Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Sincere Christmas Message ep4

This message is written from my parents living room - Virgin still dragging their feet over connecting our new internet - apparently "oh, don't worry, we'll have you in before Christmas" doesn't necessarily mean by this Christmas. 
But I guess at least that introduces the main thing which has changed for me this year - I bought a fricken house. Like an adult! Weird, right?

So, I've lived without internet and TV for about a month now. There's only so many DVDs of Game of Thrones you can watch before you feel like poisoning a monarch. Sorry, spoilers.
It's from Season 1, get over it.

So, our new abode is like a fort of boxes and large blue Ikea bags - no fit place for Christmas dinner. So I'll be back in my parents living room again tomorrow. However, having been without internet since 29th November I've gotta ask you this question:

Is it ok to bring my laptop and use their wi-fi on Christmas day?

If it is, then you might hear from me again tomorrow. If you don't hear from me, then let me wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.



Wednesday, 23 October 2013

[GW2] Why GW2 will never be an eSport in it's Current Format

I can't see a way for Guild Wars 2 to succeed in eSports in it's current state.

I've tried watching a few of the big match-ups on Twitch TV etc. Frankly, the whole experience is disorienting and confusing. My familiarity with sPvP is relatively limited, and you might make the argument that this could be the reason why I struggle to keep up with the casters, but should inexperience really be a drawback for enjoying an eSport? Surely a game which wants to be seriously considered as a viewable competition should cater for newbie viewers? And, as a layman, there are a few vitally important improvements which I feel ANet need to take note of:

1) The observer mode is, pure and simple, abysmal. 

In many ways it's a step back from the one we had in GW1. First of all, it can only be accessed in one single space - the sPvP lobby (in GW1 you could start observation from anywhere in an outpost), and this requires you to approach the sPvP NPC and choose from the long list of potential games to watch. How am I supposed to know which is worth watching; which contains the "pro" players and which are just scrubs messing about?

You can only view already running games and have no access to any past matches. Not only does this mean that 95% of the time you are going to miss the start of the match, but it means that if there is a specific match you want to watch, but for some reason miss, then there is absolutely no way to view it unless someone used a third party program to record the footage.

In GW1, the observer mode picked out and recorded the top GvG, Heroes Ascent and (at one point) Hero Battles of the day and displayed them to you. Allowing you to view them when you want, or as they were happening, from wherever you were in the world. We absolutely need to bring this feature back. I don't care about Joe and Jane Newbie fighting their insignificant battles, I want to be able to view the top players and I want to be able to view them when and where I like.

2) No ability to pause, rewind or fast forward games.

This particular problem is obviously linked to only having access to present and running matches.

Whilst I appreciate the effort that shoutcasters have gone to try to explain and keep up with action when they're casting the various sPvP tournaments, you can only follow one player view at a time and sometimes events will happen so fast - arrows, particle effects, stomps, leaps, jumps all happening in the space of a few seconds - that the events on the screen get incredibly confusing. Trying to watch a twitch stream in 480p as the caster jumps from player to player dragging the camera across the map to try to cover all the salient events actually can be a nauseating experience.
If the caster had the option to pause the action, rewind it and switch views to catch again what might have been missed by the layman viewer, then the whole experience could be far more enjoyable and just a whole lot less messy. Giving this option to players in general would allow them to watch games at their own pace, reexamine interesting and insightful moves from the best players in the game etc.

I understand the technical difficulties which this poses. Giving players the option to pause the action, and then allowing them move about the paralysed landscape with a free camera would give the designers nowhere to hide when it came to level and character design: fireballs frozen in mid-air, arrows stopped just at the point of impact, every graphical element of the game crystallised and open for scrutiny and examination. Neither GW1 nor GW2 has ever had a system which freezes players in place, so it would have to built from scratch (and require the current observer mode to be, essentially, scrapped).

3) The "Domination" style of capturing various points on a map simply doesn't create a compelling narrative.

Think of the most popular eSport formats: Starcraft 2 and LoL/DotA 2 - both of these games feature maps which have a similar basic narrative - two opposing and opposite teams - fight your opponent back across the map and eventually back to their home base and destroy them.

The same went for GW1 GvG. If you loaded into a GvG battle halfway through you could quickly see who was the dominant team simply by the placement of the two parties, you could probably draw a line across the map which indicated where the "front line" was at that point. It was like two glorious armies locked in battle: a mistake by a warrior could see them overextend and cause the monk to have to move forward to heal and expend more energy, thereby forcing them, and consequently the entire team, to retreat backwards to reduce pressure. The game ebbed and flowed like that, the entire team moving as a single unit (or, sometimes, as two units if they split). But on occasion you'd see a totally crazy or heroic play from one or two members of a party which could snatch victory from the very jaws of defeat.

The current format does not display this kind of advantage/disadvantage dichotomy in an interesting way. If you load into a game and one team is 280 points ahead you know there is very very little chance of the other team bringing the game around, no matter how inventive or heroic they are - they simply won't catch up. The format doesn't seem to allow for that "all or nothing - here we go!" attitude which other eSport formats seem to include.

In GW1, the further you pushed your opponent back towards their base, the more difficult it would be for you to maintain pressure and the easier it would become for your enemy to wipe you out. They'd get support from NPCs etc, their resurrected allies would have a shorter distance to run before rejoining the fray, whilst you would be moving further and further away from your own res shrine - giving your own fallen allies further to run. Maintaining pressure on the enemy and totally defeating them by pushing them back into their own base and still wiping them meant you had entirely dominated them.
The domination format in GW2 doesn't have this kind of variation, whether you're winning or losing your fallen allies have just as far to run, as do your enemies, if you are dominating your opponent you only need to sit on points and wait for the points to tick over and the game to end - rather than the far more compelling narrative of pushing through and truly ending it  with a Guild Lord kill (but, in the process, giving your enemies a chance at wiping you out in their base and rebalancing the board!). It's simply not as exciting.

So, to summarise: the format is awkward to access, and if you can access it, the feature lacks usability, and if you CAN access it and fumble through the interface... the content isn't hugely compelling anyway.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

[GW2/FFX] Liadri Brings Back Bad Bird Memories

You know the one thing in gaming-memories past which the fight with Liadri Concealing Dark recalls?
A good portion of you reading this will be familiar, no doubt, with the Chocobo racing minigame from FFX. If you were a completionist like I was, then you would have no doubt spent several hours playing this thirty second to one minute minigame over and over and over in order to gain Tidus' sigil.

The idea was that you ride a chocobo across this large plain. Your ride might be somewhat unruly and occasionally the bird would attempt to pull you one way or the other and you had to pull them back to compensate, at the same time you had to dodge flocks of birds which fly at you and slow you down/add several seconds to your overall time. Conversely, you had to collect balloons which would deduct seconds from your score.

In order to complete the game and gain Tidus' Sigil (and so, his final weapon) you had to finish the race IN LESS THAN 0 SECONDS. Impossible? Well, not if you collected a tonne of balloons and weren't hit by a single bird during the entire run!

My point is that you had to play it completely flawlessly otherwise you'd mess up, hit a bird and it would all be over. I can't tell you how many times I played a perfect game, got right to the end only to be hit by a bird just before crossing the finish line (mainly because they seemed to spawn right at the end, and could just swoop down on you before you could react).

The feeling I get fighting Liadri is that exact same feeling - that breathless, blood-pumping urgency which comes with a high-pressure situation mixed with a touch of randomness (curse those stupid pulling-orbs) with the anticipation of a big payoff if you could only play that one perfect round. Its that feeling which stops me from packing it in after the thirtieth time round, and keeps me shelling out for consumables and armour repairs.

I'm not 100% sure I enjoy it. But it's certainly a rush.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

[GW2] Requisition me another Million Clockwork Punching Bags

So - these writhing hoards of centaurs, pirates, destroyers and flame legion are enchanted clockwork automatons covered by very convincing mesmer illusions?

And we are tearing through them like they're going out of fashion. Millions and more have likely been utterly smashed to smithereens by our fireballs, arrows and the edge of our blades.

So who's paying for all this?! Are the coffers of Divinities Reach utterly endless?! There is obviously some poor bugger going around after us, collecting all the bits of broken metal and still sizzling metallic arse-cheeks and mackling them back together again.

As the indomitable Sergeant Nicholas Angel says:

"Well, I wouldn't argue that it wasn't a no-holds-barred, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride. But there is no way you can perpetrate that amount of carnage and mayhem and not incur a considerable amount of paperwork."

No wonder the bloody things went haywire - they're obviously shoddily made to cut the costs!
*cough* sorry, SPOILER.
Mark my words, we're heading to a double-dip depression in Tyria. Bulk-buy your canned goods now.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Your Community Might be Bad, But they Aren't FIFA Bad

On the 28th of July the former Birmingham City and Liga MX America striker Christian Benitez was admitted to hospital with severe stomach pains. Hours later, his heart failed and he passed away.

Shortly after this sad news broke, players on FIFA13 started doing this:
Benitez's FIFA Ultimate Team card went from < 1k to 100k or more in a matter of moments. Players bought every single instance of the card on the market, multiplied his price tenfold or more and then attempted to resell him. Essentially, they were hoping to make a profit from Christian Benitez's death.

I would like to say it is an unprecedented level of tactlessness, but unfortunately that wouldn't be true. After Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch during an FA cup tie between Tottenham Hotspurs and Bolton in March 2012 the exact same thing happened.

Players essentially "price locked" Muamba's card such that if you wanted him you'd have to pay ten times the price of the day before, and the disturbing thing is that people actually paid that amount for him. People were willing to pay through the arse for a player card simply because that player was in the news for having a near fatal heart attack on national television.

It is a truly disquieting trend in the FIFA community. Every community has their trolls, their heartless internet low-lives who are willing to make a quick buck at someone elses expense, but this is different really - this is sick.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

[GW2] Dessa's Fractal Stabiliser - Concept

Fractals are great and all, but there will always be at least one which people groan upon encountering (naming no names - *cough* dredge *cough*). What if you could skip that fractal, and be assigned a new one? Wouldn't that be awesome!? It would even provide ANet with data about which Fractal people most often skip - suggesting which one needs work. That's why I came up with Dessa's Fractal Stabiliser:

The cumulative research data gathered by our continuing adventures through the Fractals of the Mists have provided Dessa with femtobytes of information on this dangerous and volatile phenomenon. Whilst she hasn't been able to pin down exactly how to stabilise and neutralise the entire fracture, through some epic number crunching and, frankly, her monumental genius, and using the many millions of powerful fractal relics we've collected over the past few months, she has been able to develop a contraption which unifies the disperate fragments of the moment and artificially stabilises the event.
This Fractal Stabiliser allows a group of adventurers to skip past a fractal if they so choose it, purchasing a Fractal Stabiliser costs 250 Fractal Relics (Dessa needs to extract the chaotic power from the Relics to attune the Stabiliser).

Because of the artificial nature of the stabilisation, once the group has moved on, the event collapses in upon itself (as opposed to resolving and becoming stable as it would do if the group fought their way through as normal). Consequently, skipping a Fractal like this only bumps the group into another random Fractal (excluding the one they just skipped).

Activating a Fractal Stabiliser brings up a pop up box for the party (much like the dungeon path selection dialogue). The group must then vote on whether to skip the Fractal or to stay in the current one.

If the majority votes to skip, the Fractal Stabiliser is used up, Dessa informs them that she has been able to stabilise the fractal and that she hopes the next leap... will be the leap home. The party is then teleported to a random fractal. Once they reach their destination, each party member will be affected by an 60 minute account-wide debuff - "Stabilisation Sickness". This sickness will have no other effect than preventing anyone affected from activating another Fractal Stabiliser.

If the majority vote to stay in the same fractal, then the Fractal Stabiliser is not used up, but it enters a local 60 minute timer before the player can activate it again.

Friday, 12 July 2013

[GW2] ArenaNet to Remove Magic Find?

Over the past few months we've been handed a number of alternative ways to gain a ridiculously high Magic Find%. Hero Banners, NPCs giving +200%, new and abundant consumables and now a permanent stat increase coming with the achievement points. If combined with full Magic Find armour, accessories and weapons (with the Luck Sigil) it is possible to get a ridiculously high Magic Find %.

But even without full MF gear, and ignoring the stuff which has now been removed, given a fairly standard level of achievement points and combined with a well, banner, guild boost and consumables it is conceivable to have 150%+ Magic Find without sacrificing any stats from your armour/weapons.

I think most would agree, that should be enough for anyone. Given this influx of new ways to increase MF (and particularly thinking of the permanent stat increases coming with cheev points) I think this points to ArenaNet, some time in the near future, moving to remove Magic Find as a stat on gear entirely. 

How they might go about this (would they simply change all the MF armour to another type? Or replace the MF stat with something useful like boon duration? Or even create an entirely new stat?) I'm not sure, but I think it's on the horizon and, given the ridiculous levels you can reach atm, I think it would be entirely justified.

EDIT: Called it -

Monday, 24 June 2013

[GW2] The Ticking Legendary Timer

I'm currently stuck in limbo - I am a precursor and a few measly T6 crafting materials away from finally finishing The Flameseeker Prophecies.

Unfortunately, I'm at an impasse. I've got a tonne of T6 crafting mats in my bank - each individual unit worth up to 30s. If I sold them all I'd have twice the amount I'd need to spend on my precursor, but then I'd be in a similar hole, I'd have the precursor, but none of the crafting mats I need to finish the job.

In essence, I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't. Even if I don't sell any crafting mats, when I finally reach the required amount to buy the precursor I'd still be spending every single penny I have in my bank, leaving me skint and with no money to finish off the 20 Powerful Bloods here and the 30 Vicious Claws there  (and, lets be honest, the 250 Crystalline Dusts over in the corner - FSP requires 500 overall).

I can keep trying to get a lucky drop - cycling through the meta events and throwing rares into the Mystic Toilet, but I've already got a Jade Weapon ticket drop in the past week, so I believe I might've hit my luck-quota for the quarter.

Thankfully, the price of precursor weapons is gradually coming down (fueled, I believe, by the release of the hugely useful event timer overlay and the implementation of the Karka Queen meta event which drops twice the normal number of rare items upon completion). The Chosen (the precursor I'm after) currently sits at about 250g (down from 270g a couple of weeks ago). I'm hoping I can meet the price about halfway - at 225-230g.

I promised myself that I'd have my legendary by the time my birthday rolled around. It is currently 24th June and my birthday is on the 28th July (don't forget!). If I'm going to get this done in time, then I'm going to need to make a decision - do I want to keep gambling on the M-Toilet or do I want to cash in some assets, buy the weapon and then have a more concrete goal of grinding back the mats I sold?

Either way, I'm going to be fucking poor by the time I'm blowing out my 26th candle.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

[GW2] Consort-Ya-Self-Out

So - are we supposed to sympathise in any way with the Consortium? I mean, the way the quests are set up in Southsun its as if we are: we have to protect the Consortium victims from Settlers just as much as we have to protect the Settlers from the Consortium. I also seem to spend a lot of my time as a makeshift riot policeman - wailing on angry settler rioters when I'd much rather be fighting by their side.

The consortium gave them a place to stay, but only if they agree never to leave and keep schtum about the rather crabby wildlife which is currently rampant on the isles. Sounds like a bit of a bum deal.

Plus, this guy gives you like 200% magic find. How can you not like him?

Monday, 29 April 2013

[GW2] Eagerly Awaiting Observation

In my last few months of Guild Wars, having completed God Walking Amongst Mere Mortals, pretty much the only reason I would log into the game would be to hit B and watch the monthly GvG championships. It was like a game-within-a-game, drastically different to the PvE game, infinitely complex and with it's own tropes, trends and memes, controversies, heroes and villains.

Watching the pros go about their business each month taught me how to do da PvPs: I never played GvG myself, but I used the skills I saw the top players using whenever I entered Random arenas, alliance battles or hero battles, and I think I was better for it.

I'm hoping that the introduction of observation mode in GW2 will allow me to absorb some of the new skills which have been incubating in the sPvP community since launch. I can imagine that there are countless nuances of the genre which just haven't made it out of the community which surrounds it simply because n00bs like myself haven't been able to hit B and stick our noses in to watch how it's done.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

[GW2] Mega Boss Nerf

If you've been playing Guild Wars 2 over the past few weeks you'll know the dramatic effect the recent changes to the world event chest drop tables have had on the community.

For a lot of people, the entire game has become about hopping from event to event, on multiple characters and across multiple servers (via guesting). Seeing as you now get at least a rare, if not several or an exotic or two from each chest (and then there's the rest of the loot from mobs, the event rewards and the other chest drops too) it is incredibly lucrative.

On the plus side this has pushed ectoplasm prices down to a more manageable level, on the down side these events are now completely gridlocked and lagging like a motherflipper.
ArenaNet's fix is to separate the guaranteed rare drop from the rest of the chest loot into a daily chest style reward which can only be gained once per account per day. You'll still get the event chest, it just will no longer guarantee you a rare item. ArenaNet are yet to confirm whether this event chest still has the chance of dropping rares - much like the event chest used to do.

What this means for the current situation is that it will effectively make hopping from server to server to maximise your reward across several characters less profitable, and not worth the effort without the incentive of a guaranteed rare item. This, in turn, should ease some of the lag and overflow problems players have been having.

I think this was a necessary change - something had to change anyway, and my idea was always just: "no chests for guests!" (it rhymes, so it must be good!) but this is a far more elegant solution to the problem - which is probably why they're the devs and I'm just a lowly serf. The situation couldn't stay as it was; players weren't playing the events across 8 characters and 3 servers for the fun of the event, they were doing it to grind out rare drops, and this is precisely the kind of gameplay ANet want to try to discourage. Noone wanted the loot tables changed back to the way they were before, noone wanted to start restricting guesting,

Yes, in the short term the prices of ectoplasm has skyrocketed again and precursor weapons have once again risen another notch out of reach, but there are other ways to bring the prices back down - and hopefully this will mean that instead of grinding Shatterer, Tequatl, Frostmaw and The Shadow Behemoth, players might start to spread out to the other world events like the Temples in Orr.

Friday, 8 March 2013

[GW2] Crest Economics

At the moment I'm rocking all Explorer's armour. As a guardian, that means that my health is relatively low - ideally once I've managed to get my legendary weapon I will switch to using something a little more useful - probably Clerics (Power, Toughness, Healing Power), but I'm debating over what runes I should be rocking.  Having looked through them I can see a number of attractive options for a healing-focused guardian such as myself:

The rune of the Guardian (with all 5 runes attached) would result in a total 165 Toughness, 50 Healing Power and 1 second of burning on my enemy when I block an attack. An interesting offer, but I'd lose a lot of the power which I have enjoyed even by using my Pirate's runes (which focus power and MF) and whilst I don't plan on focusing on DPS, it is nice to be able to contribute.

The rune of Mercy focuses on giving advantages to aiding downed players - but if I'm having to spend all my time resurrecting people, perhaps I'm not doing my job properly?

There's a number of healing power focused runes on the market, each of which result in a 165 healing power boost in total, with a number of minor effects (boon duration, gaining various boons when you're hit, summoning birds etc). On the face of it, these would look like the most attractive options, but again they don't really jump out at me - I can spam boons so fast that a longer duration isn't particularly attractive (except, perhaps for swiftness in WvW), similarly, with all the boons flying around, what use is one more when taking a hit? Finally, who wants to summon a pesky bird which will just stay in combat when you want to fall back etc? No, no thanks, I'll pass.

So, I've been looking at the severely under-utilised crests. All crests follow the same schema in terms of dealing out stat points (bar Magic Find): +20 for the main stat, +14 for two minor stats.

The stats break down as follows:

  • Magi - Healing, Precision, Vitality
  • Rabid - Condition, Precision, Toughness
  • Shaman - Vitality, Healing, Power
  • Soldier - Power, Toughness, Vitality
  • Traveler - Magic Find, Power, Precision

As a guardian, I'm not hugely interested in Condition damage, so I'll exclude Rabid straight away. I'll also eliminate Traveler as I'm moving away from Magic Find.

Having eliminated those, it becomes a toss up between Magi, Shaman and Soldier. I'll break down the stats below as if I had a crest on each piece of armour:

  • Magi x5: +100 Healing Power, +70 Precision, +70 Vitality
  • Shaman x5: +100 Vitality, +70 Healing Power, +70 Power
  • Soldiers x5: +100 Power, +70 Toughness, +70 Vitality

So, when you slot Crests over Runes you sacrifice +65 on your main stat and the various secondary effects, and instead you get the 2x +70 on the minor stats. Seeing as there aren't really any of the secondary effects which jump out of me - currently going for a crest set-up is looking quite attractive.

Does anyone actually use these things? They're a pittance on the trading post. Once I've finished my legendary weapon and bought T3 human cultural armour, I'll be completely skint and I'll probably only be able to afford the crests - which, looking at the stats above, might not be such a bad idea.

ps. Information liberally stolen from Tasha - who I'm sure won't mind...

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

[GW2] The Lazy Legendary Guide - Gift of Battle - Part 3

I recently reached the milestone of 500 badges of honor - which I traded in for the Gift of Battle (which I subsequently traded in, along with my bloodstone shard, gift of exploration and 250 obsidian shards for my gift of mastery).

Now, I've done WvW on and off since the headstart, and it took me this long to generate 400 badges (through a combination of the jumping puzzles, map exploration and random drops from those enemies I actually managed to kill).

 I managed to grind out my final 100 in just two days. Well, strictly speaking it took about an hour in total. 

If anyone tells you that doing the jumping puzzles is the best way to get badges, they obviously haven't tried actual coordinated WvW. This lazy legendary guide will tell you the basics of what you should do to get involved in your server's coordinated WvW efforts, how you can be most effective, and ultimately how you could, effectively, gather all your badges within a week. 

First - a disclaimer: this guide is being written perhaps only days before the March WvW update is introduced. This update is likely to change a lot of the dynamics of WvW, so some of the terminology or advice I give might need to change a little in light of the update. Hopefully, the fundamentals will still apply. 

Unfortunately, this guide also assumes that you are on a server which is relatively WvW active. I don't mean they have to be hugely successful in terms of winning all their match-ups or being in the top tiers. But having a corpus of dedicated WvW players, hopefully one or two larger WvW focused guilds and a whole load of individual players who like to dash about and pwn face is pretty vital. 

Aurora Glade is such a server. We've got a couple of larger WvW guilds and some well-known and confident commanders who don't mind the cat-herding exercise which WvW usually is. We don't win every match up (currently sitting at 11th in the league) but we always put up a good fight. If you want to contribute to your server, and gather badges at the same time, here's how you do it:

1) Find out how your WvW players communicate. If they do it just in the chat, that's fine, as long as it is effective. If they have voice communication, that's even better, Aurora Glade use Mumble - you don't even have to talk necessarily, just hop into the same channel as the commanding officer and follow his orders. That leads nicely onto point 2:

2) Follow your commander. I can't stress this enough, even if you have a terrible commander, if you are all communicating and moving with the same thing in mind, then you will be more effective than if you're running as an unruly mob or alone. Then again, if you have a good commander then you can be a lean-mean fighting machine, even with a relatively small and inexperienced fighting force - afterall, an army of sheep led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a sheep. 
When I say "follow your commander" I don't just mean hang onto his boot straps, I mean when he says push, you push, when he says hold back, hold back. When he says stop fighting and waypoint back to garrison (even if you think you're winning) then you stop fighting and waypoint back to garrison. 

3) Use a build which supports your teammates. A while back I was using a build which allowed me to move about the map quickly, but ultimately if I got caught out alone, I would usually die. Watching this video made me change my ways:

4) Bring speed boosts. Your commander will probably ask you to "stack on me" before they move anywhere, when he's ready to move he'll count down from 3 and on 3 he'll expect all your speed boosts to be popped. Swiftness stacks duration, so you can get 1 minute+ of swiftness with a good group. This makes moving about the map much easier. 

5) Learn the lingo. "Right guys, we're going to shave this group" - move around the edge of the group taking out stragglers on the edges. "Push to [destination]" - move into the group and attack, keep moving through to the destination. "stack up on me" - move to your commanders location, this helps your commander get a sense of how many people are following, and standing close together helps hide your numbers from your enemies (think the Sand People walking in single file). Your server might even hold training sessions to get you used to following these kind of orders, if your server has a dedicated website - then the notifications will be up there. 

Ultimately, if your commander does his job  well and helps you take down a few large zergs (20+ players) then you should be able to gather 10-15 badges per zerg-kill. Considering you might take down any number of these groups over an hour period, you should be able to rack up 500 badges pretty easily, and without ever having to repeatedly do the Jumping Puzzle. 

Click here to read The Lazy Legendary Guide - Part 1 - The Prep
Click here to read The Lazy Legendary Guide - Part 2 - Gift of Exploration

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

[GW2] The Guild Missions Situation

Just to dispel any misconceptions:

  • If you choose to join a large guild, you do not have to leave your small guild.
  • If you choose to join a large guild, your small guild is not guaranteed to "die".
  • Not every large guild will insist you represent 100% of the time.
  • You can play with your small guild and represent the large guild when they do guild missions. 
  • There are large guilds which will be absolutely fine with this.
  • The Guild Missions update was intended to be for large guilds.
  • There is plenty of content which small guilds can do well which large guilds cannot.
  • In every game there is content which can only be accessed when you meet certain conditions, that's why it's a game.
  • Any update which implements missions which scale with the size of the guild will not be coming soon.
  • I would be 100% behind such an update.

So, for now, perhaps entertain the idea of engaging with a larger guild - if only for the sole purpose of getting into guild missions until a solution is implemented. This doesn't HAVE to be something which splits the playerbase if you don't want it to be.

"In the new game the guild system is like going to a bar. Walk through the door and there could be any number of people milling about. It's likely you've come here with a few friends and that's great, but you know that there will be people in and out of this bar all night. You might choose to visit a few bars over the course of the evening, maybe jump from group to group and socialise with a number of different people. One night you might choose to spend the whole evening in a chill out bar, drinking ice cold vodka from frozen shot glasses. The next you might flit from sports bar to nightclub to strip club - you saucy devil. It doesn't matter if you decide to leave a bar and go elsewhere, you can come back later just as easily if the shisha bar across the street turns out to be a little crappier than you thought it would be."

Monday, 4 February 2013

[GW2] The Lazy Legendary Guide - Part 2 - Gift of Exploration

Your Gift of Exploration is, in my experience, the part of the legendary process which is most enjoyable. It involves exploring the world, doing all the heart quests, catching all the skill points, viewing all the vistas and uncovering all the waypoints and points of interest across the entire map. It is the one part of the legendary process which you will probably have completed about 50% by the time you're even considering starting going for a the much longer term legendary goal. It is also one of the only strictly plus-wealth parts of the legendary process (meaning you can't pay anyone in-game to do it for you, you can only make money doing it yourself).

Simply playing through the personal story will take you across the world, hitting loads of the above points as you go. You might be heading to your next story quest and happen across a dynamic event chain which drags you across the map, or you might detour slightly off path to grab a waypoint just in case things get a little hairy on the way. These things come naturally to the game, and that's why most people end up pretty much getting a whole chunk of this process done without even thinking about it.

If you haven't specifically focused on 100%-ing every zone you pass through, once you've completed your story line then you'll probably find you can jump back to one or two of your previous zones and just hit a couple of points before that zone will be completed (and you'll net yourself a pretty hefty exp, karma, gold and loot reward to go with it). However, even with this initial head start there will still be a significant part of the map requiring you to visit - my advice would be as follows:

Set yourself tasks to do - rather than entering a map and hoping to take it from 0-100% in an hour, instead go across the map doing odd jobs which will tick off a number of points in a zone, but not make it feel too much like a chore. For example: find your way to all the dungeon entrances. Look up an interesting jumping puzzle and make your way there. Unlock all the waypoints near the major meta events (such as the Claw of Jormag or The Shatterer).

This means that you aren't faced with a gigantic chunk of exploration to slog through when you step out of your personal story. Instead you're faced with ticking off the final few points in each of the zones, and collecting the oh-so-satisfying payday with each one.

To be honest, that is my only major piece of advice with regards to this part of the process - it is pretty straightforward. I do, however, have a couple of minor points:

1) As always, make your you're at least hitting your monthly achievements as you go. I can't really stress how important it is to hit as many daily and monthly achievements, with the karma jugs, mystic coins and laurels this will net you, believe me, you'll thank me further down the line.

2) Yes, WvW does count. Keep an eye on which colour your server is each week, and hop in to grab a couple of points. Hopefully, you will have a server which cycles through each colour regularly (allowing you to explore that part of the map relatively easily) - but sometimes you'll find you get stuck on a certain one or two colours (my server wasn't blue for a good couple of months, making it really hard to explore that part of the map unhindered) - so make sure you keep an eye out for opportunities to explore far-flung enemy territory when your server is on top.

3) The points of interest in dungeons don't count - for some reason. Neither do the new waypoints added to Orr as part of the January update.

4) Don't forget the Point of Interest in the Order of Whispers base "The Chantry of Secrets" in Bloodtide Coast. Unless you explicitly joined the Order as part of your personal story, you might not have had any reason to head into the hide-out, and there is a final point in there to hit.
Click here to read The Lazy Legendary Guide - Part 1 - The Prep

Friday, 1 February 2013

[GW2] Time for the Vocal Minority to Suck it Up

I made the mistake of venturing onto the official forums earlier today. And BOYHOWDY the bloated sense of entitlement on those forums is absolutely astounding!
The current whipping boy is the new monthly/daily achievements. People who have never tried crafting are complaining that they have to craft (ten things - TEN FRAKKING THINGS! Christ, that is literally fifteen seconds work), people who don't do dungeons are complaining that they have to do dungeons ("The only aspect of this game I do not play is PvE dungeons. I have not stepped into a single one." - maybe you should?), people who don't like snozzberries are complaining they have to eat snozzberries.

The main argument seems to be "why is ANet forcing me to do things that I don't want to do?" which would be a valid argument, if that were the case. ANet is no more forcing you to do the monthly than it is forcing you to do WvW - but if you want Badges of Honour you're going to have to do WvW just like if you want to do the monthly you're going to have to do dungeons.

Isn't that what computer games are? Being set specific tasks for specific rewards? Isn't that the basis of every single game in the entire world?

"What? I've got to dribble up the pitch and put the ball in the net to score a goal? Why can't I get one by booting the ref in the arse and calling the opposing goalkeeper a sissy?!"

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Lazy Legendary Guide - Part 1 - The Prep

There are plenty of guides out there for the quick and painful ways to get a legendary weapon. This guide is certainly not one of them. This is a guide for people who get bored if they do the same thing for more time than it takes to boil the kettle, this is the guide for people who don't like tagging along on the zerg-train as the crowd cycles through the same four events to gain karma, or doing the same dungeon path a billion times in a row. This the lazy-toon's guide to loafing to a Legendary.

This is more of a preliminary post - so I'm titling it "The Prep". This is the lazy guide, true, but we aren't going to make it more difficult for ourselves by being unprepared, so these are the things you'll need to know before you set out:

First off, learn the process - you need well over 2500 items in total to get a legendary, crafting mats, mystic forge items, gifts and other gubbins, keeping on top of it all is kinda tough, so make sure you don't get swamped. It might be worth making a spreadsheet or just a list you can mark off when you hit a target.

Some of the tasks you'll have to do are inherently plus-wealth (you can only GAIN money by doing them, there is no way to buy them) examples being the Gift of Exploration, the gathering of karma, badges of honour and doing your dungeon runs. There are also inherently minus-wealth tasks (you can only SPEND money doing it, there is no way to earn it) - examples being your 100 icy lodestones, and buying the recipes for your crafted gifts. Then there are those hybrid tasks which tread the line between: things like the precursor, where you have to make a choice between time (or randomness) vs money. If you don't want to spend ages farming for it, then it will cost you a bagload of money, but if you don't have the money to pay for it, then it's going to take you a long time farming. Other examples of hybrid events are getting your rare lodestones and crafting materials.

The ultimate point is: I would suggest starting your plus-wealth tasks and any hybrid tasks where you choose the timely/random option first, that way you should earn some of the money for the minus-wealth and costly hybrid tasks later down the line. So, by the time you've completed 100% exploration, gathered 500 badges of honour and gathered 1m karma - you'll probably have enough to buy some of your crafting materials and lodestones.

Leave the things which are never going to change in price till the very end - because you're never going to get sucker punched by the market. Icy lodestones are always (presumably) going to cost 1g each, but Charged lodestones might fluctuate in price (particularly atm with the new update!) so you might want to pick a few up whilst they're cheap, and farm for them when they're expensive (and perhaps tactically sell any you get as drops to buy back later at a lower price). Picking up your icy lodestones early might take vital funds away from picking up a bargain in the trading post somewhere down the line.

Gather as you go along. If you always make sure to pick up all your crafting materials whilst farming your karma, exploration and badges then you should have a nice stockpile to train your two lvl400 crafting professions, and a good start on gathering 250 of each of the T6 crafting materials you'll need for your gifts of Might and Magic. Plus it's decent experience to put towards your skill points (which are more of a limiting factor than you think, believe me!).

Salvage all level 75+ rares with a decent salvage kit in order to get Globs of Ectoplasm. Ectos have been steadily rising in price over the past few months, and though they might drop a little with this new update you're still going to need close to 500 for the whole process. So even if the rare you have found might sell on the TP for 30 silver, it is always worth salvaging it down with a mystic or superior salvage kit for a chance of netting 3 globs, a high level crafting material and whatever rare rune is on it.

Finally, my biggest tip is go at your own pace. If you find you're doing the same frustrating task for hours and it's driving you bonkers, then switch and do something else for a while. Most tasks feed into each other in some way (ie, you'll get karma, gold and experience whilst exploring. You'll get T6 crafting materials whilst dropping stuff into the Mystic Forge for clovers. You'll get rare drops to salvage for ectos whilst doing dungeons for tokens etc) so pretty much anything you do will contribute in some way to your getting your legendary.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

[GW2] Obtaining your Token of Legend - The Scavenger Hunt

ANet have let slip that the long-awaited precursor scavenger hunt is not expected any time soon. They're discussing how to approach it, but there isn't anyone actively working on getting it set up. I appreciate why they're taking their time with it - legendary weapons are one of the most hotly debated topics on GW2 forums, and the most hotly debated of all has to be the random number generator (RNG) controlled elements.

Getting hold of a precursor weapon is considered to the most time consuming/costly element of the entire Legendary process. Either you get exceedingly lu3cky, and the specific one you're looking for drops in one of the *counts* 3 (?) level 80 explorable areas, or you get equally lucky from a drop from a chest, or you get lucky by throwing 4 rare weapons into the Mystic Forge, or you stump up the several hundred gold to buy it from the Trading Post. It's not an ideal process.
It sure keeps them rare! But it doesn't feel very... legendary!

This is why the scavenger hunt has been suggested, if it can include legendary-status feats of prowess, then hopefully the path to a precursor can be made to feel like a worthy way. But, you can't make it too easy, otherwise it just devalues the whole process, and makes the ultimate product - the Legendary Weapon - feel all that less legendary.

So, my suggestions are as follows, I'm not sure if they will be considered legendary by others, but I think they're sufficiently non-grindy, skill and exploration based to warrant the receipt of a precursor weapon at the end.

My system would require the implementation of a character-by-character Achievement tracking system; simply by adding another bar under each achievement progress bar. The top bar would remain orange and would show the progress with the achievement for the entire account, below it would be a green bar tracking this specific character's progress with the achievement. You'll see why this would be necessary below (plus I think it would be kinda cool anyway).

In my system the ultimate aim to obtain four tokens - the idea being that each token is rewarded once you have proved that you present each of the character traits that it represents. The four tokens are:

  • Token of Agility
  • Token of Strength
  • Token of Bravery
  • Token of Wisdom
The tokens will be earned for the following:

Token of Agility - complete 40 Jumping Puzzles.
I've not set this to "complete all the jumping puzzles" because it's likely ANet will add more as time progresses. But this is one fewer than all the jumping puzzles, and it means that people don't have to rely on their server being good at WvW enough to allow them access to the EB puzzle. It also forces the player to go out and explore the world, see the most fantastic sights and to prove that they are worthy of the token.

Token of Strength - complete all the explorable paths on the all existing dungeons
This is no mean feat, each of the paths usually takes around an hour to complete and there are currently eight dungeons and at least three (five for Arah) paths for each one. So, even if you are able to do each path first time - that's over twenty-four hours worth of work. Again, I'm keen to avoid asking for people to repeat content over and over, but asking them to complete all the content is different.

Token of Bravery - obtain 25 of the "Bosses" Achievements
In general, I think this achievement line needs to be expanded. Currently it contains eight achievements, but you could add so much more - add in achievements for certain things done with Fractals bosses, dungeon bosses, and new meta-event bosses across the world. Not just "kill this dude" but interesting challenges like jumping into the bosses mouth, or throwing a rock at his ballsack or something. This would prove that they have the gall to stand up to the mightiest of foes.

Token of Wisdom - navigate your way to the center of the Temple of Ineffable Wisdom
I thought for a long-while about how to approach this final test. I wanted some way to trial the players knowledge of lore, Tyrian history and the world at large. The Temple (the name is just a reference to the Crab of Ineffable Wisdom - I couldn't think up a good name on the spot), would be a multi-level solo dungeon, accessible only once you've completed your personal story, and have gathered the other three tokens.
Within the temple you will be required to navigate past a number of gateways, puzzles and devious opponents. There will be a res-shrine at the start, but if you fail at any point throughout, you must start again.
The puzzles will be logic-based, requiring you to move blocks, carry objects and flick switches in order to complete the puzzle.
The opponents will require agility, timing and skill to kill. Not just hitting them with your sword, but using specific pick-up objects around the room, interacting with static objects or dodging at the right time.
The gateways will require you to answer questions about Tyrian history, current game events and lore. The questions will obviously be multiple choice, but they will have a strict time limit (so that you can't just minimise the client and google the answer). They will also be randomised, so you can't just memorise the sequence of answers beforehand.
At the end of the dungeon, the player will receive a Token of Wisdom (along with a dungeon chest, probably). Once you've received your token, you won't be able to reenter the temple again until you've earned another set of Tokens of Agility, Strength and Bravery (this is to stop people simply running the dungeon over and over for the end chest).

Then you take your four tokens and drop them in the Mystic Forge. And out drops a Token of Legend - which can be exchanged at a vendor for your precursor of choice.


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