Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Comments #nbi

I just want to throw this up in respectful disagreement with a fellow blogger.

To quote myself:
frankly I think binning the trolls and leaving the backslapping kudos is a bit... I dunno. Disable comments best way full stop.
And I stand by this. Let's be clear I'm not suggesting the blogger was doing that, but I know people do.

If you want a "critical" discussion on a topic are comments that say "Great post! Totally agree!" any more or less valuable than posts that say "What a load of shit, you're a moron"?

Obviously there is a HUGE variety of opinions between those two "binaries" and that's where your critical discussion comes from.

But if you bin all the flat out trolling and keep the empty meaningless platitudes (aka backslapping kudos) there's no balance and it invites more trolling because it looks like you're favouring positive commentary.

So, either delete the kudos too or keep the trolls and let them revel in their glory/be seen for the idiots that they are.

Or, if you post something controversial, just disable the comments.  Your blog is for expressing your opinion, it doesn't always have to be about discussion and criticism.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tinfoil hat speculation abounds: what is Arenanet working on?!

I'm annoyed.

I'm annoyed that I am having to write this blogpost to set some things, which I feel are perfectly freaking obvious, straight.

There is a "theory" doing the rounds that goes a little something this:
Angel McCoy said 20 people work on the Living Story, what are the other 280 staff at Arenanet doing?
We had this conversation in our guild last week and Hunter's Insight wrote a post about it.  I'm sure the same question has been asked elsewhere too. It's a good question to ask but let's not be blinded by speculation, cloaked in hope, masquerading as fact.

Right, debunking trousers on.

Firstly, she said those 20 people "create the Living World content".  That could mean literally anything. It could mean they do every single thing: write every word of dialogue, construct every single character model, design mob abilities, code events, QA every second.  It could also mean they are the production team.  A team of people that come together, agree and oversee the work of all the other employees in creating each release.  It could be something in between.  You can interpret what she said in a multitude of ways: there's no facts here.  That's why they pay PR people.  So ambiguous facts don't creep out and confuse users and, much more importantly, shareholders.

Anyway, to quote Angel, assuming she is a "reliable narrator":
My responsibility as narrative designer for the team is to keep the lore in check, to ensure the dialogue for the iconic characters is in voice, and to guide us through the overarching storyline
She doesn't mention writing any dialogue.  A lot of the dialogue varies based on your race... just checking that all would be a big job, right?

Secondly, just where has this 300 staff number come from (possibly here)?  Regardless, let's break it down based on my experience of an organisation with well over 2,000 employees.

We know people at Arenanet.  There's a good 50 people we can probably name right now.  Teams that we know for a fact exist:

WvW - at least 5 people
PvP - at least 5 people
Community Team - at least 9 people
LS Team - at least 20 people
Random PR/Leads - about 5 people

OK, let's list the "other" teams they might have just as a typical business:

Customer Services
Facilities Management

They all sound OK?  Any number of those could be outsourced.  Notice I haven't listed any animators, artists, game programmers, designers, producers, composers, monetisation or QA.

Now lets look at their current vacancies:
What does this tells us?  There are at least 4 different sorts of programmer.  And, oooh, Spanish QA.  So we need a QA team PER language so, that's at least 4. And, of course, we'll need a localisation team for each language too.

Are we getting the picture yet?

There is no way on Grenth's green earth, with that much specificity in each post, that a team of 20 people churn out a Living Story episode every two weeks while everyone else works on Cantha. OK?

I am absolutely certain that a good portion of Anet's staff ARE working on things for the distant future and that MAY include an expansion.  But since they have stated categorically that they are NOT working on an expansion right now.  I'm inclined to believe that designing, building and maintaining a game played by people all over the world takes more than 20 people.

Right? Get back to fucking work.

I edited this post because it seemed overly critical of an individual and that wasn't intended. My posts are purposefully written with a slightly tongue-in-cheek, angry tone: that's my style.  As is comedic extrapolation.

Monday, 4 August 2014

The gamification of games

Gamification was recently all the rage but I get the sense that it's kind of on the wane; it's becoming a bit passé.  In case you don't know gamification "is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems."  Mostly gamification takes the form of points, bars, badges and achievements.  Foursquare and Codecademy are great examples.

In essence it's a great idea for user engagement.  I actually enjoy the game aspect of Foursquare so I am disappointed that it's (sort of) going away in the new Swarm app.  I might just stop using the app all together.  Anyway, bit off topic.

At this point you're probably thinking "Dibs writes about GW2, where is this heading?"  Well, we're into Season 2 now.  Episodes 1 and 2 have been very well received and many people agree that Season 2 feels right and is set to deliver what was intended all along.  I'm with them.  One of the most notable changes for me is the separation of the achievements from the story.  Previously it felt as if the story was almost built around the achievements and I did not enjoy grinding achievements to get rewards from "the story", especially as there was only a limited time to do them.  In essence they gamified the story.

Season 1 of the Living Story became a system designed to pull you into the game every two weeks to complete tasks and get your badge.  They were right to call them meta-achievements, they became a game within the game.  I was one of the many that fell for it.  From the business point of view gamification was a great idea for player retention in the absence of a subscription, it got people involved and "marketed" the latest cash shop goodies.  But what I think the gamification of Guild Wars 2 showed was a lack of confidence in the story itself as a draw for players.

Yesterday I read a great article about the creation of a game called Threes.  You may not have heard of it.  You will have heard of 2048, which is supposedly a Threes rip-off.  If you read the article you will see that the designers went through many iterations to make the game re-playable and rewarding.  I decided to buy Threes and when I went to the Play Store I saw it featured Leaderboards and Achievement support.  So, having done all that work to perfect the game itself (and games are complex things), they still gamified it.  Weird.

But then that's not actually surprising when you consider that Call of Duty is a one of the biggest entertainment franchises in history, rivalling Harry Potter, Star Wars and the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Except CoD is unique from these in that, as we all know, CoD has no story.  Where many games tack on multi-player CoD tacks on story. Gamification is the game in CoD: unlocks, achievements and badges.  All of this adding to the further gamification of games: your gamer score, whether it be on XBL, PSN or Steam.  In short, gamification works.  With that in mind you can't blame Arenanet for gamifying Guild Wars 2.  It makes both your stakeholders (player concurrency, baby!) and your players (yay, badges!) very happy.

So, you have to appreciate just how clever the change in Season 2 is.  The gamification is still there but it's literally secondary: the story takes precedence.  Achievements have finally taken a back seat to The Lore.  Oh, and what Lore it is.

I never played GW1 and it's only recently become clear to me just how much of GW2 I don't appreciate because of that.  I have a guildie who frequently complains about pre-Searing music in Kryta.  I don't understand why that's a problem.  From GW2 I know what the Searing was but until recently I thought the Searing created the Ghosts of Ascalon... and we're off and running.

I believe that RPG players love story. You only have to give us a taste and we'll hunger for more.  When you have a story as deep and rich as Guild Wars you really are onto a winner.  With Episode 3 moving into Iron Marches I have realised I have a problem: never mind GW1, I haven't even finished World Completion!  I have only been to Iron Marches for Guild Challenge.  There is Lore splattered all over the countryside just waiting to me gobbled up and digested.  Oh, and the much maligned Personal Story?

I, like Bhagpuss, discovered there is Lore oozing out of the racial Personal stories.  Gorr's theories explain a great deal about why the Elder Dragons are bad and telegraphed just exactly what those vines we're seeking before Episode 2 was released.  The Living Story finally links to the Personal Story and you suddenly realise while we were all off achievement whoring, there was an actual plan for the narrative of GW2.  The dragon shaped "2" logo wasn't just a reference to Zhiatan, the Elder Dragons plural are at the heart of the story.  At least we think so.  Maybe.  But at the very least I now feel a strong urge to get the sylvari story done!

So, what does that tell us about the last 2 years?  Well, after a good start, the Arenanet ship started to list.  It listed towards players that value gamification and achievement points, over story.  Now it looks like the ship might be righting itself.  Admittedly, the QA is still deeply questionable on some releases (Episode 3 is still broken) and I am a bit concerned that Anet over-relies on people having played GW1 to appreciate a lot of what GW2 has to offer in terms of story.  Publishing core story in books and online ("What Scarlet Saw") was probably a mistake but could have been a forgiveable necessity.

People are saying that Season 2 harkens back to GW1's style and feel and, since GW1 was never marketed as an MMO, maybe what was needed all along was a little more RPG.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

MMOs aren't dead and neither are you

So I read this and it annoyed me.  Honestly, I'd like to just call it pathetic self-pity but that seems harsh.  I'll try and keep it brief, I don't want to rant.

Simply, MMOs aren't dead.

This is the author's expectation:
The hype before a new game, or as somehow a game starts to get a critical mass of players. The feeling that this may be it, maybe this is the time that people stick with it and we can put down roots like we did before. Maybe this time we can play together. It’s happening! It’s happening!
Firstly, new game hype is for mugs.  It messes with your expectations. There is no need to get involved in betas, headstarts or any of that nonsense to enjoy an MMO. Generally it pays to avoid the first couple of weeks, which are buggy and blighted by queues.  Next you'll get the bot influx and exodus of the players who decided it wasn't for them.  Once that phase is over the MMO starts, you're left with the people who want to play.  

I am in a multi-game guild and there are people still playing ESO.  They. Love. It.

Secondly, the idea that ALL your MMO friends, that you have probably collected from many games, will all find a single game that they will love and settle down in for "life" is, frankly, hilarious.  Yes, there is an element of:
Maybe the target audience is just too old and has too many responsibilities to feel any obligation, however so minor, to a game.
But the main issue is you've drawn together a group of disparate people and banded together over a shared love and that doesn't last forever.  It doesn't last forever in anything, anywhere in life.  Age is a major change catalyst, you tend to increase your responsibilities whether that be a job or caring for someone (kids/parents).
I played MMOs to be social, to achieve things with friends, to be part of a community, but I’ve realized that these things don’t exist any more, or not for many of us.
The fact is MMOs are as social as they ever were, the problem is you have set boundaries and expectations.  If you arrive in a new game with a pre-formed guild then you are, in fact, deliberately isolating yourself from the "community".  If your guild all quit the game "de jour" you CAN still find people playing that share your interests and enjoyments.  The question is do you want to?  Is it that, really, you're not that social and making new friends is actually too much effort?

Lastly, and most importantly, MMOs aren't a lifestyle choice when you're an actual grown-up.  Anyone that started playing an MMO in their teens or twenties and, 8 years later, still expects to feel that exact same level of immersion is a fool.  That's eight more years of experience of the real world and that changes your perspective.

A simple confirmation of this is to go back and watch an episode of a hallowed 80s cartoon.  I'm pretty sure you'll think it's crappy.  It probably won't hold your attention.  Does that make it bad? No. Does it mean cartoons are dead? No.  It means your expectations are higher.

Or how about playing at school with your friends? I remember playing games where my imagination created an entire world that we inhabited (we liked D&D).  If I went outside and played like that right now people would think I was mentally ill*.  But if you go and watch some kids playing in a school yard (be circumspect) they don't look ill.  They look the total opposite.

So, the fact is, MMOs aren't dead and they probably haven't really changed that much but how you perceive these games, how you interact with others and your expectations change every single second of everyday.

MMOs cannot compete with real life.

* I don't think people who do LARP are mentally ill.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

WvW should be a picnic

My bro, hence forth known as Lunch (a.k.a. Lunchbox - not what you think), really likes WvW.  I had thought I liked WvW too.  Mainly my experience has been limited to running with a zerg trying to get my monthly kills although I have gone through periods of trying to properly contribute.

I've joined Lunch in WvW a few times since he started playing again and recently he said that I made WvW "not fun".  This comment related to an incident where I insisting on returning to the same supply camp to kill a Ranger who kept coming off better.  Mainly I was embarrassed.  2 vs 1 should usually be enough to win any match-up but this was a Guardian and an Engy vs a Longbow Ranger.

Now, I don't consider myself competitive but Lunch happily describes himself as such however this incident really made me reconsider my own feelings.  He was getting the bulk of his enjoyment from the PvE aspects of WvW where I was looking, at least in this case, to PvP.  Previously I had also enjoyed the PvE aspect far more than PvP so why now was I fixated on killing?  Why was I suddenly Mr. Competitive?

My explanation is my build; it's Koroshi's WvW Roaming Engy build.  Playing that build I felt I should be able to hold my own in 1 vs 1 never mind a 2 vs 1.  But that belief is not based in reality.  I never sPvP and when I am WvW I am generally in a 10+ zerg.  I have almost no experience of small group PvP.  So, it wasn't competitiveness, it was actually frustration at my own ineptness.  I wanted to find more PvP so I could improve; play that build better.  I mean, I know it's a viable build.  I know how it works and I've got tools on hand to make the most of it.

I actually left WvW shortly after the "no fun" comment and haven't yet been back but it has taught me two important lessons:

1) WvW isn't PvP and is best enjoyed as the mix of PvE and PvP it was meant to be.  Personally, I am looking forward to the next WvW tournament, because WvW Ranks etc don't appeal overly much to me as a casual.

2) If you want to get better at small group PvP do sPvP.  Want to test your mettle in a 1 vs 1 with any other class?  Go to sPvP, replicate your WvW build and train yourself.  Practice, practice, practice.

Which leads me to my final post...

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Black Lion Lottery

I recently bought the Zephyr Rescue Pack... I thought it was a good deal.  I have recently been lucky with BL Scraps (I had 3) and thought 15 cheap keys would get me much closer to 10.  I was right, it did.  I got 5 from 16 chests.  I key-farmed another and was on 9/10 so I decide to buy a key straight from the TP as they are currently discounted.  Not only did I not get a scrap but I got 5 Custom Arena tokens.

I never do sPvP.  I had done it 4 times in 18 months.  It's a truly crappy reward in the vein of Glory Boosters.  I was freaking FURIOUS!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Managing expectation

Just before the Dry Top release (we can agree that's a good name, right?) there was speculation on Twitter about what the release might include/what people were hoping for.

Two people said that'd like to see a new playable race and I was very surprised.  Even spending a few minutes considering the idea you can come up with multiple barriers.  Here's some straight off the top of my head:
  • We have 4 more races than GW1 already
  • The current Personal Story can't accommodate additional races
  • Destiny's Edge represents each of the playable races
  • So do the Biconics/DE2.0
  • Every piece of armour in the game would need to be redesigned
The final reason is the real deal breaker.  They don't have the dev time to fix all the clipping on existing models so the chance of getting updated version of every armour in the game?  Slim.

Also, financially, redesign 50+ armour sets and sell a new race in an expansion for $50 or create 50 new skins to sell in the Gem Store for $12 a pop.

I just can't see it happening.  Sorry.

Friday, 4 July 2014

They mean well!

Today we did Tequatl and my bro got an Angchu Weapon Chest. Lucky. Bastard.

Now, obviously, it's not Zojja's (Berserker stats), so to a large part of the commuinty it's worthless.  I even found this quote when we were looking at the best weapon to choose:
I would just unlock any weapon I would want the skin for and then put the skin on my main weapon. I have already done that for two non-optimal ascended drops I had.
Turned two Ascended Weapons into skins because they were "non-optimal".  Admittedly, if they were Cleric's I'm with him, anything else I could find a use for somewhere.

I digress.

Bro's main class is Guardian and Angchu stats are Cavalier (Tough+Power/Ferocity).  They aren't bad stats for a more survivable build.  However, when I asked my guild for advice the general gist was "you really want gear with Berserker stats".  I mean, honestly.  Did they even read what I posted?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Backpack Strap Gap

I just discovered that you can buy plain old Backpack Straps from any Armorsmith (vendor)!  I checked the wiki and there was no mention of it so it must be a recent change.

They're purely cosmetic but, hurray, now you can have a back piece on ever single char from Level 1.

I've updated the wiki too.

It appears they were added with the Feature Pack but I can't see it in the release notes.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

What's your problem with Teamspeak?

Recently one of the hosts on @gwreporter bemoaned the fact that you can't get a Gold Boss Blitz without being on Teamspeak.  Maybe not in so many words but that was the broad complaint.

Firstly, that's just not true. I was in a Bronze Pavilion that somehow got it together and almost managed a Silver!  I think the biggest problem with the new improved Blitz is that players don't understand the mechanics or the strategy.

That's where Teamspeak (TS) helps.  If everyone completed one run on TS, got a grasp on the strat and realised just how easy it is when you know how, every Pavillion would be Gold.

I've recently been running World Bosses with a cross-server EU guild and they are, quite frankly, incredible.  Two weekends ago my bro and I were waiting for Modniir and I just said "Hey, let's join these guys and do 3 headed wurm".  We joined their TS just before "the jump" and it was initially pretty confusing.  Neither of had ever done it before and frankly, we had to catch up pretty fast to understand the process of taxiing to a dedicated map.  That's the first thing everyone should learn from being on TS with "hardcore" players!  It's a good thing to know.

Next, we didn't understand the mechanics of the split to take out each head but once we had that figured out the rest was pie.  We randomly selected Cobalt head (prolly second hardest?) and as we ran though the pre event our commander explained general rules for the run like no /map chat, focus rez and WP if hard-downed. Standard stuff or so it seems to me now.

Then we got to the location of the fight and the commander took us through, step-by-step, what we needed to do each phase of the fight.  They do this every time. Sure, it was a lot to take in but it was worth it.  We had a short break for final prep, then the wurm popped and off we went.

And we won.  It was a bit touch and go, one head didn't have enough people and some hasty reallocation was required and our commander got killed, but that didn't detract from the fun.

The main take away was: Teamspeak made it possible.  Without it you would need to do multiple runs to understand the strategy for even one head.  Even if you read a guide online you'd still need a few runs in practice to put what you had learned into context.  With Teamspeak and a decent leader I could go back and do that head again any time.

We've also been running Tequatl with them but yesterday we couldn't actually get into either of the worlds they had claimed.  We ended up in a sort of overflow with assorted randoms but the majority seemed to know the strategy.  There were commanders but no TS coordination.  Initially it looked like we'd struggle but we won with 2-3 minutes to spare.
Hastily taken screenshot
Then, last night, my own guild did Guild Missions, as we do every Sunday night.  We use TS because it makes coordinating easier and we're pretty stringent that people at least listen.  But talking can help.  Half-way though the Guild Puzzle in Plains of Ashford someone was inexplicably downed and needed to be rezzed just as a puzzle was completed.  Sadly our only Mesmer went to the rescue and they got trapped behind a door together.  Looking back through chat I saw that the downee had asked for help. Once.  Checking on TS I saw what I expected: their mike was muted.  I don't have much sympathy for that person, in fact I am angry that the Mesmer missed the rewards for the puzzle because of them.

All this brings me to this: what's your problem with Teamspeak?

The vast majority of TS channels simply require that you listen. My guild describes itself as casual and social but we want to win when we do something because we want the loot.  We don't really care how we win, no-one gets bawled at when there isn't enough Might being stacked. Sure, winning isn't everything and learning together IS fun but this content isn't new.  Apart from Rush, there's little actual fun in Guild Missions.

So why can't you at least listen to a TS channel if you want Gold Boss Blitz? What are you afraid of?  People are VERY rarely required to speak and in the cross-server Guild TS I mentioned everyone is devoiced by default. Generally the biggest problem on TS isn't people that are reluctant to talk it's people that don't know when to be quiet and listen.  That's a life skill, though.  You can learn some useful social skills here!

Do you know what else? When you do speak, people get to know you and you get to know them.  There's no need to be shy.  You're all playing a stupid video game for fun.  Besides, your avatar and the fact you're called "X Sephiroth Killer X" says much more about you than your voice.  Besides, this is an MMO, the fun comes from playing with other people.

The aforementioned Mr S. Killer.

Sometimes it can be important to speak up, though, as my downed colleague can attest.  People that don't talk much usually see a lot.  I'm not much of a talker, I have to be quiet when my son's asleep, but I often point out when something is amiss, we're getting strung out or, occasionaly, when we're plain doing it wrong.

What if you join a TS and it turns out all the commanders are elitist douchebags?  Well, you can just leave.  It need not be a big deal.  There are plenty of other people around to play with.

So, seriously, tune in, chill out and benefit.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Gates of Mathingy

So, the Gates of Maguuma trailer is up!  Setting aside the fact I am pissed off with how much press is coming out of Anet in video format I am pretty excited!

The main reason for my excitement is my brother.  Huh? Yeah. He bought GW2 way back at launch and didn't really enjoy it.  We're two out of four of an IRL Guild (sorta) and the four of us have played a fair few MMOs together.  Until recently we were scattered to the four winds: I'm playing GW2, one was heavily into FFXIV (legacy player) and two were out of the game altogether including my brother.

But he's back.  He recently moved into a bigger house and has claimed a man cave for himself.  He now has a PC to sit and play at and decided to give GW2 another shot.

He recently said this in an email to the "guild":
this is probably the second best RPG i have played
Hurray! Although we don't get, or expect to have, much play time together we've already had some laughs.  This mainly revolved around his lack of JP skill, WvW death and a totally spontaneous Evolved Jungle Wurm attempt (successful).

There's lots he has yet to try in the game including any Personal Story, holiday events, mini-games, Fractals and proper dungeon runs but the one big thing, the thing I have really missed not being able to discuss, is the Living Story.

So, hopefully come July 1st, we'll be able to sit down and get into it for a few hours and then we can have a good ol' fashioned speculate.  I do like a good speculate.

So, I levelled a Thief

I made a Thief a looong time ago and until last month his main purpose was to hang out in Metrica Province (he is asura) and complete dailies.  Metrica is great for kill variety at the Thaumanova Reactor, underwater and ambient slayer in Loch Jezt and cheap gathering around Artergon Waypoint.  I just played him for larks.
Señor Teatime (Mr. was taken)

Initially I didn't really enjoy the class.  The profession mechanics for Thief in GW2 are Initiative, Stealth and Steal and none of them really blew my skirt up.  Stolen abilities are often just flat damage and Stealth seems to last next to no time. However, Initiative is interesting.  When combined with the versatility provided by Dual Wield not having cooldowns on your weapon skills becomes very powerful.

Thief Utility Skills, though, aren't all that and tend to have long cooldowns for otherwise modest effects.  I guess this is a result of the need to balance the spammable weapon skills.  Venoms are a particular head scratcher, 40 second cooldown to apply several stacks of conditions that don't stack? I have to assume they have PvP in mind for that.  I mean Poison as a DoT is not great, it's the debuff to healing that makes it powerful but PvE mobs don't heal.

Prior to Thief my most played classes were Guardian, Engineer and Necromancer and I had a big problem with survivability starting out as a footpad.  Fighting even two mobs was 50/50.  I took to the internet and found this.  In the early days it was tough to find advice for levelling builds as most people we're still focused on perfecting a level 80 build.  This, however, was great advice. I became all but unkillable.  At least in Metrica Province.

Then disaster struck.  The Great Trait Rethink happened (in April) and suddenly I had 1 Minor trait on my level 30 Thief as opposed to 2 Minors and a 2 Majors.
The "Great" Trait Rethink
That sucked a lot of the fun out of the build I was running and Thief became tedious again overnight.  I started farming dailies on my Guardian, who, although only level 40ish, wasn't quite as reliant on Traits for fun.

Then, abruptly, at some point in early May, I decided to properly level Thief.  I'd decided to complete Brisban Wildlands on him (possibly inspired by the Season 2 teaser?) but I'd also started levelling weaponsmith and was creating Rare weapons for my alts to grow into.  Suddenly, I just felt inspired and in a little over a month he's now happily sat at 80.  In the process I levelled Cooking to 400 in less than 30 minutes (see here) and levelled so quickly from 60 to 80 it wasn't even worth buying new gear.

Hwo would my 80 build look?  Well, I'd always wanted to stay a condi Thief, I liked the bleed stacking from Death Blossom, so I read around for some build inspiration.  I had a good look at some builds using pistol but didn't really get on with it.  Maybe it was too much like Engy?  Finally I settled on a Dagger/Dagger (natch) and a Shortbow.  I'd recently tried and loved Koroshi's roaming Engy build, and thought it would be fun to do some sort of sustain/survivability PvE build.  I found this (Apothecary gear?!) and adapted it to my play style and end up with this!
I have some nice dagger skins

It's great in PvE I seem to be hard to kill (TM) and there are some neat switches you can make to Major traits without a full respec (bit of an old school concern).  I doubt it will be much use in Dungeons or WvW, but since I don't do Dungeons or WvW for more than a few hours a month it shouldn't be a concern!  Also, apparently, 3k toughness is the sweet spot.  Who knew? (This guy)

I think Orr will be the acid test for this little chap.

Hoarding is spoiling my fun

I'm a hoarder: in game, out of game.

We moved to our new home 2 and half years ago and we have very recently decided it is time to clear the spare room of crap that just got dumped when we moved in.  It's been quite the task but really quite liberating.

In the process I have realised I hoard two kinds of things.  Firstly, I've discovered loads of "I might do something with that one day" stuff.  Some of it is PCMCIA 56.6k modems... I don't even have a laptop with a PCMCIA slot any more.  This is mainly just crap.  Secondly there are a few piles of "this might be worth something someday".  I blame my Dad for this.  He calls himself a collector rather than a hoarder.  Lastly, there is a bit of overlap between the two.

This is the top two slots of my GW2 bank:
If you don't play GW2 that might be a bit meaningless but if you do you'll see a mixture of total crap, stuff I am saving for the proverbial rainy day and a few things I expect to have some future value.

The majority of this stuff is Account Bound, it can't be sold and it can only be used.  When? When am I going to use it? I could drop dead right now with 14 exp boosters unused.  What am I saving them for?  Why am I wasting a slot in my bank with that?

I have 19 Instant Repair canisters. Since repair is now free, they're pretty pointless. Also, since I saved  them for emergencies, what use are they in the bank? I have several Express Bank Access tokens... in the bank.

Why is this spoiling my fun? Because things I should have in the bank are actually in inventory, spread across multiple characters. It is not fun to run out of bag space. In GW2 crafting components have a separate bank but you can't put sub-components in it. It is not fun to log to one char to craft and realise you have sub components stored on another.  That stuff should be in the bank.

Also, the price of most things is going to steadily fall in this game.  There is a finite player base and supply will eventually exceed demand.  Any items introduced at an update should be sold immediately, rather than hoarded, you can buy them back later at a tenth of the cost.

So, don't bank it, use it or sell and, I assure you, it'll be more fun in the long run!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The sadness of the norn


If you're thinking about rolling a light armour class don't choose a norn male.  Pretty much everything looks like either a dress or tights and when you're as big as a norn it looks pretty incongruous.

I don't doubt it's similar for male sylvari and humans but I'm guessing your cultural armour has less fur.

At least with a charr you just look freaking whacky anyway but a norn, well, you just look like an abnormal human.  Maybe I just lack imagination?

If anyone has any inspiring looks for norn males in light armour let me know!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Dear Wildstar, it’s time we talked

I’ve been talking some smack behind your back and I need to apologise; it’s not you, it’s me.

I know we only dated briefly but I thought we really had something.  I thought you were gorgeous.  Sure, you’re kind of quirky but I liked that.  You were a nice break from all the plastic replicas.  I thought we had so much in common, you seemed to want the same things as me.  You had some whacky ideas and a great sense of humour and that’s something I love.

But suddenly something changed and everything you’d told me before seemed superficial.

I quickly realised I wasn’t enough for you.  You wanted to hang out with EVERYONE!  I’m sure some of those guys are really neat but they’re so loud and brash I just don’t dig those big group dynamics.  I thought we could spend some nice quiet time together, really get to know each other, and create some special experiences but popularity seems more important to you now.  I hope it brings you everything you want but I’ve seen people struggle to handle so many new friends.

Also, you weren't great at keeping in touch.  I know you write almost everything on twitter and your blog but I couldn't read that whole thing just to find out something that might be important; I needed more than that.  I needed you to contact me and let me know that I was special to you.  When occasionally something big was happening you'd let me know but too late, when I had already made plans.

Last but not least, you seem kind of high maintenance.  I felt like it was really going to cost me to maintain our relationship and I don’t need that kind of weight in my life right now.

I still think you’re great, you still have something special and maybe, with time, there’s hope for us in the future but for now I just have to wish you the best.



Monday, 12 May 2014

#GW2 World Completion

I have yet to do world completion on any character and I know exactly why that.

It's because I want to play the racial starter zones as the race in question.  Dunno why, call me a weirdo, it just seems right.

To then come back and repeat those zones on a different character is frustrating.  Why isn't world completion account-wide? It's technically simple to accomplish (count each time a zone is completed, calculate how many world completions have been achieved) and would greatly reward players that play a lot of alts.

Potential negatives "What if you delete a character?"  Let's not over-complicate things.  Keep it the same. Deleting character deletes all progression towards World Completion.

Or track it with infinite individual achievements for each zone and create a meta that tracks World Completion.

It really can't be that hard.

How often to update your gear?

Spent all day looking for this quote yesterday:
Weapons should be within 5 levels of your current level, and armor within 10 levels (unless you do dungeons, then armor within 5 levels) [1]
Obviously it's not a hard and fast rule but it's worked well for me. It's always noticeable when you go to a new zone with old weapons. Do you think it makes a good guideline?

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Saga of the norn

Have you heard the full Guild Wars 2 soundtrack? It's awesome.  Truly.

My favourite piece, bar none, is the Saga of the norn.  I am not sure how often it is heard in-game but it features during the norn racial introduction.

If you haven't heard you can listen here: 

When I get to the last 30 seconds my mind is filled with charging giants and the roars of shape-shifters, a bit like this.

And it makes me want to go and fight Jormag right now.

Hopefully I'll be back for dinner.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Great branding and design

I have been doing map completion on my Engineer in Blazeridge Steppes for the last few... months.  It's such a fantastic looking zone, I just love it.  Maybe you need a good GFX card to appreciate it but the dragon brand looks amazing.  Lore-wise it's an awesome zone with all the ruins and hastily erected charr defenses.  Of course, I expect most people just come here for the Shatterer mega-boss.

Mmm... moody (The dragon brand)
I'm also developing a bit of a love for the charr and their war machines, certainly more so than the asura and their lasers.  Certainly the Anet designers have followed "oily, smoky, flame-belching iron monstrosity" brief with alacrity.

Following my post about the dragon lieutenants it would be remiss not to mention my battles against Kralkatorrik's champion.  It's my least favourite of the three to be honest.  Very little happens in the fight and there doesn't seem to be any challenge at all. Looks cool, though!
The Shatterer arrives

Friday, 2 May 2014

Earning a crust in #GW2

You might have heard of a website called Get Rich Slowly.  I've taken this approach in GW2 and there are a few things I would recommend to new players.

First, items marked as "Salvage Item" shouldn't be salvaged by you.  You should sell them on the Trading Post (TP).  The same applies for opening any bags you collect. Why? Well, you have to trust the market and assume that, on average, the price of bags reflects the value of what you get out. You might get lucky but you probably won't.   So, why risk the RNG yourself?  Take the average profit as opposed to the chance of a big win or a big loss.   Most importantly: don't salvage or open bags for mats to craft with.  More on that below.

Second, level 68+ Rare and Exotic equipment yields Globs of Ectoplasm at a rate of about 0.875.  However, since this is again RNG, I'd look at this link and if the item you are considering salvaging sells for more than the current Ecto sell price you should just sell the item and let someone take the risk.  If you salvage you have a 15% chance of getting diddly squat.  Why bother?

Third, Essence of Luck was introduced to reduce the gold coming into the economy from NPC sales of blues and greens, which were (at the time) basically worthless.  However, once you reach about +70% Magic Find (MF) the amount of luck you need to reach the next 1% starts to get quite steep.  Unless you farm high-value loot constantly boosting your MF isn't really a great investment so consider selling you greens to NPCs for the cash (3 greens are worth about 4 silver) instead.  Blues are worth so little you might as well Crude Salvage kit them.  This is especially true for level 80 greens and blues were T5 mats are in massive over-supply and hence worthless.  The exception here is light armour. Cloth mats have increased significantly in value with introduction of Ascended armour so look to the TP for profits on those first!

This screen capture of my recent TP post history gives you an idea of the figures that might be involved:
Unopened bags, light armour and a rare - cash without the RNG
Finally, if you plan to craft, don't fall into the trap of thinking that farming and hoarding mats to craft with saves gold.  It doesn't. Consider two examples:

1) You're level 40 and need Vials of Weak Blood to craft. You would be better of farming Vials of Thin Blood, selling them and using the profit to buy the Vials of Weak Blood. Always farm items with the highest value.

2) Let's say you farm 1 gold worth of T6 mats and, with 50s of other components bought from the TP, make a 3g value item.  How much profit have you made? 1g 50s.  Yes, you didn't pay gold for the T6 mats but you could have sold them for gold.  Crafting does add value to mats but don't fall into the trap of thinking it's not costing anything to craft with mats you farm: it's "costing" what you could have sold them for.  On the bright side, if you're levelling a craft, that "cost" is the price you pay for skill ups.

So, there you have it: my tips for making a slow buck in GW2.  Don't leave it to chance.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Learning control with a G600

I came to Guild Wars 2 from Final Fantasy XI and Aion.  If you know FFXI you'll know that the controls are not what you might call modern.  The game was built for the PS2 and they didn't do a very imaginative job with the controller, certainly not compared to the frankly amazing system in FFXIV.  Aion, being a "WoW clone" of epic proportions, was a 4-5 hotbar, button mashing nightmare.  I had to remap the Windows key to Shift to even get enough modifiers in play.  So, I came to GW2 using numpad for movement and 1-5 (+modifiers) for skills.  I didn't use the mouse at all.  Is there a name for that

My first character in GW2 was Necromancer and I quickly realised that Staff was just not going to work for me.  While I could ground target (GT) with my mouse and move with WASD OK I wasn't really able to fire off that many skills.  That was OK in a "stand at the back" zerg but not really much fun.  Of course I got pretty adept at swapping my right hand to the mouse for the occasional GT skill and back to the numpad but I didn't have the level of control I wanted.  I had to look down too much to see what I was pressing.  That might be why I gravitated to Clott's Daggermancer build, I just kept my hands in the same place and killed in a green glowing frenzy.  Of course he still suggests the staff for WvW.

When I started my Engineer the grenade kit was completely out. At the time I also believed that the bomb kit used GT skills so I never even unlocked that.  I only unlocked grenades because they were so great underwater (which turned out to be a bug).  I soon realised if I wanted to get the most out of my classes, and if I ever wanted to play a Mesmer, I'd have to buy a multi-button mouse.
Wall of Text break

Never one to rush into a purchase I spent about 3 months deliberating.  Since this coincided with my New Year Living World break it's not as bad as it sounds but when I came back I was determined to be a better Engineer.  And to play more WvW.  That was where I was having my biggest problems: swapping hands meant standing still, only for a second, but that's usually enough.

So, having had the Naga Razar on my Amazon wishlist for 4 months, through Christmas and a my birthday no less (cheapskates), I finally plumped for the G600.  Didn't see that coming did you?  It boiled down to reviews and price.  The Razar didn't seem to offer any more for the extra money.
Even the box is pretty
I have had the mouse for about 3-4 weeks now and I am starting to feel quite comfortable with it.  I discovered I couldn't even circle strafe with my left hand when I first started.  It was quite a learning curve.

The main issue I had with the mouse was that I couldn't work out where to put my thumb for a "home" position.  The G13 and G16 keys are marked with tiny ridges (like f and j on a keyboard) which is really useful but I couldn't settle on the front six buttons or the back six.  Ultimately I discovered the sweet spot was right in the middle, resting on both of them.  The other problem I had was what you might call the "live long and prosper" issue or "pat your head/rub your belly".  Basically when I clicked certain buttons with my thumb my index finger just fired off on impulse.  No idea why.  I think my brain was just, like, "we click with the finger, hand! Not the thumb!"

Before I bought it I also wasn't sure about the g-shift key on the G600.  My old mouse was very narrow and I had a claw rather than a palm grip (it's an FPS thing apparently).  That's not been a problem at all and it's actually great to have that modifier there.

How is it for GW2?  Pretty awesome.  I'm not going to do a full rundown of how I mapped everything but to give you an idea G12 to G17 map 1-6.  I have so far resisted the urge to try and use keyboard modifiers with mouse clicks.  My intention is to keep my left hand on WASD at all times.  If I did use keyboard mods I wouldn't need to move my thumb from the "home" position but that kind of defeats the point of the other 6 buttons.

It's a great mouse, I'd recommend it.  My next post will be about my new Engy build and how I fared on my first trip into WvW.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014


I have had the urge to re-fight the Dragon lieutenants in the pass week.  Managed to do Claw of Jormag today and I think  is one of my favourite events once you know what you are doing.

Since I knew exactly what time to get there I thought it would be cool to try and catch a shot of the Claw as he lands.  The nearby Vista proved most useful!

Blue is a theme

I also got this one
Very angry