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.

GW2: No Plan on Paper Survives Contact With Players

I’m sure you were waiting for some coverage on the Aspect Arena activity. I thought I was going to write a post about it too, to round up the last part of Cutthroat Politics.

But somehow, with the last “fix” to Candidate Trials completely invalidating much of the “control” portion of the trinity once again and making dps berserker gear king once more, a lot of the fun and joy of the update has evaporated for me.

I just can’t bring myself to play Aspect Arena again. The underlying thought is, “Ok, fine, achievements all done. Time to discard bothering with everything I don’t like.”

This is actually no fault of the minigame itself per se. On paper, I appreciate it a lot more than Southsun Survival. It’s a Kiel game, team-based, three different “classes” with synergies that are meant to interact together.

The main problem is, I can’t seem to find players who want to play the game for what it is.

I took one look at the achievements for Aspect Arena and went, oh, that’s nice, no “wins” required, a lot of this can easily be done just playing the game repeatedly. At most, the only thing artificial might be you waiting a little for some guy trying to get crystal carrier to pick up the crystal -before- you stop him by killing him dead for crystal breaker, but in a CTF game, you were going to stop him dead anyway.

Except my first few forays into the game revealed either a) collusion between teams to get achievements, or b) a whole lot of individual death-matching.

I didn’t really have issues with the first. It was bound to happen. And mostly it made them easier targets and my life easier. When the loud ones started announcing achievement swaps over chat, I said nothing and alternately took advantage of most of them being gathered at one place to avoid the dogpile and run crystals for my team almost completely unmolested, or I ambled over when I was bored and ruthlessly slew the opponent who happened to be carrying the crystal AND being so nice as to stand still.

It’s also really easy for the alliance to break down as it just takes a few players interested in playing the game for what it is to STOP a colluding crystal carrier, and people start feeling like they need to retaliate. Voila, folks starting to attack and play the game once more.

The second frustrates me a lot more. I get that way even in FPS games that are ostensibly meant to be team-based and I end up seeing practically everybody just dueling it out and racking up personal kill counts. I make it a point to guard the flag (crystal) carrier for my team, hassling anyone who comes near with the intent of shooting them, throwing up stability fields, etc. Then when I run the crystal, of course, there’s no one around. If I’m lucky, there’s no one from the opposing team either.

Whatever. I took an immediately liking to the Sun aspect, probably because nearly everyone went Wind in the first few days and I found Sun a good counter. It’s also very flexible and mid-range, where I like to be. Dump the first attack on autoattack, and no matter what range you’re at, you’re machine-gunning somebody’s health off – get in closer to fry more health off as needed. Throw up Bastion to counter the inevitable attempts at knockbacks.

I don’t claim to understand many more of the other skills. I could if I wanted to, but I personally find the whole concept of Aspect Arena a little too abstract and meaningless to master since it’s only hanging around for a week or two. Also, jumping. Geographic location. Aspect skills. All previously established that the three do not mix well. Which kills a lot of the fun attempting to go vertical with the other two aspects.

So I ended up just pounding the hell out of the number 5 Sun skill, still having latency issues with precise control of when it stopped, but just doing my best to arrange very long straight routes to the cap points and trying not to over-dash off any precarious ledges to my doom.

Won some, lost some. Par for the course for a team PvP game. Got the achievements. Can’t bring myself to play much more of it. I mean, it’s basically just Capture the Flag with unfamiliar skills that do not work extremely reliably well for me. With two flags, to boot.

Two flags just means the team is diverted and splintered up even more. Yes, it makes it easy for achievement-seeking crystal carriers. I got a number of carries just going to the crystal where no one was fighting over. But it’s just not very interesting. The skills are unfamiliar, and thus things that happen may feel a little arbitrary. I could play a much faster and smoother CTF game at any time by loading up TF2.

That’s all I really want to say about Aspect Arena. I like the idea on paper. In practice, it’s not the sum of its parts for whatever reason. Mostly players playing it in unintended ways.

Which segues us back into a rant about the Candidate Trials. We finally got a dev response about T4’s “new” aka originally intended difficulty.

Honestly, if this had worked as intended from the get-go, I might not be so annoyed. It’s the whole “changing the goal posts” thing that gets to me. I spent an hour with a guildie trying to duo T4 after the patch, and it was just fairly horrific that using the same strategy that worked before, now kept failing in spectacular ways. I made a few game attempts at T3 with various pickup groups and nothing really worked.

To be really truthful, I can’t really bring myself to care that much because I already have the so-called “achievement,” and have now learned the truth of the saying “Exploit early and exploit often.” Why should I care to be inclusive and help others when plainly both ArenaNet and other players don’t give a shit? I’ll just join them and solo and feel a little more dead inside.

I would actually like to do a T4 run “properly.” As in, a group, with damage/support and built for synergies. Like this guy did in the video he posted on the forums.

But because players are now tuned towards avoid all fucking aggro at all costs as a strategy, plus seeing berserker builds manage it solo, you can expect most PUGs to be in squishy berserk gear with very little condition clears doing their best to scatter and not engage any mobs but plunderers at all.

PUGs, when in a hole, will not stop digging. They’ll just keep doing what doesn’t work and getting the same result.

I don’t have the saliva to spend to convince ’em otherwise. Nor will it actually work because PUGs by definition are not generally very well coordinated, nor can you expect gear, traits and builds to be min-maxed AND synergized with each other.

Grouping is further complicated by the system these trials are using, which makes cross-server groups not easy to form. You have to guest over to the server the instance holder will be in, as far as I know. There are only so many guest passes to use in a day.

Whatever, I’m just feeling tired now.

Which echoes some of the sentiments across the blogosphere on the latest content and the surfeit of achievements that are time-limited and adding a relentless pressure to do things the one true shopping list way.

Those who can’t “cope” are finding this manifests in the form of disinterest and boredom and being turned off from the game. They’re not as attached or invested anymore because they simply can’t keep up with every last niggling detail or have missed an update with some part of the story.

I see a mirror in this with my current reaction to WvW right now.

Tarnished Coast was paired up with Jade Quarry (T1) and Fort Aspenwood last week. Jade Quarry was, no doubt, going to spank us, but for the sake of server pride and facing a challenge after so bloody long of walkover victories, I upped my game and my WvW play time to give a good showing. It was fun, if more than a little tiring during the SEA timezone.

But when faced with unrelenting pressure, casuals eventually ask, should I even be bothering? This is becoming too “serious business” and not very fun any longer.

Tarnished Coast this week is sandwiched between Blackgate and Sanctum of Rall. The only good news is that the other two servers would much rather fight each other. We just need to pick and choose appropriate times to stay out of the way, hold out heroically, be annoying nuisances and opportunistically help 2v1 the other server.

My reaction is mostly, OK, whatever. I can’t bring myself to care. (This week, anyway.)

I’ve been getting the sense that the WvW community is ratcheting up and getting more hardcore in preparation to take on the T1 servers, and I think one unintended consequence of this is that some of the inclusivity is lost.

Some guild commanders have been going tagless – it helps control the sturdiness of their zerg group by not attracting squishy pugs (oops, were we supposed to use the word militia? Not happening these days.)

There’s been frustration expressed at certain gear or builds, but not much done to help anyone besides sit around expecting that raiders ought to put in the effort to show up appropriately geared and with consumables to match. Did I say raiders? I meant WvW zerglings.

A lot of the map sentry network has gone silent. Many of the sentries don’t seem to be around any more. Or they’ve joined the zerg. Some perhaps have “graduated” to Mumble and voice comms and being active sentries, as there are no doubt map spies crawling all over the place in T1, which makes chat channels slightly tougher to rely on.

Some of the fun seems to be gone, replaced with elitism. I don’t actually find PvP fun in and of itself. My enjoyment tends to exist in running around in a group I can rely on and a commander that is both having fun, building morale and making beautiful tactical decisions I can admire. It’s hard to find such commanders when faced with overwhelming odds – not many can handle it, and I don’t think it’s healthy for those who can to pull 16 hour days in WvW either.

And for what? The score is unlikely to change. Increasing rating just means a better chance at more weeks of unrelenting pressure. I’m already having problems keeping up with PvE updates. There’s no way I can keep up with the hardcore expectations of the solely WvW crowd so I may as well just… bow out. Let ’em laugh and scorn. Whatever. In the end, if they fail to respect the casuals, they’ll be the ones fighting oh so heroically alone.

I can’t help but wonder if those not as into achievement attainment are also getting a touch of similar malaise PvE-wise.

Screw hard. Screw difficult content. I’m ready for some easy mode fun. Here’s hoping for the next update.