Playing As Intended, Nothing to See Here

Updating the blog is hard when there’s nothing new to say.

For the last week, I’ve been heavily playing two games as intended – the well-trodden routes that everyone should be familiar with.

I don’t think it’s terribly exciting to anyone else when you increment a level number, is it?

Path of Exile

Hype is super-ramping up for the Forsaken Masters release, and I’ve been playing the crud out of it as a result.

My ridiculously masochistic low-life dual-dagger first-build-ever summoner Shadow made it to level 65, on the back of a whole lot of Swan Song videos.

It’s at this point that I decided I was officially hitting the next ‘gear wall’ – there are a ton of things that I would love to five and six-link, assuming I have the gear, and assuming I even have the gems – which I don’t, since I’m staunchly anti-manual-trade (don’t try to change my mind – I didn’t use the trade channel in the old MUD I played, I didn’t trade for a thing in Spamadan in GW1, I hate text barter trading with people or bots, period. I’m still enjoying Path of Exile fine, and willing to pay more to increase stash size to play with my own self-found ruleset. Everybody wins, except the people who can’t tolerate someone they don’t know and will never meet – since I don’t group – playing less efficiently. Deal.)

This sounded like a good time to wait for the Forsaken Masters to see if they could help out on the less RNG gearing front, so I did.

In the meantime, it was time for a little easymode.

Obviously, not at all current-and-updated easy, because I’m busy noobing it up here, but a Geofri’s Baptism – a two-handed maul unique – dropped and was burning a hole in my stash.

And I was doing pretty well with a super-tanky molten strike / ground slamming Marauder  in hardcore mode previously, albeit -very slow and steady because hardcore mode = don’t die – so for casual fun, I made a new Marauder with a similar build in the standard league and dumped as much nice stuff as had accumulated in my stash onto him.

Guy whizzed past the levels in like 3 days.

Level 55 now and still climbing.

To the tune of Mythbusters videos mostly, since I’ve exhausted all the roleplay ones. (Anyone know any other entertaining roleplays in the vein of ItmeJP’s stuff or Will Wheaton’s Fiasco? They have to be watchable, not unedited – it’s boring as fuck to watch ordinary people um and ahh and hesitate for minutes attempting to tell a story.)

I did suffer a few deaths, the first and stupidest one due to getting chain stunned by a mass of bird-like rhoa (what is it with birds and stuns, GW2’s moas also daze…) and that was eventually fixed by picking up Unwavering Stance. It comes with the drawback of not being able to evade enemy attacks – but I figure I’m not gearing with any evasion to begin with, so whatever. 19% evasion or less seemed fine to trade off for not being stunned ever.

The Marauder side of the skill tree really looks a tide more organized to be newbie friendly than the Shadow side.

Went for all the life, and armor, and resistances and strength and two-handed maul damage stuff and seems to be working out fine.

Picked up the Resolute Technique keystone since Geofri’s Baptism couldn’t crit anyway, and one may as well experiment with consistent sustained damage on what is intended to be a more robust type of character.

It was around the 50s and entering Merciless difficulty that the gear wall started to make itself a little bit more felt – though in this case, it mostly means I have to stop playing braindead run-in hur-durr kill-everything and kite a bit more with groundslam, or use doorways and corners as chokepoints, or even *gasp* put a rejuvenation totem behind me to buff up my life regen and keep the hp reservoir full for long enough to wreck the onslaught.

I’m seriously playing with only 4 skills here. Groundslam AoEs everything in a cone, molten strike for single-target with collateral fire projectile damage, I picked up Warlord’s Mark as a curse since I got tired of the NPCs using it on me to such great effect and a little more leech couldn’t hurt, and rejuvenation totem for the times when a flask won’t cut it.

Groundslam all the things. They stun and pretty much sit in the cone.
Groundslam all the things. They stun and pretty much sit in the cone and die, with only a few managing to close in.
Molten strike spam with a rejuv totem sitting pretty.
Molten strike spam with a rejuv totem sitting pretty.

It… can be a little boring.

(It’s certainly a change from the tension and challenge of the noob Shadow, where it’s a mad juggle of summons in succession for long enough to dart in and out and hit things with daggers. Still, variable difficulty that one can pick at will by changing characters ain’t bad.)

I have Searing Bond slotted, mostly out of a morbid curiosity to see how high the dps goes as the gem levels. I generally don’t use it except when I’m just playing around. It looks like a totem-based Searing Bond Templar might be pretty fun, but apparently it’s also going to suffer a little dps nerf in the Forsaken Masters patch (aka less than 14 hours away) so we’ll see. Filed away for ‘play later, probably when no longer fashionable, because one is slow and late to everything.’

Geofri’s Baptism finally got replaced around level 53-54, with a very ordinary, but four-linked magic Dread Maul, crafted for physical damage increase.

A chance Ledge run for fun dropped a unique Dread Maul, which made me stop and stare, incredulous at how RNG -actually- dropped a weapon that fit the character I was playing at the time.

Naturally, once I id’ed it, it turns out that Murphy’s Law struck again.

voidhome

Decreased experience gain? Reduced item rarity? Is this thing for real?!

Some googling and research later, it turns out that opinions are mixed on this highly interesting unique.

On the plus side, folks were saying that this is a great farming weapon, when you don’t want to outlevel a map too quickly, and are going for currency. Instead of item rarity, put on item quantity and just hit things and watch stuff fall out of their pockets, essentially.

Someone else suggested that this was a good weapon to put on weapon swap – which made a lot of sense to me, since my second slot had been sitting empty for the past 50 levels – and that it was good for boss-killing, wail away until the last sliver of hp, then swap back to normal weapon for normal loot drops, and for bludgeoning one’s way past difficult levels for newbies when you’re only concerned about progressing through the locations and quests, rather than racking up xp or loot.

Which all seemed fairly logical, and what-the-hell, I had it, so let’s try it out.

The dps on this thing is CRAZY.

That 50% increased attack speed essentially doubles your dps, and the mana leech means you pretty much do not run out of mana. Gone was the regular needing-to-quaff-a-mana-flask-every-now-and-then.

I ran around the Ledge farming map like a lawnmower, holding down the ground slam button, giggling like a maniac.

Fun factor-wise, this thing gets a thumbs up from me.

Frankly, after thinking about it, if I’m killing things twice as quickly or faster, 44% reduction in experience gain simply means I’m gaining xp at about the usual pace. Ie. a necessary balance.

It turns out that between some other chance buffs on the items, I’m only at a -5% item rarity, so it’s not -horrible- horrible, I still pop rares now and then, but maybe less than previously. Anyway, the character wasn’t built for item farming as the main purpose – I don’t exactly own a surplus of Increased Item Rarity and Increased Item Quantity gems to begin with, so it’s not a major breaking point.

In a way, it’s kind of interesting that this sort of unique exists – where it isn’t a straight up across the board improvement – that forces you to think about tradeoffs.

I settled for putting it on secondary weapon swap.

If I could get by with normal experience and item rarity with my normal weapon, then everything’s good.

If I can’t, it’s nice to have a cheatmode weapon standing by, just in case.

Guild Wars 2

Over in wood-farming land, I faithfully farmed up Foxfire Clusters for seven days and sold a ton of them and made a lot of gold…

…before deciding today that I could no longer wait -another seven days – for the next stage of the time-limited backpack, and correspondingly spent a lot of gold.

Well, easy come, easy go.

Virtual currency is for spending and all that.

I guess I’ve discovered that my willpower limit is around a week.

I faithfully built the Cultivated Vine from scratch, producing a plant food of each type per day, and using all hoarded materials in the process.

There was a time when I was faithfully charging up Celestial quartz crystals, so there were 10 standing by and ready. I’d accumulated 100+ Sunstone Lumps, so no problems on that front either. I’d jumped into T6 Dry Top on the first day Dragon’s Reach Part 2 launched, and bought all the recipes and clay needed for the clay pot, etc.

Unfortunately, after the first stage was made, and I was left holding the next stage’s Pet Seed, I realized that I hadn’t -quite- planned long term enough, having staunchly tried to avoid reading the Dulfy guide for the backpack.

I did have 48 Foxfire clusters, ready for the Mist-Infused Clay Pot, and the next 7 days of Piquant Plant Food.

I didn’t have enough clay for another clay pot, and organized Dry Tops seemed to have dried up in favor of the Blix farm. Bah.

I didn’t have enough charged quartz crystals, I’d need another 3-4 days, AND I’d seen how much sunstone lumps were going for and converted everything I owned and offloaded it to make $$$ fast. I mean, what better time to make a serious profit on lowbie material hoarding?

I had 12 Pristine Fractal Relics standing by in the bank – turns out I actually do run more fractals than the few complaining that they’re ‘forced’ into the activity and scared of grouping, which is quite incredible considering I’ve only stepped in there twice or thrice in the last few months – and a crafted +5 infusion that had been taking up a bank slot since the Thaumanova Reactor fractal days.

And I really couldn’t deal with the thought of slowly waiting another seven days for freakin’ plant food before I got my hands on Mawdrey II. That’s seven days of bloodstone dust eating. (In return for crap greens, sure, but the prospect of freeing up inventory and bank slots is super appealing.)

So I talked myself into buying 7 of each type of plant food, a clay pot and a grow lamp.

I figure I should be able to sell off 7 plant food in the coming days, albeit at ever-decreasing prices, and only be short a couple gold when all is said and done. That’s seven days of not-obsessing over Mawdrey, and more potential earning power by being able to focus on other things.

The clay pot, one might as well eat as the cost of saving geodes for the next Ambrite weapon skin, assuming I ever find a T6 Dry Top again.

The grow lamp is the only one that kind of hurts a bit, but well, if I run around, mine nodes, and sell off all the watchwork sprockets and sunstone that pop out, it might offset the cost just a little. Anyway, spending 10-20 gold doesn’t sound that bad to speed up the whole process.

mawdrey

All that rationalization of spending later, it sure is a cutie.

I haven’t even decided on a character to put the vine on yet. Maybe I’ll check the sylvari necro later.

But it ate 150 Bloodstone Dust today, and I’m happy.

.

In other news, I haven’t done any of the Challenger Cliff Dry Top achievements, nor the hard mode Living Story achievements yet.

I just seem to be spacing out the content over time, given that it’s still going to be weeks before the feature patch, and months before the Living Story comes around again. Permanent content, ho.

I bit the bullet and did a few more PvP matches yesterday and today and picked up the last 9% on the Balthazar backpiece reward track.

(It was weird, I was on a big PvP kick for a while, and then I just sort of couldn’t muster up any enthusiasm for walking into a match and getting mauled. It’s funny how people give up and stack teams so quickly.

I braved Solo Queue for two matches, and turned up on the mauling side for once. That was nice, in terms of how we simply dominated the other side and stayed on point – though I couldn’t believe I managed to 1 vs 2 on home point and win, they must have been quite new – but I’m sure it was very much less enjoyable for the other team. So much so, one of them quit part way through, when the score was 250 vs 55 or so, and things only got worse for them from there.

Then I got impatient waiting for solo arena to pop, and went for the shameless hotjoin to speed up the daily. I ended up finishing the match and the daily with like 0.1% left on the backpiece track, so I had to sit through another match. Naturally, the randomly hotjoin server was already stacked, and I was desperate enough to join on the losing side for that smidgen of 191 rank points that would knock me over and earn me the backpiece.

That went as horrifically as expected – turned up on home to get ganged up on 3 on 1, went far since everyone appeared to be having fun executing the rest of my team on home and had a fun 1 vs 1 for about 20 seconds before another guy showed up, and then another. All not my team, of course. We started 1 man down, and were 3 vs 5 by the end. Only reason I stuck around was for the last teensy bit of blue bar to finish up the backpiece.

They really need to figure out more fun PvP gamemodes. Control point capture is only fun when both teams are communicating to their teammates and playing for points as intended.)

I pop by for the Triple Trouble wurm every day or two, jump by the odd world boss for a free rare and have ventured back into WvW for an hour or so each time (slow and steady so as not to burn out again.)

I still intend to get around to leveling the engineer and the elementalist and key-farming, though Path of Exile is sucking up my time and attention right now. (ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN, we’ve missed some of that adrenaline surge.)

I’ve not finished dress-up on the sylvari necro – still some dreamthistle skins worth a ton sitting in the bank, that I guess I’m just going to burn making him look pretty – and I think I’ve finally accumulated enough charged cores and lodestones since launch to make a Foefire weapon, but haven’t got around to checking that yet.

I dunno. I’m generally content and chugging along, with plenty of stuff on the to-do list.

I don’t get all the latest Reddit bruhaha about the Super Adventure Box, after what essentially amounts to a misreading of an amateur interview conducted by fans. “We can’t talk about that now” isn’t the same as “No, you’re not getting that ever” and doesn’t warrant collective hysteria or childish tantrums either.

All it means is that they don’t have the scope or schedule or resources to get around to it yet, or haven’t worked on it to a stage where it can be announced, and/or have to follow and respect Anet’s very draconian PR and community interaction policies (which sadly, make quite a bit of sense when you see the current example of how overblown some fans can get) and somewhat misguided and out-of-touch marketing department (given the prior track record of all their ad campaigns and marketing promotions. It’s sad when third-party Kongzhong does better marketing.)

Just take it for what it is, some clear statements about what’s being worked on, and what’s not yet being worked on and put on the back burner. Sheesh.

There are other games if you’re burning out of GW2. Take a freaking break. Go play Wildstar or Warlords of Draenor if that’s what’s calling you.

Come play Path of Exile if you want to be all excited with expansion hype. (It’s free too!)

Go muck around in Archeage and have fun – up until the point you get repeatedly mauled on multiple traderuns and lose everything and say ‘screw this’ I suppose.

Give the damn devs some time to build stuff, and come back and enjoy it when you’re ready.

And if you’re not willing to leave, this is the BEST time to start hoarding up materials in preparation for the -next- craftable thing they launch that’s going to skyrocket other raw materials in price.

It’s going to happen for sure. It’s just a matter of what.

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A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

There's a land you promised us! Deliver us to the promised land...

As mentioned before, when I go quiet, it’s usually because things have settled into a comfortable happy rut. The same old games routine leaves nothing new to comment on.

MMO Population Blues

Wildstar seems to be undergoing its first month blues, what with one blogger announcing they’ve canceled their subscription and another commenting on how the online population appears to have dropped.

I don’t know, perhaps it’s disinterest and perhaps it’s just pragmatism, but I can’t really bring myself to be concerned one way or the other.

Guild numbers and roster counts don’t really mean anything, in my opinion, except to show that attrition always takes place over time.

In two years of GW2, I’ve seen my two main guilds bounce up and down in online players: offline members ratio and all it really says is how well each guild is doing in time – was there anyone actively recruiting, was the leadership active or did it go dormant, did anyone clean out the guild roster lately of people who lost interest in the game, etc.

They certainly didn’t reflect anything regarding overall game population numbers, considering that the best period of activity one had was when the other was almost dying, and vice versa.

The megaserver change that GW2 dropped on us is more sneaky in comparison.

I logged on today in Divinity’s Reach and consciously reveled in the fact that there were some 30-40 people running around just near the Trading Post and Bank area. “See,” I told myself, “GW2’s doing great! Look at how many people there are online!”

Then the more cynical part of my mind stopped me and said, “Ah, but don’t forget that this perception is due to the megaserver.”

Which is true and somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, imo. Crowds beget crowds. Someone who needs a social atmosphere is inclined to stay logged on if he or she sees people around them. I’m sure Tarnished Coast would be able to pull up a similar kind of number without the megaserver, but we’d probably lose those players from less crowded servers who can’t transfer off.

As for Wildstar, welp, the only ones who knows the real numbers are the devs. So let’s see how they react in the days to come. What they do or don’t do will reveal just how important they regard keeping subs, creating new subs or selling CREDD, and what their strategy is in regards to the casual/hardcore divide and earning revenue.

I’ve decided I really don’t care that much either way about the typical MMOs any longer and am just watching all the various rants from the peanut gallery and chomping down on popcorn.

GW2

I don’t need a promised land made up of dreams and future MMO sandboxes.

I’m already THERE.

I’ve been there for close to two years now. It’s not PERFECT, but it’s been comfy enough to be a home.

If I didn’t have GW2, I’d find somewhere else to settle down. The next best thing.

Probably A Tale in the Desert. Or Guild Wars 1. (City of Heroes did fine for 4-5 years running before things became a little too static and too traditional for comfort.) Wherever.

Point is, there’s so many games on the market that if someone couldn’t find something to satisfy or suffice, then the problem is probably less with the game and more about how someone is in a more nomadic than settler frame of mind.

So what have I been doing on the Guild Wars 2 front?

A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

Dailies. My ritual gathering of nodes and iron ore because it’s fun.

A significant amount of Dry Top geode farming because I’m in love with the Ambrite weapons and it sort of has the meditative fun of a zerg-y champion train with more sophistication in the strats used for each event, without the utter boredom of a sequence that a bot could be programmed to perform.

Totally in love with this greatsword.
Totally in love with the Scorpiones greatsword.
Say hello to mah lil friend.
Say hello to mah lil friend.

I look forward to each recipe I get to ever so slowly buy.

I stalled out on Episode 2’s achievements due to the reputed bug in the Concordia instance and haven’t gotten around to moving beyond that. Perhaps later or when the next patch arrives. At least the stress is gone from it not being temporary content.

I poked around in the next part of the Dry Top area, since I more or less stumbled into it while hunting Lost Coins, and indulged the explorer part of me.

There's some really lovely landscapes in the next section...
There’s some really lovely landscapes in the next section…

I popped in on the Triple Trouble Wurm today, after a long time of not showing up because I got bored with the boss. Got lucky and managed to taxi in. Things went super smoothly and a kill was obtained. And you know what made me smile?

There was a little level 49 standing right in front of the Wurm chest, going “holy crap, I don’t know what just happened, I just got this game a week and a half ago, I was just here and people were saying get into Teamspeak…”‘

Then he put on his shiny new Wurm’s Bane title.

He had 449 AP.

I don’t begrudge him a thing.

This, my friends, is the beauty of Guild Wars 2 and open world raids.

It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t max level. That he didn’t have crazy gearscore or what have you. He didn’t have to spend a month or two ‘getting attuned’ or jumping hoops and matching schedules to get into a raid guild just to ‘earn’ the right to be there.

He’s never going to forget his first wurm kill.

He’s going to remember the rush of all the people around him. If he has the slightest interest, now or later on, he’ll recall the TTS guild website where he can sign up to be a member.

He’ll have one hell of a story to tell to anyone who asks how a level 49 character got his title.

(To a lesser extent, similar things can happen with guild missions. I joined my NA guild today for theirs, and for the guild challenge, the 20-25 of us DIS managed to gate crash CERN‘s Save Our Supplies disco party of 50+ and 10+ commander tags.

One lone unguilded wanderer walked by and did a double take, commenting on the size of the guild. All CERN, of course, ours is small. 🙂 That’s one way to meet an active guild… though there’s always the trouble of seeing if they’re on the same server as you.)

DOTA 2

I got my sleep schedule twisted around a little trying to catch the International.

I faithfully caught the matches on the weekend live, then found myself getting sleepier and sleepier on the last two days and gave up, resolving to watch them later.

If anything, I have to commend Valve and the DOTA 2 crew for the sheer spectacle of the event. There’s big money involved, and no effort is spared to make it -feel- grand.

Seriously, watching DOTA 2 is a game in itself.

If you just pop on over to the website, you have the choice to watch every match with the main audio, or using the newbie stream.

The live video stream stalled a few times during the broadcast, which led me to experimenting with DOTA TV, aka watching the match from in-game itself.

It boggles the mind how intricate it all is.

dota2tournaments

There’s matches galore from what seems like a dozen tournaments.

Scroll down, find the International, and you can download replays of every single match. Not to mention, watch and set an option to automatically spectate live games.

dota2international

Inside the game, which had upwards of 200k clients spectating during one International game (presumably at least some of those were bots hoping to get lucky drops), you could pick from 4-5 audio streams in various languages.

The highlighted scroll is the newcomer's stream.
The highlighted scroll is the newcomer’s stream. Kinda nice that they made the effort to guide people like that.

The camera itself is configurable. Let the caster show you the action from his or her point of view. Or you yourself manually follow along whatever you wanted with your own free camera.

Or chase/follow a game from each player’s perspective, which is no doubt useful for learning how to play a certain hero by watching how the pros do it, or if you have a celebrity crush on a certain player or whatever…

Quite a few exciting games out of the International this time around. Pretty much every time a once-champion team got knocked out of the running was thrilling.

One of the best turnarounds was the second match between Cloud9 and VG (July 20, starts about half an hour into the stream) which rather nicely illustrates the ebb and flow of these snowballing DOTA games, where one team can start out pretty strong over the other team and by the end of the match, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction.

I still keep wanting to play the actual game but always keep getting turned off by the reputed toxicity of MOBA players (aka a complete 180 from the GW2 community) as well as the amount of -time- it would take to learn enough to get past the gatekeeping layer of impatient ‘blame-others’ players.

Maybe if I wait long enough, the devs will figure out a way to manage the culture. I hear LOL has started outright banning toxic players.

Blaugust

In blogging news, Belghast is challenging bloggers to write a post every day for the month of August.

I’m kinda looking forward to the extra posts I’ll get to read from participants.

I’m probably not going to participate as I’ve more or less settled on a comfortable 1-3 day pace for myself, but it’s a good idea for those who haven’t yet tried the experiment of writing at a habitual pace.

When I first started blogging, I definitely made myself post once daily or every two days or so. It’s just a way to both make a commitment to yourself to post as well as get your blog out there to readers and search engines to pick you up.

(I have gotten slightly more lazy since then, and allowed 4-7 day lapses, but I do get antsy if I haven’t made any kind of post for a week or more and the self-nagging starts up until a post is made.)

Who knows, if the conversation picks up, I may find myself unable to resist getting a word in and posting more myself. 🙂

This Would Have Been Less Urgent, If I Had Been Playing GW1

I -thought- half a mouthful of plain water might have hit the keyboard when I inadvertently sneezed mid-consumption last night.

No visible spillage or seepage. Nothing seemed to be wrong, so I shrugged, shut the computer down and went to sleep.

Woke the next day to discover that three keys had stopped working: Z, N and the space bar.

That’s my heal, RP walk, and you-know-what…

Decided against plan B: get creative with keybinds in favor of plan A: forget GW2 and go out to buy new keyboard.

All liquids, not just sticky or sweet ones, are now banned from the vicinity of the computer.

A moment of silence, please, for my faithful Logitech G15 version 1, that lasted a good seven years or more.

Decided to get with the times and try the mechanical Razer Blackwidow Ultimate Stealth instead. I kinda miss the LCD (which I mostly used as a glorified clock/calendar), but the Cherry MX Brown keys are quite the new and enjoyable tactile experience, not too clicky, not too squishy, but juuust right. YMMV.

It would be the epitome of vanity to tell you that one of the first things I did was to switch the color of my Razer mouse backlight from blue to green, just to match the new keyboard.

So I won’t.

Happy New Year! On Reading Break…

Hope everyone had great holidays over the Xmas and New Year season.

Quick updates on my end:

Guild Wars 2 – My activity level has dropped off in accordance with the Living Story pause and Wintersday break. This is not a BAD thing. There are times for obsession, times to stop and smell the roses and times for taking a break. I’ve mostly been popping in for long enough to finish dailies.

My silk surplus has finally dried up, putting my daily bolt of damask sale on partial hold, but it’s funded a decent amount of miniatures in the meantime. My PvP grind lasted a faithful week before I started getting bored and have missed 2-3 days in a row now. Might continue, might not, depends how I feel and if I have time to spare. Somewhat like my relationship with Teq, I pop in one day and then miss two or three days and back again.

Dark Souls – With attention falling off one major MMO, I have time to focus on singleplayer games. I’m still not sure what to make of this game. It kind of strikes me as a shared puzzle game, in the sense that it seems to have been built on purpose to have a difficulty that is soulcrushing alone, but it also seems to expect that people will discuss tactics online, write wikis and share guides and walkthroughs. There is also the repetition of each ‘stage’ of getting from bonfire to the end boss with enemies that are always in the same place and tend to pwn you UNLESS you hit upon and repeat certain strategies that counter them, in which case things become fairly simple.

I’m also somewhat confused in how to deal with the variable difficulty levels of the game. In that there are certain known ‘cheats’/’exploits’/’strats’ that can make fights a cakewalk, or you could choose to tackle the fights the hard way via your reaction times and ability to dodge. But then, is it really a cheat or just smart use of known weaknesses and part of the game, given that Dark Souls is all about finding the optimum solutions to puzzle fights?

Take the Abyss Demon. If you fight it the first time, you get a dinky sword hilt that does like 2 damage. Apparently your best bet for “legit” defeating it is to strip down nekkid for best mobility and use your fists, that also do 2 damage and hit faster. Goal: get behind the demon and wail away on its backside and/or dodge its telegraphed attacks and just jump in and jump out. OR you could back down and fight it the second time, in which case you get better weaponry and the ability to do a plunge attack on it to take off more of its hp. OR you could start with a class that does ranged magic damage OR even take advantage of its fire damage weakness and choose to start with black firebombs. That last one feels patently unfair, to the the demon. One hit takes off a good quarter of its hp or so.

But then, its presence at the very beginning of the game was patently unfair to the player to begin with, right?

I got smacked around by the Taurus Demon too many times to count, but patiently repeated over and over the attempt of using plunging attacks to kill it until it finally worked. The Bell Gargoyles utterly worked me over, until I finally gave up, became human and summoned Knight Solaire, where upon the nice NPC tanked them for me and I just smacked them from behind.

The Capra Demon necessitated numerous restarts, while I alternately pondered if I should grind for more bleed resist, grind for something to augment my weapon, grind for more levels, put on or take off more armor, or just keep -trying- to dodge it and its dogs’ attacks while making it up the stairs, trying to kill the dogs while evade it and plunge it, and mostly getting smooshed from the front while staggered by flanking dogs. It was not lost on me that this was theoretically an optional fight too. Finally, I decided that if I was willing to grind to defeat it, then I may as well just do the simplest grind possible – enough souls for a bunch of firebombs, which were then faithfully lobbed in following a guide video from -outside- the boss room, turning it deep fried from utter safety.

It’s stuff like that that utterly confuses me about this game. The game REWARDS this sort of behavior. Or rather, accepts it as a valid solution. Often, you get the same reward regardless of whatever strategy you used (though sometimes there are bonus rewards for doing something the game decides is worth giving a bonus for.)

The current boss that I was at, the Moss Butterfly, smacked my melee character around repeatedly from range before it even got to the stage where it moved within melee reach. Then I learned via reading up that a) I was using the wrong shield to block its primarily magic attacks, b) I was keeping the wrong distance and thus couldn’t dodge its attacks with enough predictability and c) since I was going to alter my strategy regardless the next time, I may as well go whole hog, go human, and summon the NPC that did RANGED damage so that she could smack it around while I just concentrated on not dying. Man, she barely gave me a chance to get a hit in.

Then there’s the potential of co-op multiplayer. Obviously not as popular now, but in theory, in its heyday, you could summon help to defeat some of these bosses, and dealing with them would be naturally A LOT easier if one person is tanking while another is striking from behind, rather than trying to solo tank / survive / run around behind it with dodgy camera and controls / sneak a hit in / get out of the way of the bosses’ return hit, etc.

So is Dark Souls hard or not?! I dunno!

Player deaths-wise, yes, you’ll go through a lot of them. But I play roguelikes where dying is half the fun and you’re expected to die to learn your way through encounters. Except Dark Souls isn’t a roguelike in the sense that you have a lot of variation from playthrough to playthrough (unless you choose to change it up.) The closest thing I can think of is that it’s a brutal puzzle game that you can choose to cheapen by reading a lot of walkthroughs and guides, or you’ll just repeatedly die and die until you devise a working ‘correct’ solution – sort of similar to a Sierra adventure game on steroids where you have to guess the exact word phrase to use or notice that one special out of place pixel or die and reload.

DarklandsJoseph Skyrim’s coverage of the game spurred me to dabble around with the classic for a night. Half of it was spent struggling with the manual and cluebook trying to figure out how to create a character, create a -functional- character and actually select a female image for my female characters and colorize them distinctively rather than have everything default to an identical confusing male knight in battle.

The other half was spent in a repeated grind cycle of sneaking around at night, fighting thieves in alleyways while trying not to die, saving and reloading, getting poorer and poorer while becoming more famous (figures, huh), alternating between making an innkeeper very rich and running out of the city to squat free-of-charge on some lord’s land while waiting -weeks- for wounds to heal.

Getting bored of this, I got a local quest to take on the local robber knight, went through a dozen saves of getting beat up by his men because one was too inexperienced and ill-equipped to handle them, finally hit upon a sequence that let me surround him alone with four very new adventurers and got lucky.

Now suddenly rich beyond my wildest newbie dreams, I went on a shopping spree. A test skirmish in the docks at night shows that I may have overdone it, because everybody is now encumbered and fighting worse than before. *sigh* Inventory management ahead for the next gameplay session.

Other Games – Picked up quite a haul with the Steam sales and Humble Bundles. Not sure when I’ll have time to get around to them, but on the to-try list: Gone Home, Gnomoria, Droid Assault, Anomaly 2, Tower Wars, Dust: AET, Deadlight, Pixeljunk Eden, Brothers, and Sang-Froid. Among others.

I’m staring at XCOM very hungrily and Witcher 2 always going on sale keeps reminding me that I’ve never made it through Witcher 1. *sigh* They’ll keep. I’m sure they’ll go on sale again at SOME point this new year.

A good deal of my game playing time has evaporated too because I’ve lost a week to reading a very intense and well-plotted web fiction serial.

Worm is a story about a teenage girl who gained bug powers and wanted to be a superhero. Except things go wrong, and she has to decide if she’s willing to do wrong things for the right reasons. It’s a setting where every character, hero or villain, is protagonist of their own personal story. Everyone is justified, in their own eyes, and conflict happens when motivations clash. People who loved City of Heroes should give this a shot. It’s darker in tone, but very well-written.

(This series was introduced to me via Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality fanfiction page, another good if lengthy read. A far more interesting, scientific and logical Harry Potter, perplexing all of Hogwarts. Don’t blame me if you end up losing hours to these links.)

Each chapter I go through, I’m in utter awe at how solid the writing craft is. Scenes force change. There’s cause and effect. Characters are compelling and have individual wants. Conflict, tension and suspense bleed through every page. Have trouble with plotting? Not this author, they keep coming up with the most compelling litany of things that could keep going wrong for the protagonist.

It’s bloody inspiring, that’s what it is, and I end up trying to devote some time to my own personal writing and solo roleplaying too.

Gaming and blogging time curtailed as a result. Will see you guys as and when there’s more stuff to talk about.

What Passes For a Short Vacation from GW2

So ugly, so dismal, so much waiting...

The problem with playing two games is that one runs out of time for blogging about either.

Not that there’s much to blog about on the GW2 front.

The novelty of Terraria Time has eaten into the decidedly un-novel achievement checklist of the Tower of Nightmares – which was thankfully set at a more sane level for casuals, so I felt more comfortable stretching that out over the first week, instead of racing desperately to finish it.

There’s nothing new I can say about visiting Toxic Offshoot dynamic events and either siege goleming, mortaring or keg bombing them into extinction, and then harvesting pristine toxic spores. If you play the game, you’ve done it, same as everyone. I can’t exactly tell an entertaining story around that.

My graphics level has also been set at permanently ugly, ever since crashing out of Kessex Hills after the zergs came visiting, so there’s nothing to show off on that front either. Not that toxic corruption is very photogenic either way. Everything is a depressing dull green reminiscent of the soulsucking paint that is said to decorate the walls of ancient hospitals or asylums.

The only thing I can grumble about is the seeming impossibility of grinding out 250 spores for a recipe from Marjory. (I got to around 178 by the time I finished the achievements.)

I find myself having little patience for visiting an endless amount of DEs (though no doubt, they may be a pretty good source of xp for those looking to level a character.)

The best way to obtain gold seems to be dungeons. Which admittedly is an interesting concept, if it’s most profitable to run group content for $$$, you’ve suddenly made participating in group content pretty attractive and also made it harder for gold sellers to bot (rumors of bots able to run CM not withstanding.)

Which is all very well for those with a static group able to run 8 dungeons in 2 hours, but I neither have that kind of group nor to be frank, do I have the mentality to be able to log in like clockwork every day at a certain hour to run with that kind of group before developing an intense loathing for that activity.

(It’s the feeling of letting people down if I’m not able to make it on a certain day that I dislike. I try to make Teq runs like clockwork on days I can make it, but for example, if I skip three days in a row like I just did recently, I know I’m not going to be missed because there’s always someone else that would be keen to get into that overflow and make up the spot.)

So it is a lot more realistic for me using the LFG tool to aim for 2-4 dungeons a day at best.

I recently expanded my comfort zone back to including Ascalonian Catacombs – path 1 and 3 at least, no one seems to like running the ‘improved’ Ghost Eater these days so I haven’t an inkling just how intensely that fight has been ‘improved.’

TTS has been running dungeon nights every week and I managed to make two of those and got my feet wet with the last two Crucible of Eternity paths I was still missing. Surprisingly not that bad, though there are some bits that do require a bit of coordination, and I still harbor an intense loathing for those lasers – I’m convinced latency is an issue as one would have a time delay between seeing when the laser is off, starting the jump and landing, and taking off again before the server says, “nope, the laser is really -here- and you’re dead.”

Bright side, apparently only two need to make it across. And I did manage -one- attempt after having stripped down to a loincloth and dying some five times or more, in a group where three other people were having even more trouble than me.

Then with one Honor of the Waves path 2 left, I just kept an eye out for any PUG running it and hopped in.

There was also a brief story mode side trek. That art still looking good.
There was also an opportunistic story mode side trek to unlock the dungeon for my warrior. That cinematic/concept art, still looking good.

Hooray, one more title that means absolutely nothing. I feel more like a Dungeon Tourist rather than a Dungeon Master, since a good half of the contributing dungeons were only visited once ever. It’s certainly not something I feel comfy displaying, but it’s nice to have that box shaded in and future gold runs now count toward the endlessly looping repeatable.

Anyhow, my dungeon earning intake is more on the modest scale of 2-5 gold a day, depending on how many I decide to run, mostly prompted by whim and feeling very carefully for the boredom/sick of it point.

Reddit was suggesting the Frostgorge Champion loop earns up to 7 gold an hour, which seems a little improbable, but I suspect they’re offloading everything and including TP profits.

Which I usually don’t, I prefer to pull direct from the source of where the virtual currency is being generated, wherever possible.

Harnessing the TP is merely transfer of money from player to player, which is good when you’re poor and others are rich, and evens out the disparity that way, but one almost always loses out something in the exchange, via taxes or flippers. I like it as a supplementary source of income, a decent alternative when doing the primary activity bores you to tears.

Anyhow, I can only stand a champion train in short doses. Half an hour before I get antsy. So it’s less a source of income for me and more a source of blues and greens for luck conversion and an amusing lottery ticket excursion to open some bags and see what pops out.

Seeing as I don’t have the patience right now to exchange time for in-game money on any large scale, yet still dearly want the new recipes to complete my collection and soothe my OCD, the last alternative is pretty clear. Joining the ranks of those helping to push the gold to gem exchange rate in the other direction, downward.

100 gems exchanges for about 4.9 gold, which is also roughly the price of a stack of pristine toxic spores on buy order. That’s a dollar twenty five per recipe, and I only need six of them to unlock crafting access.

Those spores trade at pretty phenomenal rates. While hanging out at Teq for two hours and making use of the two tabs, I’ve bought myself  five stacks. I suppose the other can wait till I run a few more dungeons.

I can only presume that this implies a thriving market with both buyers and sellers.

There must be enough impatient hardcore minded people willing to drop real money to take a few shortcuts, plus a good base of either casuals or gold-selling bots spending time to gather up the resources for them and trading it off in exchange for in-game gold.

Will I regret it later?

I doubt it.

There’s talk that the whole Tower of Nightmares / krait affair will likely last longer than these two weeks as there’s probably still a couple of Scarlet-related updates to go. It -may- still be possible to keep earning those pristine toxic spores then, at -possibly- increased rates. After all, the recipes also use the spores as ingredients. Maybe. Assuming Marjory is still selling them and hasn’t decided to move off elsewhere in the next update.

The price may very well crash in the next month, making the recipes more affordable.

But that’s… a lot of ifs.

It may be that I just end up able to enjoy them sooner, and have more peace of mind now, rather than later. Still worth the premium price tag for me in my current situation.

The uncertainty is just not something I want to deal with right now. I already have one long term earning/buying project – the Bloody Prince mini – in the works and that’s likely to take up the remaining Halloween time and then some. I might miss that, but it’s only a mini if I do.

I suppose it is akin to buying new PC games. If you want to play it -now- just as the launch craze happens and everyone is talking about it and enjoying it, you pay the premium of 60 bucks and get to enjoy it sooner. If you’re willing to wait and risk the possibility that no one will be bothered with the game six months to a year later, you can get it for half price or even cheaper if you wait longer. (Except in the case of collectible editions that may no longer be in print and force you to buy ’em at a mind-blowing price from eBay later if you suddenly develop a craving for something ridiculously rare.)

Whatever.

WvW time has been shoved aside for the past two weeks to make room.  I’m about halfway to three quarters done, so I figured there would still be a bit of time to pick it up again later.

Mostly I’ve just been having quite a bit more fun in Terraria, which I shall get to in the next upcoming post.