WoW – Flamebender

I took a break from computer games for a bit… I did manage to show up last Monday for the guild’s Blackrock Foundry raid, but that’s been it.

Blackrock Foundry

Overall it was a successful night. We downed 4 bosses: Gruul, Darmac, Hans & Frans (Hans’gar and Franzok), and Flamebender Ka’graz. I hadn’t seen Ka’graz before, so that was good – it is always fun to see a new boss fight!

Flamebender

Flamebender

As a healer my job was the usual keep the DoT’s going and avoid fire. I gather there was more to do as tank and DPS, since we would get occasional roving flame hounds (they looked pretty cool) and someone would call to “group up”. Hence the screenshot where we are all standing in some sort of bubble.

Glynneth’s item level remains at 665 – I am hoping to upgrade my pants as that item is currently my lowest (at 640).

The Culling

My WoW sub it up next week, but I’m going to renew for another 3 months. So in Aug I’ll be thinking about this again.

I let my EVE sub expire. It’s a great game and all, but I can’t play enough to make it worthwhile. Especially since there is certain fixed overhead as far as time spent in game goes – just getting from one place to another, scanning to exit the wormhole, dealing with PI and hauling goods to market.

Wildstar… well I extended another 3 months so I’m paid up until the end of Jul. It’s a fun game as well, and who knows, by then it might have dropped its sub or whatever the latest rumors are. If it doesn’t drop its sub, I will probably not extend.

This is not about the money. Really, I spend $15 a month at Starbucks every month. Or more. Just last week I went to see the Avengers with some friends and my ticket was $13. MMOs are pretty efficient as far as cost per hour of entertainment.

What it is about, for me, is comparing against equivalent goods. I’m not sure of the precise economics term, it would be some combination of utility and substitute goods, but WoW/EVE/WS are not in competition with me going to the movies, my Netflix subscription, or what have you. They are in competition with each other, any MMO that charges a subscription, and any MMO that is B2P or F2P.

I’m willing to throw in some money to an in-game store if I like a game, for cosmetic stuff or what have you. So for me, that ~$15 a month towards a sub game is money I could be funneling towards a game I enjoy more. Which in my case could be TSW, ESO, LoTRO, GW2, etc.

Actually, I haven’t been playing those much either lately – taking a break and all ;) – but I do plan to reorganize and cull some games.

Basically, out of curiosity I keep a log of how many hours a week I play MMOs. The result was: I average about 6 hours a week these days. And 3 of those are WoW due to the raiding my guild does.

This ties back into my perceived value for time and so on tradeoff: at ~3 hours a week, playing EVE is pointless, that game needs more like 15+ hours a week just to keep an income flowing and take care of logistics that are forced on you, the player, so you can do other fun stuff. At 3 hours a week I could farm planets and sell goods to stockpile ISK I don’t have time to spend on ships to do other stuff.

While I do enjoy Wildstar, ~3 hours a week means me soloing to the end-game and then, well, not having time to do much of it. The chances of me finding another guild, semi-casual enough to be OK with me raiding one night a week, having a raid spot for me, doing it during convenient hours (8-11 pm, about as good as I can expect), etc. trends towards zero. If it happened, I would consider a switcheroo – unsub WoW in favor of WS. But again, it’s a ways to the level cap for my WS char, and I’d need to gear, attune, find a guild, etc. Not impossible but many structural roadblocks along the way.

Therefore, almost by default, WoW is filling that “group content” slot I have time for. Yeah, all the criticisms of the rest of the gameplay, from unused dungeons to repetitive quests to garrison tedium to dull class design – all valid, but I don’t worry about any of that stuff because it doesn’t affect me. I’ve slimmed down garrison time to sending followers on gold missions and cut out all the resource queuing/gathering/harvesting because I don’t need it. Well, I stopped that after I crafted myself a Stone of Fire.

I’m probably not typical in what I want out of WoW, but playing 3 hours a week and spending all of that doing end-game group stuff is essentially the best ratio of time to actual fun in a game I could have. I pop into my garrison twice a week for less than 15 mins each time (I round that down to zero) and get summoned everywhere else. Contrast that to EVE where it takes 45-90 mins just collecting PI goods and going to market to sell them. And any inattention is risk for getting killed.

The question then becomes, how to best spend the rest of my available time. I’ve got more games than I have time to play. Keep pecking away in TSW, play another game if I have some extra time available? That seems like the most realistic, and given my recent gaming, the two I would most likely play with spare time are TSW and ESO, with a smattering of LoTRO tossed in there. All are solo-friendly and enjoyable to me. And I will spend some money in each in-game store to vote with my wallet, as the saying goes.

I do feel a pull to check out new games, however. I see Marvel Heroes on Steam, and lots of good press about Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn. The problem with FF14:ARR is that it is a sub game, so given my spare time it would be silly to take it up while I have a few months on WildStar already paid for.

GW – Ten Years

Ten years ago, I was in the middle of playing Morrowind and/or Neverwinter Nights (yes, both released in 2002 but I didn’t pick them up until ~2 years later). I had stopped playing my first and at the time only, MMO, Asheron’s Call, about 3 years prior. I read about a new game coming out, that promised no subscription fee. What the heck, I figured I’d give it a shot. And so I bought Guild Wars, and got around to creating a character 2 or 3 days later.

I wasn’t able to play much until months later, it was a hectic time because I moved to another state. My original day 2 or 3 character was a Ranger/Mesmer I named Dawn Stormborn, but I decided I’d rather have a Ranger/Monk, and not knowing I’d eventually be able to switch secondary professions, I just deleted and recreated the char.

Titles, Age, Elite Luxon Armor

Titles, Age, Elite Luxon Armor

That’s why as of when I took the screenshot (yesterday), the /age command shows me as playing 119 months and Dawn being 113 months old. That should flip over to 120 months in another day or two.

I played fairly heavy back then – I had more time available. 3318 hours total and 1266 on Dawn! That was accumulated over about 2.5 years so I was averaging nearly 10 hours a week just playing Dawn and nearly 25 playing Guild Wars.

I loved it all. I loved the missions, the bonuses to the missions, the skill system with limited space plus and optional elite skill, the storylines, capturing elite skills, fast travel to outposts after reaching them the first time, no permanent death penalty (clear vitae by getting to an outpost), henchmen, heroes, instanced zones, the guilds I was in, grouping with guildies to do missions even though at a certain point I basically had them memorized, grouping with the “Zoo Crew” on some Saturday afternoons to play through content as beastmasters, Prophecies quests that granted skills, etc. Good times.

I enjoyed the missions and storyline so much I did all of Prophecies, Factions, and Nightfall at the Protector level (all bonuses to the missions) on 8 different classes. The only ones missing were Elementalist, a profession I never really played – what I did was repurpose my mesmer as an elementalist secondary – and my Ritualist that I barely took into Nightfall. By that point in late 2007 I wanted some variety and turned to WoW and LoTRO. ;)

For Dawn, I did all that plus the Guardian titles (i.e. missions and bonuses in hard mode). I did most with heroes and henchmen, with a few exceptions such as Aurora Glade, Thirsty River, Eternal Grove, and Gate of Madness, where I grouped with guildies and friends.

Some of my most vivid memories of MMO gaming, even 7-8 years later, were doing those missions for Guardian titles, controlling my heroes and henchmen, determined to finish.

I enjoyed the elite skill capture mechanism, and decided early on to capture every elite on Dawn. Thus, when the official Skill Hunter track was introduced to the game, I was well on the way to finishing. I made an attempt to do cartography but that was too dull for me, wall hugging every zone. I started on Vanquisher but got tired of that as well. I really just wanted to get the Guardian and Skill Hunter titles, and wound up with 13 max titles putting Dawn in the “People Know Me” meta-title, 2 short of the next one.

By time time EoTN rolled around, and the bonus mission pack, I was getting a little burned out. I only took 2 characters all the way through EoTN – my ranger Dawn and my mesmer Rhaella. I think I brought another char or two in there but never finished the final mission. Or maybe I did on one of them.

I did not get into PvP much… until Factions released and brought Alliance Battle. I rolled up a few PvP chars and played that fairly often, it was just fun. That’s the only type of PvP I actually enjoy – I hate open world PvP, vastly preferring the instanced battleground-style version.

People talk about how you always fondly remember your first MMO. For me that mystical game on a pedestal was actually my second MMO! I had fun in Asheron’s Call but Guild Wars totally buried it (for me) in every way. GW overshadows GW2 such that I can’t seem to stick with its sequel.

EDIT: I should have included a visit to my Hall of Monuments!

Honor Monument

Honor Monument

Resilience Monument

Resilience Monument

Giant-size versions of my favorite armors.

Devotion Monument

Devotion Monument

Lots of mini-pets!

TSW – Blue Mountain (at last?)

Steam tells me I’ve played 89 hours of The Secret World, and I’m finally ready for the Blue Mountain zone. I’ve done every mission I can find in Solomon Island (not so sure about Kingsmouth but I’m also too lazy to backtrack just for completion) and I only skipped one that I know of (Hell and Bach). Nearly all my gear is QL5; I think only a minor pendant isn’t.

I’m at tier 12 of Dawning of an Endless Night, and also have the Stranger in a Strange Land mission. Both of these take place in Blue Mountain. I already did the one mission where you drop some dogtags off at an outpost in Blue Mountain, after exploring a cave, but that just finished there. It’s a quest that leads you to the next zone, not one that takes place in that zone.

Now, it really is time to move forward!

Blue Mountain Bridge

Blue Mountain Bridge

TSW Fighting

So two comments about how fighting proceeds, for me at least, in the Secret World.

I’ve read the criticism that combat is a bit dull, and I can see where that comes from. The way builders and consumers work, many fights come down to 5 X builder, 2 X consumer, toss in a few utility skills when needed. So in the respect, it is a bit repetitive.

However, after adding in dodging and mobility, it is better than planting yourself and hitting 1,1,1,1,1,2,3. It becomes more active: far more than WoW, a bit less than WildStar, around the same as a slowed down fight in GW2.

After considering the skill system – I can train all weapons and skills, change my role by swapping weapons – I’m really enjoying it overall.

Since consumer skills are more effective with more resources, I find myself staring at the small weapon resource area during fights. Or glancing frequently, and often catching the rest of the action in my peripheral vision. It is handy that a boss AoE charging circle is easily noticeable in the background.

I’ve been playing so much (relatively speaking) TSW lately because it fits my schedule very well. Many days I just have an hour or a bit more to play, and that’s enough time to finish a mission or 3 in TSW. Also, I’m a Grandmaster which gives me an xp-boost potion every day, and it lasts for an hour. The timing is good.

Runestone

Runestone

WoW – More Blackrock

I haven’t played WoW in a few weeks. By that I mean anything more than ~15 mins of garrison maintenance, every other day. I had other events crop up on the past few Mondays so I missed my weekly timeslot – the guild raids M/W but I usually can’t make Wed anyway.

What I had been doing garrison-wise was harvest frostweed in order to keep the work orders at my alchemy lab full. Those work orders generate alchemical catalysts, a material for transmutation and creating of the Stone of Fire.

Anyway, I was able to make this past Mon, for the first time in a month… and it was fun!

Since I hadn’t been there for a few weeks, I was a little behind on gear and thus received items everyone else passed on. The evening resulted in 3 big gear upgrades for me, and one side-grade (I replaced a slightly higher heroic item with a normal item that had a prismatic slot; basically trading single-digit stat decreases for a nice +50 secondary stat bump). The big score was moving up from my garrison-mission 645 weapon to the 670 Inferno-Flame Staff from Gruul!

Inferno Slice

Inferno Slice

We had trouble with Oregorger, but are getting better. By that I mean we usually get to phase 2 of the fight and more than half the raid survives for the 2nd phase 1. ;) We used to barely get him down to 85% and now we are consistently getting to 50%-ish before calling it due to most of the raid being down.

Oregorger Fight

Oregorger Fight

To wrap up, we fought a boss I hadn’t seen before, Beastlord Darmac. He provided the previously mentioned side-grade and I hope the next time he is generous and gives me better leggings.

Glynneth is now at item level 665, which is stratospheric to me, since I never imagined gearing up this well. My leggings are currently my worst piece of armor at 640, the next lowest are a few 655 items. I can also improve a ring by finishing the legendary quest line. But for now I’m doing pretty well.

TSW – Gravity

The Secret World has memorable investigative missions, ones that involve tricky puzzle solving.

In Kingsmouth, one that stood out to me was Dead Air, which involved listening to a morse code tranmission and decoding it for the coords to the next stage. In the Savage Coast, the investigative mission that stands out for me is Gravity, which has you use a lens to read a map.

I didn’t solve Dead Air on my own, I got stuck on the decode and looked up the correct answer. Similarly, I was stuck on Gravity so I peeked… and when I saw how to continue, I was able to get the rest. All the same, both puzzles were awesome.

In Gravity, you start with a will and a lens. It is straightforward to use the lens and get a special buff that lets you read hidden text in the will. Follow the directions and soon enough you are at the next step… but stuck. There is some broken glass at the end of the trail but what to do?

I fiddled around but didn’t get it, and eventually looked it up.

The answer (spoilers ahead) is to craft the tool for the next step. Yes, crafting as a way to solve a mission, not just make gear, or as it is in so many games, craft items straight into the trash just to bump your crafting skill higher.

To continue I had to open the regular crafting menu, and add the lens and the broken glass together to get a red lens. At the end of the next stage, there was blue broken glass laying nearby… but I knew what to do from the previous step.

The next step didn’t have any broken glass, but I took a guess and use both red and blue to craft a purple lens, which let me continue. I just loved it. Crafting actually used for good purpose for a puzzle oriented quest! The closest quest similar to this, in recent memory, is from Skyrim where you had to examine the Golden Claw closely to dial the correct combination for a door – but that didn’t involve any crafting.

Without the hint – the TSWDB site if fantastic, all of their mission walkthroughs are excellent – I don’t think I would have come up with crafting as the way forward.

Here is what the map looked like without the correct color lens:

Regular Lens

Regular Lens

and what it looked like with the correct lens:

Color Lens

Color Lens

I think this game sets the bar for great quests, and I’m only two zones into the game. Yes, I’ve been dallying and there was a solid year I didn’t play it, but now I’ve gotten back into the game and am really enjoying myself. The combo of the new player revamps, a better build I found on the forums, and better quality gear (mostly QL4 and 5 at this point) has made it far more enjoyable than before.

TSW – More Savage Coast

Thanks to the recent Golden Weekend, I earned enough ability points to finish the Blade/Fist progression deck. The chief benefit of the weekend was gaining an additional ability point whenever receiving one… to maximize ability points I also bought a potion from the store which did the same thing, since it stacked.

I’d like to fiddle around with builds and skill combos, but having a “known good” deck to fall back on is important to me – if I find out something isn’t working then I can return to my good deck while earning ability points to unlock other skills.

One thing to keep in mind is the important of AoE damage.

AoE Damage

AoE Damage

I find myself fighting 3-4 mobs all the time, except for bigger tougher mobs and even then, moving the wrong way might aggro a second one.

Single Fight

Single Fight

I’ve done most of the quests in Savage Coast, and will now focus on advancing in the storyline. I inched forward slightly to step 11/18 by visiting the Innsmouth Academy during another quest, and speaking to the staff trapped there.

I’ve been able to upgrade my weapons as well, to the QL5 versions sold by the vendors in the NW corner. I’d like to branch out into other weapons as well (I’ve spent a few skill points in Chaos and Blood too) and that will take more skill points.

Every time I look at the skill chart and ability wheel I feel like I have barely unlocked anything… I remind myself I’m only in the 2nd zone so yeah, that’s expected. After all, ability and skill points replace levels in this game. I’d be the equivalent of a low level char in the 1st or 2nd racial areas in GW2, still unlocking all the skills of various weapons.

From reading various forums I see that eventually there are plenty of skill points and ability points to unlock the whole thing. I’m just impatient, haha.

Soon I’ll advance to the next zone, Blue Mountain!

LoTRO – Epic Battle Deeping-Coomb

OK, I’m getting the hang of these Epic Battles. My goal isn’t to fight every single mob that streams in, my goal is to make sure the commanders have current orders (heal if available, sometimes armor if available; otherwise default) and basically ignore all the regular/white mobs.

I’m better served by tabbing through and only helping with the orange/elite mobs. The white die by the time I get one attack in. Where the orange ones can inflict major damage to my troops if left unchecked.

Troll

Troll

So I just parked myself in a convenient spot, and issued various Guardian taunts and challenges to ensure the orange/elite mobs came after me first. I’d get part of my rotation in and with the help of the NPC focus fire, they would die quickly enough.

And that’s how I got through the Deeping-Coomb battle on my first attempt.

It isn’t exactly the heroic feeling, ignoring 80% of the incoming enemies, but the NPCs can handle those while I concentrate on the threats to victory. In some ways, I suppose it does have a movie battle-scene feel, where the heroes wander around mowing down the grunts and have a big fight against the leaders in the opposition – while the rest of the battle rages around them.

All the same I’ll be glad to finish up Vol 3 Book 13 and move onto Gondor (after confronting Saruman).