Achievements made me see again

straightjacketI don’t know what the exact number of times is, but in my mind, once you’ve passed by something a few times you simply stop noticing it.  Your brain filters it out, especially when we’re engaging in a daily routine.  I drive by places all the time that I couldn’t tell you what they are because I never look.

The exception to this is when there’s a reason to truly look, to examine again.  Rearrange a room and you’ll really notice it in a way that you haven’t in years.  Be a passenger in a car instead of the driver and you could find yourself spotting shops that were practically invisible to you yesterday.  Or have someone point out something specifically to you and draw your attention to it.

While I’m not currently geocaching, that was one of the biggest attractions to that hobby.  It’s not really about acquiring treasure — the caches are a placeholder goal, really.  What it’s really about is the thrill of the journey and for strangers to call your attention to places that they found interesting for one reason or another.  I can attest that going on geocache trips radically changed my perception of my town — a hidden world of details and secrets that I had just never noticed.

I know not everyone likes achievements.  I don’t think it’s a real issue of contention because, for the most part, achievements are completely optional and tend to be tied to rewards that are fluff, if they have rewards at all.  But as I’ve been going back through The Secret World’s side missions and unfinished achievements, I’ve realized that achievements are often the developers way of pointing out details and vistas in the world that they’re particularly proud of.  I can only imagine how disheartened some of them must be to see players outright sprinting past all of these cool places, having tunnel vision for the next stage of a quest without seeing what’s all around them.  Achievements can be that geocache to say, “Hey, this is a really cool spot!  Check this out!”

And for me, I love it.  Sure, I could explore on my own (and often do) and come up with my own challenges, but I’m not always a self-starter.  I don’t think a lot of us are.  We often function better when guided in some fashion, from exercise plans to various projects.  And I don’t think there’s any shame in finding more motivation from this guidance when it comes to sight-seeing and deed-accomplishing in MMOs.  Achievements can turn a previously mundane stretch of zone into a new adventure, a new challenge for me to tackle.  After completing tricky or memorable ones, I often find myself seeing that place in a new light when I go by them later.

The Secret World, by the way, is a detail-lover’s paradise.  I’m still finding all sorts of little hand-crafted objects and details through my adventures that I certainly skipped over the first, second, or third time through.  Heck, I never knew that attacking ravens on top of the gas station in Savage Coast summoned a rare revanant, or that there was a dead body booby-trapped with mines on a small island in the same zone.

And do you like my new straightjacket outfit?  Saw that in the store and had to have it!

Garage Sale Tuesday: LOTRO, RIFT, and TSW

necroOoh!  A blog garage sale!  Let’s rummage through these boxes and see what discounted topics lay within!

Lord of the Rings Online

Even though I’ve been through the “emerging from Moria blinnking into the warm sunlight” experience before, it still is profoundly affecting.  There’s just this emotional relief of being back under the open sky, kind of like being resurrected from a long stay in the grave.  It doesn’t hurt that Lothlorien is easy on the eyes, either.

My Lore-master has been gamely chewing through the regular quests and the epic book series, and I couldn’t be happier with her.  The combination of a hard-hitting pet and automatic looting makes plowing through mobs just fun with little downtime.  Round ‘em up, throw out some AOEs, and let Mr. Bog-guardian take care of the rest.  I’m so in love with automatic looting that it kind of hurts to play games that don’t have it now.  Ugh, that F key is so far away to loot!  What, I have to click on the sparklies?  What are we, in some fourth world country?

I’ve pretty much maxed out everything on my LM’s pet line that I want, so I’m going to start saving up points to invest into the red line, if nothing else than to hopefully get the super-powered staff strike that does lightning damage.  That sounds pretty awesome.


So yeah, I’ve been dabbling with a new Mage in RIFT.  Still a pretty game, still very full-featured, and still enjoyable.  Being able to build the Necromancer build of my dreams with strong pets and an array of DoTs is a big attraction, although I don’t know if I’m being silly starting all over from the beginning again.  I’ve never been able to get a Mage very far up into the game, but I don’t feel a call to go back to my Cleric or Rogue.

I still had a lot of gems or credits or whatever stored up, so I bought myself a nice outfit, transferred all of the plat I’d saved up to my new character, and purchased a nice set of large bags from the auction house.  I’ll continue to dabble and see if it takes hold or if this will just serve as a nice placeholder until WildStar.

Of course, that’s the rub, because I can’t stand to invest my time into a game when I think I might not be playing it long-term.  Maybe that’s something I need to get over, to be okay with brief affairs and get better about picking them back up sporadically.

The Secret World

My main project right now in TSW is to go back and make sure I’ve completed all of the side missions in the game while tackling as many rares as I can find.  I crossed Kingsmouth off of the list (I had only missed two on my first playthrough) and am on to Savage Coast.  While the rewards aren’t huge, it’s a nice tour back through the game, especially now that I’ve got better gear and builds.

I’ve been experimenting with a new blast build using a shotgun/hammer combo.  There aren’t a lot of blast skills in the game so synergies are low, but I’ve got a few going and I’m working on buying my way to a few passive skills that should beef up my build.  It’s never going to be super-strong against one target, but having a very fast cone attack is attractive, especially as I mow down waves of mobs at a time.

This build got put to the test as our group conviened and decided to forgo Nightmare runs this week in favor of a trio of scenarios.  We warmed up with a novice group run through Hotel, which was a breeze, and then dialed the difficulty up for Mansion and Castle.  I think we were all a little hesitent to go harder based on past troubles, but training, better gear, and more experience proved to be a boon.  We got platinum on Mansion and only lost four survivors on Castle, so I think we acquitted ourselves very nicely.

I should run more scenarios, I know.  I’m up to 83 oreos and at 200 I could upgrade my blue shotgun for a nice purple one.  But egads these scenarios feel more like work than fun for the most part.

The Secret War: Glitches and oopsies

Picture unrelated to post.  Does TSW have some sort of strange teddy bear conspiracy, however?

Picture unrelated to post. Does TSW have some sort of strange teddy bear conspiracy, however?

Our cabal convened for another nightmare dungeon last night, this time heading into the Darkness War to prove our stuff.  We’d heard that this was somewhat easier than nightmare Polaris, not to mention that it’s a favorite of ours in general.

All in all, the run went great.  We plowed through five of the six bosses, gradually figuring out the strategy and fight patterns of each boss.  The stupid Ak’ab boss proved to be the trickiest — there’s just less space to run around in and his underground attack kept knocking us out.  But he, like the others, went down.

I had a stupid moment during the run.  I used my turret/manifestation build for the first boss, as it’s great for fights with tons of adds.  Then when I switched back to the strike build that I made to beat Gatekeeper, I accidentally overwrote that build with a copy of the turret one.  We didn’t have time to sit around while I remade it, so I was saddled with an older strike build that was less than optimal.  While that was a bummer, I did tweak it a bit to include a couple of purges that were pretty useful in the fight against the mad bomber.

Speaking of the bomber fight, that was another tricky encounter that kept wiping us.  We were getting the hang of it, however, when we went into the fight and he didn’t do any of his normal abilities — he just stood there and kept hitting us.  Obviously the encounter had glitched, but we are not so proud as to look a gift horse in the mouth and we took him down hard.  When he died all of the adds and shields happened at once, but by that time it was too late.

I ended up with one purple talisman upgrade for the run which made me pretty happy.  Still hoping and waiting for the day that I can finally swap out my blue QL10 shotgun for a purple!

The Secret World: Gatekeeper down!

gatekeeperI’ve been up since 5:00 am this morning, so I’ve managed to get a lot of projects done.  One of those was smacking down the Gatekeeper in DPS mode, who went down after my third try.

I did a little bit of reading up on him, but in the end it wasn’t too difficult.  I modified my strike build to pump out the maximum amount of single-target DPS possible and did some nice synergies with hindered.  Then I threw in a purge and I was off to the races.

Once I got the hang of the fight, it was pretty simple.  I stood a couple of meters away from him in the middle of the burning light circles, fired as fast as I could, and when a new circle opened up I moved past him to another gap in a clockwise pattern.  The purge and add stages were even easier, since I could just run around and hammer on the 1 and 2 keys.

I was slow on the screenshot key at the end to capture the achievement popup, but no matter — I’m ready to join the rest of our crew for nightmare modes.  Between Gatekeeper and elites and some other stuff lately, I’ve been learning a lot more about my character, her builds, and how to play her much more effectively.  That’s a good feeling — and I definitely am ready to tackle Tokyo.  February, perhaps?

Quick Thoughts Friday

flyingA few quick thoughts to round out Friday this week:


Of course, it stands to reason that the very week that I pick back up my Lore-master we should receive news that Turbine’s planning a pretty severe nerf of LM pets come Update 12.2.  Turbine’s not calling it “severe” but players on the test server kind of are.  That makes me a sad panda, because I was enjoying my super-beefed pets.  Hopefully they’ll still be pretty decent but, y’know, I’m worried.

Since I’m continuing my 2014 theme of trying new things and pushing myself to get outside of my comfort zone, I decided to make my LM a crafter as well.  I haven’t really done crafting in LOTRO outside of a few half-hearted attempts at farming and a run with scholar for my previous LM.  So I trained up woodworking and forestry with the possible goal of being able to make legendary staves some day.

I spent a couple of play sessions doing nothing but crafting to catch up to Moria levels.  Because I had more money than interest in roaming around early level zones picking up wood, I bought stacks of mats from the auction hall and sat back as my LM crafted for hours and hours.  Really, after seeing how Guild Wars 2 does this super-fast crafting thing when you have multiple items queued up, LOTRO’s slow-and-steady production was almost painful.  At least I could tab out and do other things while that was going on.  With the help of a generous kin member who donated two tiers’ worth of mats for my cause, I’m now up to Ilex wood that I can gather and craft from Moria.

The Secret World

The Knights of Mercy reconvened last night to get me through my final elite needed: the Facility.  It was also the first time I had run that particular instance and we had a great time — few wipes, memorable boss fights, a quick resolution.  Plus, at the end you can run full-tilt into this doorway and be flung back.  We tried hard to get screenshots of all five of us flying through the air but we weren’t quite that coordinated.

I took a few preliminary runs at the Gatekeeper just to see what that fight was like.  I had heard horror stories, especially from guildmate and leader Maric, who I think spent three curse-laden weeks trying to beat this guy.  He is not easy, that’s for sure.  I need to do some reading up and perhaps make a new build.

Oh!  Speaking on new builds, I whipped up a really fun all-turret/manifestation build that synergizes with the passive skill Big Bang (each attack by a turret/manifestation does an additional hit).  It’s so dang cool to lay three to five of these down at once and seeing how quick the mobs go down.


Now that I’ve been using the Kindle Paperwhite for a few days I have some follow-up thoughts.  For starters, it’s just been a great reading device.  The size and weight makes it ideal for me, as the iPhone screen is a little too small and the iPad has that weight.  I keep it next to my computer for reading during loading screens, reboots, couch time, and quality time in “the office.”  Yes, technology has advanced to the point where I can comfortably read and poop in the dark!  We truly live in a wonderous age.

So far the battery is holding up just fine, as I haven’t charged it since I first got it.  Probably my biggest complaint is the wake up switch — it’s small and not very easy to press with just one hand, so I have to hold the device with one hand and press it with the other.  It’s not a big issue, but it’s annoying even still.

I don’t know if I like how the device gives me a countdown of how long it’ll probably take me to finish the book.  It’s there at the bottom of the screen, sort of daring me.  Sometimes I find it a little distracting.

Old-school RPGs come to tablets

Two big RPG releases to tablets this week.  Baldur’s Gate II enhanced edition is out with just every expansion and addition that came out for that game.  Since I have it on, I probably won’t be splurging $15 to get it.

Besides, I’m waiting for Final Fantasy VI to get into the app store.  It’s already out for Android and presumably is weaving its way through Apple’s approval process.  I wasn’t that aware of FF6 when I was a teen and considering that it’s many people’s favorite of the series, I do want to give it a good play.

The Secret World: Slaughtering the Slaughterhouse

bluefogYesterday was quite a long day and by 9:00 pm I was on the verge of just calling it an early night and going to bed.  But it was Secret World night, and how could I pass that up?  So I accessed my man-powers (i.e. coffee) and had a great session.

It began with an hour of tooling around with my sporadic Illuminati toon who is still plodding through a completionist run of Kingsmouth’s quests.  It’s great to see Edgar again and everything, but I just don’t know how I want to build this character.  Right now he’s a full tank, with a hammer (well, fire axe) and chaos magic and gobs of health, but I’m not sure that’s going to be fun in the long run.  There is something satisfying about smacking things down with hard physical attacks, but melee always feels like you’re at such a disadvantage in this game.  So I’m thinking about moving over to assault rifles, but that’s not going to happen until I build up some more AP/SP and find a rifle.

Then I logged onto Yeti and gave the new (to me) “novice” difficulty level on scenarios a try.  My experiment for this was the Hotel, and while I can report that novice definitely is pretty easy to handle, mob-wise, the whole experience didn’t feel that worthwhile in terms of rewards vs. time in the end.  I think I got 6 oreos and one green augment.  I mean, it’s soloable and that’s great, but I am still not sold on the fun factor of scenarios at all.

When the Knights of Mercy group logged in, they asked what elites I had left to run before I could take a crack at the gatekeeper.  I had just two: Facility and Slaughterhouse.  Nobody wanted to run Slaughterhouse because our corpses have crashed on the rocks of the NK fight more times than I could count.  I’d actually never seen past the NK fight, so I said we should just rip the band-aid off and get it over with.

It went about as good as I expected.  No problems with the first boss, but NK proved to be a bear once more.  We tried a couple of different approaches and died many, many times.  But about an hour in it happened — we found our groove and the boss went down without any further lip on his behalf.

nkAs everyone else promised, the rest of the dungeon run was a cinch compared to this guy.  Boom, boom, boom, the rest of the bosses fell in quick order.  One thing I love about TSW’s dungeons is how most of them eschew extraneous trash mobs (or eliminate them altogether) in favor of a string of interesting boss fights.

I was a little bummed that one the last boss I died midway through and had to watch us beat him via the remote camera, but hey, a victory is a victory and I’ve only got one elite to go.  I’ll take that any day of the week.

So good night altogether and big thanks to my cabal for babysitting my butt through an annoying instance!

The Secret World: Excuse me while I kiss the sky and then fall from it

vampiresI realized last night that my Templar only has two unfinished missions in the entire game (barring dungeon quests), a realization that finally pushed me into doing the long-dreaded Cost of Magic.  I think I’ve gone on record saying how much I despise stealth missions, both in TSW and, well, in every video game.  They might be for some people, just not for me.  So I had good reason to fear The Cost of Magic, especially considering the reputation it’s created as a soul-destroying piece of work.

You can kind of look at this mission like a very old school video game, broken into several different levels, each one sadistic in its own way.  The worst level by far is the first one where you have to ascend platforms while avoiding vampires who can knock you off with just one blow.  There’s a lot I don’t get about TSW, and the architectural style of Transylvania’s vampires is part of that.  I mean, it’s certainly different, but what’s the point of building these rickety, rusty structures high up in the air — and then staff them with 400-pound monstrosities in bulky metal suits?  What’s the daily accident report at that workplace, I wonder?  Really, these things are just randomly bizarre, but TSW is usually good at providing some sort of explanation.  Things in this world fit, so how do these structures fit other than just annoying me?

Actually, scratch that, the worst level was the part where I had to activate these floating discs and then jump along them to get to the top of a rock.  TSW does not have spot-on jumping, and these small discs give no margin for error.  Plus, they only last a little while, so there were times I was in the middle of jumping through them when they just turned off.  Oh, hello ground.  Didn’t expect to see you so soon.

All things considered, my first time through this quest took me a half an hour — not that bad.  For stealth mission aggrivation, I’ll maintain that Dracula’s castle is far, far more annoying.  But it’s not like I’m going to be rushing to do either one of these again any time soon.