Guild Wars 2: A night in Frostgorge Sound

gw1Last night I was feeling a Guild Wars 2 jonesing, so I decided to make it 100% about that game all evening.  My engineer is currently plowing through the high-level zones in her madcap world completion quest, and that night’s focus was the frozen Frostgorge Sound.

I really love the wintery areas in Guild Wars 2, but I think this zone takes the prize in that category.  It’s just a beautiful place that features these giant breathtaking ice ships.  When I first saw one of those ships (above) I kept thinking, “You really don’t see sights like these in any other MMO.  You just don’t.”

I got into an exploration groove that started to go surprisingly well.  Around the two-hour mark, I realized that I could actually wrap up an entire zone in a single outing, which got me super-motivated to finish it before bedtime.  It helped that none of the vistas were tricky jumping puzzles and that there were relatively few heart quests to slow me down.  Actually, the whole zone felt really balanced between the four types of exploration points, and I even had time to stop for a couple of events.

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Right before I finished up my last two unlocks, I saw the shadow of a giant ice dragon in the distance and decided to check it out.  I guess it was the big zone boss fight, and how can one say no to that?  I yoinked a bazooka and joined the crowd of players to take him down.  I especially loved the dragon’s animations and how it flew from one site to another, causing the whole attacking throng to make a dash for the new locale.  We got him down with few problems and I raked in some nice treasure for my troubles.

So that was that.  One zone knocked out in an evening, and it felt good.  I think I’m going to take a small break from world completion to work on my character’s personal storyline, which is still at… um… level 22.

LOTRO: Angel of Death incoming!

As kind of an epilogue/side-story to the previous post, last night I was blitzing through a goblin camp in North Downs for an easy rank of Zeal.  There is a certain joy in being a level 81 tank with thousands of DPS who can one-shot everything with any of my skills, even the healing one and the one that makes people bow down before me.  I made it a game to see how quickly and efficiently I could dash through the camp, kill everything, and then patiently wait for two minutes while it all respawned.

But it wasn’t until this morning that I looked at this experience through the eyes of the poor goblins and realized just how traumatic it must’ve been.  There they are, just minding their own business, staying the heck away from any other settlements, and mostly camping out underneath the open stars.  They while away the day by whittling sticks, putting their valuables (such as they are) into giant treasure chests, and petting their many adorable doggies.

Then a trumpet sounds and gouts of blood start erupting from outside the gate.  A maniac woman wielding a six-foot great axe comes barreling through, cleaving the advance guards in twain with no effort.  Behind her floats a spectral nightmare, a ghost archer who starts skewering any target the crazed valkyrie hasn’t killed yet.  There’s nowhere to go, nowhere to retreat to, just seconds left as death arrives in the form of a 30 mph sprinting full-plated warrior.  The goblins never have a chance to even attack once before their heads are rolling around in the globby black blood on the ground.  There’s no time to process the horrible nightmare that has descended upon this terrible day — no time, that is, until souls are yanked back from the great beyond, bodies are stitched back up, and firm invisible hands hold each terrified resurrected goblin in place while the angel of death returns.

Then again, quick rank of zeal.  Score!

LOTRO: The Captain project

horseMy Captain in LOTRO is the longest-running character I’ve played, not just in that game but any MMO at all.  I think she came into existence around 2008, sat on the backburner until I got back into the game in 2010, and has been a companion ever since.  Sure, we have our periods of falling out where I start to look for a new date to the prom, but I just can’t quit her.  She completes me.

She’s also starting to fall apart due to neglect.  Over the past couple weeks I’ve been experimenting with various alts in the game, and due to a laser-intense focus on building those characters right did I realize just how shoddy my Captain’s build had become.  LIs and legacies?  I just go with whatever, couldn’t be bothered to fine-tune those weapons.  And the worst are her virtues, which I chose back in 2008 and stopped actively pursuing in 2011.

So I decided that the old lady needs a fresh coat of paint, and thus I took a reprieve from my adventures through Rohan (now with 100% more horsemeat burgers!) to see what I could do about shoring everything up.

One of her virtues, Determination, had to be scrapped entirely.  I don’t know what I was thinking by focusing on agility — maybe it was more beneficial for Cappies way back when? — but I know that I need Zeal and all of its yummy, yummy morale.  Unfortunately, I had accumulated a grand whopping total of one Zeal rank by now, which meant that I had 15 ranks to make up for in addition to about five ranks in total to bring my other virtues from 14 or 15 up to 16.  So I mapped out what had to be done and now I’m on a crazy tour back through earlier zones, slaughtering wildlife with abandon just to prove what a sterling hero I am.

And you can’t have a makeover project without redoing outfits, so I’m working on assembling her a few spiffy new duds so I don’t look so… generic.  There is a skirmish vendor armor set I want to buy that looks just incredible, so I think I’ll be doing that before too long.

Anyway, it’s a good feeling to be actively working on bringing her up to par and making her even better than before.

One-handed gaming

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Stop giggling at the title of this article.  We are about to dive into serious technical business.

So some of you know that I have a relatively newish baby in the house (those who are ever present with me in Teamspeak sure as heck know it), and as such I knew that he was going to present a few small snags when it came to gaming.  I’ve gone through this a few times before.  Thus, right before he was born, I purchased a Naga molten-something mouse due to the promise that I would be able to game one-handed if need be.

This actually comes into play every day or so.  Hey, when the baby wants to be held, he wants to be held, and who am I to deny him the wonder of MMOs?  It’s at this point where I go from the traditional mouse-and-keyboard setup to mouse-only… and it kind of works.  Kind of.

I’ve read testimonials of people who have gotten really proficient with gaming on a Naga mouse and perhaps even prefer it.  I don’t think I’ll ever be saying either, but I am glad for the option when I need it.  The mouse features 12 buttons on the left side that correspond with the 1-12 on the keyboard.  It effectively allows me to pilot my character and fire off a basic rotation.  I’ve found this works best for Guild Wars 2 (which kept its hotbar pretty short and simple) and less so for games like LOTRO, where I heavily include ZSCFV as auxiliary hotkeys.  And there’s the issue of jumping.  I don’t really know how players can jump with this thing.  Maybe there’s some keymapping that can be done, I haven’t really looked too closely into it.

So while it’s not revolutionizing my life or anything, it’s a nice gadget to have when I’m down one arm for gaming.

Quote of the Day

“I’ll be short, you don’t have time to read stuff, you have some rape and carnage to get cracking on.”

~ Official Battleground Europe news post

One of my biggest slang pet peeves is whenever anyone — particularly in the gaming community — throws around the word “rape.”  But a developer?  Seriously?  Even one who’s in charge of an MMO that has, tops, 12 people, it’s bizarre and shameful.

You’re not a bigger man for using that word and your stock in the eyes of anyone who matters does not go up because you do.

/minirant over

Too Long; Didn’t Listen episode 53 is up!

tldlsquareWe can’t believe it’s been 53 episodes and we haven’t talked about crafting yet.  What gives?  We blame the one world order.  That’s the order that Dodge started back in college and has naked buttocks on the flag because, y’know, he thinks butts are funny.

Two topics in 30 minutes or your next podcast is free. You know you would listen to all this if it just wasn’t so… long!

Listen to episode 53 here!

WildStar: It’s good to be bad?

wildYesterday’s reveal of WildStar’s second faction, the Dominion, has put into play the “bad” side in an effort to woo players to roll one of them.  They certainly look interesting, especially the intelligent robots (because, seriously, who wouldn’t want to play a robot?), but it’s made me think about and wonder on the appeal of the bad guys versus the scrappy good guys.

Case studies in the “good” faction vs. “bad” faction in MMOs abound, from World of Warcraft to SWTOR to RIFT.  Sometimes there’s an effort to portray the good guys as less-than-good and bad guys as “misunderstood,” but the archetypes are clearly present.  One side appeals to the virtuous, upright heroes in us.  The other side appeals to the dangerous, hard-edged anti-heroes.  It’s a tug-o-war for players’ interest, and I always find it fascinating to see how players choose between the two.

Sometimes it’s about going against the grain, either in yourself or what you perceive as the popular choice.  The bad side has a lot of allure in that regard, especially by those who want to set themselves apart from what they see as the weak carebears who are all about fluffy love.  Or whatever.  You know what I mean, though.  It’s like, “I’m rolling the evil side because I have more gamer cred and Megadeth rules.”  I saw a lot of popularity for the Empire faction in SWTOR because of this — perhaps too much popularity.  Then it gets funny when everyone swamps the bad guy boat and rolling the good faction becomes the underdog choice.

But I think WildStar will be more complicated than that.  Obviously it’s trying to appeal to the Firefly/Star Wars crowd with its Exiles (substitute Browncoats/Rebels as you will), and man has that pot been simmering in the geek crowd over the past ten years.  I get to be a somewhat-veiled Browncoat rebelling against the authoritarian fist of the military?  And I can be sassy while doing it?  Where do I sign up!  So I see a huge base of support for the Exiles and a reason to suspect that it could be the overwhelming choice.

So the Dominion has to step it up.  To be the Horde to the Exile’s Alliance and offer a slightly darker perspective that screams motorcycle gear and total bad-assery.  From the single video we saw, I don’t know how effective this is going to be.  It’s cool they have humans too, and robots, musn’t forget about the robots.  But they’re the oppressors and humorless ones at that.  They haven’t gotten much press at all up to this point and are playing at a disadvantage for the hearts of the community.

The fourth race on each side could be a major factor in swinging some votes, sure, but Carbine’s got to give us more than that if they want players to go, “Dominion?  Sign ME up!”  Their personality has to appeal in some way.  They have to be sympathetic so that players can identify with them.  And above all else, they need to exude cool at every turn so that not picking them would be a painful decision.

As it stands, I’m 90% in the Exile camp until or unless Carbine convinces me otherwise.  We’ve still a ways to go before that decision needs to be made, however, so anything can happen.