NBI: Whoops…

… I missed my goal to write every 1-3 days on the very last day of the Newbie Blogger Initiative.

But you know what?

It served its purpose anyway. All throughout the third day, there was this little alarm bell nagging in my head reminding me that I’m overdue, and I was like, “Yes, yes, but real life, and then need time for current games and sleep. Blog juuust a bit later.”

Goals are guidelines. It’s not the end of the world if you miss ’em, but don’t disregard ’em either and use them as a “I missed it, so I might as well not bother” procrastination excuse.

So here’s your stopgap post at 6.50am on Day 4 to stop the nagging in my head.

joker

This fellow’s the reason I missed blogging for a while.

Yep, Batman: Arkham Origins finally went on 75% sale the other day, and according to my “buy a lot of games” greed principle, that was the time to pick it up.

I remember there were a lot of complaints about it being buggy and glitchy and not very innovative when it first came out, but it seems that time seems to have given the developers a little more opportunity to resolve major issues.

I did still encounter two spots where something a little wonky occurred (a suspect got knocked into a wall and then the right click to interrogate option didn’t come up, a fight with a boss stalled when he appeared too soon and the little minions became invulnerable punching bags,) but revisiting the area later or simply  reloading the encounter solved the problem so it wasn’t game-breaking.

All in all, I was able to ignore the glitches in favor of the storyline, which is utterly riveting to me.

It’s a prologue for the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games, so you get to see all the classic hero and villains of Batman at a younger stage of their lives.

You play a Batman that is considerably more reckless and ruthless a vigilante – I was surprised to have the option to beat up cops instead of criminals at first, but later realized that the cops of Gotham were crooked at this point of time, so this younger Batman considered them fair game. James Gordon is still an up and coming influence and again, surprisingly at odds with this younger Batman, a rather pleasant narrative contrast to juxtapose to their later alliance and friendship.

I was thrilled to get a glimpse of Barbara Gordon in her teenage years as well, another nice juxtaposition to her later “eye-in-the-sky” Oracle role for Batman.

And of course, the game’s story tells an origin tale of that classic Batman relationship, him and the Joker. I can’t say more without revealing the plot, but it’s definitely a good ‘un.

batman

I’m still in the last few levels of the storyline, and there’s gliding around the map hitting side quests, solving puzzles and playing a few challenge maps, so expect me back a few days from now.

Dota 2 is still sorta/kinda going strong. Getting an average of a game in every day or so, give or take. Proudly managed to finish the tutorial, at least. More on that when I figure out how to blog about it too.

NBI Writing Prompt: If you’re reading this and a little nagging voice in your head is saying that you really haven’t posted in a while and really should, go ahead and give yourself permission to write a stopgap post.

Post an update paragraph of what you’ve been doing, or take a screenshot of one game and caption it with something. Done.

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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.

End of an Era – Books, Paper Manuals and Game Boxes

It's a tunnel! It's a digitally doctored circle! It's the moon as taken with a cruddy camera!

One is starting to see the light at the end of the big decluttering project I set for myself.

Among the targets were six cupboard shelves full of assorted books, magazines, DVDs, paper files and computer-related items, including hardware and game manuals and space-filling game boxes of a venerable age.

The biggest motivating factor in countering the hoarder tendency has been a revelation that Paper Doesn’t Last.

This sobering fact was driven home by the discovery of small flecks of white and yellow mold sneaking their way onto the sides and surfaces of book pages and a few Magic: The Gathering cards.

I could deal with aging yellowed paper and patiently cleaning off accumulated dirt and dust from tomes undisturbed for a decade. Fungus, I can’t handle.

I suspect it’s an allergy to mold spores. My face turns red, sinuses overload and start running uncontrollably, I end up walking around indoors looking like someone suffering from hay fever and an experimental test of dosing myself with off-the-counter antihistamines kept the symptoms at bay for 24 hours. Pretty much all the confirmation I need without an official patch test or what not.

The solution, of course, has been to go digital.

This two-birds-one-stone strategy neatly circumvents the hoarder part of me that protests throwing away things based on sentimental value (I can still browse through all the things to revive warm fuzzy memories), frees up physical space and reduces surfaces available for nasty things to collect on.

Yeah, I lose a little something in not being able to -touch- my objects, but I’m willing to trade it off since it means those allergens can’t touch me in return.

Tangibility is a two-edged sword, after all.

And the progress of technology and culture has finally moved to a point where this has become more reality than science fiction.

First, the digital camera. Oddly shaped, bulky items need remembering? Point and shoot. Check there and then that everything is in focus and satisfactory, else shoot again. Plug into a computer, copy and upload. The days of slowly taking film to a photo studio to develop are over.

Now, ebooks are in. You can cart around a library in an iPad or a smart phone while you’d probably need a wheelbarrow to do the same with paper tomes.

All the conversion process requires is a really good scanner. That technology has been moving in leaps and bounds, improving in speed, sophistication and ease-of-use. With the right machine and an automatic document feeder, an inch thick stack of paper can be preserved electronically in under five minutes.

I own a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500, which has served me well over the last few years. (By now, it seems there’s a newer model iX500 and an even newer SV600 with a different angle on things, but you know me, hoarders own fossils and toasters, not the latest stuff.)

The biggest hurdle to get over with ADF scanners is the sacrilegious act of book vandalism.

bookblasphemy

There’s the physical de-spining, which I have to do by hand, since I don’t live in a country with a nice neighborhood Kinko’s that can guillotine off the spines for a pittance.

But mostly it’s a mental thing. BOOKS, like bodies, are not meant to be cut open.

“But… but…” the brain says… “What if someone else could have used and treasured the volume?”

As time wears on though, observed cultural changes suggest that it is not so much of a concern any longer. Once ubiquitous secondhand book store chains in shopping malls have been closing and going out of business. I see more people staring at screens on the subway commute than paper. The younger generation watches videos, they do not *gasp* -read-.

Newer published books often come with a cheaper digital alternative. The last few shopowners I found still trading in old books offer to buy a pile off you for 5 bucks. That’s the whole pile. In Singapore dollars, so $3.92 USD. You can’t even buy a Starbucks coffee or a movie ticket for that trade. That’s how unwanted these poor things are.

In a way, it is now an act of preservation to digitize.

The possibility of hard disk failure can be circumvented by multiple redundant copies living in separate external hard disk drives. (Which perhaps makes for slightly dodgy skirting of copyright rules, but they’re all for personal use and I’m not sharing the copies with anybody.)

And the honest truth of the matter is, I’m more likely these days to read a book thusly:

ipadpage

While halfway through the process of clearing out computer game manuals, I realized something: They really don’t make ’em like they used to.

A good majority of the newer manuals were thin, greyscale, stapled items that mostly screamed we’re saving packaging costs and who reads these things anyway?

A quick Google and a replacementdocs website visit later, I had digital copies that saved me the effort of scanning them. Some of them even came in color, where presumably more care was taken when selling to a US consumer than some poor bastard in the Asia-Pacific region.

But there were the rare tomes.

nowtheseweremanuals

Yes, tomes. Mostly from old RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights. Or strategy games like Warcraft III or Civilization III.

Nearly three quarters of an inch thick, spiral bound or with a glued spine.

I remember the times when one purchase of these games was all you got, and equally loving amounts of time was spent poring over these explanations rather than actually playing the game.

These were the guides of old, in the days before there really was the Internet to consult.

MMOs of a certain era were also represented. World of Warcraft, City of Villains, Guild Wars.

IN COLOR. Glossy pages to be thumbed through.

factionsmanual

I ended up keeping the GW manuals. Art is hard to discard.

Then there were the game boxes.

diytotempole

Those terrible space filling packaging items begging to be used as coffee table and mantlepiece displays because they’re so well built and pretty, it’s a shame to throw ’em away.

I suspect I’m still going to hang on to the Age of Conan and Warhammer Online collector edition boxes. They -are- ridiculously sturdy.

covbox

I’m still trying to decide either way on the City of Villains one. On one hand, it’s one of a kind, especially now that the MMO is defunct.

On the other hand, the MMO doesn’t exist any more. Moreover, it’s a dust trap. So probably not.

Then there’s the terrible irony of owning game boxes to stuff that is now found periodically for 5 bucks on Steam.

oblivion

*sigh*

Note the price tag of this one:

orangebox

Yep, once upon a time, it was a bargain to buy this at SGD$65, not $80! (About 50USD, give or take.)

How times have changed, indeed.

I haven’t bought a game that comes in a box for quite a long time now (with the exception of GW2’s collector’s edition box – the outer packaging quickly photographed then discarded, due to its monstrous size.)

And I find that I don’t miss it either.

Goodbye, paper. Hello, digital.