair of legs poke out from underneath the bed. Another murder?

Then I see them shift. Nope, a live one.

s12

I cough discretely and introduce myself once more to the owner of the legs. “I don’t want to interrupt your search of whatever is under there, but I’m just verifying the whereabouts of everyone last evening.”

s13

Wow. Touchy.

“I’m afraid it is, if we want the murderer caught. So I have to ask you again.”

s14

“Thank you,” I say. “You’ve been very helpful.”

He’s wrong. I’m afraid someone -did- see him.

I try not to let any of my growing suspicion show on my face as I continue the investigation. I still need to find the murder weapon and the location of the crime. Extra corroboration couldn’t hurt either.

s15

It’s all I can do to not screech to an immediate halt and reverse out of the room. I try to act nonchalant and check out the bottle of vitamins with my magnifying glass as if nothing is wrong. Then step out again just as quickly and wordlessly.

Is he following me?

s16

The bedroom is deserted. A massive canopied bed is the centerpiece of the room. The bedsheets are rumpled and an emptied bottle of champagne protrudes from under the bed. Was someone having a party in here last night?

Then the speckled cream label of the bottle catches my eye.

I whip out my trusty magnifying glass.

s17

I leave it where it is.

I have visions of stepping out the bedroom holding the bloodied weapon and looking right into the eyes of the person coming out of the bathroom.

They don’t end well for me.

s18

In the study I find another guest. “Just the person I wanted to see,” I say, smiling broadly. “I need your help to confirm someone else’s story. They say they spent last evening with you, so both of you are innocent and could be each other’s alibis.”

At the same time, I check out the area of floor that has caught her attention. Not blood, alas. I was hoping to get this solved quickly.

Another coffee stain. Perhaps from the empty mug atop the desk.

s19

Yep, -he’s- the one.

And he may just have seen me walk into the room and talk to the lady too.

s20

I try to swallow, my mouth uncomfortably dry. I can’t shake off the unnerving sensation of eyes boring into the back of my neck. The shadows are watching me.

I need to find the murder scene, fast!

I scramble downstairs in a hurry, hoping a sharp-eyed guest may have spotted something untoward.

I can’t exactly comb every square inch of flooring with one dinky magnifying glass. Not without getting bashed on the head from behind.

s21

Fortunately, not the murderer.

Unfortunately, just inclined to marveling at the beauty of small details.

No blood on this floor.

s22

Third time’s the charm.

s23

“You’ve been -very- helpful, indeed,” I say. “Stay here a sec, won’t you?”

I race back upstairs to fetch the murder weapon.

s24

I want to scream.

I really do.

I don’t think he’s seen me yet.

I stealthily duck to a crouch, using the canopied bed as cover, and slide out the bottle of champagne ever so silently…. moving slow enough to not make a sound, and swiftly as I dared so as to get out of here unseen.

Don’t turn around. Don’t turn around.

s25

I book it downstairs.

Fully expecting an unfriendly face waiting for me at the crime scene to make it a double murder.

s26

I’m saved.

“THANK you for staying,” I say fervently, fighting the urge to keep looking over my shoulder. “It’s time to gather everyone.”

s27

I lay out my case.

Here, the scene of the murder. Here, the murder weapon. And here, the stories of those I questioned, who all point to…

s28

Some things still remain unanswered, though, and I’d appreciate the help of any other sleuths in the audience.

  • The motive of the killing is still unknown. And what exactly happened last evening in the living room?
  • How did the murder weapon end up where it was, unseen by other guests?
  • For that matter, what exactly was going on in the bedroom?!

I never did see that one last elusive guest… did I?

A big thank you goes out to everyone who unwittingly took part in this murder mystery. 🙂

Turn-about is fair play. And I’d love for all of you to give the game a shot. There’s another mansion layout too.

It’s simple, but the fun comes in trying to fill in the blanks with your own narrative.

Can you beat my score? It’s possible to solve it in less moves and be a Holmesian Sleuth.

Or you could progress from just being suspected by the murderer, to being stalked… then killed.

Instructions for Running Sleuth:

1) Download Sleuth from the Norland Software site. Unzip it to an easy to find folder, like c:\dosgames\sleuth.

2) Download DOSBox, install and run it.

3) Type the following into DOSBox (change c:\dosgames to whatever your directory structure is)

howtostartsleuth

4) Once in the directory, type sleuth to run. (Hooray, old DOS commands)

Option A will start you with the game’s pre-provided name list. Option B is personalized sleuth for you to type in your own names.

If you should get tired of all that typing per game, it is quite simple to edit the files DESCR.V1 and DESCR.V2 to use your own names for option A.

descredit

Like so. Scroll down to the end of the file.

The first line is first name. Next line, last name. Final line in capitals is however you want to refer to them when typing in commands in sleuth.

There’s room for seven guests.

Hope y’all enjoy.

Let’s Play: Sleuth (Sometimes The Simplest Games Create the Best Narrative)

So you wanna be a detective...

I’m back!

The Windows 7 system seems more or less stable, and I’ve managed to get most of my habitually used programs reinstalled without too much hair loss. I’m sure I’ll stumble into an unpleasant surprise later down the road when I’m missing a less-used program, but well, I’m a cynic and need my crusty pessimist coating to cover up my soft and squishy eternal optimist insides.

Naturally, we will celebrate this system upgrade by playing a DOS game!

Sleuth is an interactive murder mystery by Eric Miller of Norland Software.  It’s one of my favorite games for its ability to generate a narrative that your imagination quickly builds upon, made especially interesting when you play a personalized game and type in all your friends’ names as potential suspects and victims. Or you could input all your favorite characters’ names and end up crafting a story based around them eyeing each other askance. (Been there, done that.)

I think you know where I am going with this…

On the guest list today are a bunch of bloggers: Jeromai, Joseph Skyrim, Gypsy Syl, Zubon, Ravious, Eri (J3w3l) and Bhagpuss!

I generously threw myself in, hoping to be the victim. Except the game had other ideas…

Three times I restarted, and this person INSISTED on being dead.

s0-threetimesmurdered

So be it. The investigation begins…

s1

Past the police barrier, the mansion is quiet. Too quiet.

Six guests have been on lockdown, prevented from leaving until the investigator arrives on the scene to interrogate them and examine the evidence. Let us hope that I arrived swiftly enough and can solve this post-haste, before the murderer has time to clean up their tracks and make their escape. The wandering presence of the five other guests may have been an impediment thus far, but the threat of being caught may make the killer desperate or violent.

s2

Only a piano in the conservatory greets me. The silence is more than a little unnerving. I debate on the wisdom of calling out for the guests, but I don’t want them assembling up just yet. Better to catch them by themselves and get their stories individually.

A brownish stain on the piano catches my eye, and I squint shortsightedly at it. Where did my magnifying glass go again? I grope around for it in my pockets, and then realize it’s fallen out onto the floor. I scoop it up and check out the items in the room more carefully. Nope, not blood, just a coffee stain. Nothing out of the ordinary.

s3

The living room is deserted. The chairs and divan appear to have been sat on rather regularly. The candy dish is empty, wrappers strewn around the table. So there were people in this house once, but where IS everyone?!

The rhythmic thud of a knife hitting a chopping board interrupts my reverie, and I make my way over to the source of the sound.

s4

In the kitchen, I find the first suspect, assembling slices of bread and cheese together. “G’day,” I say, and introduce myself as the police inspector in charge of this crime. “I’m afraid you’re a suspect in this murder, as is everyone else in the house, so I have to ask you about your whereabouts this evening.”

s5

Right. If I could find anyone in this gigantic mansion.

I thank the man and take my leave.

s6

s7

Though quite a number of suspect items have caught my eye (so many possible ways to kill someone – a bottle opener and a pepper mill make decent impromptu clubs, not to mention the heavy can of unpronounceable soup) and warranted thorough examination with a magnifying glass, nothing so far shows any signs of being used as a murder weapon.

Something seems off about the wallpaper in this dining room. The repeating pattern doesn’t line up quite as nicely in one spot.

I’d like to say that sharp insightful eyes immediately knew the location, but it took a lot of trial-and-error probing before a panel clicked and slid smoothly out of the way.

s8

Momentarily intrigued by the strange black obelisk on the floor (no bloodstains, though,) I get the fright of my life when I turn around and see a face staring out at me in a corner of the secret passage.

Good lord, man, what in the world are you doing in here, I want to ask. But think the better of it.

After all, I’m here too, aren’t I?

I take a deep breath, introduce myself and ask my questions.

s9

Okaaay.

Perhaps they’re just the ramblings of a madman.

Stressful situations do things to people, I hear.

I scramble out of the secret passageway in a hurry, aiming to get to the upstairs rooms. Downstairs was a bit of a wash.

s10

I nearly collide with someone else in a great hurry to get downstairs.

“Hold it!” I say, and introduce myself a third time. “Where were you this evening?”

s11

I let the man go on his way then, the sudden pounding in my chest so loud I fear others might be able to hear it too.

I have to sit down on the steps for a second, to calm the thumping down. The stories contradict. One of them is lying to me. One of them may be the murderer.

I need to find the one person who can exonerate one and damn the other.

I steel myself.

The upstairs awaits.

GW2: One Cutscene is Worth the Entire Thaumanova Fractal

The art of the fractals of the mists....

To give credit where credit is due, the cinematic cutscene folks have completely outdid themselves yet again.

If there is one reason to get the Thaumanova story mode over and done with, it is to go back into the fractals and see the unskippable cutscene which pops up when anyone new enters the fractals for the first time.

It may be unskippable, but it is glorious and gets the heart pumping.

I’ll be happy to keep watching it every now and then, and I suppose it also gives you a warning that someone in your party is new to the fractals and should be communicated with (assuming the PUG reaction doesn’t evolve to immediately quitting after the cutscene is over.)

There is more storytelling and pacing in this cutscene than the entire Thaumanova Reactor fractal.

Some choice moments frozen in time:

gw351 gw354 gw358 gw361 gw365 gw367 gw369 gw371 gw375 gw380 gw384 gw385 gw386 gw387 gw389 gw390 gw394gw396

P.S. The lack of a waypoint in the story mode of Thaumanova appears to have been fixed via letting the whole party respawn once -everybody- wipes.

P.P.S. The pacing is still a piece of buggy shit as we managed to trigger Scarlet even before all colliders were turned off.

At least this time with a lot of “guidance” from me, ie. supplying tips like I was reading from a third-party walkthrough, my guild group minimized the arbitrary deaths from discovering stuff on their own (not my preferred style of play at all but faced with the alternative of having to completely wipe…) and we managed to insert two cooling rods where they were apparently supposed to go first.

But Scarlet turned up even before we triggered the last collider. Ridiculous, really. The design team needs to take some tips from previous dungeons like AR and MF about shit that is supposed to happen in proper sequence and blocking off access through impassable walls, rather than total party kills.

P.P.P.S. It turns out that my first PUG did indeed boot us out of the instance before it was over. We missed the completion reward of 13 silver that time. (How impressive. Not.)

Thank god for guild groups that hang around examining merchants for any changes, thus giving me enough time to view/screenshot all of the Dessa/Ellen Kiel exchange and for that completion thing to pop up.