Guildhalls and Shield Charge

belghastsentineltitan

belghastsentineltitan

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.

 

Active World

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As you know from the last several posts I have made on the subject…  I have been playing a shocking amount of Guild Wars 2.  I am still a little surprised myself considering how many years I just did not like this game at all.  Something clicked in my brain and I am honestly happy that I stuck around long enough for that moment to happen.  It’s weird just how much of what we like and dislike happens is related to the experiences we are ultimately comparing it to, and our present frame of mind.  One of the things that I am finding shocking right now is just how damned active the game actually is.  My frame of reference there has been mostly World of Warcraft, where not too long ago I spent some time on low level characters namely in the Ashenvale area.  When pushing up my Orc Warrior I could go the entire night without seeing another single player.  It legitimately felt like I was the only person in zone most of the time, and even if I made a trip to the Crossroads…  it was a bit of a rarity that I actually encountered anyone there either.  The weird part about this is the fact that I play on Argent Dawn and for the most part have every other role-playing server blended together…  including the extremely high horde population Emerald Dawn server thanks to Alea Iacta Est and their presence.

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Conversely while running around in Guild Wars 2 there is rarely a moment when I don’t have another player on screen.  Last night I spent a good deal of time in Snowden Drifts which is a third tier zone in the Norn area, so not exactly a hub of the game.  However each and every time I started to engage with an event or a hero challenge… moments after starting there were a slew of other players hanging out and doing the content as well.  Now I gave the WoW reference not to somehow prove that game is dead…  but just to highlight how vastly different the two games feel right now.  Admittedly with World of Warcraft…  the vast majority of the players are simply not leveling characters because if they are like me they have a stable full of post 100 characters in various states of completion.  Guild Wars 2 has something else going for it though in that it serves to make every bit of content relevant by allowing the world to scale.  Why this becomes interesting is the fact that if you do any major event…  you have droves of players that show up to participate.  The above event screenshot is from a random Ley-Line Anomaly from Gendarran Fields a level 25-35 area.  By the time I saw the server message… and ported over there were already hundreds of players fighting the Anomaly.  What makes this encounter so interesting is the fact that every so often it straight up kills a handful of players, and like clockwork there is always a chunk of players that stick around and rez the fallen before catching up.  Thankfully in the case of this fight the mob drops these beacons that will allow you to leap ahead significant distances to try and keep from penalizing those community minded players.

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One of the cool parts about Guild Wars 2 as well is the fact that at some point in the recent past they decided to open up the base game to everyone.  Now you can pick up the “Standard Collection” for $49.99 which includes the base game, Heart of Thorns expansion and the as yet to be released Path of Fire expansion as well as 2 level 80 character boosts.  That is pretty cool but if you are just wanting to dip your toes in to test the water, you can play the game for free with this registration link.  In truth I suggest that option first given that it has legitimately taken me five years to reach a point where I am finding that I really truly do love this game.  Now that free account has a bunch of restrictions on it, which thankfully they outline in a support article.  Namely it seems like this is the standard protecting the environment MMO fare of limiting communication options.  However there are a couple that are going to be annoying…  namely the limit of 2 character slots and only 3 bag slots given that the game I feel has too small of bags in the first place.  You are also limited to only the starter zones until level 10…  but given you were probably going to stay there regardless that is not a big deal.  Unlocking of Lion’s Arch around 35 is I believe about when you would normally go there through the story quests.  Regardless if you decide you like the game you are probably going to at least pay the $50 to unlock the two expansions.  The biggest annoyance to me would be Living Story Season 2 and 3 which are treated as separate purchases if you were not around to unlock the content when it was initially available.  Now they go on sale periodically, however to purchase them outright would be around $16 per season.  That said I have yet to complete Season 2 or in truth really get started in earnest on it, so that isn’t that big of a deal.  The seasonal content helps you understand the lore of the world and the events that are going on around you.  If you just want to smash things in the face with a hammer like I often do…  this becomes optional content.

Breached Wall

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This weekend was largely one about me playing quite a bit of Guild Wars 2 while doing other things.  We’ve been binging a few Netflix series, and GW2 is just about the perfect sort of game for that activity.  First we went on a tear of watching through all thirty episodes of The Ranch, a comedy helmed by Ashton Kutcher and a whole slew of other That 70’s show alums like Danny Masterson and Wilmer Valderrama.  There are currently the two “seasons” of the show and that is in quotes because the show has one of the most jacked up naming conventions I have seen yet.  Whatever the case its funny, and reminds me so much of the people I great up with.  While I did not grow up on a ranch…  I grew up knowing someone that pretty much was the same as a character on the show.  From there we finally started watching Orange is the New Black and have barely made a dent in it, but it gives us another thing to watch whenever we are in the mood to watch something.  So far I am digging it.  Again it is another show that pairs nicely with Guild Wars 2 because it is a largely verbal show… and far less about what is happening on screen.  This is ultimately why I don’t watch nearly as much Anime as I would like, because I have reached this point where I cannot bring myself to “only” watch television.  I need to be doing something else at the same time, and I cannot play a game and “read” television at the same time.  How I managed to watch Train to Busan is a bit of a miracle…  because it held my attention enough to keep me from wandering back to playing something at the same time.

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As far as game time goes, I have been slowly working on world completion.  In theory I know I should be spending my time catching up to the story…  but I find myself instead preferring the slow pace of working on knocking out various objectives on the map.  At this point I have 64% zone completion, and am slowly focusing the early zones to get them out of the way.  Over the weekend I wrapped up all of the capitol cities and have been doing the first few zones in each area of the map.  I posted the above screenshot not necessarily because it is majestic, but represents what felt like a significant achievement.  Side note…  even to this day I cannot keep myself from snapping a screenshot when I am viewing a vista for the first time.  This vista in particular is in Diessa Plateau at the Breached Wall, and it is a fairly contorted jumping puzzle.  I wound up spending about an hour working on getting things just right so that I could get up there and score some hero points and the vista.  One of the things that floors me is just how damned many people are still active in this game, because during that hour of working on the Vista… I encountered a couple dozen other players trying to do the same thing.  When a group of us finally made it across there was much spontaneous cheering.  The other weird thing about this game is the way that players will seemingly beeline out of their way just to rez someone.  I’ve found myself doing the same thing, and I think largely it is because the game messages it to players that maybe it is something that they might want to do.

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I remember in 2015 at Pax South when they were unveiling Heart of Thorns… the speakers talked about it being one of the friendliest communities in MMO gaming.  At the time I thought this was a weird boast, because I had never really encountered anyone striking up a conversation with me.  However this time… coming back to the game…  I am finally grasping what they meant by this.  The Guild Wars 2 community is not one of words but instead one of actions.  I cannot count the number of times someone has veered off course to come resurrect me, or seemingly stopped what they were doing to participate in some random event that just happened to be passing their way.  I myself have done both of these and if you allow yourself to just sort of ride along in the current of the game is is an extremely rich experience.  My problem previously was that I kept trying to play Guild Wars 2 like I played other MMOs, where I focused in on a very finite series of goals and expectations and at the same time closed myself to the random happenings.  In some way I have started playing GW2 much the same as how I play Elder Scrolls or Fallout games…  where I allow myself to wander aimlessly and participate in whatever happens to cross my path…  or catch my eye.  As a result the game finally makes sense and finally seems as fun as everyone has made it out to be.  I still marvel that it took five years to reach this point of realization…  but I never claimed to be particularly swift.

Finally Invested

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Sometimes I do not understand my own gaming whims.  In theory I should be logging into Final Fantasy XIV every single night and working on collecting the last bits of stuff I need from Omega, or at the very least trying to cap the latest limited tier of bookrocks.  However instead I am finding myself wandering around in a bunch of different games where I have little to no online gaming community.  I’ve been in pretty deep turtle mode, and as a result I have been dodging other human beings left and right.  I’ve talked about the “spoons” concept in the past, but right now it feels like every last spoon I have is getting used up before I hit the house in the evening.  So what this means is a much higher percentage of passive activities like watching stuff from netflix, and a lower percentage of things like gaming that requires active participation.  Effectively at this very moment I am managing two different teams at work…  one of which my normal crew of developers and the second being a sort of response team to an issue that has been going on.  This is eating up every last drop of my time and attention.  There was one day last week where out of what turned into a 10 hour work day… I had 7 hours worth of meetings…  followed by furious periods of attempting to get anything done.  The glorious lie of being salaried is that in theory you get the same amount of money if you work 4 hours as if you work 40 hours…  but what that means in reality is I have never worked less than 40 hours anywhere I have ever been.  Most weeks I work significantly over because I wind up working through lunch.  Needless to say all of this sustained madness leaves me pretty drained when it comes to interactions with other human beings.  To make matters worse in a short amount of time we will be going through the upheaval that comes when my wife starts back to school for a new semester, and having to double down on my support infrastructure as she adjusts to having to leave the house every day.

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I am not sure if it is due to my current state of mind… or if I have just slowly warmed to the game over time…  but at some point I decided that Guild Wars 2 was apparently something awesome to be playing.  I have a really tenuous past with this game that I won’t go into now because I have talked about it at length in the past on this blog.  At some point however it started to feel decent to run around in this world and have all of these little micro objectives that I could be doing…  without feeling like I was terribly tied to completing any of them.  This week however I for some reason started working on the main story quest yet again… and almost five years after the launch of the game I managed to beat it and have officially entered the “living story” content proper.  I cannot tell you how initially turned off I was on the concept of living story being this limited time thing.  The fact that all I can see from Season 1 is a short montage of the events that happened in it still frustrates the shit out of me.  However the fact that Season 2 and Season 3 are sitting there waiting on me actually gives me some reason to keep moving forward in the game.  There is just a deluge of content available spread across a whole ton of games that I enjoy playing…  and in order for me to keep being interested in a game it needs to sit there waiting on me.  In truth I juggle a bunch of games at once, flipping to whatever game happens to feel good at that very moment.  Recently I have been playing a sizable amount of Rift as well because it similarly is devoid of a social community that I have to worry about interacting with.  I have a feeling that if this turtle keeps up…  I will be revisiting SWTOR and Elder Scrolls Online as well… and in all of those cases I know there will be fresh content patiently waiting on me to return and enjoy it.

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What has kept me engaged thus far in Guild Wars 2 was that the story picked up.  For a long time I thought the main arc was a little nonsense, and it involved a lot of characters that I was not that deeply endeared to largely because they were all dicks to each other.  However at some point the tide turned and I got engaged in the race to discover Orr and uncover its mysteries.  This process kept pushing me into zones I had never seen before, which lead to me wandering around and exploring…  which lead to me doing little side missions and objectives.  What used to feel like an unsatisfying loop…  suddenly felt extremely sticky as I slowly became invested in the game world.  Now I legitimately can say I love this game, and it took a really long time to get there.  For years I didn’t understand why people enjoyed it.  There was a point last year where the AggroChat crew and I did some Fractals… at which point I thought I had understood where the core fun of the game was.  However after spending some more time wandering around it feels like the core fun of the game…  is that there is just so damned much stuff to be doing at any given time.  All of it feels equally rewarding and equally likely to give you something that might be useful.  The difference here is that I am effectively in the same gear I have been wearing for the last few years…  but that the game has given me all sorts of horizontal leveling paths that do everything from increase my mobility…  to simply increasing my luck chance.  The best part of all of this is that a good deal is unlocked at an account level so regardless of which alt I decide to be playing…  I am getting a good deal of the benefit.  How I got around the old world without gliding is beyond me… and I have a feeling with the upcoming expansion once I get the ability to ride mounts I will have a similar feeling.  Another major change is the fact that with the expansion character models…  I can now have a proper beard as you can see me sporting in the first image…  as well as a nifty eye scar.  I am not exactly sure when the turtle will end, but in the meantime I am finding interesting ways to enjoy new worlds.

Top Five Lists Are Hard

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I failed miserably at attempting to do a daily creative thing.  Yesterday was an extremely crappy day on the work front, or at least one that drained every little bit of sanity out of me.  By the time I got home I just wanted to vegetate on the sofa and play some games.  With the announcement of the Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire expansion coming in September, this I am sure rekindled the fires for a lot of folks.  For me personally… its particular un-directed style of roaming aimlessly yet still feeling like you accomplished something was a reasonable fit for the state of mind I happened to be in last night.  It’s funny how my opinions of this game have changed significantly over the years.  While I was in Alpha I was not a fan at all… and this is still the only Alpha program I purposefully resigned from.  In Beta however I started to see some of the merits and played a little bit at launch, however that did not last extremely long.  For years afterwards I was a bit at odds with the game and not really getting what everyone else was seeing in it.  However about a year ago the AggroChat crew all returned and started doing some of the group content and more or less I began to see the merit.  More recently I just find it an excellent source of bite sized entertainment…  which is I think the intended goal all along.  Of the original Guild Wars content, Nightfall was probably my favorite “expansion” that of course wasn’t actually an expansion.  So since Path of Fire is going to be in that same area I am looking forward to this expansion way more than I did Heart of Thorns.  I also find it extremely interesting that they are continuing to give horizontal progression…  which on some level has traditionally bothered me…  but also allows me to not feel left behind each time the game moves forward.  The primary problem there is that I feel so far behind in  the alternate progression paths that I will likely never actually catch up without a serious time investment.

Yesterday a tweet was making its way across my twitterverse and it was interesting seeing everyone’s responses.  The problem however is that I personally have a really hard time narrowing it down to a list of 50…  let alone a list of 5.  I made an effort to do so… then as soon as I posted it came up with half a dozen other alternates that potentially could have bounced the titles I listed from contention.  When I look at an “of all time” list I tend to think of things in terms of long term replay-ability as well as the overall experience I had playing the game.  Namely can I pick this title up today and still play it with the same level of joy that I had when I originally played the game.  This means there is a significant number of titles from the PS1 and PS2 eras that are just dead to me without the introduction of a remaster or remake.  We’ve experienced this several times in the AggroChat game club as we attempted to relive a title from the past only to find it doesn’t live up to our modern expectations for how a game should behave.  So here is the list of games that I managed to whittle down to on impulse yesterday.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

This is the only game that is pretty much universally always going to be my number one slot…  until something dethrones it.  I love everything about this game from the art style to the music to the level design.  I have this title in the original PS1 release, Sega Saturn, PSP, PS3, PS Vita, and Xbox 360 versions.  To the best of my knowledge this means I own it on pretty much every platform it has been released on… and truthfully I can happily keep playing this over and over.  About once a year I seem to boot it up and play through it… and I am secretly hoping that the Switch gets a release at some point.

Fallout New Vegas

I waffled on this one a bit because I like ALL of the modern Fallout games… but personally I feel like New Vegas is the best version so far.  It has everything I liked about Fallout 3 but includes a much better overarching storyline.  At release this was rife with all manner of bugs… but over time through official and unofficial patches it has reached an extremely solid state and is one of those games I can still boot up at any time and return to happily.

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

This for me is always likely going to be the pinnacle of the Legend of Zelda franchise.  Its Zelda at its most Zeldaish, and again this is one of those games that I can keep playing over and over.  I remember this also being one of the first times I was completely shocked by a World 2 transition, in thinking I had almost beat the game…  and then finding out that maybe I had finished a fifth of it.  What I love the most is just how much stuff lies just slightly off the path and is not really required to beat the game.

Dragon Age: Origins

There are times I would like to say that I love the Dragon Age franchise…  but in truth I really just love Dragon Age: Origins.  I have significant problems with Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition, and I just can’t ever seem to get anywhere near as engaged as I did the first time.  The thing is… it isn’t actually the first time because I have continued to successfully return to this world and play it over and over.  The Grey Warden storyline beats every storyline they have come up with to date in every possible way… and I just want to keep reliving that character and experience.  Additionally this was my Gateway drug into Mass Effect because if I did not love this game… I probably never would have given that franchise a second shot.

Mass Effect 2

Linked to the one above…  Mass Effect 2 is the pinnacle of the series for me personally.  It does the most things I want from Mass Effect which is honestly the “away mission” feel that you have in this game.  In part I think Andromeda does a good job of recapturing this feeling, but the second game in the series will always hold a special place in my heart because it is the game that made me fall in love with this setting.  I bounced pretty hard off of the PC port of Mass Effect because of the fairly cludgy interface, but after absolutely loving Dragon Age… and finding out that ME2 was going to be using that engine I gave the game a second shot.  What I found was this rich world that ultimately caused me to go back and suffer through the first game so I could experience more of it.  I love everything about this game from the recruitment of interesting characters, to ominous baddies… and even more ominous allies.

More Games

The moment I hit send I had a flood of other titles that really should have been included, and as a result I am just going to run through a few of these without delving into them.  Regardless this is an extremely difficult exercise, because how do you condense over thirty five years of gaming into a single list of five.

  • Destiny
  • Diablo 3
  • Final Fantasy VI
  • Super Mario World
  • Knights of the Old Republic
  • Planescape Torment
  • Super Metroid
  • Phantasy Star IV
  • Guardian Heroes
  • Rivercity Ransom
  • Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo
  • Mortal Kombat II
  • World of Warcraft
  • Hellgate London
  • Wolfenstein New Order
  • Doom II
  • Minecraft
  • Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2
  • Thomas Was Alone

and honestly…  the moment I hit post I will think of several dozen more than deserve to be on the list.  Basically this is a really hard thing to do for me.

Regularly Playing: May Edition

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I had a realization over the weekend as I stared at my sidebar…  that it has been a significant amount of time since I last did the regularly playing thing.  The last one I was able to find was on October 3rd of 2016…  some 210 days ago.  I may or may not have completely fallen off the wagon on this concept.  The original intent was to take a moment once a month to “true up” the side bar and shift out what I was no longer playing for what I was currently playing.  As a result we are going to see some significant moving and shaking in the list as a result.

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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I am still going fairly strongly in Final Fantasy XIV, and while I might not log in every night I am logging in multiple times a week.  I am definitely still making the Tuesday night raid thing, and while we don’t always make progress each week we get together to do something.  Thanks to the wonder of cross server grouping we have been able to pull in our friend Kelesti into some stuff as well.  Largely we are all in a big holding pattern until the release of Stormblood which comes in July, and as a result I am still in the middle of my “level everything” binge.  Right now my Machinist is just shy of 40, and that leaves Astrologian the only thing that has yet to be touched.  The whole purpose behind all of this madness is so that I can purge my vault of anything at minimum sub 30… and the grand hope is to sort through anything sub 50 and be extremely judicious in what I choose to keep.  Still having a lot of fun in Palace of the Dead, just have had other distractions of late.

To the Returning and New

Skyforge

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This is one of those games that has not graced my sidebar in a very very long time.  In July of 2015 I played quite a bit of the game around the time that it launched, and while I enjoyed it… it always felt like it was missing something.  Apparently October of last year an expansion released that added in pretty much all of the features that I am finding myself enjoying now.  Additionally the game just works better with a controller than it ever did with a keyboard and mouse and while I returned primarily on the PS4… I am also dipping my toes back into the PC experience as well.  Both are extremely fun and I am not entirely sure how long I will be splitting time before I officially pick one platform.  Whatever the case if you have ever played this game I highly suggest checking it out.  It has some issues… namely you are limited to three classes at the start with no clear path to add new ones.  However each of the classes is doing something somewhat unique which makes them more enjoyable than the standard Tank, Mage and Healer that they represent.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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There are two things that are shocking about this game gracing my list.  Firstly that apparently I never actually made a “now playing” widget for it, and secondly… that I am back playing it again.  I blame a sequence of nostalgic events happening at exactly the same time…  all of the hype about the next Star Wars movie, the love of Rogue One, and my deep enjoyment of Mass Effect Andromeda has lead to an upwelling of love for both Bioware and Star Wars.  As a result I have returned to an old mission, which is trying to level through all of the class stories.  I managed to finish off the Sith Sorcerer and am now through Hoth so far in the Imperial Agent.  It seems as though I picked one of the best storylines for last, and even though I am not traditionally a stealthy/shooty type class…  there is something extremely awesome about this one.  I largely went Sniper because my Smuggler on the other side of the fence is Sawbones/Healer.  I am having a blast right now, so I am going to ride the enjoyment until it lasts.  The goal is to push forward into the story I have not touched on my Jedi Knight main after finishing the Agent story…  which involves Shadow of Revan, Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne.

Horizon Zero Dawn

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I do not normally put many single player games on the regularly playing list, but we have this sequence of amazing ones being released in short order.  One of those is Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a game that I hit hard at launch… and then for whatever release lost momentum to Mass Effect Andromeda.  As a result I have been slowly playing it here and there as time and desire allows.  I could force myself through the story, but I want to play it when I want to play it… and that is right now involving the occasional hour long session of hunting giant robot dinosaurs rather than pushing forward the main story.  I am still very much enjoying the game, but I need to find some catalyst that really gets me back into it and dying to play the next chapter.  In the mean time however I am still enjoying the “bowplay” if I can coin that term.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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This is very much another “as desire hits me” sort of experience.  When the game came out I picked it up on the Wii U and in the time between then and now I have managed to pick up a switch effecting starting back at square one.  This stalled my progress a little bit but for the most part I have returned to where I left in the Wii U and am once again moving forward.  I have designs on starting to take this to work and playing a little over lunch and on break times.  While I have the switch I really have not done a lot of handheld play with it remaining largely docked upstairs so I can play it with the pro controller.  It is a great game and in spite of having a lot of things that frustrate me about the game… is yet another in a long list of titles contending for my game of the year bid.

To Those Departing

World of Warcraft

While I still have an active account, I am just not really playing at all.  I logged in shortly after the last patch and got bored and logged out again.  I fell off the raiding bandwagon about halfway through Nighthold, and honestly just sort of reached the point I have in so many other expansions.  I think in theory I could come back and play casually and enjoy the experience but there are just simply too many other things I would rather be playing right now.  So as a result this is going to find its way off my side bar, but I did have the forethought to simply comment it out rather than remove it because I am sure at some point around Blizzcon time I will get hit by the bug once more.

Rift

Much like with Nightmare Tide… I just failed to gain traction with the latest expansion the Starfall Prophecy.  A large part of my struggle with Rift is that I can never seem to find a warrior spec that I really like anymore.  What I ultimately want is a juggernaut for doing PVE/Leveling content that can burn through the mobs with nonexistent downtime.  If I ever find that spec again I will return to the game and happily finish up leveling.  The other huge struggle is that the game lacks a reliable current font of knowledge.  The forums in theory have a lot of the information but it is this blend of current information and ancient and no longer reliable, and I just lack the mental fortitude to sift through it.  I am hoping that after writing this… Muspel or PK will come to the rescue once again with a viable Warrior build like they have in the past.  The other huge challenge with Rift is the fact that none of my gaming infrastructure is playing the game, nor do any of my regular suspects have any interest in the game at this point.

Destiny

It hurts more than a little bit to be adding this game to this space on my list.  The truth is I am just not playing it right now and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.  I have too many other games fighting for my attention, and while I absolutely know I will be returning with Destiny 2…  the amount of stuff that I can do solo or want to so solo is pretty limited.  At this point it feels like I would be working towards something that is ultimately going to disappear.  I also have a lot of questions because as it is right now… I am looking at making the leap to PC from PS4 for the second game… and I am not sure what if anything might transfer.

Guild Wars 2

Adding this one to the list really doesn’t take a lot of effort.  I was only into this game so long as some of my friends were actively playing it.  Once Tam and Ash and Kodra faded away… so did I.  It is still not my favorite game but I have developed a certain appreciation for it.  Most of what it is doing however isn’t really all that interesting to me.  I largely got to play along with my friends only because I had maxed out my Warrior soloing for ages without them.  He was geared and ready to go… and will still be there if it ever has a resurgence.  Much like Warframe this is a game that was not ultimately for me…  but somewhat enjoyable so long as I was playing with friends.