Leveling Addendum

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A few days ago I wrote a post entitled “How I Should Have Done It” where I attempted to lay out the way I plan on leveling with the release of the PC version.  Today I am going to talk a little bit about a brief addendum on how I should have been pushing my light levels all this time.  Yes I realize it is now called “power” but after three years of the original Destiny I just cannot bring myself to say that.  Functionally for me I have one class that I care about significantly more than the others… and that is Titan.  I am what you would call a Titan main, and some other players may or may not have similar inclinations.  After 270 the only real way you make forward momentum is through the weekly milestones and the Luminous Engrams that they drop.  I am running at least three milestones on each of my three characters, and as a result I am slowly ratcheting up the light levels of them all.  However I noticed a pattern…  I would start out on my Titan and then slowly work my way through my other two characters and the gains from each would help push up the next character.  What I should have done is started doing these every week in effectively reverse order of preference.  That way my Titan main gets the maximum benefit from the other two characters Luminous Engrams.  Instead what is happening currently is my last string character… usually my hunter… winds up reaping the bounty of potential light level increases because I wind up handing her all of my weapons that got upgraded while pushing the other two characters.

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The other thing that I wanted to talk a little bit about this morning is some more of that “Dark Math” that I spoke off some weeks ago.  This is one of the things that drives me insane with Destiny 2 is that the math doesn’t always work out like it should.  Part of the confusion is that the light level on your character sheet is a lie.  What I mean by this is that all of those legendary mods that you may or may not have in your gear are artificially inflating the total.  You can use a third party tool like Destiny Item Manager to see what your “base” power level is, but generally speaking it is 5 light lower than what is showing in your character sheet.  So right now on my character sheet I show 301 light, and in DIM it is telling me that my actual base level is 296.4.  When things get really confusing is that drops don’t work entirely like advertised.  In theory as I have seen it explained it should work something like this…

  • Blue/Purple Drops/Engrams/Faction Packages — These should drop -5 light levels from whatever your current base power level is.
  • Exotic Engrams — These should drop at base light level +5 so effectively somewhere around the same level as shown on character sheet.
  • Luminous Engrams/Powerful Rewards — these should drop base light level +10 or 5 over what is shown on your character sheet.

I’ve been told that the Exotic Quests that you can complete reward an item that is 18 levels over your base light, but I didn’t throw that in the bullet point list because I don’t with 100% accuracy that this is actually a thing.  The problem is that these are largely just guidelines…  and you are going to see +/- 1 level when actually getting gear to drop.  For example the above shown engram is decoding at 291 as it should…  296 base light minus 5  gives you 291.  However all last night I got handfuls of 290 items instead of 291, and each time I have been at a plateau it sort of fluctuates back and forth between the number it should be and just slightly lower than that number.  Its the fudge factor that I find maddening, because no matter how locked down you think you have the formulate there is always this chaotic nature to it.  Side note…  I am superstitious and feel that Tyra Karn gives me better loot if I go back to the farm and decode my engrams there.

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One of the big positives of the night is that I managed to get my first max light item.  The only problem is… it is kinda a crappy one.  I mean I am not a huge fan of the grenade launchers in Destiny 2, and while there are a few really good ones like Play of the Game…  most of them are awkward to actually get to perform.  Fighting Lion is one of those awkward to get to perform ones… and even worse it is by some quirk of exotics an energy slot weapon and not a heavy.  Sure it is cool to have the damage potential of a heavy weapon in your energy slot…  but I like energy weapons.  When I am not rocking either The Number or Uriel’s Gift I miss it horribly…  so I am largely holding onto this only because it is the highest available light item for that slot I have.  I have yet to do the Luminous engrams on my Warlock and I am hoping maybe just maybe I get another max light weapon while doing that.  I really need to get some nightfalls in this week because I could use the extra chance at decent gear that they offer.

Third Week Summary

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Today is reset day in Destiny 2 and brings a close to the third week of gameplay.  At this point my maximum power on the Titan is 291 and I am really hoping to get some good luck in week four with the luminous engrams.  At this point that is realistically the only way I move the needle forward other than the occasional extremely lucky exotic engram or loot from nightfalls.  This week in particular seems like it is going to be interesting for the Nightfall because there is no way to extend the timer.  The really interesting thing happening in the tower however is the faction rally, where the three faction leaders return and ask you to pledge your loyalty.  The rally itself involves collecting faction tokens for your respective faction in the hopes that at the end of the rally your side has gotten the most.  Most of my clan has chosen to go Dead Orbit… and in truth I think they are likely going to win because at least in Destiny 1 you saw a lot more of those faction emblems than literally anything else.  I personally have been a huge fan of the Future War Cult starting with the No Time to Explain quest line, and in Destiny 2 it is the only faction that has weapons I am extremely interested in.  As a result I went FWC on my Titan main,  New Monarchy on the Warlock and Dead Orbit on the Hunter.  Of the weapons available however…  the only one I have any interest in is the FWC Pulse Rifle with the new version of firefly.

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The real important happenings of the week is that I leveled my Hunter to 20 and wrapped up the main story last night.  Then after doing that I managed to unlock flashpoints and knock that out as well as the clan xp luminous engram.  That means for the week as a whole I finished up a grand total of eight luminous engrams, pushing my total power up slightly across the board.  I am amused at just how fast you can pull up a second or third character.  Functionally what I have done is latched onto a single item from Xur and then all of my higher level weapons from my main.  This has allowed me to get to the 260 or so power level point extremely quickly, and then keep pushing it up by carefully infusion gear.  Similarly this time around I had legendary mods to rely on which is something I didn’t quite have when I was doing this for the warlock.  Granted I don’t have them for every slot, which is why for example I still have some blue boots on the hunter above.  However I feel like I am in a really good place to be going into the faction rally.  Before sitting down to write this post I knocked out a single heroic event on Io and got 8 faction tokens, so I am wondering if we are just going to be flooded with new loot from the faction vendors.  I am perfectly okay with this is that is the case, and I plan on doing a bunch of heroic events tonight to get some of those sweet sweet future war cult weapons.  I am specifically after the omolon auto rifle, because it looks like it might be the same class as my beloved Uriel’s Gift.

290 Power and More Weapons

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Last night I pushed through and hit another Milestone in Destiny 2, and that is hitting the 290 light barrier.  While our clan lead seemed to hit this practically over night… it has been a long slog for most of us.  I’ve talked about this before but the gearing process slows down greatly at 265 and then each additionally point of power seems to be a struggle to obtain.  This is going to be the phase of the game that loses most people because if you have never dealt with how rough Destiny 1 was to get light…  then this is going to seem like a chore.  For the most part I am enjoying the process because I like watching the numbers go up.  For frame of reference however…  the game was released on September 5th and sixteen days later I have logged roughly 57 hours of play according to Destiny Tracker.   Now for additional point of reference I spent just shy of 500 hours playing Destiny 1 on the PS4 and just shy of 50 hours on the Xbox One.  Basically all I am trying to say here is that 290 power level is a significant investment of time, but in theory you could probably also get there just by focusing on the few powerful gear rewarding objectives that you can do each week.  My process has involved a lot of doing random stuff hoping to get exotic engrams that then push me up every so slightly.

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As far as things to talk about this morning I don’t have much.  I thought instead I would share a few new weapon pickups that I am enjoying.  Each week I do the crucible milestone so that I can get the luminous engram associated with it.  During one of the many matches I had to play to get 100% completion to get my loot…  I managed to get this gun to drop.  As far as I know this is only available from the crucible itself or from turning in crucible tokens for faction with Lord Shaxx.  This gun is amazing in PVE and I imagine similarly amazing in PVP given its propensity for one-shot killing almost anything but yellow bars, and even then a single shot will usually strip their shield.  I was using it last night while running around on Io and straight up 2 shotting Vex Minotaurs…  one to drop the shield and one precision shot to kill them.  It did similar magic on Taken Centurions, except their shields seemed to take to shots to drop them.  If you get this gun, I highly suggest you play with it a bit before sharding it because I think you are going to like it.  I also love the name because its a play on two infamous guns from Destiny 1:  The Devil You Know and The Devil You Don’t.

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As the reward from completing the nightfall, I managed to pick up an Origin Story.  I have no clue what weapon I chose at that step in the quest chain…  but I know it was not this gun and whatever I did wound up as infusion fodder somewhere along the way.  At this point in my life I was deeply connected to Scathelocke and could see no other weapon taking that primary gun crush position for me.  However after hearing people talk about this gun, I decided to play with it a bit before using it as power level fuel.  I am certainly glad that I did because my god this gun is amazing.  It is a much slower rate of fire archetype as compared to the Scathelocke…  so if that is the Haakon’s Hatchet then this is closer to the Suros Regime or Genesis Chain.  This has quickly taken my primary slot and the only time I am not using it… is when I am rocking Better Devils.

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A weapon that I have loved for awhile but was not using a lot at the time of the last post is Uriel’s Gift.  I try really hard not to run double auto rifles because it limits the things that I can do, however there is a period of time when I did.  Now that I have started using Better Devils a lot more this is filling in as my secondary slot.  Similarly I am using this a lot in crucible because it just has an insane time to kill.  Out of the gate the gun has really good stability in spite of what looks like on paper a relatively low stat… or at least it has a very predictable recoil pattern.  This allows me to choose High Caliber Rounds to get the stagger effect against enemies.  This has been the game where I suddenly greatly favor Omolon weapons.  In Destiny 1 I always thought they looked cool, but never really liked the way they felt.  This time around I am digging both.  Functionally my two primary setups are Origin Story/Manannan or Better Devils/Uriel’s Gift and I swap back and forth between those as needed.

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This has been the version of Destiny where pulse rifles are just not that good.  I’ve tried a bunch of them and none of them really feel like they used to…  or have the ability to shred enemies like they used to either.  Of the pulses I have tried, I have largely standardized on using the Nergal because it feels the best and seems to perform the best out in the field.  I’ve actually used it a bit in crucible and it works well enough…  the problem is it is just outshined in every way by the Auto Rifle options I have now.  I have this feeling that we are going to see an Auto Rifle stability nerf which will clear the way for the pulse to shine a bit more.  Previously Pulse was the stable multi shot option… and Autorifle was all about learning how to ride a bucking bronco into battle.  If you are looking for a pulse however I highly suggest you check this one out.  I get it regularly from the gunsmith, and it seems to be on a pretty generic drop table.

 

 

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.

Regularly Playing: August Edition

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It has been most of the summer since I last updated my sidebar, and a lot of things have changed.  I figured it was high time that I true things up since we are just about to go into the school year, and starting to enter a pretty tightly packed release schedule for the rest of the year.  For those unfamiliar with this feature, I functionally talk about the things that I have added… the things that are remaining… and the things that I am ultimately removing from regular rotation.  I play a lot of games at any given time… and generally speaking the moment I update my sidebar…  I have a wild mood swing game wise that leads me somewhere completely differently.  So here goes nothing!

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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Since I last posted there has been a lot of movement in this game, namely the release of a new expansion called Stormblood.  As a result I swapped my Heavensward icon out for a Stormblood one.  As far as my time in the game…  I’ve reached 70 and 310+ gear on both my Warrior and my Samurai and have fallen off significantly in the amount of time I am actually playing.  There is still plenty to be done, and I want to get back in the swing of playing on a regular basis, however lately I am deep within my own turtle session which means I tend to be favoring games where I don’t have much of a crowd.  Still well within the realm of active games, just only logging in once or twice a day instead of devoting all of my time to it.

To The Returning and New

Guild Wars 2

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This is the first time since picking up the game at launch that I can legitimately say that I am really enjoying myself while playing this game.  For whatever reason it took five years to actually click with me, and now it is like discovering hidden treasure.  I am attempting to do all the things and it is fitting the bill really well because I don’t have much infrastructure in the game currently.  My current goal is reaching 100% in all of the old world zones, which I believe is one of the requirements for starting down the Legendary weapon rabbit hole.  Another huge boon for my enjoyment of the game is the fact that there are now proper beards for non-norn characters.

Rift

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To be honest since its release in 2011 it has never really been far off my radar.  Crawling back into Rift is like wrapping myself in a warm blanket, because it is so familiar.  In the past six years I’ve had highs and lows with the game, but I know that regardless I will always return and always be interested in whatever happens to be going on.  Recently during my turtle mode game play in general, I have been spending a bit of time trying to catch up and hit the Prophecy of Ahnket level cap.  I am also digging the tweaks I made to my default outfit.  Rift in many ways feels like this snapshot of what everyone wanted in a game around its release, and in some ways it is still ahead of its time.  In other ways though it feels like a time capsule to a time when MMO games were slower paced and more methodical.  I still find it enjoyable and am always proud to feature it on my sidebar when I am playing.

Diablo 3

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Another game that is never far off my radar is Diablo 3, and with us currently being in the thrall of another season…  it is obviously occupying some sidebar territory.  This is the first season to feature Necromancers and it has been hilarious to see literally bone spikes for days.  I really don’t have a whole lot to talk about the game because if by now you don’t get my attraction you probably never will.

World of Warcraft

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I have honestly all but stopped playing World of Warcraft, but I am keeping a space on my sidebar for it because of the RoboSquid Armada.  This is effectively our weird brain chain of trying to run every dungeon and raid in World of Warcraft at level in minimal gear.  Prior to the launch of Stormblood we had left off at Blackfathom Deeps and it seems like everyone is coalescing towards starting this up again.  I am more than happy to do some madness with my baby monk.

To Those Departing

Star Wars the Old Republic

If I am being completely honest… I have to say I love what this game has become.  I had this awesome time playing through the Shadows of Revan, Ziost and Fallen Empire content and then I sort of needed a break from deeply story driven gaming.  It was also around about this time that we were ramping up for the release of Stormblood.  At some point in the future when I need to completely dive into something wholly immersive… I will pick this back up and run through the Eternal Throne story line.  I still poke my head in from time to time, but not enough to keep it on the sidebar.

Horizon Zero Dawn

This is one of those games that I really need to finish, but I have a feeling by the time I ultimately get back around to it…  I will functionally need to restart the experience.  This game is a casualty of too many other games coming out at the same time… and ultimately its playtime got eaten up by Mass Effect Andromeda that for whatever reason clicked way harder with me than Horizon did.  I really enjoyed the game but I feel like I am going to have to be in the right frame of mind to actually return to it.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

Another game that has fallen off the radar that I want to start back up at some point is Breath of the Wild.  Two things happened to harm this experience… firstly a bunch of other stuff got released.  Secondly… I picked up the switch and decided to restart the game.  I still play this occasionally but not enough to really keep it hanging out on the right side of the screen.

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.