Memory is Fleeting

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With all of the recent talk about the World of Warcraft classic server, I have found myself contemplating a lot of things about the game.  We recorded a podcast episode where we basically spent the entire time trying to determine just how vanilla classic would end up being.  The other side effect of all of this is that I seem to be playing my horde warrior over on scryers quite a bit more than usual.  Now if you were to ask me to rank the current expansions to the game that ranking would look a little something like this…

  1. Wrath of the Lich King
  2. The Burning Crusade
  3. Legion
  4. Vanilla
  5. Mists of Pandaria
  6. Warlords of Draenor
  7. Cataclysm

Notice that number one and number two are the second and third expansion, and that weirdly enough I rank Legion above Vanilla.  What you are seeing is that my memory of these expansions and the nostalgia that colors them does not adequately represent the experience of actually playing through them.  I’ve recently leveled through the Burning Crusade content in a fashion given that you end up dinging your way out of it long before you actually finish much of it.  I did do Hellfire Peninsula in its entirety, the majority of Terrokar and a good chunk of Nagrand.  I left the Cataclysm tainted Vanilla lands at 58 and similarly left the Outland at 68 and as a result have spent the last four levels completing pieces of Borean Tundra.  The reality I am straddled with is that the zone design of the first two expansions is simply not good.  I mean at the time it was released it was world better than anything Vanilla had given us and as a result felt like a breath of fresh air, however when you stack it up against modern zone design from say Legion…  it is objectively not as well designed.

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What I mean by this is that the quests don’t flow cleanly from hub to hub and instead it forces you to do a lot of travel time back and forth between a hub and its related spokes.  All the while I was leveling through Outland and so far in Northrend it feels like I am spending a lot of time needlessly travelling between two destinations and this might have been the initial intent.  However after seeing modern quest design it feels like I somehow failed and allowed my quests to get out of sync.  If you fight your way through a micro dungeon with quest A you often find that upon turning in you now have another quest requiring you to go back there.  It is maddening to have to wade through an army of minions to kill a boss that you were already next to and sometimes even killed while completing the first quest.  The other that adds to this feeling of tedium is the mob density and having no real way to get in and out of these destinations without a heavy body count.  Thankfully on my warrior racking up a heavy body count is fun, but on other more fiddly classes this causes the leveling experience to grind to a halt.  The truth is it will probably have taken me twice as long to level through Outland and Northrend as it will have to push through the next three expansions.

As games mature their design ethic shifts significantly and we forget what it was actually like to play these games at the time.  When it comes to Classic World of Warcraft for Project 99 in Everquest… what we are chasing is a feeling not an actual honest moment in history.  I think when players say that they want to play Vanilla again…  they want to return to a time when not everything was mapped out quite so clearly and they had a sense of accomplishment and discovery each time they looted a kobold (and the game subsequently froze).  This is why World of Warcraft Classic is going to be the challenge it will be.  That experience means different thing to different players, and none of the calculations that a game company can make actually take the social component into play.  When I think of Vanilla or Burning Crusade or even Wrath, those memories involve very specific sets of individuals that no longer play the game and I might not even have contact with.  For Vanilla it was the Late Night Raiders, and Burning Crusade it was No Such Raid and when Wrath launched we were excited to be the Duranub Raiding Company.  Three non-guild based raids dominate those feelings and memories and the simple fact that I went through three separate raid groups tells you that there is no way to actually ever join those broken pieces back together again.  All of this said I will have characters on the Classic server, and I will see how this experience actually shakes out in the end.  I just feel like it is going to be exceedingly difficult to please even a fraction of the player base because we all want something different.

Snipers and Hellboars

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One of the core problems with Destiny 2 is that progression is all about luck.  What I mean by that is especially as you wind down towards the end of the power curve, everything lives or dies upon what you happen to pull from your powerful engrams each week.  Once upon a time SquirrelPope told me that he started getting random world 300 blues when he hit 299.5 on his base light level.  I’m at 299.8 at this point and have yet to see one and nor have I actually seen any of the supposed vendor engrams that go as high as 300.  At this point on my Titan I need a chest and a class item to hit 305, which admittedly is way sooner than it happened during the console release.  That said everything is luck of the draw for me and this week my luck was just about as bad as I could possibly get.  In total I got six sniper rifles among the nine powerful gear packages that I have opened on my characters.  Sniper rifle being the only weapon that I consider utterly useless because I have yet to find one that is even close to being worthy of that power slot.  Grenade Launcher is traditionally a stinker as far as slots go, but even there I have Berenger’s  Memory and Play of the Game that I like using.  If I absolutely had to use a sniper… so far the only one that seems even viable is Gentleman Vagabond from crucible packages but even then…  there are so many other good weapons that I could be using in that slot.

I tweeted this comment out last night and I thought I would post it on my blog as well this morning.  I promise I meant this to be helpful and not ragey, but it does frustrate me when I see players effectively wasting the scorch cannon rounds spamming the crap out of them.  I admit that I did not know this was even possible until I got to run the Wrath of the Machine raid in Destiny year three, so I went that long effectively using them wrong myself.  The scorch cannon at face value looks like a rocket launcher with a lot of ammo, but it is way more than that even though the bosses that use it never actually use them to their full power either.  With Titan being the weekly flashpoint planet, you are going to encounter a lot of scorch cannons considering 2 of the 3 available events on that planet involve Fallen Walkers.  The weapon has a somewhat hidden alternate fire that involves holding down the trigger after you have fired the round and letting the munition grow in size before releasing and letting it explode.  You are going to have an auditory and visual queue to this and while you can continue to let this go and keep gaining strength as Squirrel pointed out last night, my personal experience is that the 4 second rule seems to be the most efficient for killing those walker tanks.  What I do is fire a round and then duck behind cover while holding the trigger allowing the munition to grow in size and about 4 seconds into holding it visually doubles in size.  At this point I let it go and let the damage get dealt while lining up a shot for another round.  Basically doing this will burn your target faster and easier I might add than spamming rounds and also give you more than enough ammo to take out both tanks with a single Scorch Cannon.  The AOE explosion is also fun for dealing with waves of yellow bar captains and such, but unfortunately this is a tidbit of ancestral knowledge that has not yet circulated through most of the population given that I see most players wasting these weapons.  As a result I just wanted to toss this thought out there and hopefully it sticks.

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As far as last night goes however…  after my crushing disappointment of being in sniper rifle hell…  I decided to chill out on the sofa with my new favorite orc.  At this point I am just shy of level 64 and am still in the Hellfire area cleaning up the quests.  In theory I should be able to completely skip Zangarmarsh and go to Terrokar, doing the every other zone leapfrog across Outland much like I have done with Legion content.  There is something extremely relaxing about Warrioring it up and all the while chatting occasionally with the Facepull crew horde side.  Mostly World of Warcraft is serving as this super relaxing comfort gaming time for me, and with work being as stressful as it has been lately I guess I am finding I need it.  Right now it is looking like I won’t really get to take much time off for the holidays other than the default days they give us off.  I have too many deadlines crashing in together at the same time, and this is also throwing a massive monkey wrench in my traditional Pax South plans.  Right now unless something massively changes I will not be attending this year which is a bit of a bummer considering I’ve gone every year since its inception so far.  It also means I will miss out on meeting up with friends and hanging out… and the biggest bummer of all is that I just found out my friend Cuppy is on a panel this year.  I would have loved to have seen that, but then again I am absolutely horrible at actually attending panels at Pax.  I tend to miss them while wandering around doing other things.  Even if not for Pax I am hoping to make it back to Austin as some point in the future.

Accidental Orc

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Firstly I feel like I need to lead this post with a tweet from one of my friends that I received last night.

I did in fact do this thing.  To be more specific I went on a spree of mass cancelling my MMO accounts in early October.  I went so far as to actually uninstall many of the games, which is apparently the surest sign that you are just about to decide that you are going to want to play again.  Thankfully I have super fast internet and downloading World of Warcraft really is not that big of a deal anymore.  I am not exactly sure how to explain this one other than the fact that I have been playing on and off with a friend in Destiny 2…  that I first knew through my horde guild in World of Warcraft.  I guess in theory this made me nostalgic about that guild and planted the idea in my head that I really should level my warrior over there.  When you combine that with the weekend we had which was dreary and overcast…  and my desire to just hang out on the couch in a blanket cocoon and do some comfort gaming and apparently all of that translates into playing World of Warcraft.

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The biggest challenge however is the fact that in the process of uninstalling everything I also nuked my addons.  Playing WoW with the stock interface is just not a tenable solution.  My previous UI was cobbled together out of several dozen separate addon packs that I had to use the Curse Client now re-branded as Twitch to maintain.  I did not want to go through that again so I took this as the perfect opportunity to try ElvUi that everyone has been raving about for years.  It took some getting used to because the set up process was nothing like I was used to.  However I decided to embrace the difference and by the end of the weekend I had gotten used to it mostly.  The thing that likely won me over however was the AFK screen where the camera spins around you and your character dances in the corner.  They didn’t need to do this thing…  but the world is better for them doing it.  Essentially over the last few days I have chilled on the couch and leveled from 30ish to 61 as of this morning.  I am now knee deep in the Burning Crusade expansion content and having a weird nostalgic trip down memory lane.  I have zero clue how long I will be playing or even how often but for the moment I am enjoying myself.

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In Destiny 2 news I can now hit 302 on my Titan and in theory would love to either get in a raid tonight or at least the Nightfall on my Hunter and Warlock to potentially get some additional item level movement.  The biggest problem that is effecting me in Destiny is the fact that I just am not a night owl right now…  and that a good chunk of our clan are now on the west coast meaning they are two hours behind me.  One of two things is going to have to happen, either we break into a early evening and late night raid, or we start actually declaring some night of the week to be raid night.  Thus far everything has sorta been on the spur of the moment with whoever happens to be around, and sure that is fun…  but also impossible to plan around.  Last night for example they were wanting to pull together the raid while I was watching Walking Dead, which is literally the only television show I watch all week long.  Other nights the potential start time would mean I would be up until midnight which is just not viable during the work week anymore.  Had I planned for this and maybe taken a cat nap when I got home then it might be doable, but impromptu raiding just isn’t working for me right now.  I want to raid and I want to get through the content but I just need some structure to it.  Hopefully with the reset we can do a better job of planning raid nights.  In theory I am going to try and get one going earlier in the evening tonight so I can at least get some tokens this week.

For Azeroth

So last weekend was BlizzCon and over the last few days I have been dealing with the announcements made there.  On the morning before the festivities started…  I threw out a flurry of tweets of things that I would have liked to have seen, and then one that was my nightmare scenario.  Essentially…  the nightmare scenario is what happened.  As a result I’ve spent the last few days going through the stages of denial and have finally reached a point where I can talk about it.  World of Warcraft for me is a story about being artificially cut off from a chunk of my friends regardless of the decisions I make.  When the game released in 2004 we had a group of players that wanted to play Alliance and a group that wanted to play Horde, and while we attempted playing both sides after a point folks wound up greatly preferring one over the other.  This was a completely foreign concept to me and felt just wrong to have choosing a side mean you were also saying goodbye to a chunk of your friends in the process.  Everquest had factions but they were all personal choices, and even Dark Age of Camelot had Gaheris the Co-Op server that let us all play what we wanted together without the artificially faction boundaries.

For the last thirteen years I have carried a torch in hopes that maybe just maybe the two sides would get their shit together and realize that there is way more at stake than their own petty grievances.  We have come so close so many times as we worked together with the other side to tackle the big bads of the world, but always we are artificially drawn back in to the big dumb red versus blue narrative.  Battle for Azeroth is doubling down on this tired formula and apparently that is what the player base wants.  I have no real faction pride because neither faction has actually done anything that I am proud of.  Sure the cinematic they released for this game is epic, and there are moments I feel shivers of excitement from each side.  I am just wired to be nostalgic about all of this even though it signals the death of the dream I have held for so long.  The faction wall will never fall, and my friends list will always be artificially segregated.  We could do so much more if we were allowed to work together, and bring our Tauren and Orc friends along with our Dwarf and Worgen friends to do awesome things.  I guess that thing that frustrates me is just how tragic and pointless it always is…  all it would take is some communication between the sides and we would stop killing each other and start killing things that deserve to be killed.  Fuck “For the Horde” and fuck “For the Alliance”…  it should be “For Azeroth”…  because the planet is dying while we are fighting .

All of this said…  there are a lot of things that they are talking about that do excite me, but it has been a lot of soak given the first massive blow.  I love the concept of Allied races because it gives the players something that we have requested for so long…  sub races.  From the moment I first knew that the Dark Iron Dwarves were a thing…  I wanted to play one.  The only only problem is that in my perfect scenario they would have been on the Horde.  In truth in my perfect scenario all of the sub races that we are getting…  would have gone to the other faction.  I want to see High Mountain Tauren fighting along side the Alliance and Dwarven fighting along side the Horde.  I want to break down the barriers between the two factions and blend them all up together to where your faction choices are just that…  choices and not something you are locked into.  Basically I am down for anything that degrades the barrier between the camps of players and lets us all do things together.  Unfortunately I am having to come to the realization that it will probably never happen, but in the meantime I guess I am going to be leveling a bunch of new characters to take advantage of the new races.

The biggest obstacle between me and playing the horde was the fact that I didn’t like most of the races.  The reason why I didn’t like the races was the bestial hunch that the male versions of each seemed to be permanently stuck in.  Apparently there is a posture system that is coming that will allow us to go to the barber shop in game and change this…  and in truth that breathes new life into all of these races that I refused to play.  In theory if I can get an upright Orc like the modern Thrall model…  it is going to feel awesome.  Similarly Trolls and Undead become perfectly viable options for me to play.  The number one problem I have with Worgen is that they too suffer from this forced lurch, and I am wondering if maybe just maybe that might be a thing of the past as well.  I love my Horde family, but what always ends up being a problem is the fact that I have years worth of characters on the Alliance side and a handful of false starts on the Horde.  I like being self sufficient, and only on one side do I have an army of alts that can craft anything that I could ever want.  In theory if I enjoy the races more…  I could start working on the same on Horde side.  The draw to either side is the people who play there… not the story.  I am just frustrated that it seems like I will always have to choose one path over the other when I really want to do both at the same time.

 

Shirogane Extreme

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For most of my journey through Final Fantasy XIV, my home has been The Mists Plot 13 where we managed to snag a small house and turn it into our Free Company house years ago.  The sad thing at this point I can no longer seem to remember what ward we were originally located in.  Once we placed that Aetherite shard in our lawn…  I stopped needing to care about which one I was intending to visit.  Over the years we contemplated trying to move houses to something larger, but we were so ideally situated in the ward that nothing ever felt right.  We were across the road from a market board and retainer bell, and just a few short paces away from the vendors located centrally on the zone.  Similarly we were only a row of houses away from the beach making it feel like everything was close at hand.  One of the key problems with housing in Final Fantasy XIV is that it is extremely expensive…  and secondly it is completely unavailable most of the time given that it is physical housing rather than instanced.  Each Ward having a limited number of potential spaces divided up among small, medium and large plots, and unfortunately Square Enix has been extremely slot to add additional resources.

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With the launch of Stormblood came a golden opportunity because they announced that they would be adding a brand new housing area in the city of Shirogane.  It was about this time that we started talk of actually finally moving to a new area, especially after seeing that this new zone had beach front lots.  There was still the logistical problem of having to sell one house and then immediately turn around and try and buy a new one… all the while hoping you didn’t get sniped and end up without a Free Company house in any form.  However at some point along the way they announced that they would be adding in a relocation system that allows you to move houses and everything in them.  There has been a standing joke online over the last few days of the opening of the Shirogane housing area being the ultimate extreme battle… and reading reddit it definitely seems the case.  Functionally how we got the house was having Tam and Ash both online at 3 am PST when the housing area opened… both with enough money to buy a house in the hopes that one of them would be able to get in and purchase something.  Tam absolutely nailed it and got us Ward 7 plot 49, which is a great medium house right off the beach and beside the entrance to the zone.  The nearest Market board is up the hill from our house making it still a short distance away, though I have to admit they have done an amazing job of trying to make sure ALL of them are a very short distance away.

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This is a different shot of our new home, and the one that Tam posted when he made his “we got one” post.  It is a freaking nice location and the only problem we have right now is dealing with trying to decorate it given that we moved up from a small…  and this thing seems massive with three floors.  There is currently some sort of a bug hitting a bunch of us with our private rooms, but I put in a ticket and am hoping they can do something to fix that.  The Free Company house has been this hub of activity for our members over the years, and while it is going to feel weird to be in a new location… I am sure given a short amount of time it will feel just as much at home as the last one did.  I’ve not really had time to meet our neighbors but I am hoping they are as cool as our last batch was.  It seems however like we were the lucky ones, given that everyone is clamoring for more available properties.  I think if you were not awake at 3 in the morning when the plots went on sale… you didn’t get a home simple as that and it reminds me of the land runs that happened in Horizons each time a new housing area opened up.  This is the problem with physical player housing, and one of the reasons why I tend to prefer implementations like Everquest 2 or Wildstar that have unlimited instanced housing.  I will say the feeling of a physical neighborhood with other players that you get to know over the years as you hang out at the market board is pretty great.  It just sucks that so many players have to go without housing because of this.

 

Guildhalls and Shield Charge

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Tonight is the launch of the Destiny 2 console editions.  Technically it is launching on Wednesday but they are starting that clock at Midnight Eastern Time…  which means since I am in Central time I might actually get a chance to poke my head in and check out the game at 11 pm tonight.  I have not plans to do a late night marathon or anything like that, but today I am mostly wanting to show off the new artwork from Ammosart that I commissioned for my blog header.  Since adding “LalaBel” to the header with the launch of Stormblood…  I’ve been plotting to add something up there to balance things out.  With the launch of Destiny 2 and my new love of the Sentinel Titan… I thought it would be pretty great to add a version of me charging with the void shield.  The only problem here is…  Ammo was working off a game that wasn’t out yet.  I gathered up a bunch of screenshots from the PS4 beta, and attempted to augment them with as many relevant screenshots as I could find around the interwebs.  I am super happy with the end result and she did a great job of capturing the whole “covered in void energy” aspect that happens when you are ping ponging between mobs while charging like Captain America.  Now I have a version of myself as a Sunbreaker that she did earlier as my avatar…  and now a really cool version of the Sentinel that emblazons the blogs masthead.  I had hoped she would get it done in time for the launch and like a trooper she pinged me last night with the final version.  I cannot express in words how great Ammo is at this sort of thing.. and like always you should totally check out her website and tumblr for more awesome stuff.  These are of course paid commissions, so please please please don’t go pestering her for free work.

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As far as other happenings this weekend… I split time between Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft.  In truth I played way more WoW than I expected to be playing, especially working on assorted World Quests and Emissary missions.  That said the bulk of my time was spent working on a bunch of scattered objectives in Guild Wars 2.  About a month ago the AggroChat crew and friends managed to get a guild hall purchased for Greysky Armada the GW2 branch of our FFXIV guild.  The only problem is… saving up the currency and influence was only the beginning because you have to in theory fight to take back the hall from the mo that had invaded it.  We tried this with about five players shortly after purchasing the hall and failed miserably.  I’ve talked about the process before, but functionally there are mobs that spawn in that you have to take out… and you have something like 3 mins from the moment they spawn to defeat them.  The problem is that they could be anywhere on a rather large map.  With five players, if we happened to be close to one of the Maws we could take it out without much problem…  but the run time combined with the time to chew through the copious amount of adds meant that we were always behind the curve.  Each time you fail to defeat a Maw the toxin levels increase… which is functionally a hard timer on how many attempts you have before you have to call it and try again.  Monday afternoon we managed to gather up a bunch of folks and had I believe nine people working on this mission and that seemed to go so much more smoothly.  I think there was one that we failed to get, but shockingly we kept knocking down Maw after Maw until we were rapidly approaching the final boss phase… where you have like 10 minutes to defeat the purple border Legendary mob that you can see me fighting in the above image.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon pouring through our vaults and dredging up materials to attempt to purchase upgrades.  By the time we called it a night we had a chest full and ready for a couple more upgrades…  and have the guild sitting at Level 5.  Basically at the moment we are favor locked, which is the currency you gain by doing guild quests.  We did the Trek one yesterday which is pretty simple… and failed miserably at completing the bounty task.  That one gives you 15 minutes to kill 3 mobs that are roaming around the world.  Firstly the mobs are not static spawns and you have to go “find them”, and then some are spawned by doing other activities…  like kicking suspicious barrels in a zone with about 300 of them.  The real challenge though was killing the mobs fast enough because these spawn in as champions… and one of them was absolutely straight up one-shotting me as a Hammer Warrior which is pretty tanky in the grand scheme of things.  Basically this again is a situation where we need more people on at a given time so we can spread out and then coalesce on a target when someone finds one and take it down quickly…  then return to the hunt once again.  I also need to see what the specifics about Hard Weekly Challenges are…  to see if this is a thing we can actually manage to do.  I am questioning it however given that it suggests that we have 15 players…  and so far this suggestion number has been pretty right on the money.

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It feels like opening up the Guild Halls has infused me with new purpose because finally I have a reason to be stockpiling all of these materials.  I am just thankful that none of the materials are the ones that I have been needing for pushing Weaponsmithing up higher…  which currently sits at 486.  The other thing about me is I am notorious for taking the hardest route to get somewhere…  and this has been true with Mastery points.  For whatever reason I decided to keep focusing on the Pact Commander tree…  and then once I realized what was at the bottom of that tree I just kept going.  This put me in the position of needing 8 Mastery points to finish it out and gain “Advanced Logistics” that enables the Auto Loot checkbox in the options menu.  What this does is allow you to stop feeling the need to hit F constantly to try and loot corpses after everything you killed.  I know over the years I have left a lot of loot on the battlefield because I get caught in the heat of the moment and am busy whacking things with my hammer to notice that I had a prompt telling me to loot things.  The only negative here is I am afraid this will be one hell of a way to fill my bags…  but then again I have access to Mistlock for selling and banking anytime I like.  Additionally as we build out the Guild Hall it will serve as a similar option some day.  I’ve known for awhile that there were a bunch of Mastery points that I could get by running around Tyria and communing with certain locations.  The problem is I never really did anything about it… until last night when I literally ran around and collected all of them.  This gave me enough Mastery points to earn Advanced Logistics that I was after as well as enough to pick up the next rank in the Fractal Attunement tree.  Overall this takes my Mastery rank to 29…  which still feels like a complete newbie in the grand scheme of things.  Every time you complete one objective in this game it seems to unlock a dozen more that you didn’t even know existed…  which is I guess how it has kept people engaged over these last five years.

 

 

Convenience Items

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Generally speaking I am pretty neutral towards “cash shops” in MMORPGs.  I’ve come to look at them as a sort of necessary evil in a world where the subscription model is largely broken.  When monthly subscription revenue stopped being able to support MMO titles… they were forced to branch out and look in other directions to figure out a way to pay for the development of new stuff.  There are times where this feels largely okay… and there are other times when it feels exploitative when more limited time cash shop only content is coming out then patch content.  All in all the model gets a lot of crap from the gaming community, but there are times when the benefit gained more than makes up for the generally icky feeling inside you get by having to deal with it.  In the case of a game like Guild Wars 2 where there is no “player plus plus” sort of system to entice you to go back on the monthly subscription plan to get additional access to shiny baubles…  it probably feels better than a lot of options.  There is a lot of stuff on the gem store…  most of it of no interest to me.  Generally speaking the Guild Wars 2 shop is full of a bunch of convenience items and cosmetic items.  The value of both is extremely personal, but this morning I thought I would talk about a handful of items that I have picked up over the years that have made my life in game more enjoyable.  Something of note… in all cases I caught the items when they were on sale and did not pay the full market value.

Copper-Fed Salvage-o-Matic

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This is hands down the single best purchase I have ever made in Guild Wars 2.  One of the biggest problems I have with the game is that it has a constant upkeep cost…  namely that you have to keep running to a vendor to buy more salvage kits and as I will talk about later…  harvesting tools.  Now there are times when I care about what I am getting from salvaging an item… in those times I either dip into my stock of Black Lion Salvage kits that I have accumulated… or my Mystic Salvage Kits that are extremely reasonable to make.  However most of the time if the item is green or lower I just want to grind it into bits to get it out of my inventory.  In those situations you are largely just going to use basic salvage kits that you can pick up off the vendor cheaply.  What the Copper-Fed Salvage-o-Matic does is save you that trip and simply charge you 3 copper per item salvaged.  This is ultimately a savings over the 3.52 copper per salvage from Basic Salvage Kits… but you would ultimately need to grind down something like 3 million items before saving enough money to have it “pay for itself”.  The convenience however makes it well worth the normally 800 gem price…  and when it goes on sale it is significantly cheaper.

Unbreakable Gathering Tools

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In a similar vein to the Salvage-o-Matic…  my next favorite purchase is something lumped in the general category of unbreakable tools.  I harvest everything in this game, because you never know when you might need all of those Strawberries.  As a result I used to have to constantly run to vendors and buy new tools… or in my case I used to carry around a stack of them taking up inventory space just in case one broke…  and I was standing beside a rich mithril node.  There are lots of different individual tools that have various effects on them…  and I managed to pick up my first set of unbreakable tools by slowly snagging them one by one as they went on sale.  As a result I have a mismatched set of a Clockwork pick, Molten Axe and Mad Scientists Foraging tool, but the functionality of never having to worry about running out of resources makes me extremely happy.  They also have a way less frilly set of tools simply titled Unbreakable Gathering Tools that gives you normal looking versions of each of the tools that simply never break.  This basic set normally goes for 2400 gems but over the weekend due to the Anniversary sales was going for 1680.

Mistlock Sanctuary Passkey

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One of the things that Guild Wars 2 added in is a number of cloistered areas that require some sort of access pass.  All told there is the Captain’s Airship Pass, Lava Lounge, Mistlock Sanctuary, Noble’s Folly, and Royal Terrace…  and with Path of Fire they are giving us another one called the Lily of the Elon.  Functionally they all serve the same role of giving you instant access to a condensed area that contains every possible NPC that you would need to interact with.  What makes Mistlock interesting is that it doesn’t exist in the normal world map…  so instead they give you a portal merchant that will take you to any capitol city in the world…  or return you to the zone you were just in.  I find this functionality to be amazingly useful especially when I need to just step AFK for a bit, and the ability to return me to almost exactly where I standing before is insanely useful.  Where this really comes in amazingly well is on alts that maybe don’t have access to the rest of the world yet.  There is one weird glitch however…  if you take an alt to Lion’s Arch before the story actually takes them there…  it will play the intro video as though you had just zoned in every single time you go there.  The weird bit of Mistlock Sanctuary… is that it is rarely actually for sale.  When it is you can pick it up for 1000 gems… but you have to watch the store like a hawk for when it is listed next.  There are limited time passes available on a regular basis…  but I personally only care about something like this if it is unlimited use.  This may or may not be why I have a bank full of short term convenience items that I will likely never actually use…. and wish I could put up on the market board.

Shared Inventory Slots

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I don’t really have a relevant image to this one… but one of the super handy things you can pick up in the game that is super cost prohibitive is shared inventory slots.  Sure your bank is shared by your entire account but starting with Heart of Thorns they started giving us the ability to add a special bag at the top of our inventory with items that are shared between all of my characters.  This becomes extremely handy when you say… put your Copper-Fed Salvage-O-Matic up there… or your Mistlock Sanctuary Pass.  Then every single character you log into can easily benefit from access to these items.  I wish the unbreakable gathering tools could work similarly… but unfortunately for those you either need to hot swap them between characters or own multiple sets.  When I say these are cost prohibitive…  you get one for purchasing heart of thorns and another for purchasing path of fire…  then from there they cost 700 gems per slot with price breaks if you buy 3 and 5 at a time.  You can in theory have 18 total per account…  but I imagine most players have significantly fewer given the cost.  Right now I largely use them as a way to give my Salvage-O-Matic, Mistlock pass, and my growing stack of Teleport to Friend items to all characters. In theory if I ever managed to pull one of the unlimited use bank or market passes…  they would go there as well.  Combined however all of these items have lowered the amount of day to day upkeep I have to deal with when playing Guild Wars 2… and as a result have greatly increased my overall happiness with my gaming experience.

 

 

 

Enjoy the Path

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The first image of the evening is what happens when you catch the daily completion bonus train.  I am still floored by the sheer number of people actively participating in events.  One of the cool happenings of the night though is that I organically crossed paths with @vbarreirojr who was one event behind me in the progression.  I sort of love the concept that happens in this game of the commander…  because you can see the telltale icons on the corners of your map and generally speaking are a reasonable indicator of where some manner of activity is going on.  I’m also starting to learn to get a bit better at watching chat.  Often times as new events are starting up someone will link a waypoint to allow folks to jump to it relatively quickly.  Through a combination of follow the catmander and waypoint jumping I managed to knock out the daily completion bonus in what felt like record time.  I think part of it as well is I am starting to develop a little ancestral memory, as to which are the best areas to harvest resources and which are the easiest vistas to view to get completion and such.  It’s funny how I almost look forward to the daily completion bonus because it ends to give me some focus…  and from there while participating in it I come up with some other game play for the evening.

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Early in the day I was talking to a friend who is contemplating trying to restart the game, and was questioning what sequence of things she needed to purchase.  Firstly I think Guild Wars 2 is either something that feels good or doesn’t… and lord knows it took me five years of trying it to finally figure out the secret to being able to enjoy it myself.  You can scan back through the history of this blog and you are going to find a bunch of posts that are pretty negative about this game.  I wrote one in particular where I called it one of my five biggest MMO disappointments just so you have an easy reference.  You are going to ultimately have to decide if the game works for you or not, because it absolutely did not for me for a very long time.  However the truth that I finally landed on is that you have to forget everything you know about how an MMO works to ultimately make Guild Wars 2 work.  What I mean by that is for the most part MMOs are very task oriented and involve you completing a sequence of objectives in order to move on to the next sequence of objectives.  The quest is the most common version of this and that least to more quests and ultimately provides a ladder for you to traverse a given zone with.  When you attempt to play Guild Wars 2 in this fashion…  your brain rebels against you.  There is no quest structure and the concept of hearts are what I tried to latch onto as the replacement.  The end result felt like this grindy busywork as I attempted to complete my way across a zone so that I could then move to the next area, making sure to 100% everything in my path.  In doing so I kept getting frustrated each time something took me off path or off whatever my current task was, and as a result I bounced exceedingly hard off of the game.

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Instead I personally find Guild Wars 2 works better if you view it like an ocean that you happen to be floating in.  If you allow yourself to move along with the current you get to experience all sorts of interesting things that happen along the path.  Instead of staying focused on some large overarching goal…  I find it works best to focus on whatever is presented in front of you.  If there is an event spawning near you, go over there and participate because it often times leads its way to other events in the same zone.  Instead of trying to traverse things in an A B C D E F manner…  I find it just feels better to let the zone explore itself almost.  Sure you end up often times going from A to F to G to C to E and eventually back to B and D…  but it is done so in a more organic manner.  The only negative to this approach is that I find it completely impossible to stay on task.  Ultimately I started playing Guild Wars 2 like I play Skyrim or Fallout…  just letting myself wander off into the horizon and check out the next shiny object in my field of view.  If there is a commander on the far side of the zone…  then I should probably head that way to see what all is going on.  Sometimes this has lead me to zone events that I didn’t even realize existed.  To some extent at times it feels like the game is playing you… but I think in this case it is probably perfectly okay.  This game is full of these extremely intricate micro objectives and feedback loops to keep you caught in their gravity and constantly doing stuff.  The fact that everything scales…  means that you are never going to be doing stuff that isn’t potentially valuable or lucrative.    Basically my advice to learning how to enjoy Guild Wars 2 is to stop focusing on the goal… and start enjoying the path.

 

Saltines and Weaponcraft

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Yesterday was a weird one, namely because everyone seemed to have eclipse fever for lack of a better term.  As a group we had largely made a plan to go over to the roof of the parking garage next door, and by the time the festivities actually started there were between fifty and a hundred people that had the same idea.  The positive is that everyone was more than willing to share their assorted ways of viewing the eclipse.  In Oklahoma we only actually had about 90% occlusion, which made the world feel like a storm front was just about to blow in.  The sky darkened, the temperature dropped a very small bit… but for the most part you could have easily not noticed anything going on unless you happened to look up.  I took the first image with the selfie cam on my old phone and that was just about the peak of occlusion…  and as you can see the day star still seemed pretty formidable.  The second shot is the idea of using a saltine cracker to project the shadow, and the third shot is this awesome box that the same coworkers husband had rigged.  The last shot is the eclipse through the filter of a pair of those shades…  but unfortunately it was hell to get the focus to latch onto it at all.  There were so many sets of shades that people were passing them around pretty freely, and I got to take more than a few peeks at the spectacle.  The only problem is…  my eyes felt really funny afterwards.  Like in part they felt like they were strained… or like I had been driving into the sun’s glare for too long.  It took about 2 hours for the effect to fully wear off, so I was concerned for a bit that maybe we ended up with some cheap knock off shades and I had done some actual damage.  My eyes are super sensitive to light in the best of conditions…  so forcing myself to be out and looking up…  probably just caused them to strain a bit.

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When I made it home for the evening I was still feeling a little off though.  So my evening activities ended up leaning towards the chill side of things.  Other than doing my daily completion bonus I largely focused on crafting and pushing up my weaponsmithing.  I had this weird sequence of events happen where I saw my character hit 402…  then somehow was back at 392.  Guild Wars 2 has this problem where the UI sometimes freaks the hell out, and in order to fix it I sometimes have to log out and back in.  In doing this I went from the 402 I was supposedly sitting at before I logged back to the 392, which is a bit frustrating.  However since for some reason I didn’t have the pattern to Orichalcum Ingots…  I am leaning to the side of this just being a presentation bug since the UI was acting up anyways.  I still had the materials though to push my way through to the 400s and now everything I craft seems to take a ton of time and materials.  I need to do a heck of a lot more farming of the level 80 zones because I only had the materials for I believe 64 ingots of Orichalcum.  I was in even worse shape in the Ancient Wood department, so I know I will be spending a lot of time in the end game zones doing content.  I am largely going down this path because I want to be able to craft my own ascended gear, and be able to craft my own exotics for  the purpose of trying to gamble and get that precursor.  I realize I should just focus on making a lot of money and buying the damned thing…  but I have a long ways to go until I will be able to do that.

Merry Eclipsemas

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Friday I was apparently smoking something and I decided to attempt to participate in one of those internet meme quiz things.  I was planning on doing it my own way where I just made a giant blog post about it.  However thankfully I did not get enough likes to actually trigger me to release the post.  Side note… I did actually write it and it is sitting in my saved drafts bin but I am somewhat relieved that I didn’t hit the threshold needed in my mind to make that post.  In other news today is in fact the Eclipse and while I am not anywhere near the totality…  it should still be interesting.  There is a big of a gathering happening on the roof of the parking garage next to work in order to celebrate it, but my meeting schedule will ultimately determine if I can attend.  The only negative is that I don’t have any way to view it safely.  I remember watching one as a kid, that had to be the one that happened in 1979 and my grandfather who was a welder by trade had me wear his welding hood.  I have no clue how best to really watch this one… I mean I guess in theory I could do the pinhole camera thing.  The awesome big is that this time we have the internet and live streams… and in theory can get a much better view sitting at the computer than we can outside.  It is extremely unique though to have the feeling that it was daytime minutes before and now you are standing in darkness.  There have been many warnings about not pointing your camera directly at the eclipse, but I was going to attempt this using my old phone’s front facing camera as a sort of way to know when it is safe to look at not safe to look.  Dealing with the eclipse always sort of reminds me of Perseus and Medusa, and trying to use a shiny surface to get a glimpse without turning to stone…  or in this case completely wrecking my eyes.

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I spent most of my weekend playing Guild Wars 2 and attempted to make further progress in the Living Story Season 2 content.  Before I get into that however I want to make another side note about just how damned active people are in this game.  It is really hard to get the scale from a single screenshot given how much people in general move around avoiding mechanics… but I was needing to do an event in Frostgorge sound for one of the steps in the quest chain.  While waiting for it to kick off I noticed a significant number of people gathering… and by the time we actually started there were a good fifty plus players participating.  Over the weekend I discovered Dulfy’s boss timer thanks to my friend Solaria…. and I spent a good deal of time bouncing around and doing world boss fights.  The weird thing about the Frostgorge Sound event though is that this isn’t on the timer…  it is just something that happens occasionally and apparently there are enough players out there wanting to complete it that we end up with the numbers that we had each time it runs.  When I first got to the zone I caught the tail end of the event and did not participate enough to be able to get credit.  However during that running there were still a significant number of players participating in the content.  It just floors me that there are enough players in the game that you can pretty much show up at any single event timer…  and know without a doubt that it is going to happen.  Now maybe during the wee hours of the morning this might not be the case but over the course of the weekend I kept hitting various encounters and each time we had more than enough to make sure it was a success.

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Another big happening of the weekend is that I managed to get my Ranger to level 80.  I managed to get him pretty close through the use of a bunch of Tome’s of Knowledge but I still needed to pour on the last five levels the old fashioned way.  Right now I think I am pretty happy with the combo of Greatsword and Longbow for this character, and have tweaked my spec to emphasize both of these weapon selections.  I cobbled together a set of gear once I dinged and am now out doing a secondary mission with the character… and that is popping between zones and taming animals.  For the most part I seem to have the best luck with my traditional Arctodus and River Drake combo…  but the longer I play the Drake seems to keep pulling ahead in most departments.  They just seem to be universally good… reasonable dps and excellent survival.  All of that said it does nothing to stop my desire to tame all of the things and have a completely filled out pet window.  I’m extremely torn as to which character I should be spending most of my time on… and this is one of those moments when I wish the map progress was shared.  On my warrior I managed to 100% a few new areas and am continuing down that path that I will ultimately need for the Legendary weapon madness.  As far as gambling for weapons…  I’ve decide more or less to stop that nonsense until I can actually craft the weapons myself.  On that front though I am now in Mithril territory as far as leveling goes and considering how much of that I have in my vault it should go pretty quickly.  I am however going to have to focus any of the zones that mine Orichalcum because I am severely lacking in my reserves of that metal.

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The other big take away from the weekend is that I am pretty sure the designers of this game intended you to be grouping up for the Living World content.  I say this because I just finished the second part of Chapter 4 and towards the end of that mission I had died so many times my character was completely naked.  The thing is… it hasn’t just been that one encounter because the last few major fights have taken a significant amount of time and put me up against some extremely hitpoint spongey bosses.  I am not going to go into specifics for the sake of spoilers…  though I guess the above image is in its own way a little spoilery.  I should in theory be grouping with friends to complete this content, but on some level I am getting a sense of pride in being able to do it all solo.  Sure sometimes it hurts, and I always have to repair afterwards but it is also forcing me to actually deal with the mechanics which I am hoping will make adjusting to the later fractals all that much easier.  I also in truth really need to spend some time optimizing my gear on the Warrior because right now other than the few ascended items I have… it is a little all over the place.  I am hoping to push up my weaponsmithing and armorsmithing in part to help fill out some of these gaps as I am already sitting on quite a few patterns that would be useful.  Long story short… still having an awful lot of fun in Guild Wars 2 and still finding tons of casual activities to accomplish.