Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

End of Dragons First Beta Event

Greetings, Traveler!

I tried to come up with a clever title, but failed. So, for the past five days, players of Guild Wars 2 were given the opportunity to test out three of the new elite specializations that will be released with the End of Dragons expansion in February. Scooter and I got in on the action. And though I don't think anything was broken–exactly–I definitely have preferences for one over the other two, and Scooter, even more strongly. The beta test is over for now, so all I have of these characters are the screenshots I took.
Of course, I spent way too long on devising character names for throwaway toons. But then again, any character worth making is worthy of a good name.

First, we have Dubheasa Nightglory (pronounced “duv-eesa” or "duv-essa"), a Sylvari Willbender. Dubheasa, in keeping with the Irish/Celtic naming convention for the Sylvari, is a very old Gaelic name meaning "dark beauty." Scooter named her Norn Willbender Cinna Gretadottir. Honestly, this is my least favorite of the three. The Willbender is a more nimble iteration of the Guardian, with access to off-hand Swords. In line with the Cantha/Asian theme of the expansion, presumably, the playstyle is meant to evoke wuxia productions like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The utility skills are all in the Physical category, involving leaps into and out of melee range. The Virtues Profession mechanic is also replaced with more physical movements, adding the Guardian's traditional blue flames for a burning effect. Lore-wise, the Willbenders were/are the personal guard to the Canthan Emperors, but I'm not exactly sure whose will is supposed to be getting bent.
Scooter liked the playstyle, but felt it was really squishy. My biggest impression was squishy as well. The other two, despite being Scholars, were far more robust than the Soldier. I was constantly concerned for the health of poor Dubheasa, and she died more than once against foes the other two had no issues defeating. Another thing was that I didn't quite get a handle on the constant acrobatics. Other players may like the back and forth, and I like similar moves on the Revenant, but they are related to weapons, which I am using constantly, not utility skills I have to think about activating. Lastly, and I know this is a thing with all the elite specializations that afford access to an off-hand, the skills brought by gaining access to the off-hand better be spectacular, otherwise they end up pretty underwhelming. And I feel that's what happened here. The off-hand Sword skillset for the Guardian just isn't that special.
My next beta character is Yacketysaxxa, an Asura Harbinger, perhaps a bit chatty. As an aside, the Asura convention of short names often containing double letters–Boomi, Edda, Gixx–makes it difficult for me to come up with names that aren't taken. A harbinger is someone who goes before, presaging the arrival of another, more powerful individual or event. I'm not sure how that relates here, other than that in modern contexts, connoting some impending doom. Scooter's Human Harbinger was Annemarie Figoro.

The Harbinger is an elite specialization of the Necromancer, based on the idea that certain Canthan alchemists have been able to extract toxic magic from the Jade and weaponize it. The result is a sort of Old West apothecary gunslinger. Bringing extra DPS at the cost of diminished health through the Blight mechanic, the Harbinger includes a series of boon-giving Elixirs, and access to a main-hand Pistol. Like other necromancers, the Harbinger enters a Shroud, taking the name Harbinger Shroud from an advanced ability of the Scourge, introduced with Path of Fire. This is where the fun really begins. Much like the ability Life Transfer in the original Death Shroud, the Vital Draw ability pictured twice in this post sucks life force from nearby enemies to replenish the Shroud, while in this case also incapacitating them briefly. Additionally, Harbinger's lifeforce is constantly drained to replenish regular health points, making the Harbinger extremely difficult to kill outside high burst damage.
Something that doesn't affect me personally but gave me pause: apparently, the elixir icons are too similar for colorblind players to distinguish. At least one Redditor thinks they may just be placeholders. I'm not so sure, but the folks at Anet may take some of the input and do something more to distinguish them. However, I'm not sure I would be using them much anyway. I don't think the tradeoff in health is worth whatever boon is provided.

Another thing is that the Harbinger special effects are rather busy, to be honest. Granted that the shroud effect obscures the Necro in every iteration, the blight means that poor Yacketysaxxa was constantly be in a green haze whenever she was in combat. Thankfully, much of the elaborate effects you see on your screen are not visible to other players, who only see some minor swirls or cloud effects.
Scooter is not enthralled with pistols in general, only using them on her still fairly new Engineer. That, coupled with the self-damage mechanic, did not endear the Harbinger to her. And despite the Harbinger being fairly robust–YacketySaxxa was my only beta toon that never died–I'm not fond of the damage yourself to gain power" mechanic either. Though I would still probably work toward Harbinger on my regular Necro, Hasl Catkin, I am unlikely to use the elixirs, preferring the menagerie of minions. And equipping the pistol would require sacrificing Hasl's beloved axe.
At last, we come to both Scooter's favorite and mine, the Mesmer elite spec, Virtuoso. I named my toon Verthandi Valkyr. The name itself means "Happening" or "Present." Verthandi was one of the Norns in Norse mythology, corresponding somewhat to the Greek trio of Fates, and more specifically to Lachesis, the Measurer. The Norns also featured in Shakespeare's Scottish Play as the Wyrd Sisters, who were witches much like my Mesmerizing Virtuoso. Valkyr, of course, is a reference to the Valkyrie, divine battle maidens who carried the honored dead from the battlefield to Valhalla. Once again, I am slightly baffled by the name of the specialization, since I associate the term virtuoso with music. Scooter pointed out that virtuoso may simply indicate a high level of skill in any endeavor, I still think that is only by reference to virtuosity with a musical instrument. However, the devs are using that metaphorical sense in their description of the spec, so Scooter is right. The only acknowledgement of the Virtuoso's relationship to music is in the profession mechanic Bladesong. Scooter also rolled a Norn Virtuoso, Rosalee Fiersdottir.

Normally a crafty Mesmer that depends on illusions and deception, the Virtuoso eschews such trickery for straight-up mind shattering offense. The Virtuoso gains access to a main-hand Dagger and a series of Psionic utilities. While a two-handed weapon like a Bow or Hammer offers more opportunity for exciting elite spec abilities, the Dagger here delivers some interesting variation. Much like the Mesmer's Greatsword abilities, which are best used at range, the Virtuoso Dagger is not for melee attacks, but rather a sort of focus for delivering Psionic lacerations from across the battlespace. If the Virtuoso does decide to get up close and personal with an opponent, the Virtuoso Sword replaces Illusionary Leap, which would normally produce a clone, with the more direct Blade Leap, adding the ability to cripple foes upon retreat.
Unlike the other two elite specs reviewed here, the Virtuoso seems better than the basic  Mesmer in almost every way.  The Dagger and utility skills are both flashy and DPS heavy, though as said before, this is mostly for the player's own benefit, other players only see vague swirls and the occasional raining daggers. I'll caveat that by saying it may be my own graphics settings minimizing the special effect produced by other players.

Another thing that draws me to the Virtuoso over other Mesmer specs is that the daggers don't evaporate with the death of their target or the end of the battle. They seem to form with some regularity regardless of the abilities you are using, and persist so you can use the Bladesong abilities (replacing Shatters) to open a fight, rather than waiting for them to build up.

Now, I want to say that I didn't get more than an hour or so, tops, actually playing the Willbender or Harbinger, and only a little more than that with the Virtuoso. I also didn't do more than run around a couple areas (mostly the Derelict Delve), and did not change the default Traits for each spec. Given more time, I might have experimented a little more, which is one reason why I did not submit any tickets to the devs. I didn't encounter any specific bugs, and the various specializations may be working exactly as intended. And let me be clear: none of the specs were horrible. The Willbender is perfectly playable, if not as robust as I would normally expect from a Guardian. But I definitely am excited to play the Virtuoso again. And I can't wait for the next taste of End of Dragons.
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Creative Commons License
This article from I Have Touched the Sky is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you repost part or all of the work (for non-commercial purposes only), please cite me as the author and include a link back to the blog.

Scooter proofreads almost all my articles before I post them, for which I am very grateful. However, any mistakes are mine and mine alone (unless otherwise noted). If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after publication. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

In Grand Style

Greetings, Traveler,

Hannah from Dragons and Whimsy facetiously questioned my "movie palace" line in yesterday's post. But the more I thought about it, the more apt the term is for this little nearby cineplex. I doubt if any of my readers live near me (cool if you do, though). But let me tell you little about the Grand Avenue Theater.
The Grand Avenue Theater in Belton, Texas, opened its doors on Star Wars Day,  May the 4th, 2012. I'm not sure exactly when my lovely bride became aware of the theater, but I am sure she was the one who suggested we try it out. And we have been going there almost exclusively to watch first-run movies ever since even though it is hardly the closest theater.

From the beginning, they had certain seats reservable, which meant we were never in a rush to get to the theater and stand in line, perhaps for hours, to get good seats to some highly anticipated film. Now, every seat is reservable in advance, but when they upgraded some of their seats to recliners, we started getting those.
Like many theaters, they have a short film about being courteous, not talking on the phone in the theater, etc. Except the ones presented at Grand Avenue involve a little boy (who is probably now in high school) in a generic demonstration of bad behavior and also a few themed bits, as Iron Man before Marvel films, a Jedi before Star Wars, and others. They're cute and a reminder that this is a locally owned, non-chain theater.

I am linking their COVID-19 protocols video partly because it gives a good idea of what the theaters look like, not that they're that unusual from others in the U.S. However, they have always been much cleaner than most movie houses I have been to.

This one shows more of the amenities, including some of the food they have on offer. In addition to regular "movie food," like popcorn, candy, and sodas, they have a pretty nice selection of personal pizzas, burgers and other sandwiches, and specialty items that match in theme with a movie or actor that is currently featured in the theater. For instance, during the run of "Free Guy" they are offering a chimichanga in honor of Ryan Reynolds' turn as Deadpool. I typically get a pizza, but I did eat cheeseburger sliders the other day.
Last summer, when indoor movie theaters were struggling to find revenue streams, Grand Avenue was showing "drive-in" movies on the side of the building, and also offering food items like big bags of popcorn and also staples like milk, potatoes, and even toilet paper for take-out orders. As they state on their website, the folks at Grand Avenue are involved in their community, and sponsor community events like National Night Out, Movies in the Park, and others. We love going there, and hope to continue for years to come.
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Creative Commons License
This article from I Have Touched the Sky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you repost part or all of the work (for non-commercial purposes), please cite me as the author and include a link back to the blog.

Scooter proofreads almost all my articles before I post them, for which I am very grateful. However, any mistakes are mine and mine alone (unless otherwise noted). If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after publication. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Free Guy

Greetings, Traveler!

So I went to see a movie on Sunday with Scooter. I had seen the trailer for Free Guy and figured we'd have to see it when it comes out on whatever streaming service. But Scooter saw it and said we had to see it in the theater. So we made a date and got tickets at our favorite movie palace. This is one of those places that serves actual food and not just popcorn and hotdogs, so we got there early enough to have our food before the movie would start. I'm not going to go deep into the plot, but I wouldn't count out any spoilers, so bottom line up front: I liked the movie, and would recommend it to anyone likely to be reading this mostly gaming blog. If you don't like spoilers, stop reading now.
This is an interesting turn for Ryan Reynolds. I used to say he was best when his deadpan snark was given free rein, like "Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place," "Van Wilder," and of course, "Deadpool." I always felt that his attempts at more sincere characters like in "Definitely, Maybe" or "The Proposal" fell a little flat. I mean they're good performances, but he does better with the snark. Here, though, his do-gooder character is charming in a way that he seemed to struggle in other romantic comedies. Because make no mistake, under this homage to online game worlds like GTA, Fallout, and Cyberpunk 2077, there is a great little RomCom.

Taika Waitiki chews the scenery quite well as the villainous videogame developer, and I could almost see the nods to various game executives more concerned with profit than quality, though I think his attempted solution was a little unrealistic. I've never seen Jodie Comer in anything else, but she's in a ton of stuff. I'm getting well past the age where people suddenly turn up in major roles, and I look them up to find out they've starred in some hit show I've never bothered to watch. Anyway, Comer did an excellent job as the woman on a mission, equally badass in the game and in the real world. Lil Rel Howery, who in "Get Out" made us actually care about a TSA agent (sort of), is again underutilized, but does great with what material he's been given.

I don't really do negative reviews on here, mostly because no one is paying me to, and I'd rather review movies I would recommend. "Free Guy" isn't perfect, and even stretched my suspension of disbelief a bit. But overall, it's a fun romp. And while there are obviously plenty of people who like to get into video games simply to wreak havoc, there are also those who want to be Big Damn Heroes and save the world if they can. Luckily, there are plenty of games that do that, even if they don't always grab headlines.

"Don't have a good day, have a great day!"
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Creative Commons License
This article from I Have Touched the Sky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you repost part or all of the work (for non-commercial purposes), please cite me as the author and include a link back to the blog.

Scooter proofreads almost all my articles before I post them, for which I am very grateful. However, any mistakes are mine and mine alone (unless otherwise noted). If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after publication. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Revisiting Bartle

Greetings Traveler!

I told you I would get another post out before the end of the day. I hadn't thought about WildStar too much in the past few years, now I've had two reminders in the same day.
With thanks to Thyanel, I decided to take the Bartle test again for my evening post. And like Thyanel, my score hasn't really changed much over the years. I think the player "types" that Bartle originated can be valuable as guides to design and plan a roleplaying game, particularly an MMO. However, too much emphasis on Bartle types can lead to poor design decisions, WildStar being a case in point. The result of my own test today is shown below.

The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology

You are 73% Explorer

What Bartle says:

♠ Explorers delight in having the game expose its internal machinations to them. They try progressively esoteric actions in wild, out-of-the-way places, looking for interesting features (ie. bugs) and figuring out how things work. Scoring points may be necessary to enter some next phase of exploration, but it's tedious, and anyone with half a brain can do it. Killing is quicker, and might be a constructive exercise in its own right, but it causes too much hassle in the long run if the deceased return to seek retribution. Socialising can be informative as a source of new ideas to try out, but most of what people say is irrelevant or old hat. The real fun comes only from discovery, and making the most complete set of maps in existence.

You are also:

47% Achiever

47% Socialiser

33% Killer

This result may be abbreviated as EASK

Background & Acknowledgements

The Bartle Test is based on the player types identified by the legendary Richard Bartle in his paper, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs. It is strongly recommended that you read this paper if you wish to find out more about your player type, and what it all means. Bartle revisits and expands upon these ideas in his book, Designing Virtual Worlds, which is also recommended if you wish to delve a little deeper.

The original Bartle Test was created by Erwin S. Andreasen and Brandon Downey and this implementation is based on the question data which Andreasen has made available at http://www.andreasen.org/bartle/.

As you can see, while I heavily fall in the Explorer group, I also have significant scores in both Achiever and Socializer, and occasionally might dabble in the Killer group. The folks at Carbine mistakenly (in my humble opinion) thought that players would be one or another type, when I suspect we are all more of a blend. I need to read Bartle's original paper to get more nuance, but I think it is worth noting that he was talking about (and possibly promoting) a specific type of game: Multi-User Dungeons.

As Bartle himself wrote:
Are MUDs
games? Like chess, tennis, D&D?
Yes - to achievers.
pastimes? Like reading, gardening, cooking?
Yes - to explorers.
sports? Like huntin', shooting', fishin'?
Yes - to killers.
entertainments? Like nightclubs, TV, concerts?
Yes - to socialisers.
While MMORPGs share many traits with MUDs, they are not the same. And few MMO players have ever played a MUD. As I wrote above, I do believe that Bartle types can be helpful in designing MMOs. However, they are just one of many considerations that should infuse the design of a game.
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Creative Commons License
This article from I Have Touched the Sky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you repost part or all of the work (for non-commercial purposes), please cite me as the author and include a link back to the blog.

Scooter proofreads almost all my articles before I post them, for which I am very grateful. However, any mistakes are mine and mine alone (unless otherwise noted). If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after publication. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.

Updated My MMO History

Greetings Traveler!

I am hoping to post another later this afternoon, but for now I realized I needed to update my gaming history to reflect our recent stint in GW2. 

If you've read any of my posts, you probably realize that I spend a huge amount of my game time partnering up with my lovely bride, known here as Scooter, who is also an avid MMO gamer.
Guild Wars 2 is a ton of fun (the most important thing in a game), easy to jump into and play for a few minutes or a few hours. The game has a good skill/progression system, great graphics, plenty of lore, and just a touch of whimsy—without going overboard. I especially enjoy the seasonal events like Dragon Bash and Lunar New Year. Scooter and I began playing during the Summer of Betas (2012), and after a lengthy break, returned in the summer of 2018. We have been playing pretty solidly since. And, in fact, we recently pre-purchased the upcoming expansion "End of Dragons." I have ten characters, all at or near max level (80). As of August 2021, Scooter and I have played most of the story content at least once through the middle of the (current) Icebrood Saga, although not all in the exact episode order.
I played World of Warcraft from June of 2006, when a friend got me hooked, until October of 2011. I have three level-80+ characters, plus many more lower-level ones. I tried the Pandaren starting area in the "Mists of Pandaria" expansion (in October, 2012), but got a "been there, done that" feeling from the experience. With the release of the Warcraft movie in June, 2016, I again became interested in WoW, and Scooter and I re-upped a couple months before the release of Legion. Honestly, we never really experienced most of the Legion content, choosing instead to level a few new characters up through the expansions that we missed. Time and interest petered out in early 2018, and neither Scooter nor I have played since.
Prior to our stint in WoW, Scooter and I were subscribed to Star Wars: The Old Republic from April, 2015, through June, 2016. Previously, we had played from the headstart in mid-December, 2011, to August, 2012, pushing to achieve 50 (max level at the time) and finish up the story on my Imperial Agent. Despite issues I've had in the past with BioWare's customer relations, the game has a lot going for it. During our return, we enjoyed several class storylines, and loved a single run through of the new "Knights of the Fallen Empire" expansion. Unfortunately, the lack of variety in storylines in KotFE didn't help our interest level. And I still haven't completed the Trooper storyline.
Star Trek Online is another game I have returned to with some regularity, playing from just after its release in February of 2010 until May of 2011. I dipped in a toe again in June of 2012, checking out the Duty Officer system and other developments to the game. With the "Legacy of Romulus" expansion, I started up a new Romulan Captain and got my Main up to max level. Most recently, I played for a few months in the winter and spring of 2015. Amongst all my MMO characters, I am still most attached to my STO crews in many ways.
Sonnenblume (Scooter) and Girasol
Scooter and I have drifted in and out of Rift a few different times. We played regularly from the beta tests in January of 2011 through October of the same year. I cannot say enough great things about this game, or the developer, Trion Worlds. It's not perfect, but the polish and responsiveness of the game and company are things other devs should aspire to. For reasons not really clear even to me or Scooter, when our Mains hit 50 (max level at the time), the wind went out of our sails, and we really had no desire to continue playing the game. We got involved again in summer of 2013, with House Stalwart, but discovered that something about the game caused us both eye strain. We were back again in the autumn of 2014 in for the "Nightmare Tide" expansion, but quickly drifted off again.
We played WildStar in the summer of 2014. Scooter and I had two duos of Exiles, plus I had a few solo toons. It was a fun game with an engaging storyline and a delightful art style reminiscent of World of Warcraft, but in some ways an even darker tone. Despite the colorful cartoony look, this is not a game for young children. Sadly, Wildstar and Carbine Studios were shuttered by NCSoft in late 2018. I still listen to Jeff Kurtenacker's soundtrack to this day.
Judging from the shear number of posts tagged with The Secret World, it may have been my favorite game. It's the smartest story and skill/ability system on the market, in my humble opinion, though the additions of the Augment and Aegis systems make an already complicated system unwieldy. The issues from 2013, "The Last Train to Cairo" and "A Dream to Kill," feature the most enthralling storylines I have followed in an MMO. I currently have a toon in Egypt's Scorched Desert, one in Transylvania's Carpathian Fangs, and one in Tokyo, having completed the main story through "The Venetian Agenda." I stepped into Tokyo, the new zone that opened up with the release of Issue 9, "The Black Signal," but became discouraged with the AEGIS system. I haven't logged into the game in almost a year. I dipped a toe back in during early spring, 2017, but decided I was not interested in the format of the re-released Secret World Legends.

I have tried Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, DefianceThe Elder Scrolls OnlineArcheAgeLandmarkEverQuest II, and Neverwinter, but ultimately found them not to my taste.

Please see also my character pages. Links above.
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Creative Commons License
This article from I Have Touched the Sky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you repost part or all of the work (for non-commercial purposes), please cite me as the author and include a link back to the blog.

Scooter proofreads almost all my articles before I post them, for which I am very grateful. However, any mistakes are mine and mine alone (unless otherwise noted). If you are reading this post through RSS or Atom feed—especially more than a couple hours after publication—I encourage you to visit the actual page, as I often make refinements after publication. The mobile version also loses some of the original character of the piece due to simplified formatting.