GW2 – Lowbie Zone exploration

My adventures in GW2 continue…

I hit level 12 or so while in Caledon Forest, and was at that awkward point of having finished everything earlier, but not quite being strong enough for the remainder. So I explored west into Metrica Province and worked my way to the corner where Rata Sum is. I really enjoy the look/feel of the Asura areas – floating cubes, golems, science with a fantasy twist. Poor Asurans though, for super geniuses they sure do have a lot of golem and machine calamities!

I did full exploration of each zone encountered on Aurora (my Asuran ele), exploring overland and steadily working my way around the map, but I found I wasn’t as enthused for that this time around. I did finish off Caledon Forest, but as for Metrica Province, I only discovered the waypoints (handy for future fast travel), did the hearts (good quest xp, rather than just grinding mobs) and skill challenges (extra skill points). I’m not going to get hung up on the Points of Interest or Scenic Vistas. I’m also trying to do more dynamic events, and have surprised myself by finishing a few on my own, despite being designed for groups.

I’m not going to explore as linearly on Summer (my Sylvari mesmer). Instead, I’m going to skip around, because I’ve spent very little time in Charr regions and quite a bit in the Asura/Sylvari ones. After arriving at Rata Sum, I ran around to discover all the waypoints, then zipped over to Lions Arch, Divinity’s Reach, Hoelbrak, and Black Citadel in order to do the same.

When I continue, I’m going to travel to the Black Citadel and quest out of there.

Super Adventure Box

For now, it is time to play the Super Adventure Box, because it might go away at the end of April!

After finding Moto near the Lion’s Arch Asura Gate, I jumped in and played around for a bit. It’s a fantastic game-within-a-game and great replica of good ol’ platformers from 20 years ago.

Super Adventure Box
Super Adventure Box

Playing this reminded me of playing a Nintendo, from the graphics and music to the level flow. I hope they keep it around after April; it would be a shame to have this much effort by the artists and programmers only playable this month.

GW2 – Free Weekend

It has been a while since I played GW2, so I decided to jump back in and also try out the Mac client.

My main char, Aurora Tian, is somewhere towards the end of the storyline, on a mission named “Starving the Beast” out in Malchor’s Leap. I decided to roll up a new char instead. My two favorite professions from GW1 were ranger and mesmer, and I decided to start a new mesmer. What tipped me that direction was seeing a mesmer leveling guide on reddit, which also linked to some great videos.

I watched the first video and learned a ton. It’s kind of embarrassing actually, you see, I made it all the way to level 80 on my ele without understanding how combos worked. Ouch! I thought 2+ players were involved: one to lay down a combo field, and another to use a finisher skill. I was intrigued to see Mr. Prometheus (from the videos) doing both sides of the combo equation — and giving bonuses to his clones/phantasms! Hm… that sheds a different light on how I play my ele. I supposed I did OK in zerging action because other players were triggering the effects with combo finishers – in those situations I stayed back in water attunement and placed water combo fields. However, it seems that I can find better synergies among my own weapon skills by supplying both the field and finisher skill.

For now, I was eager to play a new char in a starter area. I went with a Sylvari mesmer (I also redid my other char slots and wound up with a Norn ranger, Charr guardian, Human thief. This way, someday way down the road I’ll theoretically be able to see portions of all the racial storylines) and dinked around Caledon Forest for a bit.

The early levels in GW2 are fun because every few minutes you are unlocking new weapon skills and the leveling is fairly fast as well. I grabbed all the weapons mesmers can use and was sure to keep swapping them around in order to unlock more skills, and then visited my Hall of Monuments to transmute all the weapons and armor into fancier looking items.

The game looks pretty good on my Mac Mini. Here is a screenshot of my mesmer standing outside the portal to The Grove:

Mesmer Costume (mac)
Mesmer Costume (mac)

and here is a screenshot of the same pose on my PC:

Mesmer Costume (pc)
Mesmer Costume (pc)

The similarity is good enough for me! Unfortunately my PC still hits the video problems I had months ago, despite always updating to newest video drivers, so I’m glad I have an alternate computer to play GW2 on. The game plays identically on the Mac/OSX as the PC/Windows. For the tech minded, my gaming notebook has GeForce 285M graphics, while the Mac Mini has Intel HD4000 integrated graphics. That probably matters for people who run insane resolutions or with every setting maxed out, but I’m happy. For my regular graphics demands, the only difference is a bit of text that says “Mac Beta” at the top, to the right of all the icons. You can spot it in this next screenshot where I didn’t hide the UI:

Mac GW2
Mac GW2

In the options menu, taking a screenshot is bound to the “Print Screen” key… which doesn’t exist on most Mac keyboards. I have an Apple wired keyboard, which also doesn’t have a Print Screen key. However, there is an F13 key and it works as Print Screen, letting me have the same easy one-key screenshots I have on my PC (at least in GW2).

Actually, I just realized there is one slight difference between the PC and Mac versions of GW2: PC screenshots go into the Documents\Guild Wars 2\Screens folder, while Mac screenshots go onto the desktop (the game client message refers to the D: drive). Basically, no gameplay differences I’ve noticed at all, and the screenshot destination is too trivial to worry about, haha.

I kept going until I unlocked all weapon skills except for spear (I don’t really like the underwater portions of the map as much as the land areas – I get disoriented trying to determine which direction an attack is coming from) and hit level 11 where I earned a trait point. I spent it on Illusionists Celerity, following the leveling guide suggestion. Sometimes I enjoy fiddling with builds and taking a different path than typical (e.g. earth magic on my elementalist) and sometimes I’m good with being lazy and following someone else’s build suggestions (e.g. my mesmer so far).

AoW – Storyline and Cultivation

I played a bit more of Age of Wushu, basically splitting my time between cultivation and the storyline.

Cultivation

This appears to be the skill training method. When you click on the little icon, a box pops up with three choices:

  • Internal Cultivation
  • Practice Martial Arts
  • Team Practice

Internal Cultivation is the one I mentioned before, where I can pick which skill my character is training in the background, and offline (if I were VIP). I tried the Practice Martial Arts choice, and that boiled down to eat some foods, which I had received as login gifts and perhaps through finishing quests (I wasn’t playing that close attention), which gave a small amount of cultivation points.

I tried the third option, Team Practice, after taking a quest to visit a wise man on a quiet mountain overlook… or maybe not so quiet as it was jammed with other players. Fortunately in Age of Wushu, F9 makes all non-NPC’s vanish! That’s a handy feature. (They reappear with another press of F9).

Anyway, Team Practice is a way to earn cultivation points by essentially playing a Simon-says mini game. Others can join in, and the group as a whole benefits if everybody hits all the patterns, but I was just by myself this time around.

Doing a Team Practice changes the screen up a bit, and disallows the Alt-Z hide-UI option. Which probably makes sense if hiding the UI also hides the Team Practice directions… After a countdown from 3, a sequence of keys to press in order is displayed, with a timer.

Team Practice Instructions
Team Practice Instructions

If you hit the sequence, you get a congrats animation that goes on for 10+ seconds, and then you settle in for the next one.

Success!
Success!

There are four different Team Practice options available, which boil down to a similar mechanic. The reward is cultivation points.

After doing this for a while I decided to follow the storyline for a bit.

Storyline

The storyline took me back to my starting city, where I solved a few problems for various citizens. One person’s daughter was kidnapped into prostitution, and after beating down the guards and winning freedom for the girl, the madam asked that I fix things up with her loan shark.

Chengdu
Chengdu

The NPC groveling at my feet is the one whose daughter was kidnapped, and the brothel is on the left. Nice looking place at least. 😉

After smacking these criminals and seedy people down, the next quest took me to a nearby castle, where I decided to stop. Looking back at my origin choice (where I was caught between the law and criminals and chose to flee), I see how that is worked into the storyline I’ve seen so far.

Other Stuff

I’ve come across all sorts of stuff just clicking on the UI to see what each icon does. There are several game mechanics I’m unsure of – crafting professions; trade/market; school/faction/Jianghu missions that involve spying, kidnapping, escort/guard duty, arrays(?) and grouping, etc.

The tooltips for my weapon skills refer to chi: foul chi, sword chi; consuming anger points, energy… OK I can figure out that energy is the blue bar for my character, haha, but I’m not sure what the others are – how to build them up. The skill book has 5 tabs for internal skills, techniques, flying skills, arrays, and meridians. And I’m still fuzzy on what exactly the Wudang School does for me – the school tab is jammed with all kinds of diagrams that look like reward levels.

There is a guide on the website, which has some information.

Continuing

There is certainly plenty to do in game, and lots to figure out. The catch is this being a PvP-centric MMO – skill cultivation matters, because that is how to raise skills, and only VIPs can cultivate offline.

So, while the game is enjoyable so far (granted only 4-5 hours isn’t a lot of time to evaluate) I’m hesitant to plunge in for a VIP membership for the enhanced cultivation (skill training). Plus, there are some other MMOs I want to look at, or look at again, with the goal of whittling my play list down to a few I can rotate between, have fun and make some progress.

AoW – Martial Arts MMO

I decided to check out the newly launched Age of Wushu. A few days ago, I made an account and downloaded/installed the game, and patiently awaited the launch day. So with a free evening to spend however I wanted, I put a few hours into it.

I had no problems launching the game, or logging in and getting oriented, so I think that’s a pretty big accomplishment for the developers. The typical launch day is a disaster, but as far as I could tell this one had no issues at all.

After logging in, I faced four choices concerning my character background. They were:

  • Nameless Sword
    Nameless Sword
    Nameless Sword – an assassin destroys your family
  • Phoenix Pledge
    Phoenix Pledge
    Phoenix Pledge – you and your sister are orphaned, she was then kidnapped
  • Scholar's Legend
    Scholar’s Legend
    Scholar’s Legend – you got between criminals and the law and had to flee
  • Tianshan Swords
    Tianshan Swords
    Tianshan Swords – you were ambushed but survived

Since the Scholar’s Legend background didn’t involve a tragedy, I went with that one. 🙂

The character creation screen didn’t take long – there weren’t really many appearance options. I went through various looks and settled on one quickly:

Aurora Tian
Aurora Tian

After that came a basic skills tutorial – talk to the NPC, receive a skill book to read, gain the skill, then use that skill against another NPC. It’s a straightforward system with no surprises. Naturally, this being a martial arts MMO, the skills have fancy names: Embrace the Moon, White Cloud Covers the Top, Step Backwards Over Seven Stars, Sit and Breathe.

The “Step Backwards” skill required a certain amount of “rage” to enable, so I blocked, defended, used my other skills until I accumulated enough rage and noticed the icon glowing differently, then unleashed the skill. What happened then was a slow-mo (sort of bullet-time-esque) super combo that honestly looked pretty cool.

My instructor then sent me to buy some wine at the store. I headed off, figuring this was the part of the tutorial where you get introduced to the cash shop, but when I got near to the store, a cutscene took over. Three thugs were threatening a young girl, so I thought “Aha – a fight!”… but in the cutscene I was knocked unconscious and dropped down a well!

Well Bottom
Well Bottom

That wasn’t expected. But as it happens, at the bottom of the well was a skill book – Skyward Feint Step, essentially a double jump – and that skill let me jump up some rocks to grab a rope and climb to my escape. This entire episode was the “Flying Skill Introduction” tutorial.

Rope Escape
Rope Escape

The next quest taught a simple weapon skill, using iron darts to kill wolves. At first I had to get close to the wolf, then afterwards I was taught a thrown dart skill. Completion merely required killing two wolves, so soon I finished and returned to the martial arts scholar for a brief introduction to cultivation.

Skill Cultivation
Skill Cultivation

Skill cultivation appears to be some sort of offline/background training. The tutorial had me select the “Self Recollection” skill to cultivate, and after doing that I had a progress bar that filled over 5 minutes. When that time elapsed, I received notification that Self Recollection was cultivated to level 2, and I had the option of continuing, which I did. Level 3 would be reached in 10 more minutes, and undoubtedly, each higher level grants a higher stat bonuses and takes longer to reach.

I received my final school story (tutorial) quest, which was to visit another NPC and select between the eight major schools. Shaolin was out, because they only take male students (balanced by the Emei which only take female students), and I also discarded the Royal Guards and Wanderer’s Valley as both are evil (maybe I’d consider that for another character, but not right now). The NPC mentioned that the Tangmen and the Scholar’s are neutral, while the good schools are Shaolin, Emei, Wudang, and Beggar’s Sect. Since I didn’t want to be a beggar, I joined the Wudang, and was instantly transported to Wudang School.

Once there I spoke to the Wudang leader, Immortal Ziyang, and officially joined the Wudang. I decided this was also a good time for a break and dinner.

Later I was able to play a tad more. I took another quest to learn some sword fighting skills: Turbulent Rapids, Pure Awakening, Blow Away in the Clear Wind, Clear Sound and Gentle Rhythm. As an aside, it’ll be funny to see players looking to form groups later on, spewing out cryptic abbreviations. Can you imagine? “Looking for DPS, needs TR, PA, CSaGR” and so on. There are so many skills people will need a codebook to figure out what is going on. Haha!

When you get a scroll to learn a new skill, there are two buttons: Replay, Study. When you open the scroll, a shadow figure animates the skill, complete with jumps and whirls. Replay causes that animation to repeat, while Study is what you do to learn the skill. After learning the skill, when you check your skillbook, each skill displays a mini avatar of your character, and when you click the skill on the left half of the book, the figure animates. It’s cool, maybe just eye-candy, but then I think this game is all about cool looking martial arts moves, and this is how you can check them out without actually fighting an enemy. I kinda like it actually.

Skill book
Skill book

I also notice a “cultivate” button on each skill… so this is one way to bump up each ability, by training (in the background) constantly. I see that VIP members can also train while offline. All the skills I’ve received have been for free from quest givers (except the jump skill) and I’m getting the impression the skill training system, cultivation, will rely on being able to do it offline for the best results, which means payment. Well, it is F2P so you gotta figure there will be various advantages to subscribing, or in this case, topping off your account each month.

AoW also has an integrated way to record videos – no doubt to show off awesome looking fights – but hilariously, the videos don’t play on my Windows box (then again, I have a very barebones Windows 8 install, with just about nothing at all besides the base OS). To see the video, I had to go to my MacMini.

Before I take more screenshots next time, I need to figure out how to disable/hide the UI. I know it makes all the pics I took very busy but I looked over the settings menus and didn’t see a way to do it. EDIT: ARGH I see it now, Alt-Z. Dang it, I can’t believe I missed that when I looked before.

Here’s a screenshot in a Wudang courtyard with the UI hidden.

Courtyard
Courtyard

Much nicer!

Well, that about wraps my first day in Age of Wushu. It looks interesting and I would like to play more, but also try to see how viable it is as a free player for a while. The graphics look good as do the skill animations. I’ve budgeted for one subscription game, and since I dropped my EVE subscription, I’m willing to spend that equivalent somewhere…

TSW – Illuminati Investigation

I took a quest from Henry Hawthorne to investigate Kingsmouth for clues and traces the Illuminati left. So I headed out the church door and noticed a highlighted manhole cover… on closer examination there was some info and further clues. In general, this quest was a follow-the-trail to a fight to get a clue to a secondary location kind of quest. Good times!

Journal
Journal

I like how the mission journal can hold pictures, for easy reference. Many quests in the game require noticing clues in drawings or diagrams, solving puzzles, and so on. Having a picture in the quest journal is fantastic and saves me from making all kinds of sketches or notes on pieces of paper.

A cool thing I recently discovered is the Chronicle, which is similar to WoW’s armory or LoTRO’s lorebook. It’s a character page, and you can see my character Wayness Tamm and marvel at my meager progress. 😉

Working on Trickster
Working on Trickster

One sub-goal I have is unlocking some of the starter decks. I began with fist weapons, dabbled around a bit with pistols too, but decided to focus on unlocking starter decks to get decent builds, variety, and some extra outfits (I think). Right now I’m working on Trickster, which is a Dragon clan fist/chaos deck. I’m short 3 skills: Probability, Domino Effect, Chaos Adept.

I’m really enjoying TSW so far, and I’m not even out of the initial area. However, I also need to concentrate on making some good progress. I’m also willing to spend money in the store and support the buy-to-play model.

EVE – PI Wrapup

So it seems that by actually extracting resources in hi-sec, I’ve been doing it wrong (as poster Chris said in a reply to my previous PI entry). What I should have done is not extract anything, and just buy stuff off market to reprocess to a higher tier. It also would have been excruciatingly slow going, starting with 6 million ISK and being an hour round trip from market, but I suppose had I stuck it out that would have been the better choice.

After fiddling with my spreadsheet, I estimate that I could make about 100K profit for each Nano-Factory and Sterile Conduit. (Organic Mortar Applicators do not appear profitable with current pricing). If I had enough materials to run the factories at max capacity, that means 5 million ISK profit/day. And in turns that means ~150 million ISK profit/month.

This sounds a lot better! Only a few logistics problems are in the way: ISK needed to buy quantities of commodities, time needed to haul back/forth. However, the largest issue is that I let my subscription lapse a few days before Chris’ post. So, no rebuilding PI infrastructure, no moving to new planets, no buying and hauling goods to market, etc. I’m done with EVE for a while.

Sorry, but the amount of time spent grinding ISK in order to do other stuff is too high for me. No-extraction PI looks great now, but I’m still weeks away from earning a reasonable income (say, 20 million ISK/week) for the amount of time I have and want to spend doing it. A back of the envelope calculation tells me that it would take another 6 weeks, which is very optimistic because it assumes I have enough ISK to simply rebuild all new PI infrastructure (plus have maxed out command centers to power as many processing buildings as possible) and purchase a maximum amount of commodities to immediately start cranking on.

My gaming time is usually 2-3 chunks of time per week, in ~3 hours blocks, and I’m not finding that to be conducive to newbies starting out and finding a way to make a sustainable income (with my further requirement that said income is fun for me to do, ruling out trading and mining, both of which I find to be deathly boring). I can’t log in every day to check market prices and optimize what I produce. I mean jeez, doing that starts to feel like an actual second job running a small restaurant or something. Um… no, I meant to play a game for fun, I don’t want to lose sight of my relaxation and downtime.

So, I’m done with EVE for now. I’m going to dabble in some other MMOs, and re-pick up some I’ve wandered away from. EVE is too demanding for me to get anywhere in with the time I have, which is fine, I’m sure New Eden will do great without me.