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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Finally Grasp It

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For several weeks now Tam has been wanting to get those of us together that have Guild Wars 2 and try some of the group content.  However the launch of World of Warcraft Legion put a pretty serious brake on that concept.  We agreed that last night was a decent night for myself, Tam, Thalen, Kodra and Ashgar so we set forth with the plan of getting together and running something as a group.  While we didn’t exactly get that entire team together we did venture forth into Fractals, which are dungeons of a sort, but the closest thing I can really relate them to is the Pandaria Heroic Scenarios.  You are dropped on a map and that map has certain objectives that it is leading you towards.  However as we found out last night there are several things that exist just off the beaten path, like a champion dragon of sorts that we managed to take down.  In total we ran three of them, and we spent a good deal of that time wiping as we adjusted our strategy to be able to take certain encounters down.  Throughout the night I flirted with several weapon combos… but wound up right back at Greatsword and Hammer as a warrior.  However after the fractals I spent some time playing sword and shield again and found it greatly improved over what I remember from alpha/beta.

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Ultimately what it really reminds me of the most are the encounters in Dungeons and Dragons Online.  Those were a fairly unique blend of exploration, reasoning, problem solving… and finally a heavy dose of surviving combat.  The problem there however is this was rendered in relatively low fidelity, and it felt cumbersome to have to comply with the various rules of the actual pen and paper game system.  Admittedly Guild Wars 2 is also fairly fiddly, with a bunch of sliders that you can tweak on your character to build for very specific purposes…  however it feels like it does a much better job at the sort of experience that DDO was trying to go for.  Fractals feel like bite sized adventures… more than just on rails dungeon crawls.  If we can actually get the proper group size on at some point, we need to give dungeons a proper attempt as well because it feels like there are actual tanky characters now.  We did some messing about with a training bot system inside the fractal hub, and quickly found out that apparently I have way more survival than either of my companions.  This is even more noticeable when we actually started to do harder content, because I could stay in and take those hits longer allowing them to hang out on the boundary and deal damage or reflect effects.  In group play it suddenly felt like we each had a clear role to play, and not quite the zergy mess that I remember from the launch of the game.

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This is really the first time in a very long time I can legitimately say I enjoyed playing Guild Wars 2.  It was extremely fun for group play, and that suddenly makes all of the more casual exploratory bits of the game more enjoyable because I know that it is all leading to something.  One of my key problems with Guild Wars 2 has been a feeling that I had capped out and was not really going to improve my gear in any reasonable fashion.  That changed the moment I set foot into the fractals hub and saw all of the “better than exotic” items that were available on the vendors there.  Additionally I used some of those laurels that I had been getting, and not really knowing what to do with them… to purchase a nice neck piece.  Ultimately I feel like I finally “get” why people enjoy this game, and while I doubt it will ever supplant a more traditional MMO for me…  it doesn’t really have to.  The set up of Guild Wars 2 makes it extremely to drop into game with my friends and have a night of play, much along the lines of how non-mmorpgs work.  After seeing that I could in fact be a tank in this game… it makes me feel significantly better about playing warrior, and makes me want to try out some of the other weapon combinations that I long abandoned.  I still have problems with the game in a few spots, but I  think I have largely reached a point of peace finally after all this time.  I can stop trying to solve this puzzle, because I finally grasp what folks see in it.