Thursday, 26 December 2013

Nemesis' Necro Hybrid for cheapskates

Following this post by Anatoli Ingram I got in touch with him to find out which builds he referred to as "a traditional dark caster" and "a blood ritualist".  He very kindly replied and linked me to Nemesis' Hybrid Build and Succubus respectively.  These both look like fun builds but the latter is maybe a bit too much like Clott's Daggermancer, which I have been running (with mods) for quite a while, and since I really wanted to try an axe build I decided to investigate the Hybrid build in detail.

Having watched Nemesis' video thoroughly (and hopefully understood it), I started looking at what it would cost to buy the build.  I quickly realised it would take a BIG chunk of my modest wealth to replicate the build exactly.  Those Runes of Divinity are more than "a bit expensive" and since I recently splurged on an alt I don't have the Laurels for the Celestial Ascended trinkets either.  Aside from that I'm a "try before you buy" guy.  I'll happily drop 100g on a build if I think it's worth it but I have to know if I like it first!

A quick search revealed that I could probably avoid the Celestial trinkets, which would let me keep the Berserker stats, and that in turn would help avoid the Divinity runes.  I used the builder to experiment ( has some notable errata) and I present, after a few hours work, The Nemesis' Hybrid for Cheapskates aka "the ghetto version". Let's be absolutely clear: I am in no way saying this is a better build. It is a shit load cheaper, though!  Probably.  The main differences are:
  • Rabid instead of Rampager armour (obtainable with Karma and BoH)
  • Keep Berserker Ascended trinkets (everyone has those, right?)
  • Use random mix of orbs instead of the Runes
Stats-wise this build has a tiny bit more power, a tiny bit less precision, less toughness and  a lot less vitality, healing and condition dmg (-2.5 bleeding dmg by my calculations).  It's a pretty logical outcome of using Berserker over Celestial but even with Celestial trinkets, Divinity runes are the only way to boost Crit Dmg % and Condition Dmg in your armour slots.  So, on balance, it's a nice way to try out the Hybrid build.

If, like me, you are coming from Clott's Daggermancer you can make a significant change by replacing your Cavalier's Rings directly with Celestial and exchanging a few orbs. This makes a better Hybrid than pure Zerker trinkets, boosting your vit, toughness and, most importantly condition damage.  Loses a bit of power, though.  Natch.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Crafting on the cheap in GW2

I heard about from the GW2 Reporter podcast and it's a really well executed idea and a really clever bit of work.  But is it the cheapest way to level a craft?

No.  It's not always and here's why.

Firstly, the clever thing about the site is that it gets you to craft the items that give the smallest loss while preparing to craft items in the next tier.  So, in Tier 1 of each rank you convert raw mats to processed mats and components.  Makes sense, right? No, not always.

I am currently using the site to level Huntsman.  To get me from 225 to 300 it had me set to do the crafts in Figure 1.  Now, what you can't see here is that, today, Hard Longbow Staves sell at a decent profit.  As do Darksteel Rifle Barrels.  Most of the other things that it asks you to make are a net loss.  You can use gw2spidy to check these things, for example.  To level from 225 to 250 in the cheapest way possible you should probably just convert logs to planks, make longbow staves and sell them at a profit.  Yes, that does mean you won't have any components to craft in Tier 2 but it might be cheaper to buy them straight from the TP anyway! It is today and that's the thing about GW2 it pays to research.

Figure 1 - Huntsman 225 - 300
Secondly, to get to level 400 gw2crafts NEVER recommends you make an item using a vendor purchase recipe.  As you should know, in the last "tier" of your current "rank", usually what I would call Tier 3, you can make Rare weapons using recipes bought from the crafting masters with karma.  These recipes are nearly always profitable because they either make unique looking weapons and/or are best in slot for that level.

What that means, again, is that the components you crafted in Tier 1 might not make the most profitable Rare weapons. So what the guide recommends for Tier 1 may not even be useful if you decide to craft Rares instead.

Thirdly, in my case, levelling Huntsman, you would never know from gw2crafts that you can make unique Rare weapons at level 250 using a Sun Beads. If you make 6 of these weapons you'll be at 275 and they sell for a profit.

For my final push to 300 the guide recommends making 8 Sigils.  These will cost me 34.46s a pop to craft.  However, looking at gw2spidy again, I can see at least 7 recipes I can make that will yield a profit instead of a 2.59g loss.

Like I said, it's a great site and a pretty convenient way to level a craft but even the "slow" guides could lose you a small fortune and if money is tight it's a mistake you can ill afford to make.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Duck and Cover

This weekend I reached level 80 on my Engineer.  Hurray!

One of the best parts about getting to 80 is deciding what your build will be and how your gear will look.  I decided on my build a LONG time ago so this weekend I spent some time on the look.  As a human engineer allied to the Vigil I wanted to include elements of both the cultural armour and Vigil gear.  That was easy enough to work out but the coat was going to be a problem.

My build is focused very much on movement; damage mitigation through evasion, so having a long trench coat is impractical and thus immersion breaking.  Looking at the female medium armour galleries there are only a few short coats.  The best I could find was the Ascalonian Catacombs body and it was pretty much perfect!  A quick check of my wallet reveals I have 69 Tears in the bank. Time to start running AC!

So, last night, after our guild event, the call for dungeons went out.  I immediately piped up and said I needed to do AC and off we went.  I haven't run AC many times so I apologised in advance.  I should have been a bit clearer that I wasn't at all sure what I was doing but it was only when I got the achievement at the end of the run I realised I hadn't done the path before!

It wasn't the best run.  It wasn't helped by the fact that one of our other party members AFKed suddenly, and for some time, mid-run but I generally felt more of a hinderance than a help and I think this came down to my build.

It's not a Berserker build but it's certainly not a tank build and it seems the strat for much of this path is to stand still and get battered by the bosses.  Knowing that I won't bother doing AC Path 1 on my Engineer again.  It's just not worth it.  What was needed was just pure damage.

Sometimes I wonder if I should run dungeons more often but this makes me realise why I don't.  I'm not an RP player but (as you can see from my gear choices) in my mind my toon has a character.  If the rest of the community forces me to play "out of character" in order to participate in "content" then I think I'd rather not bother.

Of course, I could put some time into thinking about a boss/dungeon build, as opposed to a PvE trash mob build, but since PvE is where I spend 90% of my time I'm not going to make a priority.  In the meantime I'll just run AC on my necromancer.  Only an idiot dies on a necro.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Green is for Necromancers

Why do we all have such small imaginations when it comes to clothing our avatars?  I mean, if we each had a gold for every scantily clad, staff-wielding Elementalist or each Guardian disguised as spiky metal behemoth, we'd all be able to buy a Legendary.  I can't really speak to what goes through the minds of people that play other classes but I can certainly speak for myself.


I swear I didn't go looking for this...

When I first created my character I was very frustrated by the lack of armour variety.  Instead most of the gear seemed to have a lot of fur trim.  That was not too immersion breaking for me being a norn; very hunter/gatherer.  But I really wanted to make my toon look like he raised the dead as a key part of his livelihood.    I was inspired to use a lot of green.  And look for stuff with bones on it.  Yeah, inspired. It's easy to blame the concept art and the UI design.  The concept art for Necromancers included a LOT of green and quite a lot of deep red.  The Necro weapon skills are mainly green as are a lot of particle effects.  I'm sorry I keep saying green, it's kind of a theme, though...

So, why green and, less so, red?  Well, the red is easy: blood and viscera.  The green?  Well, we associated green with corruption and decay, yet most of the vitality we see in everyday life is green! How often do you see things that turn green when they go bad?  In my experience they generally go a darker version of their original colour and then they go black.  Also most of the pus I have ever seen has been a creamy yellow; calling it green would be a stretch.

Given the paucity of gear early on I decided to leave the real customisation to the elder game.  Also, since you level so fast, it would be a quite a chore to maintain a look with an ever-changing armour set.  I started looking at the gear you could get from dungeons and quickly found the awesome that is Arah.  The Arah light armour is a necromancer's dream.
Arah Light Armor

I can't imagine anything fitting a class better.  I asked around and quickly discovered my chances of getting that much gear from Arah were slim so I looked for compromises and quickly found parts of the Twilight Arbour set combined well with Arah.
Mix and Match - TA everything except head and shoulders
I'm not alone.  If you look at any “share your necro” thread you'll see people post that combo.  It's realistically achievable and looks pretty cool.  But I never even made it that far.  No-one wants to run TA. I compromised again and came up with this
[Arah TA COF combo]

Since EVERYONE wants to run CoF this seemed much more likely.  However, I'm really starting to strecth the look here.  Then I discover runing Arah is even harder than I expected and I end up looking like this:
The compromise

This apple has fallen so far from the Arah tree it might actually be a different sort of fruit altogether.  Maybe a lemon?  Having said that I was happy with this look for a week or so but it soon became quite immersion breaking.  I just didn't like how I looked.

So, when I decided to switch from a bleed/condition sceptre build to a power/crit. dagger build it was a great opportunity to have a gear re-think.  In search of inspiration I began trawling the aforementioned “share” forum threads and I found some fantastic looks.  It seems that charr and sylvari make particularly good looking necromancers!  Here are a few of my favourites:

Amazing charr necro (but still Arah gear)

Sort of Shamanic sylvari necro

Still a lot of green and black, eh?  I didn't see a lot of norn in those threads so I looked to the normal sized humans for inspiration and found this.

Now, that's more like it.  If you're going to get up close and personal with a dagger in someone's face you don't want to be sporting a skull encrusted dress, it's just not practical.  Inspired I set about earning my exotic gear (rebuild remember) and looking at skins. I still have one piece of gear to get, a coat from Honor of the Waves, but other than it's complete.  I'm very happy with it.  At least for now.

Things about MMOs that GW2 made me forget

Before GW2 I played FFXI for a few years, the Aion for about 9 months, then back to FFXI until about September 2012. Last month I was very taken with the idea of playing FFXIV.

This was notable for several reasons:
a) I played the alpha of 1.0 and it was, bar none, the most broken, poorly conceived disaster I have ever experienced.
b) SE always struggled to meet my expectations with regard to communicating important information the player base.

But, inspired in no small part by the efforts of the new producer, I decided it was worth a second look.  I pre-ordered, downloaded, couldn't get on the server my friends were on, I waited, I missed the warning about registering your boxed code, I waited, I finally got on the server with my friends, I didn't register my code, my account was deleted, I got a refund from Amazon.

However, just that week long daliance with idea of playing FFXIV bought back some horrible memories that GW2 has banished for good:

  • Mob claiming
  • EXP reduction in parties
  • Timed spawns
  • Shared loot pools
  • RNG-based skill progression
  • Forced group content
  • Being drip-fed skills
  • Mana pools
  • Subs!

I could probably go on but that's enough.  How could I have ever enjoyed playing games with mechanics like that?! You'd have to be some sort of masochist.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

A kindred spirit in Tyria

My last post was one of frustration, disappointment and a bit of anger.  I don't really like to be that guy. But when you feel like that nothing really makes you feel better than someone expressing exactly the same feelings.

Enter Justin 'Syp' Olivetti, whom you may know from his blog "Bio Break" (linked on left) or, more likely, as a writer for Massively and host of Massively Speaking.

Justin had this to say about the Living Story at around the same time I was expressing my frustrations: Guild Wars 2: Living story, dead interest.  That post echoes so many of my own sentiments; validation is good for the soul.

Then episode 259 of Massively Speaking rolls in a Justin enthuses about the new Living Story event, the Queen's Jubilee, and how they have changed the Living Story achievements system so you can avoid some of the "harder" content to still get the overall reward.  He wrote another post about that here.

I was intrigued and decided to return to Tyria, albeit about a week after the show, and was surprised to see the Queen's Jubilee was still running.  It seems another change, that had passed me by, was that the story instalments now overlap.  In other words, it's fortnightly releases but no longer just a two week window, which is MUCH more suited to my play time.  Hurrah!
The Crown Pavilion
So, when I logged on the new instalment, Clockwork Chaos, had just launched and I was initially frustrated to find I needed to complete a large chunk of that before I could get back into the area where most of the Queen's Jubilee stuff was happening.  That turned out not to be too much of a chore and, in fact I really enjoyed it.  I mean loot was dropping like rain all around me and that's always a cheerer.

I was all but given up on GW2 but after a 6 week break I find myself back to wanting to log on everyday. I had wanted to write a post about just how much I had enjoyed these two instalments but once again Mr Olivetti had beaten me to it:
If the Bazaar of the Four Winds and that weird election represented a low point of my recent interest in Guild Wars 2, then the combo of the Queen’s Jubilee and the Clockwork Chaos represent a rebound of tremendous proportions.
You can read the rest of his post here: Guild Wars 2: Die Die Die, Die Die and you can follow him on Twitter @sypster

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Schrödinger's undead dragon in @GuildWars2

I haven't played GW2 since I spent an hour trying to kill Frizz with a PUG during Sky Pirates.  I had been really quite enjoying the Living Story until then.

The main reason I liked the Living Story was because I could take it all at a decent pace that was compatible with the amount of play time that I get.  Then the two week schedule comes in and suddenly if I can't log-on for the first week I'm out in the cold with the PUGs because everyone else has done it already.  Oh, and there is no group finder.

As the Living Story was the main reason I was logging in, as soon as I got behind I gave up.  Admittedly I haven't finished my personal story but that's because, well, who the fuck is Zhaitan? You never see him in the actual game because he's Schrödinger's cat, right? He's defeated/not defeated at the same time.  The only time he definitively one or other is when you're in a Personal Story instance.  It's stupid.

Also, the thing I liked most about GW2 was that it wasn't a gear treadmill.  When you have subs you can use a gear treadmill to keep people subscribing.  Anet's solution to player retention is an Achievement treadmill with a tacked on story and gem store merchandising.  It's genius.

Sadly, I don't care about achievements, weapon skins, cosmetic gear or minis.  But then, I thought I was playing an RPG?  Aren't they supposed to be about story and character development?

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Achievement "reward" gear

OK, this is just a quick rant.

So far we have a few pieces of unique gear as rewards for achievements.  Most recently we have had the flower, the tentacles and the horny helmet.  We also had the molten gloves at the end of the Flame & Frost story.

It's these last two that I have my beef with.  This is what they look like on a cloth class:

Yup, that looks ridiculous.  I expect it looks ridiculous on any classs that doesn't wear heavy armour.  I mean, why the fuck, when you have to choose the armour class of the reward, do they all have to look the same?

Final Fantasy 11 has a great number of flaws but when they gave you a choice of light/medium/heavy it really was a choice.  This, for example, is the heavy armour reward from a Moogle Kupo D'Etat:

Heavy Armour
And then this is the light armour reward:
Light Armour

Do you see what Square Enix did there, Arenanet?  That's right, they actually thought about it!

I seriously wonder how many staff they have in the Art Dept somtimes.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Flametank is not so hot

When I first started Engineer I quickly settled on a Pistol/Pistol turret set-up.  That saw me all the way through Queensdale and Kessex Hills and looking back I really enjoyed it.  But I felt something was lacking; fights were long and slow and I felt under-powered so around the time I moved to Gendarran Fields I began dabbling with a Flamethrower build.

My trusty turret build
I had seen and heard numerous people raving about how the Flametank carves though mobs in PvE but when I switched to the build I immediately felt weaker and much more vulnerable.  I'd always felt quite safe with my turret build and could even take down the odd champion solo.  With the flamethrower even one or two mobs became a struggle.  Maybe I was doing it wrong?  I decided to give it some more time.

By the time I got to the far end of Gendarran Fields and, having done the first few hearts in Harathi, I knew I needed a change.  Fighting Veterans became a 50/50 proposition, I just wasn't putting out enough damage and was losing the battle of attrition.  I lost skill challenges for Pete's sake!  I tried upgrading my armour and trinkets but that did almost nothing. I wanted to persist with the build because I had heard such good things about it but it was putting me off playing the character.  That's bad.

Part of the problem is that, because Guild Wars 2 is still a relatively new game, when people talk about builds they almost exclusive refer to level 80 implicitly.  Also, unless stated otherwise, it's usually safe to assume that anyone posting about a build is using it in PvP!  As a result, when people rave about a build, it can be hard to tell what level they are playing it at and whether it will work well at lower levels.
"Fire burns!"
I think maybe the flamethrower build is highly dependent on getting to 60+ and access to HGH or Juggernaut.  In fact, looking at the build I linked, all the flamethrower specific traits are only available once you unlock the Master tier at level 40 and things really begins to take shape at 50.  Maybe I just jumped the (pun intended) gun?

With this in mind I decided it was time to hit up my personal story for some easy exp to power through from 38 to 40.  This let me unlock the aforementioned Master traits and access some new gear but with this new found determination came a desire to try a new build.  Something that wasn't turrents, grenades or a flamethrower.

I really wanted to try those pistols again.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

MMO business models

The MMO market is becoming extremely competitive and I seriously wonder if the subscription model can survive much longer.

Blizzard have recently reported that WoW subs are expected to fall further and that their unanounced MMO, codename Titan, is undergoing a major redesign.  Funcom, which enjoyed "sleeper" success with The Secret World last year before a major internal reshuffle and switch from a sub to B2P model, has released it's Q1 report stating it actually made more money. Go Funcom!  Likewise EA reported that the F2P switch for Star Wars: The Old Republic doubled their revenue. Wow.

Blizzard have blamed declining audiences in the East and the rise of free browser games for their "woes" (still world's biggest MMO by miles and raking the cash in!) but the total rethink of Titan suggests, at least to me, serious concerns.  Maybe they are redesigning to better support a B/F2P model?  Let's face it, games that plan for that from the start are surely going to have more success than those that switch and are then often branded "failures" by the community.

By their nature sub-based games have to keep you interested by providing new content, usually in the form of an ongoing story, and new gear (treadmill).  This inevitably creates a barrier to entry for new players who feel behind when they start playing and face a mountain to catch up.  Gear treadmills can also backfire in a big way.  Final Fantasy 11 just released a new expansion which included some weapons which rendered every weapon earned in the last 11 odd years obsolete.  Apparently they are quite easy to get too.  Why did they do that?
Actually, that's a good question.  Was it to entice new players?  Maybe but then  Final Fantasy 14 is about to be released, wouldn't you want people to play that instead?  What about if it's the other way around - what if SE just drew a line in the Final Fantasy sand and said "Hey, you're all back to square one.  Level peggings.  Do you want to start over?  Maybe you'd be more interested in this new game!"

In a sub-based model in-game success has to be linked to time invested.  You can't level the field to cater for both casual and hardcore players.  You can't put a cap on what a hardcore player can achieve by failing to provide new content.  You must release at a speed that keeps them satisfied.

B/F2P games don't need to do that.  In the case of Guild Wars 2 all you need is a bit of a story on which to base your next lot of cash shop "merchandise".  A neat trick that Arenanet played was to give "hardcore" players a dungeon that rewarded you with gear that made that dungeon easier but conferred no gameplay benefits outside.  That's genius.  They created a gear treadmill in a microcosm.

For me, the acid tests for a sub model are the (re-)release of Final Fantasy 14 and which model NCSoft has planned for Wildstar.

I played Final Fantasy 11 for many years and my average monthly bill was in the region of £11.  I started playing in the August before the release of the Wings of the Goddess expansion on November 22, 2007.  The expansion added two new jobs (classes), new battlefield content, zones and a mission arc.  That mission arc was finally concluded in November 2010. Yes, that's 3 years.  That's £396 of subs plus the price of the boxed expansion product.  For the company that's great money but for the consumer that's terrible value.  In fact, it's a bit of a rip-off.  Can FF14 really survive using that model in the current climate?  Should it have been re-incarnated as F2P or B2P?

Moving on to Wildstar, the $64k question: F2P, B2P or sub?  Personally, I think a F2P release for a AAA MMO is crazy talk.  Sure, switch to F2P when "boxed" sales stagnate, and your first "boxed" expansion is ready to ship, but otherwise why pass up at least £40-£100m in revenue?  Guild Wars 2 has shown that B2P works and that a key aspect of that is replayability.  Different story based on race, different play experience based on class and a really decent effort to put PvE and PvP (including WvW) on an even footing.  Wildstar is mirroing this variety very closely: there is early emphasis on both PvE and PvP and the race/class/path combinations mean replayability.  Carbine and Arenanet might be separate studios but it looks like NCSoft knows a good formula when it sees one.

Friday, 31 May 2013


Aside from my norn Necro I have the following alts:

Johanna Sparrow - a female human Engineer
Senor Teatime - a male asuran Thief (Mr. Teatime was taken)
Maal Darkmane - a male charr Guardian
Ffaewyn - a female sylvari Mesmer

Teatime and Maal fufill the awesome role of "doing daily achievements in Ascalon or Magumma".  I also do kill variety and underwater killer with Teatime as there is a river in Metrica with level 4 barracudas.  Literally shooting fish in a barrel.

Ffaewyn is an experiment to see if I can get to 80 doing nothing but crafting.  I don't think you can technically but we'll see.

This leaves the lovely Johanna is my only "proper" alt at this time.  I have played her on and off with the intention of doing all the Kryta and most Ascalon zones.  Why those?  Well, world completion for the sake of it doesn't appeal to me, so I want to play the zones I didn't complete on Tore as a levelling experience on another character.  I pretty much got Tore from 1-80 without leaving the Shiverpeaks, hence the name of the blog.

So far I have got her to Harathi Hinterlands but it's really starting to drag.  I don't know what it is about Kryta but away from the areas were the humans are fighting the centaurs there seems to be very little going on.  You don't see many other players around either.  Hopefully some future Living Story will send a few more people back that way.

Recently I have been thinking that the monotony may be due in part to my build so last weekend I started thinking about a change...

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Blog gob

I don't publicise this blog at all.  It mainly exists to fulfil the occasional need to share success or vent my spleen.  Having been a moderator of several forums I know there is nothing worse than people trying to use a community platform as a personal soapbox.  Fortunately most forums (or bulletin boards as they were once known) have matured to the point that they won't hesitate to suggest that a user might be better off using their own personal space to start a flame war.  Back in the day, you had to be a bit more delicate about that sort of thing.  People talked about freedom of speech and rights.  It was better to be safe than sued.

Anyway, I've never really been happy with the look of this blog and in the same way it's hard to be comfortable in a space, be it a room or just a desk, that you haven't tailored to your needs, posting here felt a bit slap dash.  I'm pleased to say that after a succession of very minor changes the recent addition of a new background image has really complete the look.

In the past I was going for a sort of norn Necromancer look.  I had some nice moody screenshots of the Shiverpeaks that I thought looked quite good and I was using a lot of green for text links.  Cos green is for Necromancers, right?

Well, fuck that.  I have always been a fan of the Guild Wars 2 "concept" art and so I have grabbed the wallpaper that Anet released for the Flame & Frost: The Gathering Storm patch.  It's a gorgeous image of the beautiful, snowy Shiverpeaks.  I think it's the perfect addition to the blog.

Now, speaking of Necromancers and green...

What a Canach

Yesterday was patch day and the next phase of the Southsun Cove Living Story in GW2.

So far the Southsun Cove revisit has not been blowing my robes up.  It's alright.  I feel like there was a bit of a lack of continuity between F&F and the new story but maybe that is because I missed the Lost Shores event.  I mean, I wasn't even sure who "The Consortium" are and then this Canach bloke shows up.

Because I received the mail about the Canach instance on a different character I went digging on the wiki to find out where the instance entrance was and discovered that this Sylvari dude was actually a recurring character.  I guess that's another problem with having an event that only lasts a weekend.  If you miss it, you don't just miss the action, you get a gap in your lore too.

Having finally found the instance (swapped to other toon, check mail and back again) it's fair to say that I was a mite dissappointed that the "solo instance" was a short run past some easily avoidable enviro hazards, only to be confronted with a wimpy mob that can only be defeated with some convoluted, RNG-based method.

Or so it seemed.  I seriously struggled with him to begin with.  Somehow he just kept managing to knock me back into his mines, which then one-shoted me. I mentioned my frustration in Guild chat and I discovered that most people had beaten him because you can stick conditions on him.  Hmmm.

So, I swapped into my old condition-mancer gear and went back.  Well, I dunno what I did wrong but I couldn't stick conditions on him so I once again set about the mine method.

It actually went pretty well; I used the Flesh Golem to tank him and had him down to about half health and then I noticed he had been crippled by the Flesh Golem.  I immediately began attacking him and was please to see the bleeds pile up.  I then stacked him with everything I could and gloated at his pathetic attempts to catch me as I kited him around.

The reward I recieved was pretty nice.  I actually managed to do the Lightfoot Lair (or w/e) achievement too so I only need one more achievement to unlock the Karka back reward.

So, I ate an omlette that I had been carrying around.

And that was that.

So, after my fairly glowing review of the F&F content I'm very meh about this.  I still have a bit more to do and maybe that will redeem it a little but maybe I just don't like Southsun.  I don't like Veteran mobs that are harder to kill than most dungeon bosses.  I don't like the (comparatively) ridiculously difficult Guild Rush there either... but I guess that's for another blog.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Living Story

This Sunday the first arc of the Living Story will end and two days later a new arc will begin. And I, personally, can't wait. I've thoroughly enjoyed the Flame and Frost story and am so glad I actually got chance to play it.

You see, I don't have a lot of play time. I have a full-time “proper” job, a daily four-hour round-trip commute, a wife and a little boy. I barely see my family during the week so weekends are very precious and I certainly don't want to spend whole days playing a video game. As a result my playtime is limited to between around 8pm and 11pm, Friday to Sunday, which adds up to about 10 hours a week.

I've seen a lot of complaints that the introduction of each part of the Living Story was too slow. It wasn't for me. I was worried I might not actually get chance to do the Molten Facility as I effectively had two weekends in which to do it and, being a real life grown-up, I already had plans for most of those days. I went to a wedding the weekend of the much maligned Karka event; I knew from the day it was announced I couldn't do it.

Admittedly, the first part of the F&F story, the refugees and recurring events in the Wayfarer Foothills and Diessa Plateau, didn't really need a whole month before the next stage of content, simply because they continued to run through the entire story anyway. It was very hard to miss. So, while a calendar month seems a long time, two weeks is also quite limiting.

I'm also frustrated that people seem to have very high expectations of the Living Story. It's not supposed to be major content, you know? It's a richness, barely more than a dynamic event, and I think it has filled that role very well so far. Having missed the original Southsun event I have only been there to do a jumping puzzle and two ill-fated Guild Rushes so I am excited that the Living Story will take us back and maybe bring some changes to the zone.

It's fair to say that the Living Story rekindled my interest in Guild Wars 2.  The hype around Wildstar is building and it looks very intriguing; frankly I was geting ready to dump GW2 this Winter.  I just didn't feel I had any attachment to my character or the world.  That's beginning to change.

I hope Arenanet continue the relaxed pace of these updates and keeps including me as a player.  Tyria is a world I'm starting to find my place in.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Patch day

Just a quick one.

You might have seen the “state of play” video interview on gw2guru, where some of the Anet devs outline the PvP balance changes for the April 30th patch. I don't do any sPvP but a lot of these changes will also affect WvW and PvE so it's worth a watch.

The big news, for me, is that pets will no longer aggro mobs. This is a tiny fix but a pretty huge change; pets really do make moving through a crowded area tedious. As I'm currently running Clott's daggermancer build, which uses the Flesh Golem, this is particularly good news. I also believe they attend to buff her HP as she is a bit squishy.

The other big news is that Epidemic and Corrupt Boon will become unblockable. Quite why Corrupt Boon wasn't like that already I have no idea. I guess the Epidemic change is to make up for the LOS change.

Finally, the devs said that next patch (presumably May) will be focused on bug fixes. They've just been working hard on balance for the last few months and want to see how things go. They did pretty much admit that I had been neglecting bugs to be honest, so that's good to know!

Crafting in GW2

People” say that crafting in GW2 is broken and pointless. I respectfully disagree and here's why.

I knew I would craft from the start in GW2. I have crafted in both of my previous MMOs and I enjoy it. I get real pleasure from working out how to level up and breakeven at the same time. Let's face it, you'll rarely profit at this stage in most games; it's all about minimising loss.

My first two crafts in GW2 were Tailor and Artificer (necromancer remember). I quickly found that it cost quite a lot to craft. In the early days raw mats were in high demand and the cost of things like copper and jute actually had some value. At the time leatherwork was extremely expensive because leather was relatively hard to come by. By contrast leather is currently effectively worthless. Also, when the game was first released the market was constantly flooded. With a cross server auction house system supply almost always exceeds demand. It's virtually impossible to find a niche.

They do exist, though. Before the advent of gw2spidy I inadvertently discovered that several rare scepters and staffs could yield a significant profit. This was mainly because the skins were pretty damn cool. Crafting rare items also provides a significant boost to crafting exp. And, let's face it, what else do you have to spend that karma on?

Recently, I noticed that high level rare jewellery commands a significant price and decided that might be a nice craft to do on an alt I don't have the time (or inclinaton) to grind up. So, I took the plunge.

Firstly, I have a huge supply of mats built up. I'm a bit of a hoarder. That's not necessarily a good thing. A lot of people still don't have the hang of crafting GW2 and over-produce a lot of base components and end up selling the surplus for a lot less than the materials cost. Luckily, gw2spidy exists and it's easy to check if the materials are worth more sold than crafted. Sometimes, for example, it might be better to sell all your ore and just buy the ingots. The market is funny like that.

So, there's 3 stages to each “level” of crafting. The first stage is crafting components and some very poor quality items, the next stage is a selection of Fine items, which, again, are generally worthless and the last stage is Masterwork.

It turns out that Masterwork jewelry is actually pretty sought after and yields a decent profit. So, if you use gw2spidy and plan right, you can just spend all of stage one making components you need (unless it's cheaper to buy them). Then you have to suck up the loss as you craft crap for the second stage (I dumped most of mine in the guild bank). Obviously, it depends on the craft but, hopefully, at stage three you'll make that money back.

If you still feel a bit short changed take a look at the Rare quality items. Spending a bit of karma could yield some decent profits.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The road to Daggermancer

A little over a week ago I had my first taste of World vs World and, generally, I really enjoyed it. It reminded me a lot of siege PvP in Aion, which I liked a lot. Aion had problems, the biggest, aside from a broken flight mechanic, was lag. Since only a small number of forts where under siege at any given time the entire server tended to congregate in one place. This made for some epic fights but it wasn't unusual to suddenly drop to 1 FPS for 5 minutes only to find out you had been dead all along.

Guild Wars 2 avoids that problem by having 3 other zones to play in, although I expect sieges at Stonemist are just as bad as Aion, if not worse.

Anyway, my first run went very well. I went with my guild and got 44 kills, which I was pretty pleased about. However, I did get left at the back quite a lot, not in a rear guard capacity, and kept getting picked off and abandoned. As a result I kept getting stuck miles away from the group and spent a LOT of time trying to catch back up. I soon realised that my build was part of the problem.

I'm a Necromancer, and a norn, not a popular combination. The build I usually play is based on scepter/dagger conditions. It's not bleed focused but I can stack about 20 bleeds solo no problems (being a norn has perks here). I like to combine that with Epidemic and circle strafe until victory.

That tactic works great in PvP, unless you get isolated, which I did. At one point I got jumped by two thieves and, damn, I barely touched them. It's hard to AoE an enemy that won't stay still. While thieves might be the rock to necromancer scissors, I did feel I should have done something rather than die.

I also found, when I got chance to actually monitor it, that my conditions never lasted very long. It seems that most classes can remove conditions quite easily and all classes have an escape mechanism so I rarely caught up to reapply while the removal was on CD. Speed was something I missed out on too. I think Spectral Walk is a necromancer's escape option but I hadn't even unlocked it. That might also explain why I couldn't keep up with my guild too.

So, a big rethink was required, knowing that I needed to make better use of Death Shroud (it has 10 second cooldown for reason!) and that I need to be able to defend myself if it got up close and personal. Since WvW only makes up about 20% of my play time it had to be a PvE build that could be adapted easily. There was no point looking at a pure PvP build because that's just not how I roll. I spent the last week looking at alternative builds and yesterday, I tried one out.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Daily & Monthly Achievements

By and large I'm a fan of the changes to daily achievements in GW2. Personally, I hated having to do the “mob variety” every single day. However, things haven't got much better: annoyance has been replaced with other annoyance.

Surely ANet would know that if you log on in, say, Orr or Kryta you're going to see more undead and centaurs than anything else and that you'll need to go pretty far afield to see anything else. That makes kill variety tough.

Underwater kills? I might have to go to an entirely different zone.

The worst, though, is Daily Healer. There just aren't that many dead people around. I guess the point is to encourage you to rez players, and to encourage players to wait to be rezzed, but I do that already.

That's not what it's supposed to be about, is it ANet? You don't want us to go out of our way to get this done do you?

Having a bunch of Alts helps.  Daily Dodger is very easily achieved with a Death Blossoming Thief and stationing a character at the Thaumonova Reactor is a great way to do Kill Variety.

Thursday, 7 February 2013


Being such a part-timer I have put off getting Exotics until I had chance to really look into it properly.  I love the fact that GW2 means all the gear of the same level and rarity has the same base stats and that means you're just looking at extra attributes and appearance.

I've been decided on what Exotic armour I wanted for some time: it's a combo of parts from Arah and Twilight Arbour.  However, since TA is not very popular I have subbed in some stuff from Citadel of Flame temporarily.  People always want to do CoF...

Mainly, I like the TA gear for the look but the stats are great for a Necromancer too.  The head and shoulders look totally lame though so that's why I have my sights set on the Arah gear for that.

This brings us to weapons.  I am a condition Necro, apparently.  I don't personally feel the need to assign such labels but it pleases the people that find spreadsheets part of the fun.  My weapons of choice are scepter/dagger and staff.

Up until recently I had stuck pretty much solidly to scepter but when it came to defending a Dolyak or fighting a boss I used staff.  When you do Dynamic Events with a group the AoE of staff helps you get much more involved, otherwise other classes will burn the mobs down before you have chance.  With bosses it usually pays to stay at range.  In short, my staff was not used THAT often.  As a result, I'm not proud of this, I carried a Masterwork staff.

However, joining a new guild has carried me beyond PvE and with more varied play has a come a desire to tweak and "work on my build".  I started to read around and one build caught my eye.  It was for tower defense in WvW (no idea what that entails) but it emphasised starting each encounter with staff to lay your marks and then switching to your other weapon for the nitty gritty.  Maybe you'd switch back to staff to re-lay your marks if you got chance.  The benefits of this were immediately obvious to me and I realised that I was totally neglecting a big chunk of damage.

Since then I have focused much more on switching regularly between weapon sets.  It's really boosted my damage.  This has been most noticable in dungeons where is has become normal for me to get hate from a boss.  Not a huge deal but it at least means I am competing for damage done.

Things brings us back to my search for exotic weapons and an upgrade for my neglected staff.  Yesterday I spent a decent chunk of time looking at weapon models and picked a lot I liked.  Cross-referencing on the TP it became pretty clear what I could afford and there were some good choices.

In the end I plumped for a Carrion Legionnaire's staff, which I upgraded with a Sigil of Battle.  I never really appreciated those "when you switch to this weapon" sigils until now.  Twenty seconds of Might for doing something that's already a regular part of my combat?  Sounds like a deal!

This left me with a scepter and a dagger to find.  I hit the jackpot here.  Searching the TP for Exotic Level 80 daggers I find Claws of the Desert.  Looking at the dagger gallery on the Wiki I see it has a nice skin.  It also has Condition Damage as it's main stat and it comes with a Superior Sigil of Battle.  The knife itself is cheaper than the Sigil alone.  Ker-ching.

Since I am not sure what benefits you can get from an off-hand Sigil anyway, this is perfect.  I can now have 6 stacks of might at pretty much any time during a big fight.

What is not to like about that?

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Cows and Bears

Ho, Adventurer!

Since I started playing I have struggled with the decision as to whether I should just explore everywhere on Tore (my main) or leave some areas to explore with Alts.  I've still not made a firm choice.  I have broadly decided I won't deliberately avoid exploring an area at the cost of having nothing fun to do.  I'll also try to keep the 1-15 areas for Alts that are starting out: always nice to explore home turf on a new toon.

As I don't have the time or inclination to do a Legendary weapon getting 100% world is not a priority.  In fact, if I did want to do that, 100% world would be the smallest hurdle to jump.

I thought it would be nice to explore Queensdale completely as I figured I'd never make a human (boring) but I have since decided a female human engineer might be good fun!

Pretty, isn't it?

However, with the announcement of Flame & Frost: Prelude I figured I should definitely go and get 100% completion on Diessa Plateau before the Living Story changed anything radically.  I have to say it's one of the more varied an interesting zones I've explored.  I really liked the autumnal aesthetic and a lot of the heart quests were quite novel.  The norn heart quests are quite samey throughout the Shiverpeaks; certainly there are enough dredge to last you a life time and Frostgorge Sound makes for a welcome break.

I think my favourite heart quest in Diessa was helping out with the gardening and my favourite dynamic event was cow training. A very enjoyable hour of gaming!

I should have taken a few more screenshots of some of my favourite areas on the plateau but I suspect the Living Story will take me back there soon enough.  My overall impression was bears, ghosts and cows.  Lots of cows.
Diessa Plateau: where it's always autumn