Monday, January 15, 2018

Incoming!

As I write this, I've just finished the fifth of the six Palawa Joko Invasions I needed to complete the full set of maps for the Zone Defense achievement in GW2's new Current Events update. That. mind you, is on my third account. I've already done it on accounts one and two and when I finish it on number three I'm going to log in my fourth, the F2P one I haven't used since last September, and do six more.

This weekend both Mrs Bhagpuss and I barely missed an invasion. Every hour, on the half-hour, there we were, waiting in the crowd in Metrica Province or Wayfarer Foothills or Caledon Forest as predicted by the Phasic Distortion Reader, a handy device which we both now have on all three accounts.

The Reader costs two gold to make and involves a fair bit of running around plus a full day's wait if you aren't an Engineer, an Asura or a Charr in  the Iron Legion. All it does is tell you in game what you can see on Dulfy any time you care to look. It's fluff in other words.

And yet we dig it out of our bags at the top of the hour and announce its findings to each other in Guild chat and thank each other for the information. We used it to encourage our one other regular guild member, who only plays on Sundays, to come and join the fun, which he did, although he probably had no idea what was going on.

In between invasions there were times when I did little more than clear my bags and hang around waiting for the next one. It's not as though I even want the rewards. The Achi gives three kegs of Karma, which totals 22,500. I have nearly 15 million karma on my main account. Even my third account has nearly seven and a half million.

The dropped loot is quite nice but it's the same loot you can get 24/7 in Path of Fire maps. Only I would never go there to get it. I don't go to Path of Fire maps any more. Well, for the vista daily or the plant-picking daily, occasionally, if there's nothing better. Otherwise, never.

PoF is all but dead to me already, as I predicted it would be. I saw the story once and hope never to see it again. I got the mounts and didn't like them, although I am gradually getting used to using the Griffin for general travel.

I haven't even finished a single one of the Ascended collects even though I want the weapons. Occasionally I think about it, then I imagine going through those tedious maps again and I decide to leave it for when I'm in the mood, which so far I never have been.

Whether the PoF maps are, in general, well-used these days I have no idea because I'm not there even to gather anecdotal evidence. I know the ludicrously overgenerous meta in the first LS4 map was being heavily exploited, just as Auric Basin was before the nerf , but that has everything to do with a broken game mechanic and nothing to do with whether anyone is actually enjoying the content. I did it once and haven't been back.

All I can say is that the Joko invasions, which look like they must have taken a very small team a very short time to create, are drawing big crowds and those crowds seem very happy. I know I am.

What the invasions remind me of more than anything is Rift in its early days, when it was good. As I think about it, a very great deal of the MMO content I've enjoyed most - certainly the content I've found the most addictive or compelling - in the last seven years or so has followed a very consistent and rather simple pattern: a bunch of mobs descend out of a portal and try to kill us and take our stuff and we band together to try to stop them.

As well as rifts, Rift had invasions. I liked those even more because they came at me instead of waiting for me to come at them. WoW had the Legion invasions which kind of did both. I really enjoyed those. I played more WoW while they were on than at any time since my six month stint years ago. I even subbed for a couple of months just to do them.

GW2 had the Karka invasion and then the wonderful Scarlet Invasions plus a few more along the way. Even World vs World, the part that appeals to me, follows the format. The enemy zerg arrives unexpectedly and starts sieging our keep, the call goes out and we rush to defend.

It seems to me that this could - should - be the PvE answer to PUBG. Content that's easy and quick to make but also infinitely replayable. Because it's PvE and it's in an MMORPG it probably has to have loot attached. Loot or achievements or titles. Preferably all three.

It's also best, I think, if there's something at stake. Something practical. In WvW you don't want to lose your structures, particularly if they've been upgraded and have banks and waypoints. In Rift beta and possibly for a month or two after launch if you failed to stop an invasion the baddies would kill your questgivers and take over your quest hubs for a while. I liked that but it got removed so presumably most people didn't.

Still, I don't think it should be beyond the wit of professional game developers to hit a balance between incentive and annoyance that falls on the side of motivation rather than frustration. The payoff would be a game that people wanted to keep playing because it was fun to keep playing - as seems to be the case with PUBG and its clones.

Gevlon posted today about the terrible fit "story" makes for an MMORPG and while I don't often agree with the goblin on much I do think he has a point here. Lore, for sure. MMORPGs thrive on lore. It gives context, creates a world. Story, though? Story gets in the way. It can work if it plods along behind or off to one side but put it at the front and get it to pull and the whole cart veers sideways. Sometimes it tips over.

No-one really knows what Joko is playing at with these invasions. There's no story to them and no-one cares. The action tells its own story. Invasions are exciting and dynamic but above all they are inclusive. They require no explanation beyond "Stop them!" and no organization beyond "Get here, now!". They're drop in and drop out if you want them to be or stay all day if you have the time and the inclination. They have a rhythm and a pace that allows for time to breathe between battles and yet they feel relentless, inexorable.

In beta, Rift looked like it might be the first MMORPG built around invasions. For a while, even after the post-launch nerfs, it was. If I had a wish for a new MMORPG it would be just that - all Invasions, all the time. I think someone could make a lot of money doing that right.

Failing that I'll take a Rift Classic server, please. I really miss those Sunday afternoons in Stillmoor.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Join The Club

Belghast alerted me to an interesting post at Digital Initiative, which was also a new blog to me. I added it to the blog-roll. Then I read the post. It breaks down the typical guild membership by type and Tamrielo, the author, clearly speaks from experience.

It's been a long time since I was in an active guild that had more people in it than just Mrs Bhagpuss, myself and one or two others but I instantly recognized just about all of the personalities listed. I could put names to most of them - if I could only remember the names. Actually, I could go "Oh, that sounds just like that guy, remember him, oh what was his name? Always wore green and used to sit in Plane of Knowledge all day moaning nothing was as good as the old days..."

Reading through the list was a little disturbing. I felt like I was auditioning for the lead in one of those T.V. movies about multiple personality disorder - that's me, and that's me and, oh, wait, that's really me!

I would lay claim to being any guild's lead Things Explainer - one of the "good" ones, I'd like to think, although other opinions are no doubt available. I literally left a guild over a stand-up argument with the Raid Leader because my You Need Yours position was so unwavering. I could make a strong case for being labeled Side Projects and I have certainly played the Chill AF role to the hilt on occasion.

The sumptuous and largely forgotten interior of the Guild Initiative Office.
There's probably a smattering of several others in there from time to time. I was certainly The Positivity Canon for a while in Vanguard, when I was having the best time of my MMORPG life while all around me people were just praying they could get the game not to crash for five minutes in a row.  I've been the Backpack to Mrs Bhagpuss's Hiker in a few guilds, too.

There are a few categories I am pretty certain no-one could ever accuse me of representing. I do talk a lot in guilds but apart from that I'm no Socialite. Come to think of it, one category that's glaring in it's absence here is The Chatterbox. /em raises hand.

I'd like to think I've never been The Downer or The Griefer but sadly neither have I ever been The Ninja or Silent But Competent. (Noisy But Incompetent - now you're talking...or more likely I am, while we're wiping).

Not sure if this is decoration or fly-posting.
Although all of this seems very familiar from the increasingly distant past, I wonder how accurate it is in terms of current guild practice and experience? Do guilds even work this way any more?

My view may be colored by five and a half years in Guild Wars 2, where guild membership is a very malleable affair. Apart from my own guild, where I spend most of my time, and a bunch of "Bank Guilds" I made for storage, I'm in two fairly large guilds each numbering somewhere in the hundreds of active members. Neither of them seems remotely like any guild I was ever in outside GW2.

They seem to be relatively structureless for a start. There's a nominal hierarchy with names for the ranks but no-one seems to refer to it. If we have "officers" I have no idea who they are (and I've been in both guilds for several years now). Events, when they occur, seem to be ad hoc and while someone got us a guild hall and did a bang-up job decorating it I have no idea who that might have been or when it happened.

Despite my apparent disconnection, I remain a member in good standing and if it all seems fairly anonymous and impersonal then that's because it is. In GW2 you join guilds by your Account rather than by your character and each account can be in up to five guilds simultaneously. Since it's common to have more than one account (I have four) the number of guilds you can be in at the same time is potentially quite large.

It used to be that you had to "Represent" a guild (which means specify it as your active guild) and you could only speak in the Guild Chat of that guild. Guilds were also server-specific. Over time all that has gone. Now you can speak in the chat channel of any of your guilds and you can join guilds on any server.

The even more sumptuous interior of the even less-frequented Arena in the Windswept Haven Guild Hall.

I wonder if that dilutes the intensity, indeed the cabin fever, that used to characterize the clubhouse mentality of many guilds in the past? It must be much harder to develop and maintain the kind of obvious idiosyncratic character traits listed by Tamrielo in an environment where guild membership is so much more tangential and fractured.

Finally, a reason to visit!
It also removes that whole "I quit" drama that made guilds so enervating in the past. If you get fed up, or someone's annoying you, you can just start chatting in another guild and go play with them instead, then come back to the first when The Drill Sergeant or Ready To Go has logged out.

I certainly have never seen anything in the two large guilds I'm in that comes anywhere close to the kind of emotional hothousing that so strongly put me off guild life back in the mid-noughties. It's a far more relaxed, casual, laissez-faire experience than anything I remember from EverQuest or EQ2.

As I do my dailies in DCUO, slipping my Qwardian coins into my wallet as I save up for Krypto, I'm still getting random drive-by guild invites. I haven't yet accepted one because it seems a bit louche to join and then never turn up for anything. At best I'd be a classic What's Going On Lately, dropping in for fresh events, grabbing the freebies, maybe staying for a week of dailies then disappearing until next time.

Even so, I am tempted. I never want to have to deal with proper Guild Drama ever again but I wouldn't mind being Things Explainer or Chill AF in a nice, quiet, steady guild somewhere. Maybe that time will come in Ashes of Creation or Pantheon, if either of them ever happen for real. Pantheon particularly strikes me as a game where a good guild would be more of a necessity than a luxury.

Meanwhile I guess I'll carry on as I have been, with the personalities I know from map and wvw chat standing in for guildmates. I could allocate a few names to categories there as well...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Inbetween Days : GW2

Yesterday's update to GW2 didn't add much to the game other yet more pointless nodes for the personal instance and a tweak to the way Black Lion Chests (the game's lootboxes) work. In celebration of that momentous event there's a free chest and a key to open it with for all non-F2P accounts. Look in the Promotions section of the Trading Post while stocks last.

The current BLC comes with a guaranteed Mini Yellow Jackal Pup, multiples of which can be combined with dyes in the Mystic Forge to make several different colored versions. They are also tradable so you can go for the set without needing to spend real money although it would cost you a fair amount of gold for a full jackal pack.

More interesting and far less publicized was the arrival of the latest Current Event. As I've written before, these supposed side-dishes that ANet slip onto the table to keep us from getting hungry between servings of the Living Story are frequently a lot more satisfying than the main course itself.

The only hint this time was a line in the Game Release Notes that read "Reports of undead attacking travelers near major cities have increased". They did at least make it the first line this time, so it was harder than usual to overlook.

Even so, in all the excitement of World vs World, which was very lively last night, I forgot to go and see what was happening. It was only when I logged in to do the vista daily in Metrica today and nearly got trampled by a stampede of Level 80s on Springers, Raptors and Griffins that I remembered there was something I was supposed to do.

I won't go into details. Dulfy, as always, has an excellent rundown of exactly where you need to go, when you need to go there and what you need to do when you arrive. The event involves the overrated and currently ubiquitous Palawa Joko and his Awakened Army but it's a lot of fun anyway.

It's not dissimilar to the much-missed Scarlet Invasions but this time the whole thing has been streamlined and sped up so that it feels like it's on fast-forward. There's a lot of opening the map, finding a waypoint and hoping your map loads in before everything dies. It's frantic and chaotic which appeals to me no end.

After the Lord Mayor's Show

As is so unerringly the case when ANet makes events of this kind, there's an unfortunate and quite serious bug. The event comes with a series of Achievements, one of which triggers a very nice little follow-on "quest" but lots of people aren't getting the correct credit for participating that's needed to trigger the Achievements.

The bug has been acknowledged by ANet but so far there's been no fix even though we've had several subsidiary updates since the main one. I got all my necessary Achievements on one account on my first attempt but I got nothing at all on my second account and Mrs Bhagpuss hasn't had anything on either of hers.

Even so, it's still worth doing before the fix because it's a lot of fun and there's a lot of loot to be grabbed. I've had two exotic weapons drop (well, pop out of boxes I opened) so far. I know that's pure RNG luck and also Exotics are now barely worth what Rares went for before PoF (and Rares are all but worthless) but it's exciting nonetheless.

And one of them was "Kevin", the bizarrely-named Mace that looks like a thigh-bone . I've wanted that for over five years, just so I can link it in chat at opportune moments. Yes, I could buy it on the TP these days for under a gold but that would take most of the fun out of it.

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Further mention should be made of the the little quest that comes after the events. As is often the case with these Side Stories, it's particularly well done. Better than almost anything in either Path of Fire or Living Story 4 in my opinion.

If that sounds overstated, given that it's no more than a short scavenger hunt with some dialog, I have some evidence to offer. A lot of thought has been put into how the quest is going to be received by the players doing it.

It doesn't require you to have completed Hearts in order to buy the items, for example. Two of them are in boxes on the ground and one is sold by a regular vendor. The locations where the items are found also make complete logical and lore sense.

Better still, even though the items themselves are Account Bound, as is the final item they make, only the character who was present at the original event when the Achievement was completed can take them out of the chests or buy them from the vendor.

I found that out when I sent my Ranger to get one because my Elementalist had never been to Timberline Falls and the Ranger wasn't able to see the dialog or the item on the vendor. The Ele had to fly all the way from The Priory to Fisher's Eye Bridges on her griffon to get it herself.

For special customers only.
That will infuriate some players but it made me happy. I was even happier when Mechanist Ninn, the Asura who makes the final item, told me it would take a day to finish it and my Asuran character was able to say she knew a bit about machinery herself so could she give him a hand?

She and the NPC then had a little chat about it and made the item on the spot. Iron Legion Charr and all Engineers can do the same but everyone else has to wait a whole real-life day! Things like that, and Ninn addressing my character by her class and name rather than just calling her "Commander", go a long way towards drawing me into the story, even when there really isn't much of a story to be drawn into in the first place.

If previous Current Events are anything to go by the invasion should carry on for a few weeks. It's hard to see how it could be made a permanent fixture the way most (all?) of the others have been but I certainly wouldn't complain if it was.

Now if someone would just fix the bug so everyone can get credit for their effort, that would be lovely. Thanks, Anet!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Touch My Stuff (You Can Die) : Very First Impressions of Stash

Having said I was in no need of novelty in my New Year's gaming diet, what did I do today but download a new MMO. I blame MassivelyOP.

The MMORPG in question is one I was vaguely interested in a year or three back but had completely forgotten about. Given its title - Stash - and its focus on storage and loot I suppose it was inevitable I'd at least take a look at it but while it was in buy-in Early Access I was never curious enough to pay for that privilege.

That just about sums up the predicament of the modern-day MMO industry, doesn't it? Even when you come up with a passably original idea and implement it efficiently, players who should be your target audience expect to get it for nothing. I plead guilty to being part of the problem and what's more I have no suggestions as to what the solution might be. Other than bigger lootboxes, obviously.

Characters come affixed to a "Peg", which you can customize, making them look and feel like tabletop miniatures.
The very day I learned Stash had officially launched as a Free to Play title and I didn't have to pay, well, naturally I grabbed it immediately. It downloaded and installed via Steam in a matter of minutes. Registration asked for nothing more than an email address and a password, plus a name, which of course I made up, because who uses their real name on the internet?

I spent a couple of hours in - hang on, the world has a name, just let me look it up... Primordiax. Trips off the tongue, that one, doesn't it? And...it was an enjoyable and refreshingly atypical experience.  Although it's scarcely sane to try and come to any kind of a judgment about an MMO after a couple of hours and a couple of levels, I do think this one at least has potential.

Character creation is simple, straightforward and well-documented. There are four classes. Warrior, Elementalist, Hunter and Healer, the same as you'll find in any F2P MMO of the last half-decade and more. All that ever changes is the names and those not very often.

I made this warrior purely because a +6 axe dropped and my Hunter couldn't use it. That speaks volumes.
The selection of races on offer is considerably more impressive. Where most F2P MMOs offer, at most, a choice between short human, tall human and childlike human, Stash extends that to Human, short Human (Dryad), Human with a Dog's Head (Lukoi), Human with a Cat's Head (Catfolk) and Human Made Out Of Rocks (Trulloc).

Unusually for a Western MMORPG, some of the races are gender-locked. In fact, they all are, except for Humans. Lukoi and Trulloc can only be male, Catfolk and Dryads can only be female.

If you sense something distinctly old-fashioned about the way those options have been allocated, well it really doesn't stop there. Stash is pretty darn old-school in lots of ways.

I say "visit an inn". I mean "visit the inn". There is only one. This one.
For example, all the classes have their own armor types and no-one can wear anyone else's. From Level five onwards you accrue experience debt when you die. Your character doesn't regenerate health automatically after a battle - you have to eat food, drink potions, visit an Inn or construct a camp to rest. You can't just spawn a camp at will, either; you need materials in inventory to build it.

Even the experience bar itself is eerily reminiscent of EverQuest's, something that's compounded by the terminology in the tool tips. I was getting flashbacks as I watched my xp bubbles fill.  As for getting the experience in the first place, how does wandering about in the wilderness picking fights with the wildlife or poking your nose into dungeons sound?

Stash is not quest-based. Oh, it does have quests (well, tasks at least) but you don't need to do them. Far from it - the game actively discourages you. The one task-giver I found was in the main city and came with a clear notice that the tasks were optional and could be ignored. The impression I got was that quests were only there because the developers knew someone would make a fuss if they weren't.

Laylia has all your tasks. And I mean all your tasks.
Even without the turn-of-the-century game design, though, Stash really isn't your average, cookie-cutter free-to-play cash grab. For a start combat is entirely turn-based. In gameplay it reminded more than anything of Wizard 101, only without the card deck.

The view is some kind of semi-free-camera, third person isometric perspective. The "world" looks like a tabletop game board. Almost surreally you can use WASD to get around the main map although it feels far more natural to use click-to-move.

Studded across the map like molehills are Encounters, Resources and Dungeons. Each can be "conned" in classic EQ style, with color-coding at Level One going from White (evens) up to Purple (notify next of kin before entering). Once I'd leveled up the White Encounters turned Blue so I'm guessing there's the usual spectrum above and below your own level.

Level 2 and already twinked. Shocking.
Interacting with Encounters opens an instance in a way that will be familiar to any W101 player. The game then goes into Turn mode and battle plays out. Entering a dungeon puts you into another explorable zone which is itself populated with Encounters. Resources also open an instance but as yet I haven't managed to acquire any harvesting tools so I can't say from experience how that works.

I liked the combat. I found it easy to slip into and enjoy and it exuded a strong "just one more" vibe that kept me playing for considerably longer than I'd planned. I was soloing, of course, but the game is designed for group play and some of the Dungeons are open-world, where you can run into other groups.

An intriguing aspect of Stash and one of its defining features is player housing. You get a Base Of Operations, "BOO" for short, which is a personal instance. Mine looks like a clearing in a forest - I don't know if they vary at all. You can supposedly decorate and even build a house but I'm vague on how and the wiki sure isn't helping any. As yet, most of the entries are unedited stubs.

Go for the eyes, Boo! Wait, wrong game...

On a purely mechanical level the game works pretty well. I wouldn't go quite so far as to say it feels polished - I noticed some typos and textual artifacts here and there - but I certainly didn't run into any bugs and everything seemed solid and as easy to understand as any new MMO ever is.

Aesthetically I found the UI appealing and intuitive and the font was clear and comfortable to read. In design terms I spotted one or two appealing and original touches. Player-to-player trades happen by way of the the well-known "stall" method but uniquely in my experience there's a global interface for searching through them, which comes in the form of a "Newspaper".

Stallholders can place Advertisements in the paper to let potential customers know what they're selling. That's one example of both a whimsical approach and an attention to detail that I find encouraging.

And they say the internet killed classified advertising.
Frogdice, the developers, make some very big claims for Stash: that it's "bringing the magic back to MMORPGs" and that it's "more than just a game". They all say that, though.

More convincing than the rhetoric is the company's record, running Threshold, a " text based, role play required MUD still in operation after 20+ years (opened June 1996)" . Then there's the lengthy list of influences and inspirations they draw on, which includes "Dungeons and Dragons tabletop gaming, Warhammer miniature gaming, the “Gold Box” AD&D video games, Baldur’s Gate, Planescape: Torment, Temple of Elemental Evil, Bard’s Tale, Wizardry, and a variety of other turn based RPGs we have played over the years".

I guess the old school vibe shouldn't come as much of a surprise after all. I don't know whether I'm going to find the time to invest in this one that it certainly requires and possibly deserves but it's tempting. It may look funny but it's a proper, real MMORPG and that's not nothing, not nowadays.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Solo Player's Guide To GW2 World Vs World Dailies


Reading the frustrated reports of very experienced, skilled gamers like Aywren, UltrViolet and most recently Azuriel amply demonstrates just how badly GW2 introduces and explains key gameplay elements to new or returning players.

One thing that should be very simple are the three "dailies" required to gain the rather generous stipend of two gold pieces that most new or returning players would really like to slip into their virtual wallet each day. Back in the mists of time you would get your dailies just for playing the game but those days are long, long gone.

Dailies come in three types, one for each of the major silos of the game: PvE, PvP and WvW. You can mix and match any three dailies from any of the categories but most new or returning players focus their attention on PvE.

Once, that made sense. You used to be able to do your PvE dailies anywhere and there were plenty of them. Not any more. Nowadays you get your dailies based on the highest level character on your account and the expansions you have purchased and you get told which map to do them in.



This is awkward enough even on a first character leveling up. For anyone who has taken a short-cut to endgame, either by using one of the Level 80 boosts that came with an expansion or by means of one of the in-game boosters such as Tomes of knowledge, it can be disastrous.

With a fresh level 80 you risk getting dailies in maps you have never visited and can't easily access. You may be asked to complete "Adventures", which most players avoid like the plague. You may be asked to kill Champions in a group event or World Bosses you've never even heard of.

Don't despair. World vs World will rescue you.

World vs World has a very small range of dailies and they are almost all very easy. Most of them are also very quick. Everyone can access all the WvW maps (F2P players need to be Level 60) and even if you don't have a Level 80 you will be bumped up to play as though you did.



But it's PvP, isn't it? I'll get ganked before I can do anything!

No you won't. Many of the WvW dailies can be done with a very high degree of safety at very low risk. Chances are you won't see, let alone fight, an enemy player. What's more, with the current low level of interest in WvW, it's even less likely than ever that you'll bump into anyone. Depending on your World and the time zone in which you play you may not see anyone at all!

Enough pre-amble: what about the dailies? Here's the list from the Wiki, with my - hopefully helpful - comments. I've also given them a star rating based on a combination of ease, speed and safety. The more stars the better. And I even made some maps!


***** Big Spender

Spend at least 25 Badges of Honor.

This daily takes seconds to do and is guaranteed 100% safe. If you do WvW you'll have more of these than you know what to do with but if you don't you may still have plenty. You get a hundred in every Achievement chest and once you start doing WvW dailies you'll get some more for every one you do.

The simplest way to do this daily is to buy two Traps from the Tricks and Traps vendor. They cost 15 badges each and they stack. There's a T&T vendor at every spawn-in and at your home Borderland Citadel.


*** Caravan Disruptor
Destroy a supply caravan.

A "supply caravan" is a Dolyak. They spawn at every supply camp and walk (or run) to towers and keeps. If there's no friendly structure for them to supply they just stand in the camp and chew the cud. You can see them on the map - they are the little icon that looks like a Dolyak (surprise surprise).

If they are in transit they don't fight back but they will defend themselves if they're still in the camp. The safest option is to use the map to locate a camp your team doesn't own but which is next to a waypoint you can use (you may need to visit the WPs once to open them if you have never been to that map before, same as PvE). Several of the camps on Desert Borderland are structured so you can get to the yaks in camp without aggroing any guards. The northern camp just behind Citadel is particularly good for that, with four yaks in a stable under the raised platform.

Wait somewhere safe until a yak leaves the camp and then jump it once it's out of range of the guards. Or pick one that's on a lonely stretch of its route. If the camp is upgraded (has two or three shields over the camp icon on the map) the Dolyak may have NPC guards so an unupgraded camp is easiest. Camps change hands all the time so finding a weak camp is not usually a problem.

Dolyaks are robust and take a while to kill but usually you will have plenty of time. If you are unlucky enough to be interrupted by an enemy player just keep killing the yak. If you die and the other player kills the yak you will still get credit for the daily. Dying in WvW costs you absolutely nothing other than a few seconds of your time so just let it happen - unless you think you can win, of course!


* Invasion Defender 
Kill three enemy players.

Avoid this unless you are going to join a squad and/or run with the zerg. If you're even considering getting your daily by killing other players solo you certainly don't need any help from me!


**** Land Claimer
Capture a sentry point. 
 
This is very easy and very low risk. Sentries are marked on the map by a flag icon. There are plenty of them and one or two can be seen and checked for safety from places where you yourself are invulnerable to attack. Many others are in places few players pass by regularly.

Possibly the easiest to get to quickly and safely is the one on the junction of the road between the north-west gate of Garrison and Dreadfall Bay. You can see that sentry from the safety of the platform above "Water Gate" at Garrison to check there are no enemies nearby.

Whichever sentry you pick will be a Veteran but they are veterans in name only. They die in a few hits. When you've killed the sentry, stand in the ring that pops until it fills. It only takes a few seconds. Daily done, waypoint to safety!


***** Master of Monuments  

Capture a shrine (Desert Borderlands) or a ruin (Alpine Borderlands).
 
(Wiki is out of date here. The Desert BL also requires "ruins" nowadays, not shrines, which are different places altogether).

This involves no combat at all. Just stand on a marked spot for around 60 seconds while a ring completes. The relevant spots are all clearly marked on your in-game map. They're all in the central area, which is the least-trafficked part.

If your team owns three out of five then on the map all five will be filled in with the color of your world. Ignore that. It means your side has Bloodlust and it was made to work that way when gliding was added to WvW, so that your glider could use the entire area.

What you need to do is check the spots visually, not via the map. You're looking for one that is at least partially uncolored on the ground. You can see two of them from the safety of the Alpine Garrison water gate (one from the Desert BL Garrison/Earth Keep equivalent). Pick one, run to it (or glide, if you have gliding opened for WvW) then stand looking around nervously for a minute while the ring fills.  Daily done!


*** Guard Killer 
Kill five veteran or higher NPC guards.

This is very manageable although it is potentially risky. I would recommend avoiding Desert Borderland; the guards there seem to be tougher. All guards count, at camps, towers or keeps. Sentries also count as does the Quartermaster in a camp even though he's not a Veteran. "Flavor" NPCs like Citizens or Soldiers at North Camp don't count.

This is another daily where it's important not to worry about being ganked. So long as the guard dies and you did enough damage you'll get credit even if another player butts in and kills you. Worst case scenario is that you're interrupted by a player on the same team as the guard you're trying to kill, which means the guard will live and you won't get anything. That hardly ever happens in my experience so long as you avoid busy areas.


**** Veteran Creature Slayer
Defeat the veteran warg, the harpy veteran, or the veteran wurm on a Borderlands map. 

Very easy and very safe and very quick, so long as your creature of choice is up. If you have a waypoint open at Dreadfall Bay the Wurm on Alpine is probably the easiest to get to but the Warg on the enemy Alpine BL where you have the south-west spawn point is even safer. The Harpy is, in my opinion, both the toughest and the most awkward to reach on Alpine but compared to most PvE content they are all easy solo kills.

The Wurm on Desert BL is very easy to find once you know where it is (see my map above) and so is the Warg but they do require some travel across exposed ground so there is an element of risk. I wouldn't even consider the Harpy on Desert BL because of how awkward it is to reach.

Often you won't have to solo the Veteran Creature, though. They are a ten minute spawn and if the one you've picked isn't up you will frequently find someone on your team already waiting for it. I have even waited with people from the enemy team, killed the creature (carefully avoiding using any AEs), bowed and left without a fight.


** Camp Capturer
Capture two camps.
 
This is a lot of fun but very high risk compared to most of the dailies above. Camps, as I said, change hands all the time and scouts (players watching the map) will report any activity if they're doing their job properly. Whether anyone responds is another matter but it takes some time to clear and take a camp solo - two or three minutes - and that's a long time to stand in enemy territory with a sign over your head.

On the other hand, it's every bit as likely that you'll be joined by someone on your own side, particularly if you are re-taking a camp on your own borderland. Most teams don't like to leave their camps in enemy hands. Once a camp is taken it cannot be re-taken for five minutes and you can see the timer for any camp by mousing over the icon on the map.

If you go to such a camp (particularly North Camp, which is also the easiest, safest and quickest to get to) just before the timer expires there's a very good chance others from your World will already be there, waiting to retake. Also, so long as you've killed any guard at the camp, you will get credit if that camp changes hands to your side at any time before you leave the map so it can be worth just popping a guard in passing if you plan to be there a while.

If you happen to be in a match or on a team where certain maps or areas are rarely visited, taking camps for dailies can be both enjoyable and useful for learning WvW and gaining confidence. Some teams don't seem to like playing on Desert Borderland and the southern camps there are often very quiet. I spent a lot of time re-learning and practicing my old EQ pulling techniques in the southern desert on my Ranger while I was leveling up.


* Keep Capturer
Capture a keep.

Totally out of the question unless you join a zerg or squad or have the good timing to run into the keep just as your team is about to take it. Actually, keeps can be soloed. We have someone on Yak's Bend who does it for his own amusement. If you can do that you should be writing guides not reading them.


* Tower Capturer
Capture a tower.

Same as Keep. Ignore this one unless you're planing on joining a squad or zerg. Although technically easier to solo than a Keep I've never soloed one successfully. Mrs Bhagpuss has though. A few times.


**** Objective Defender
Defend an objective during an enemy assault. The achievement is rewarded when a defend event successfully completes.

Now this is a very easy daily that's often overlooked. "Defending" sounds like it means fighting but it also includes repairing. Mrs Bhagpuss does this one a lot. She just looks on the map to find a keep or tower that we own that looks "contested", which shows as crossed swords over the icon. Then she goes there and looks for a damaged wall or gate and repairs it.

Structures check their integrity every couple of minutes and when that tick passes anyone who's contributed to defence, either by killing an enemy player or repairing the structure, gets credit.

There you go. Dailies all done!

Friday, January 5, 2018

That Dog : DCUO

The main reason I still check Massively OP every day is for moments like this. I'd have been irked if I'd missed the chance to have Krypto running (or flying) around my superhero base.

Very irked. Not, it probably goes without saying, as irked as I'd be if I'd missed out on Streaky the Supercat (sadly not on offer - yet). I'd be be irked and then some. ("Irked" is an odd word, isn't it? Also, repeating it doesn't make it any less odd. Rather the reverse, in fact.)

Ahem. Getting back to the point, or at least to somewhere from which the point might possibly be seen with a decent pair of binoculars, I was a big fan of The Legion of Super Pets back when they were a thing, which was when I would have been about eight or nine, I guess.

From memory, the line-up was Krypto (Superboy's dog), Streaky (Supergirl's cat), Comet (Supergirl's horse), Beppo the Super-Monkey (some kind of lab animal?) and Proto (Chameleon Boy's pet). Four of the five had the powers of any Kryptonian, which made the Animal Avengers (as no-one ever called them, not least for reasons of copyright) pretty much the most dangerous bunch of animals ever to form a pack.

I do like to blend in.
Proto was merely a shapechanger, which you might have thought would have left him (it?) with a severe sense of inferiority but I seem to remember he (it?) was also the only one with human rather than animal thought processes. That made him the boss so it all worked out.

I haven't fact-checked any of that so don't quote me - imagining for a moment that any circumstance could possibly arise where you felt the need to. So far as I know, the LSP isn't about to make a comeback but you can never be absolutely sure.

Anyhoo...

I haven't played DCUO since November, when I got invited to join a guild and rashly accepted. I even suggested it might lead to regular team play. It didn't. I stopped playing altogether.

Thanks! I thought so.
 That was mostly down to bad timing. Things got very busy very quickly at work and it was all I could manage for a few weeks to come home and get a few dailies done in GW2. Unsurprisingly, when I logged in today to see about getting this dog, I found I'd been dumped from the DC Bombshells, so that's my putative grouping career over before it started. Although I got two more League invites this morning so maybe not.

For the time being, I cracked on with the new stuff alone. It's the sixth anniversary event, apparently, which surprised me. It feels like a lot longer than that since I finished the beta and made my first character when the game went live. Time is weird.

Things went a lot more easily than last time, when I was doing the Earth-3 event. I can't have spent more than five minutes skimming around The Watchtower before I found the right Terminal to get the starter quest and the right portal to enter the new zone.

I say "new". It's Metropolis with a sunrise filter. The antimatter glow matched my new look beautifully. I spent the first few minutes posing for myself and taking endless vanity shots.

Hang on a moment...isn't that the Sydney Opera House?

The exact part of Metropolis didn't seem all that familiar, now I come to think about it. I can't remember a marina with luxury yachts from any of my previous adventures. Maybe we're on the other side of the river, that part I've always looked at from on high and wondered why I couldn't go there.

This time the event didn't start with a compulsory group instance. It was straight into the usual collection of daily tasks. I've done enough of these now to realize they are always the same. You always have to kill some Officers or Leaders, destroy some Devices or Portals, Convert or Deprogram some citizens and reverse some Process or other. Plus there's an open-world group event where you just pile on.

I did all those and I did the solo instance as well. That was nice and short although the boss at the end was a bit tough. Probably shouldn't have started with that one. It went a lot better after the second death, when I stopped to renew my acquaintance with what my combat abilities actually do.

Flushed with undeserved confidence I decided to finish the session by queuing for the instance that completes the opening quest sequence. It turned out to be an eight-person "Event", which is a raid in DCUO terms.
That's me. The one with the scythe.

It went better than you might expect. Certainly better than I expected. Once I'd worked out how to queue as DPS I got an invite in a couple of minutes. I accepted and zoned in.

The loading screen offered me a tip about the importance of communication. It reminded me that co-operation was essential for success and that the game has built-in voice chat for that very purpose. It was strongly suggested that I use it or, if not, then I should at least talk in type. I joined my seven team-mates and we began.

No-one spoke, of course. There was no co-ordination, no co-operation and no communication. The mechanics were - fortunately - very simple and yet half the team ignored them. Players were fighting irrelevant NPCs in scattered clusters or alone while the Shards of Anti-Matter we were meant to be destroying went untouched.

Many "Vote" requests popped. Permission to leave the instance came up twice and was denied. Those players left anyway. Then someone else left. A request to open the instance to new recruits came up for voting and was denied.
I can't help feeling there's a pun here that I'm missing...

At this point I hadn't voted at all and it occurred to me that maybe my disavowal of my democratic responsibility was being read by the game as a default "No". I figured out how to vote and clicked "Yes" but the next vote still failed.

By then we were down to three players. I thought it unlikely three of us would beat a Boss intended for eight so when the next vote to open the instance to recruiting came up I made sure to Vote Yes. Finally the vote passed and in a matter of seconds we were back to full strength.

At that point we'd whittled down six of the nine Shards we were supposed to be handling as the "B Team" (as Oracle actually described us), while the "A Team" of real DC Superheroes (aka the NPCs) were runing a holding operation on the Anti-Monitor, the Big Bad set on devouring our universe. Literally. He eats universes. It's what he does.

The five new recruits seemed to be a lot more competent than the five dropouts. The rest of the Shards dropped in quick time and we joined the real heroes on the main target. It was slow progress for a while but we chipped away at his health bar, as you do, and I began to see light at the end of the tunnel.

After a single run through the dailies and main quest there was plenty I could have afforded but I'm holding out for the dog.

There was a frisson of uncertainty when we had to break off and kill twenty shadow demons before ten of them could get to the Anti-Monitor and charge him up (or something). He was running well ahead of us for a while but the final score was 20-7 in our favor.

We all piled back on him and he died fairly quickly after that. The Window of Unavoidable Judgment popped to show us all how we'd done and I looked for my name at the foot of the list. And didn't find it.

I thought at first I wasn't on the list at all. We'd had thirteen people in our eight-person instance in total. Maybe I dropped off the bottom. But no! I finally spotted my name - near the top. In second place on the DPS list, no less!

I tried to take a screenshot but of course I had it set to hide the UI so it didn't come out. You'll just have to take my word for it.

How many Qwardian Coins do you reckon that cost?

What I read into this unexpected proof of competence is that, as an Anniversary event, this thing has been tuned for players of the lowest possible skill level. I mean, I have no skill at all. I literally don't know what most of the buttons do and as for the complicated combos you're supposed to learn...

I just mash the mouse buttons as fast as possible and hit keys 1 to 6 at random to fire off specials. I don't know what they do either but I work on the principle that if they're off cooldown I might as well use them.

So long as I stick to the easy stuff it works. I played for over two hours. I had fun. I dinged a level. I made some money. I got some items for my base. I got an upgrade for one of my jewelry slots. Most importantly, though, I came away with 37 Qwardian Crowns, the currency needed to buy items from the event vendor.

Krypto costs 140 QC. I'm not sure how long the event runs but I would think I ought to be able to manage another three or four sessions before it finishes, which should give me more than enough. Especially if, like last year, there's a double QC weekend somewhere along the way.

Thirty seven down, a hundred and three to go.

If I do run into time trouble I have a fallback position. You can buy Qwardian Crowns for Daybreak Cash. The exchange rate is something like 450DBC for 50QC. If I find myself pushed for time I'll be happy to top up what I need from my 18k reservoir of unspent funny money.

I mean to have you, Krypto, even if it must be Pay To Win!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ring Out The Old, Ring In... On Second Thoughts, Don't Bother!

Something changed this year. Okay, outside our firmly barred and bolted thick oak fantasy doors, a lot of things changed but the less said about most of that the better.

No, I'm referring to my own decreasing interest and desire for novelty in gaming. While various wise and respected commentators stroke their beards over the paucity of new MMORPGs in production and the supposed moribundity of the genre, I find myself surprisingly sanguine over the admittedly thin, not to say threadbare, coat the New Year's wearing.

In the last few months I have spent almost all of my leisure time playing just two MMORPGs: Guild Wars 2 and EverQuest 2. Not only are those games five and thirteen years old respectively but they are each sequels to older games- games that are both still up and running.

Guild Wars may be in mothball mode but it's still there and people still play it. I played it in preparation for Path of Flames and I ran into a few others while I was there. I even saw tickers scrolling across the screen announcing the results of PvP matches so I guess someone still cares.

EverQuest, a good few years GW's senior, is far from entering maintenance mode. As Wilhelm observed with satisfaction, the old game got yet another expansion this year. Moreover, as he says, "Somebody must be buying the $140 versions of those expansions if they keep offering them."

But then, "maintenance mode" is itself becoming both a viable business model and playstyle. Someone recently wondered whether Funcom has any MMOs that aren't in maintenance mode. It does seem the company fortunes have improved since they stopped even pretending to produce new content and began concentrating on simply polishing up and repackaging the old.

Case in  point. I'm pretty sure I was meant to know who he was. Maybe if I'd raided in the first PoP...

Square Enix restarted FFXIV after it failed and that seems to have worked well for them. But then, as a company, they seem to have only the vaguest understanding of the concept of "stopping": FFXIV's predecessor, FFXI, is famously more active in supposed maintenance than many triple-A MMOs were at the peak of their success.

It goes on. Until NCSoft discovered the mountain of money that is Mobile gaming, its biggest earner was the near-two-decade old Lineage. That corner was finally turned not by Lineage's successor, the inevitable Lineage2, itself still bringing in the dollars, but by yet another Lineage, or rather two of them - LineageM and Lineage Revolution.

If it's not sequels or revamps it's versions. Blizzard's biggest reveal of the year wasn't the next WoW expansion. It was the news that they'd thrown in the towel and started work on bringing back Vanilla. They were probably swayed not only by the continuing interest in illegal time-travel via the Emu scene but also by Jagex's joyous capering under the the money-hose that is Old School Runescape.

Two decades and counting since the beginning of the MMORPG revolution and the huge majority of all the MMORPGs ever made are still running. It's news when one closes because it's so unusual.

When Brad McQuaid, John Smedley et al cooked up EQ they were hoping it might last three years. Modern developers think bigger. And longer. GW2 was designed with a ten-year lifecycle in mind and ArenaNet have said they have no plans to make any other new games. That will change, eventually, but when it does, what do you think the new game might be called?

I have actually finished the PoP Signature questline, I just haven't had the time to post about it. It was a lot better than the Path of Fire Story, that's for sure.

Indeed, once you have a successful MMO up and running, the need to come up with new ideas becomes significantly less pressing. Production of The Elder Scrolls series has effectively gone on hiatus with the success of TESO, for example.

CCP, the one major development team that really relishes the maverick tag, marked the exception to the rule with their advertisement for people to work on "a new and highly ambitious MMO" but then they've said that before, haven't they. And did it happen? Did it heck as like!

Mostly, for developers and players alike, the launch (or Early Access or Open Beta or Give Us Some Money And We'll Describe It For You) of an MMORPG is the beginning of a brave new world of updates, expansions and occasional graphical overhauls. The ship keeps on sailing, the scenery passes by, we dock at the occasional port, the band keeps on playing and we all keep on dancing.

And I like it. It suits me. I'm happy here in the happy house.

Oh, it's partly the season, I'll admit. The season and the weather. Short days, dark nights, rain, snow, warm socks and a comfy jumper. A night in with a mug of hot something and the familiar sights and sounds of 2012  - or 2007 or 2004 even 1999 - all bigger, brighter and less trouble than I remember.

Come the spring I may be yearning again for something fresh and new. As the leaves green and the sun brightens I could be back here, pounding out a thousand words wondering where all the new worlds have gone. I'll deal with that when it happens.

For now I'm quite content. Let this year roll over into next. I'll stay where I am, which is pretty much the same place I was last year. And the year before that.

Happy New MMORPG Year and let's have another one just like it. Please and thank you.
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