Ingress – Magnus Awakens DC

Last Saturday Washington DC was one of the sites of an XM Anomaly, an Ingress live event. The following Sunday was a Mission Day, another type of live event. My friends and I did both, and had a fun time.

There’s no way to sugar coat it, but the Resistance lost overall. We were outnumbered, roughly 450 to 350 by some estimates (of varying accuracy), so we fought hard, but the Enlightened took the day and the overall series so far.

The XM Anomaly had 3 phases: first, portal battle; second, shard battle; third, linking. The portal battle was simply gain control of portals marked for scoring. Shard battle consists of controlling portals, and then linking to other portals to influence the shard to travel towards a scoring portal. Linking is a fight to create fields (each field is 3 portals linked to each other).

I’ve made various parallels between this game and EVE Online, so here are a few more. πŸ˜‰

In EVE, if you show up to a war with more players than the other side, you have a massive advantage. Same thing here, Niantic doesn’t try to balance numbers or anything – that’s up to local faction POCs to recruit and so forth. Players need to farm the requested gear and/or beg/borrow from other players who aren’t going.

In EVE, players talk about epic battles after the fact. Except if you watch gameplay videos or actually participate, the excitement is a bit… subdued… because basically everyone is watching their screen and clicking a button now and then. In Ingress, the team I was on wound up near Dupont Circle and fought a major battle for the Embassy of Uzbekistan, but the casual observer would have only seen clustered groups of players, mostly wearing blue or green, absorbed in tapping their phones.

EVE players deal with heavy server load and resultant lag; the game compensates with TiDi which is a game mechanic where a server/node is slowed. In Ingress, lag makes it tricky to deploy resonators and mods (you get bounced out of the slot) and attacking slows down to the “tornado” effect – a white spinning circle of energy that is your attack… just keeps spinning.

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One big difference between EVE and Ingress would be the ~6.5 mi I walked during the event, from the Foggy Bottom area to Dupont Circle. πŸ˜‰ That doesn’t count the roughly 2 mi walked beforehand going from my team’s staging site over to registration and back.

Overall that’s a good bit of exercise during gameplay!

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Mission Day on Sunday was fun, another day of good weather, even if it was unusually warm/humid. I went with 3 friends and we did all 18 missions, and as a reward I got some swag – USB cables. Those always come in handy! We had a large group of 15 or so for the first 6 missions, but since that was the minimum number you had to complete to get credit for Mission Day, lots of people stopped there.

So far, neither badge has appeared in my scanner, but they should appear soon. Here’s a closer pic of badges and missions:

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The upper hexagon shaped badges correspond to achievements in game, color represents progress. First tier is bronze, the silver, gold, platinum, black/onyx. The first padlock-icon hexagon badge, 2nd from the right on the bottom row, is the Mission Day badge. I’m looking forward to it “unlocking” and turning bronze.

The bottom circular icons are pics for each mission. Mission Day missions are temporary, they’ll exist for a few days after the event but go away; however the badge icons stay. Thus, there is a limited time you can do the Mission Day missions but once you do, your character sheet will show the icon forever. They are easy to spot since they’ll have a city label in them – here it is the purple Washington DC text.

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ESO – Stonefells

I reached level 15 on my templar – the greatest benefit of that is level 15 is where you can dual wield.

I’m not really used to that, having started the genre with Asheron’s Call and then Guild Wars. However, it seems to be a mechanic popular in more current games, like Guild Wars 2 and ESO. Both of these games feature a fairly limited number of skills and weapon swapping is a way to get a second skill bar. Some professions in GW2 don’t have weapon swaps, such as the elementalist and engineer – however in those cases the profession has an additional mechanic that gives nearly the same effect: attunements and kits, respectively.

Anyway, now I can equip a destruction and restoration staff, swap between them and effectively have 12 skills instead of 6.

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The world continues to be gorgeous, landscapes are scenic and interior caves are sometimes spectacular.

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It’s a good time for me to evaluate and plan going forward.

I have a tough time with many quests – generally ESO quests have several tiers, and you wind up fighting some tougher monster at the final stage. And, it kills me probably 50% of the time? I’ll run back and exact revenge, I’m not getting blocked from finishing but I’m also not sailing through to the finish.

I’m trying to figure out why and make some changes. It is always possible I’m inept, that can’t be discounted. πŸ˜‰ However, just in case it is something else I’ve done some research, googling around and looking at various posts and builds.

One common theme is your character is most powerful concentrating on either magicka or stamina. As you level you can increase your stats, which are health, magicka, stamina. Obviously health is important, when that goes to zero you die and end up at a wayshrine or if you have a soul gem, where you fell. But what balance between the other stats? I’ve been raising them evenly and it seems the way to go is to pick one, magickia or stamina, and focus on it.

For a templar, a magicka build would play as a spell caster while a stamina build would play as a knight swinging a sword. I like the magic casting play style better so I’m choosing the magicka path.

This in turn affects my skills. As you use your skills and gain skill points, you have the option of morphing skills into new ones. The two new skills are variants – same basic function but altered, for example morphing a skill gives a choice of doing more damage, or doing less but affecting more enemies. Some skills morph into ones that switch to stamina usage or magicka usage. So I need to look over my skills and what I’ve morphed and make sure they are aligned.

Armor is a factor as well. Earlier I noticed a tooltip that said there are benefits to equipping 3 pieces of the same type – for light armor a benefit is enhanced magicka recovery; for heavy armor a benefit is enhanced stamina recovery. So while I could play a heavy armor spell caster, or a light armor melee fighter, I’m wouldn’t be benefiting the most useful stat.

ESO seems to be a rare game where crafting matters a lot. Some of the best armor pieces (and possibly weapons too?) are crafted!

Regular merchant armor is expensive and not that great, probably by design to encourage crafting. I’m not crafting much and there isn’t a global auction hall, just a guild auction (I’m not in a guild either). I’ve been using quest rewards but they are split between light, medium, and heavy with no pattern – I can’t think of any quest that gave me a choice of reward, so my armor is all random more or less. So another thing to figure out is some way to upgrade my gear more predictably.

Anyway, I can make some minor changes and see how it goes.

Ingress – Friday Night Farming

I found myself standing in a parking lot Friday night, participating in a build – an XM Anomaly is coming and everybody could use some extra gear. We started late because this particular location is adjacent to an ice cream store and we began by getting ice cream.

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Sorry about the crappy picture but my phone flash only goes so far. πŸ˜‰

It takes 8 different level 8 agents to create a level 8 portal, and we had a peak of 19, so no problem there.

XM Anomalies are events that occur around the world, generally each Anomaly will have 9 participating cities: 3 in Asia, 3 in the Americas, 3 in Europe. Furthermore, one of the 3 cities in reach region is the “prime” city. This event feature events in Stockholm, Ljubljana, Turin, Seoul, Galle, Bali, Washington DC, Belo Horizonte, and Kansas City. I live near Washington DC so I’ll be participating in the Washington DC event.

The general idea is the two factions, Resistance and Enlightened, will compete over portals in a defined playbox – zone that encompasses the portals to be used. There will be triggered events during certain phases at predetermined times, and to avoid accusations of favoritsm, Niantic posted hashed data of the event timing – after the Anomaly both sides can verify the events occurred as previously scheduled.

The rules are available and the playbox maps are up… next weekend is the actual event! But the prep has been going on for a few weeks before that.

First is gathering the recommended gear. Each agent can carry 2000 items so that needs to be split between offense (weapons: xmp bursters and ultrastrikes), build/defense (resonators from level 4 to 8, shields, power cubes), and misc (hack mods, viruses, link amps, transmuters).

In order to hold extra stuff, I’ve been stashing my keys in key lockers (purchased items that every serious player eventually buys) while playing, and only dumping them out to recharge. You can exceed the 2000 limit in this case, but can’t pick any extra items up until you get below it. So after recharging portals, I stash my keys again.

Second prep is hacking keys from various locations. The various events are summarized on page 5 of the rules, but one phase involves creating fields and blocking enemy fields. The best way to block is to anchor a field outside the playbox – you can throw from inside to the outside – so I’m sure both sides have been examing the intel map for suitable portals to use.

The logistics involved remind me of EVE Online. In Ingress we have recommended inventory and key hacking (analogous to doctrine fits), outside comms ranging from Slack to Google Hangouts (the sophisticated IT systems Brave Newbies and other alliances run for the members), physical meetups for builds/key hacking (fleet activity).

I’m looking forward to next weekend. I’m on a team with a bunch of others I already know and play with. I bought the support pack, an Ingress hoodie, and am signed up for Mission Day too, the day after the Anomaly.

EDIT: The DC Mission Day map is up. Looks like 18 missions for a 3×6 mosaic/banner?

Next weekend will be an all-Ingress weekend!

 

LoTRO – Lone-lands

After finishing up Vol 1 Book 1 on Spessartina, I headed east of Bree to the Lone-lands. It had been a very long time since I quested through and was pleasantly surprised at the reorganization. The Forsaken Inn was jam packed with quest givers to start you out, but one or two other Eglain camps spaced out to the east helped lead to Ost Guruth.

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Lone-lands is both familiar to me and fun, however at the same time I’ve gone through enough so I beelined Book 2 in order to head to Esteldin in the North Downs.

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I just had to lend a hand to Radagast the Brown first. He didn’t fight too much during the Red-Pass instance, but in the end he did call down a lightning strike to drive Ivar away.

Spessartina reached level 30 and I decided to reorganize a bit.

First, I settled on Virtues to work on: Innocence, Tolerance, Charity, Honour, Patience. I’m a fan of mitigation/resistance virtues over straight stat buffs, and this collection represents, as the primary effect, physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance (x2) and ICPR (in-combat power regeneration). I need just a few more quests, kill deeds, and exploration to get them all into the 2-3 range.

Second, I respeced to Warrior-Skald. I had been playing as a Watcher of Resolve, but many fights were dicey. For example, when I had to collect sigils of the gaunt-men, who are signature mobs with an add usually standing right next to them. Oh, the gaunt-men can also summon. So many times I was briefly fighting 3 enemies at once. My strategy there was simple: fear one away (Invocation of Elbereth) and then immediately try to kill the gaunt-man before he summoned another. My morale dipped under 33% many times and I decided that going forward I would spec fully into Warrior-Skald, the minstrel DPS spec. Why not, LoTRO makes it pretty easy to have 2 specs and switch between them.

Third, I was looking for a diversion and went to a skirmish camp. I find these fun in small doses, so I’ll do some later. Maybe I’ll even make a point of doing a skirmish every time I play as a way to break up the quest/leveling process.

What I hadn’t noticed before was the great gear you can get by trading in marks! Back when I was leveling my original group of characters, my “main” was a hunter about 5-10 levels higher then my next highest character. My hunter, Glyneth, is an explorer and provided hides, ore, and wood for my other character’s crafting until they got far enough along to do it themselves.

I don’t get enough hides to tailor armor for two characters, but now I don’t have to farm for materials thanks to skirmish gear – I can get jewelry, and weapons too! This is awesome!!

The tiers on skirmish camp items looks like every 3-4 levels, which is perfect. It lets me gather/craft while leveling but still keep their armor/jewelry/weapons reasonably up to date without having to farm on my higher level characters. πŸ™‚

ESO – Slow (Re)Start

For some reason I have a tough time keeping momentum in ESO.

Part of that is choosing a race/class combo I like. ESO offers 4 human races (Imperial, Redguard, Breton, Nord), 3 elves (High, Dark, Wood), 3 “monsters” (Half-Orc, Khajit, Argonian) and 5 classes (Nightblade, Dragonknight, Templar, Sorcerer, Warden) so lots of combos in theory…

I settled on Templar, since it offers a healing line, above and beyond what every character can do by equipping and training up their Restoration Staff skill. But I have played every class through the corresponding faction starter zone to get a feel for it.

I ruled out Sorcerer and Warden since they are pet classes and I’m not really into those. Generally the pet AI in a game isn’t good and managing the pet becomes an extra thing I’d rather not deal. In LoTRO, a well timed Sign of Battle: Wizardry (when your pet procs a flank) will heal you, but if said pet dies it can be a big problem. In GW, my favorite char was a ranger except I rarely ever ran a pet build, because when I was an active player, having a pet ate up too many skills on the skill bar: 2 skills out of 8 skills (Charm Animal, Comfort Animal) plus some points into Beast Mastery or it wasn’t worth it. Although according to the wiki in 2009 and 2010 Comfort Animal and Heal as One were changed to also bring a pet if equipped, thus saving skill slot space since Charm Animal wasn’t needed.

The irony is, heroes in Guild Wars were basically pets but they had a huge amount of control and customization (positioning, armor, weapons, skill bars)… so much so that I often ran with 3 heroes (the max before yet another change allowed 7 heroes in a party) and henchman, or a friend plus their 3 heroes.

In ESO, none of the races grabbed me. I like playing short/small races because it looks awesome to be a Hobbit, for instance, attacking the shins of some giant troll, but all the races in ESO are roughly human-sized. In GW2 I like the Asura culturally because they are mad scientist/inventors but oddly enough my favorites are a Norn Ranger and Sylvari Mesmer. I’m too lazy to restart, even using experience scrolls and what not. Plus I’m on a GW2 hiatus.

Anyway, I ended up making a char based on what their “champion gear” looked like. I think this feature, previewing armor during character creation, is great – one that Wildstar had as well.

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This helped rule out some races – I mean what’s up with this inverted shoe brush helm for Imperials? Designed for Marvin the Martian?

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I think the Argonian gear looks fantastic but there is a problem – I find their tail distracting! It sways slowly and since most of my view will be from behind my character over their shoulder… nope.

Previously I dabbled in a race from each faction (Breton and Redguard; High Elf – sorry I can’t get into the looks of the Wood Elf or Khajit; Argonian and Dark Elf) and gravitated towards the Dark Elf for Dragonknight or Templar.

But first, I rolled up an Argonian Warden just to try it out.

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ESO is a beautiful game, it looks absolutely fantastic everywhere. Doing the intro quests in Morrowind and investigating inside houses, I found stunning design and layouts. This elaborate painting is one of five or six different ones, background scenery most players run by on the way to finding the thingamajig for a quest.

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Outside looks great too. One of my favorite RPGs was Morrowind and wandering the landscape listening to music selections from the original game (yes!!) was a delight.

But, the skill mix of the warden doesn’t seem cohesive to me. Summon pet attack, frost, and healing. It’s workable and wardens are meant to handle all the trinity roles but I didn’t like it so back to a previous character.

For now I’m going to push foward on my Dark Elf Templar, currently questing on the mainland around Davon’s Watch. After advancing the main quest a step or two I’ll divert over to Morrowind, where my no-longer-existing Argonian Warden once walked, and play through that before returning to the mainland.

I found a leveling guide on reddit and it had a bunch of advice, written mostly from the perspective of a max level char wanting to level an alt. I skimmed over it and will likely skip everything crafting related for now, but did come away with some great tips.

First thing is to make sure you have one skill from each class skill line on your bar. This helps level each skill line roughly equally. For Templar, the skill lines are Aedric Spear, Dawn’s Wrath, Restoring Light.

Second, make sure you have skills from your weapons on your bar as well. I’m switching between 2 handed sword and destruction staff, which I just got so I’ll be using the staff and its skills that I unlock soon. I’ll get a Restoration staff as well and give it a slot on my skill bar.

Third is armor, the suggestion is to wear all 3 types of armor since as you get hit you’ll level armor skills. A popup tip from the game said there is a benefit wearing 3 pieces of an armor type… since there are 7 armor slots I’m going to wear 3 pieces of 2 types. Later, I’ll do some wiki research and figure out what that promised benefit is. From quest rewards and drops, and perhaps vendor purchases but I don’t remember, I have 2 pieces of light armor, 1 piece of medium armor, and 3 pieces of heavy armor, so I need to buy or find that 3rd light armor piece and I’ll be set.

Fourth is to train horse riding skills – mount speed, stamina, and carry capacity can be trained up for a small fee, but only one point every 20 hours real-time. So I’ll be sure to log in every day to train my mount skills, as long as I have the gold to do it.

My armor strategy might not be optimal but players swear most anything is viable while leveling. So I’ll put that to the test.