GW2 – Path Of Fire Demo, Take Two

This morning I tried the Path of Fire demo again, and it went much better. Thanks for the encouraging comments on my last whiny post. :)

In fact, the second time through, I got all the way through the burning village and killed the two Veteran Forged Warhounds without dying. Then … the client disconnected.

That was disappointing, to say the least.

So I had to go through it a third time. I got through it all again without dying. I put out all the fires in the village, got the Raptor mount, met what’s-her-name and what’s-his-name, and got out into the city. (I actually saw the city before, because if you rage-quit the episode like I did yesterday, it drops you into the city.)

I really only did three things differently to get through the combat: 1) I actually bound Dodge to the key I expected it to be on, 2) I kept moving constantly, and 3) I hit every ability on the hotbar as soon as it came off of cooldown.

Just doing those three things I managed to stay relatively damage-free for most of the fighting. (I stuck with the scepter, too.) I had spent too much time playing more “traditional” MMORPGs and forgot that playing GW2 is basically like playing a shooter from a third-person viewpoint. If you stand still for any reason, you’re going to die in seconds.

Anyway, the new city looks nice, although there’s a very noticeable drop in frame rate. GW2 is not a game that appears to be rendering a lot of high-end graphics, but it certainly chugs like it is.

Mounts are one of the major selling points of this expansion. I can say that the Raptor is neat, the jumping is neat (if somewhat imprecise and frustrating), and the tail swipe is neat. I don’t see it fundamentally changing the game in any way, though, except that it will allow the developers to add different kinds of jumping puzzles. So … yay?

Other than the mounts, I just saw more of the same GW2 continuing into a desert zone. I’m starting to rethink whether $30 is cheap enough to buy this expansion. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I feel like I should work on finishing Heart of Thorns and the Living Story Season 3 before I think about venturing into the Crystal Desert.

GW2 – Path of Fire Demo, The Rage-Quittening

I’m going to try really hard not to sound bitter, angry, and resentful as I write this. :)

I’m home today so I logged into GW2 to try out this Path of Fire demo thing. At first I had no idea how to even participate.

I logged into my Necro, who I had left in Orr outside of the Zhaitan dungeon. Last time I played, I tried to do that last personal story mission to kill Zhaitan. Hoo boy what a mistake that was, but that’s another story. The point is that when I logged in, I was in the middle of one of those Orr events where everything in the area is trying to murder you and I got killed over and over and over again before I could even run far enough away to teleport away from it. So that was a great start.

I logged out again. I noted on Twitter that no other MMORPG makes me as angry as GW2 when I play it. The way the game kills you again and again, knocking you around like a pinball, just feels so bleepity-bleeping unfair.

Okay, true, I obviously don’t know any of the “meta” or any of the best builds or anything about anything. I don’t even have my dodge key bound correctly. I saw another player running around in the same Orr death zone that I was in who didn’t seem to be having nearly as much trouble as I was, so obviously I am doing something fundamentally wrong when I play this game. But frankly I don’t care to figure out what I am doing wrong. The game makes me so angry in the way it punishes the player that I just want to tell it to bleep the bleep off and bleep it’s bleeping bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Deep breaths. Anyway.

With some Twitter help I finally discovered you have to make a new “demo” character to participate in the Path of Fire demo. It’s really, really easy to overlook this in the interface. There’s a “Create (demo)” button in the lower right corner which I completely missed. There’s also two extra “demo” character slots where you can make characters, but I didn’t even see them because I already have so many character slots I had to scroll over to the right to even see them.

I made another Necro character. I picked a random-looking long-white-haired human dude. He has the exact same voice as my long-suffering bald human Necro from launch, which is very weird.

I started out on an airship, another one of those fantasy airships that obviously looks like it could never fly because of the basic principle that most things are heavier than air but we just go with it because it looks cool and *hand wave* “it’s magic.”

Once the airship lands you walk off the deck into a cave or something and right into a massive fight with … bad guys that you will probably understand if you’ve played the Living Story Season 3. Unfortunately I haven’t, so they are totally random and arbitrary bad guys to me. It is a typical GW2 fight–totally chaotic, a million bad guys throwing a million AoEs and other effects at you all simultaneously. I died.

After a couple more deaths, me and my NPC Charr lieutenant (a completely unknown character to me) finally cleared the room. At this point I noticed that I had a bunch of gear boxes in my inventory. I opened one and it exploded into a new set of gear. I started to put it on, but of course with every piece you have to “Select Stats” and of course I have no clue what to pick. Even if I did, you have to do it for every single piece. So I gave up on that and just kept the default gear, staff, and scepter.

A Herald of Balthazar arrived. There was some conversation between us that made no sense to me, since I know nothing about the story leading up to this point. Of course this turned into a boss fight. I died again. Eventually we drove off the Herald of Balthazar and my character (“The Commander”) declared that he was going to follow it. (Something that I, the player, had NO desire to do.) I followed, fought some more, listened to some more dialog from the Herald that made no sense out of context, a thousand other mobs appeared in a burning village and I died again.

Then I rage quit so that I could write this post.

I mean, I just don’t understand this game at all. I don’t understand how it’s even possible for people to have fun playing this game at level 80. It’s nothing but work and chores and more work and more chores to fight and claw your way through nonsensical fights to see a story. And they just keeping doubling-down on it, time after time after time.

So someone please make a video or a blog post or something with step-by-step instructions on how to casually enjoy this game at level 80, because I’m obviously not getting it. :)

Update: I did better on the second try. :)

E3 2017 Thoughts

You can always count on my blog to bring you the latest, greatest news and commentary… so here’s another forgotten post from my Drafts folder.

It is was E3 time again, and for a change, I actually watched some of the presentations, something I have never done before. I watched part of a Sony event on Saturday [June 10th], part of a Microsoft event on Sunday, and part of an Ubisoft event on Monday.

I didn’t intend to watch any of it, but when Twitter started exploding with commentary from people who are normally pretty quiet, I figured I should at least follow along so I would get the Twitter jokes. Overall I found it really weird. It was an extremely odd mixture of a Pro Wrestling vibe and a Ted Talk vibe.

I watched most of them on Twitch, but I watched the Microsoft event on Mixer.com and I have to say it was a considerably higher-quality stream. Twitch has got their work cut out for them if they intend to compete on quality.

What I’ve learned from watching these E3 presentations is that I’m clearly too old and jaded to be watching these things. I saw a lot of games with impressive graphics but zero innovation. Pretty much every new game I saw I thought to myself, “Oh it’s [X game I’ve played before] but with prettier media assets.” Where “X” was usually a shooter from the 1990s.

The live audiences were hilarious. I feel like they would do much better if they got rid of them, because there’s nothing that kills enthusiasm faster than half-hearted, polite applause. The only time I saw a crowd show any real excitment was when the Microsoft announced their backwards compatibility efforts. The biggest applause was for being able to play old games! (To be fair, I imagine most of the audience was press.)

4K is apparently A Big Deal for games now. I can sort of understand that. I play most games in 2560×1440, which is the maximum my monitor handles, which is about halfway to 4K, and it looks pretty nice. But if I don’t get a decent frame rate I have no hesitation dropping back to 1920×1080, and the resolution difference is negligible to my eye, especially in the heat of battle.

I missed the actual announcement but apparently there’s a new Xbox One X, which is like an Xbox One but with Xtra power. Coming in at $499, it’s now the one you have to buy to be considered cool.

Earlier this year, I came really close to buying a PS4 Pro, but then I got distracted with something else and forgot about it. The Xbox One X looks cool and all, but I think Sony still has more exclusives that I’d be interested in (by which I basically mean Bloodbourne and Horizon Zero Dawn).

P.S. For completion’s sake, I watched a re-run of Nintendo’s presentation on Tuesday night. I’m not a Nintendo person so it didn’t make much of an impression on me. The main thing I noticed was that the Switch sound effect that plays at the beginning of videos over the Switch logo sounds like finger snapping, not a “switch” clicking.

LotRO – Mordor to Moria

I was having some fun in the Mordor expansion, bopping up to the Black Gate, talking to Gandalf … pardon me, Mithrandir … meeting those four “adventurers” with different personalities. It seemed like they were setting up those four folks as characters we might see again throughout Mordor, following their adventures so to speak, and it seemed like a good story idea. They all had their different reasons for going into Mordor, and it was the hook I needed to get interested in the zone. I wanted to see how they fared.

Then I got to that first town beyond the Black Gate (Udun?), and I noticed some new bar telling me about a Mordor Evilness debuff, and then I tried to fight some mobs, and I almost got killed by a couple of stupid birds. Everything around me was level 106 while my experience bar was still only about 75% of the way through 105. It entirely killed my enthusiasm for playing. I thought to myself, “You know, self, you could just go back to your 55 Hunter and pick up the story back in Moria, where you didn’t have trouble fighting mobs and there was no debuff bar.”

So I did. My Hunter is far more fun to play than any of the other classes I’ve played in LotRO anyway. (Hence the reason my Hunter reached level 55 while every other class never got out of the 20s.) So I’ve been bopping around Moria for a couple of days now,  and actually managed to gain a whole level in the process! Level 56! It always feels like a momentous milestone to gain even a single level in LotRO.

Moria is a somewhat tedious place to get through, considering that you get lost every 10 steps and there is so much running around, but I have to give them credit for making the place look amazing. I stop a lot to take screenshots.

The Thirteenth Doctor

Here are just a few thoughts about the announcement of The Thirteenth Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, because I wanted to schedule a post for today, my first day back at work (yuck), and this was the only text I had available.

I don’t have a problem with a female The Doctor. Whittaker was very good in Broadchurch.

And that’s about the extent of my thoughts about the announcement.

I’ve never looked up to The Doctor as a male role model, and can’t even conceive of anyone who has, or what it might be like to be a man who believes they’ve lost their favorite male sci-fi role model.

(Although I have to admit that I vividly remember the Season 4 episode Midnight with the Tenth Doctor where someone suspiciously questioned how The Doctor knew things and he shouted back, “Because I’m clever!” and I was like, yeah, I can totally identify with that, he’s my hero, he’s just like me, except I don’t really consider that a gender-specific sort of hero worship.)

I’m reasonably confident that there are no men who actually look up to Doctor Who as a male role model, and 95% of the people complaining are just part of the outrage industry (that industry being made up of people who somehow profit from righteous fury but don’t actually give a damn one way or another).

For myself, I haven’t watched the show much since the Twelfth Doctor took over. I didn’t much care for the Eleventh Doctor either, but I still watched most of those episodes (more because of Amy and Rory to be honest). My personal favorite is still the Ninth Doctor, with the Tenth a close second. (I didn’t watch the “old” Doctors.) I am also very fond of the Doctor Who music composed by David Murray.

To be honest I’m more excited about Moffat leaving than the announcement of a woman Doctor. Moffat lately seemed to have a knack for giving The Doctor weird unexplained superpowers and plaguing every episode with a completely incomrehensible plot where the solution to every problem was some form of magic.

So I’ll be interested to see what they do with a reboot. It’s the only television show I can think of where regular reboots are expected.

That being said, I do think there is plenty of room for them to get into trouble with a female lead. There will be writing challenges. In the past, The Doctor quite often had to be “rescued” by his companions. How is that going to go over with a female lead?

Another fairly prominent characteristic of The Doctor is his rather humongous ego, his propensity for declaring himself to be the smartest person in the room. (See episode Midnight referenced above.) He typically has the kind of know-it-all personality that most people find abhorant, except he gets away with it because he’s earned it. (Somewhat like Sherlock Holmes.) How is that going to play with a female lead?

I’m not saying it won’t work. But those are traits that we generally don’t associate with strong female characters. (I think there is an unspoken law that every female character has to be a “strong” female character now.) It will be interesting to see how they deal with those kinds of issues. Will they simply overlay those traits on a female Doctor (which would make narrative sense) or will they try to change those traits so that the show is more “acceptable” (which would make business sense)?

I’ll also be curious to see just how often they’re going to go to the well for “oh hey I’m a woman now” jokes. If they do that too often, it will be a disaster. But if they don’t at least acknowledge it, at least in the first episode, it will be unrealistic, because it would certainly be something he/she would comment on.

I’m trying to think of other female characters that might fit the general mold of The Doctor’s personality. Over-confident, brilliant, quirky, theatric, childish, vulnerable. Abby from NCIS? Not quite right. And that’s all I can think of.

LotRO – Mordor Expansion Thoughts

I did indeed buy the $40 edition of the Mordor Expansion, and boosted a Hobbit Minstrel from level 24 to level 105 so I could actually play said expansion. (Folks on Twitter seemed to think Minstrel was a good solo class to play.)

Once again the gear you are given looks awful, like a suit of white underwear. I guess they really want people who use level boosts to look like total newbies compared to the people have been playing all along, which I suppose isn’t entirely inappropriate. At least this time they gave me a neat-looking pony, though it is literally only like 5% faster than the blond sorrel pony I had at level 24.

My level 105 experience began with Book 8, Chapter 1, “No Other Way.” This is one of those “scenarios” where you experience a piece of the story from a different character’s point of view. I had never seen these until late in the Volume 1 Angmar story, when my Hunter was over level 50, so I was glad to have that previous experience. I imagine someone brand new to LotRO or someone who had never leveled beyond the 20s (a popular place for people to fizzle out of LotRO–or at least that’s where most of my characters fizzle out) might be a bit confused about what was happening to them.

It was a neat little story section but it was also entirely expositional. No combat, just reading text and walking around as Golum. Possibly not the greatest way to begin the expansion.

Then it was on to the Black Gate, and a tense attempt at parlay. (I did not remember this from the story–seems like a silly idea to try to negotiate a treaty with Sauron, but I guess it was mainly just an attempt at a distraction.)

Then on to the Battle of the Black Gate aka. the Battle of the Morannon. This battle was just amazing. If my wiki research is correct, this was added in the previous Update 20. I can’t believe I didn’t hear more people raving about how amazing this battle was. (Perhaps this is why the game nearly died.) I was blown away by how much LotRO managed to deliver with its creaky old game engine.

It was really laggy and slow, but it was worth it. None of my screenshots do justice to all the activity going on around you. Archers firing, people getting shot by arrows right in front of you, cavalry riding into battle, big ogres knocking people high up in the air, fires burning, Nazgul flying around, bombastic music blaring in the background: I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Book 9, Chapter 1, which I think is the official beginning of the Mordor expansion, didn’t start until the middle of the battle. It was not long before the Ringbearer completed his quest and the battle ended. I hope that’s not a spoiler. :)

It was so quick that I thought it was actually a bit anti-climatic. One minute we’re wandering around Mount Doom to find Frodo and Sam, and the next minute the eagles arrive and everything’s over and we’ve won the day.

That’s about as far as I got as of this writing.

I really enjoyed the Black Gate battle but I honestly don’t feel much burning passion to continue beyond that. As a newbie outsider to LotRO, it feels like it’s “over” now. I know, I know. I remember hearing a number of people talking about how there would be more to Mordor than just Mount Doom, and that’s pretty clear, considering that three chapters into the expansion, we’re all celebrating our victory over Sauron, so there must be something else beyond that. But I personally have no idea where they can go from here, and the game itself has not yet introduced any compelling new storylines for me to follow. My knowledge of Lord of the Rings lore is not that great, but I think there is something about The Shire and sailing west to the New World to discover America. We’ll see.

P.S. Apparently there are tons of bugs in this expansion and it was rushed out the door too soon but I haven’t seen any of that. I’ve seen some strange quirks with people appearing and disappearing around quest givers but that’s about it. I would have just chalked that up to an old game engine and the fact that LotRO has always had strange quirks.

Personally I think this expansion controversy illustrates just how close LotRO was to shutting down forever. SSG is apparently so desperate to keep this game alive that they have no choice but to rush out a substandard expansion. I know a lot of people are upset about it but I personally don’t blame them for it. At least they’re trying.

I will also add that there aren’t many people playing this expansion. I’m on Brandywine, which I thought was one of the more populated servers, and these zones are dead as a doornail. There are none of the crowds you’d expect to see at the start of an expansion. (Granted, I’m five or six days behind, but still.) Not to be pessimistic, but this does not seem to bode well for the future of this game.

Update: Finally wandered beyond the Black Gate into the first Mordor zone. Lots and lots more people there. Not as deserted as I first thought. No need to panic. :)

Meet-Cat

So Tuesday afternoon I went out to my garage to get some tools, and a very friendly cat popped out from beneath my car and meowed. I meowed back and the cat went on to explain with a long series of meows that he was very hungry and he further asked if I might have some extra food please?

Now I’ve seen probably a half dozen different cats wandering around the vicinity of my house in the last year, not to mention packs of stray cats hanging around the cul-de-sac where I last lived (I am pretty sure a neighbor across the road fed them). Not one of these cats has ever walked up and started a conversation with me. They’ve always run away, like outdoor cats usually do.

Needless to say I was a bit surprised that this one did not. This cat purred and rubbed up against me like we were long-lost pals. So I concluded that he must be very hungry indeed. (I am just making an assumption he’s a he because in my life experience I’ve found that male cats are friendlier and female cats are more stand-offish.) I gave him a can of tuna fish which was pretty much the only cat-appropriate food I had on hand.

The cat ate the whole thing in one sitting. I expected the cat then to wander away again, but he spent the rest of the day in roughly this position on my back porch:

Every time I checked on him, he was still there, and it was not long before he followed me inside the house. That night he was very pleased to receive a handful of chicken pieces and spent the night in my kitchen on a chair by the window. (I thought this cat might belong to someone so I figured he would be safer inside the house than outside. Also he was totes adorbs.)

On the second morning I let the cat out again, thinking again that he would return to wherever his home was. But again, he parked himself right on the back porch and didn’t move all day. I went to the store and bought some cat food.

I was a bit worried about this unexpected feline development because I also happen to have a dog, who typically views cats as either incredibly fun play toys or mortal enemy invaders. The two animals warily eyed each other at first, but they didn’t attack each other, which I took to be a positive sign. In fact, Bella (my dog) kept a respectful distance and wagged her tail whenever she got near the cat. (Bella has actually lived with a cat before, but it has been many years.) Still, I kept the two of them separated for the first couple of days, fearing the cat might scratch my dog’s nose.

By Thursday I thought there was a good chance I would be keeping this cat (whether I wanted to or not, it seemed), so I removed all the barriers between the dog and cat inside and they got along just fine. Bella has adjusted to the new furry critter with surprising speed, and the cat actually seems to like her. They still tend to keep their distance from one another, but whenever the cat meows, Bella comes running, looking to see if it’s play time.

I’ve lived with cats for most of my life, but this is actually the first time I’ve ever started owning a cat. I don’t quite know what the onboarding process is. I’ll be getting him to the vet to get a checkup (and find out if he’s a him or a her) and to see if he has a microchip or anything. I rather doubt it though. There’s been no sign of anyone looking for lost cats, and I can make a pretty good case that this cat has been hanging around my house for at least a month prior to our official meeting. And given how quickly this cat attached himself to a steady food source, I have a hard time imagining him running away from someone else.

And now I’ll leave you with even more cat pictures!

Likes computer desk, but believes I need to clear more space for him.
Seen here helping apply a level 80 boost to my GW2 Mesmer.
That’s enough space for now. Nighty-night!

LotRO – The Road To Mordor, A Tweetstorm

I haven’t yet bought the Mordor expansion (I probably will, despite the hype-destroying trailer), but it dawned on me that LotRO is one of those rare MMORPGs where you can actually explore the world without having to unlock zones by completing quests. So I decided that I wanted to run my 95 Runekeeper as close to Mordor as I could get. I made it all the way to the Black Gate.

I had a lot of fun running there, and it didn’t cost me anything. I didn’t do a single quest on the entire trip, and honestly I didn’t see very many quests to select from either. (I haven’t purchased any of the content that I ran through.)

I was blown away by how massive the LotRO world is. I thought that I had covered a lot of territory to get my Hunter to Moria, but I had only just barely scratched the surface, and the amount of land in the game that exists between level 95 and 105 is just incredible. I don’t know if I’ve published this thought anywhere, but I feel like LotRO is the “last” MMORPG released that is actually “massive.” Nobody puts this much physical space in their games anymore.

Here’s the journey in tweet form: