Rants tag

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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Samhain Song

Yesterday, Celestial Elf posted a link to the following video in the comment section of my Secret Monday Samhain post. It's delightfully creepy, though I'm not sure where the figures for his machinima come from.

I hope I see you all in The Secret World this evening between 7pm and 9pm Eastern time. The BtV crew will giving away treats in front of the Black House in Savage Coast. Come join us in game and on Holosuite Excess.
Happy Halloween, Dear Reader.


To WriMo or not to WriMo? That is the question!
I'm truly torn.

NBI: Class of 2013

Much like Belghast, the wind went out my own sails fairly early this month with the Newbie Blogger Initiative. Other than a post or two of encouragement, I didn't have much to say this time around. Great advice was offered by many of my fellow blogging veterans, but much like last year, we discovered that there is no one true way to blog. Gaming blogs are as individual as the people writing them. The only important thing to have the belief that you have something to contribute the MMO conversation, and then do it. Without further ado, I present to you the NBI Class of 2013:

I have a new list on the far right that will show the five most recent posts by this wonderful group of people, assuming they have an RSS feed. It's expandable by clicking "Show All." Come back often to see how they're doing. And if you really like them, follow them directly.

Congratulations, my fellow bloggers, and welcome to the community. :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Syp has a post up about some issues he sees with ArenaNet's storytelling technique—or lack thereof—in Guild Wars 2. Slurms says they're working to rectify the problems.

I'll admit that even having come back in to the game recently, I am avoiding the living story elements like the plague. I am so far behind, that it doesn't seem worth even trying to catch up. For a world so obviously steeped in lore and history, Tyria's current events lack a certain je ne sais quois. It just doesn't grip me.

The hearts of GW2 and beer-battered boar rib runs of World of Warcraft are where my interest lies. The Secret World's faction leaders keep saying to keep the big picture in mind. But the PCs keep helping the little guys, beating back the darkness one zombie—or one ancient demoness—at a time.

I am far more involved with the "personal lives" of the NPCs in TSW than with any figure in GW2. I think the problem starts with GW2's personal story and spirals from there, with the players becoming less and less the focus of the game story. However, I believe WoW has suffered in a similar way, mistaking "adventurers" for "Heroes." And then having done so, still shoving them aside in favor of Beings that "truly" matter.

I've said it before, but part of the appeal of TSW for me is that the player character is so much a blank slate. Everything about their personality—up to and including their voice—is in my imagination. GW2's PCs are not really mine, any more than SWTOR's PCs are, despite the illusion of choice those game systems attempt to convey.

Perhaps it is fitting that TSW's latest Halloween mission series deals with decidedly "personal" Urban Legends, rather than some Mad King out of the world's past. One Dark Pharaoh is enough.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Secret Somvār: Celebrating Samhain in Style

I just realized that this 186th post of the year marks 3x the number of posts I made in 2011.

I would have had this out sooner, but some of us work for a living. The "SAH-win" event is in full swing this week in The Secret World; and what better way to spend Secret Monday with the Knights of Mercy than traipsing across the landscape of Solomon Island like some insane (and slightly drunk) parade on the trail of some juicy urban legends? Because as you know, in the Secret World, EVERYTHING IS TRUE.
You can't fool me, Junkyard Edgar; great costume, though.
We started the night out by organizing a couple NM runs of the Cat God instance, a repeat of Samhain 2012. As it turns out, as long as at least one person is Gatekeeper qualified, the whole group can get into the nightmare version of the instance, which in fact is not particularly hard. In our group, I healed on Dortmunder while Chucho tanked, with Solaris, Dex-y, and Yeti providing DPS. Scooterz ended up with a set of 10.1 pistols for Dex-y, which she promptly put to good use. On our second run something glitched and we only ended up in the regular version of the Cat God fight, which yields no reward if you're doing the associated quest. The Mogsys headed up the other group run, with more success on purple drops and kitties.
Didn't we just try to prevent the completion of a ritual?
No pics of most of the rest of the evening, where we ran around zombieland collecting "Penny Dreadfuls" for Danny Dufresne's Tales of Solomon Island mission. We got most of them before it got too late, I think Scooterz and I have three or four to go. We ended the evening with an attempt at summoning SuperJack, a Guardian size pumpkin head. As seen in the pic above, we got the ritual done correctly. But it bugged out, so no Jack.
That's a big pumpkin!
Solaris got on the #Halloween chat channel and found another SuperJack fight going on, so we met up with another player and did battle with the squash until we smote his ruin upon the pumpkin patch. (I got smitten a couple times myself. Most of us got credit for completing the ritual and defeating Jack, except for Ocholivis, who was dead himself at the time of Jack's downfall. This is another glitch I have not seen often. During the Anniversary event, we got credit for the Guardian kill even if we were dead. On the other hand, the most recent group Filth clean-up event gives no credit if you're not on the platform at the time of the final boss' defeat. The game is down for extended maintenance this morning as they fix several bugs, so maybe this problem will be solved, too.
Dex-y: Take the pic already.You can't tell, but she's rolling her eyes at me.
Anyhoo, for Monday de la Mode, we have two outfits. The left hand set that we wore most of the evening were rewards for completing our Storyline missions. Dex-y is in Weiss Knight with the Streetwear Samurai headphones, as seen worn by Rose White and Mei Ling in the cinematic game trailers. Dortmunder has on Crowley's Glad Rags as worn by Alex McCall in the cinematics. In the right-handset set, we have the Baron Samedi voodoo suits as worn by Irusan and received as reward for completing the Cat God mission chain. Yes, we're the sort of silly couple that wears the same T-shirts IRL, as well. ;-P

Monday, October 28, 2013

TSW: Story's Done

Scooterz and I, after several delays with events and other activities, finally returned to Transylvania to complete the Main Story of The Secret World before Issue 8 officially drops:
I have a bunch of pictures I thought were cool, but lost the wisp of inspiration and don't have much story to go with them. Much like my espionage story with LoneStarBelle. >.>

On thing I think is really cool is that apparently the final dream sequence cutscene that this pic is taken from varies for each PC, based on choices made during the other dream sequences. I watched Scooterz' cutscene, and she encountered the dark male "angel" instead of the bright female one.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

WoW Comparisons

Just this morning, Belghast discusses the animosity of veteran Final Fantasy players toward comparisons to WoW. He quotes an another player giving advice: "don't expect this game to have 'WoW equivalents.' This isn't WoW. It's not a WoW clone." Maybe FFXIV isn't a WoW clone, I don't think any new games are anymore. But, as Belghast pointed out, that doesn't mean that there not equivalents between two games of similar genre. The thing is, human beings naturally categorize things. We make sense of our world by comparing what we know with what is new. MMOs are no different. (There I am, categorizing again.)
Garrosh is a schmuck no matter what game you're playing.
Strangely, World of Warcraft seems to be coming up a lot on this blog lately, especially since I haven't played at all since September 2012 and haven't been subscribed since—I think—November of 2011, and for about year of which I was logging in maybe once a week to run dungeons with RL buddies.

But I did play WoW for about 5 years. It's a fair chunk of my life, and no other game has occupied my time for nearly as long. So why wouldn't I compare newer games to it? Just the other day, I was telling Ocho that the Templar Preacher Deck (and much of Blood) plays a lot like an Affliction 'Lock, because the the focus is in Damage over Time mechanics, as opposed to Direct Damage (an EQ term). Therefore Preachers really shine in multi-target fights if they can shift from one target to another in succession.

"You can't compare apples and oranges." Oh yeah? Apples have a thin skin that, while often tart, is fully edible. Oranges, on the other hand, have a skin that, while technically edible, is so bitter that it is usually thrown away after being peeled from the flesh of the fruit, though the outermost part can be used in cooking. Apples can be picked up and eaten right away, but oranges require a bit of preparation (peeling). The meat of an orange is composed of thousands of tiny sacs of mostly water, with high amounts of ascorbic and citric acids and fructose in solution. These sacs are grouped into thin-skinned sections that are easy to pull apart. The flesh of an apple is a mass of cellulose granules, not nearly as juicy as an orange and harder to bite into and chew. To be eaten in "sections," an apple must be cut with a blade. The core of an apple is generally considered inedible, even though it is. Oranges don't really have cores as such. The seeds of oranges and apples alike are generally considered inedible. Apples are a good source of vitamin C, but oranges are a great source. None of that really matters, does it? The important question when comparing the two is: Which do you prefer?
The orapple: That's a crazy lookin' fruit.
The other night, I made the statement on Beyond the Veil that all boss fights are essentially the same. My fellow BtV crew member, EmDash took minor exception to that statement, saying the boss fights are very different. I didn't get a chance to elaborate then, so I will here. At its most essential, every fight in an MMO is a DPS race. In PvE, the player or group of player must outlast the NPC baddies, whether a single large boss, or several lesser opponents. If even one player character is still standing when the boss falls, it's a victory. If the NPC boss kills everyone before dying, it's a wipe (where did that term come from?) Everything else is details. Tanks, healers, don't stand the fire. We don't talk about damage dealers, we talk about DPS. Now, EmDash is right, the details of the boss fights are many and varied and exciting, but they all boil down to kill the other guy before he manages to kill us.

In much the same Matrix-y way, I see the various classes of every game by the numbers, which is odd, since I dislike Elitist Jerks-type discussions of stats and minmaxing. But under the hood, the Rogue (melee DPS) is no different than the Mage (ranged DPS). The servers and your computer are simply crunching numbers and then translating it to a pretty (hopefully) motion picture. From that perspective, it doesn't matter whether you are playing WoW or SWTOR or TSW or FFXIV. The numbers play out in a similar way.
What do you mean, "There is no spoon"?
Which is why the other things are so important to me. Things like story, lore, character customization, graphics, control systems. Those are what truly distinguish these games, not how similar a given ability set (class) is to a comparable ability set in another game. So we use terms that seem to come from WoW. Belghast declared upstate New York to be very similar to northeastern Oklahoma. I'd be willing to bet we could find a New Yorker who disagrees, but they might have undeclared reasons for doing so. Like the FFXIV players with an ax to grind against World of Warcraft.

Monday, October 21, 2013

What Raiding Was—and Isn't—for Me

I fear that I have come across as belittling end-game raiding in several recent posts. I don't. I know it requires a lot of individual skill and team coordination. But what end-game raiding is not, is something I enjoy doing.

I was involved in "casual" raiding guilds for at least a year, total, between TBC and WotLK. Those people provided a form of friendship as I went through some tough times in my life. WoW was my escape hatch, my pressure valve. I raided because that's what my online friends were doing. But we were all there for different reasons. Eventually, I had to take a break from raiding because business put me in time zones incompatible with our raid times, not to mention the interesting things to see and do in the places I visited.

When I first stepped out into Coldridge Valley in the summer of 2006, I was almost awestruck at the incredible world Blizzard created. The novelty and sense of adventure I experienced through Vanilla and two expansions was wonderful.
I certainly do not miss that UI
Raiding is not that for me. I eventually decided it was not how I wanted to spend my evenings. Repeating content over and over for weeks and months—regardless of how easy it became before we moved on to the next challenge—lost its appeal long before I came to the realization that my raid group didn't really need me. I was totally replaceable.

And that was OK, because I moved on to other things, other games. I haven't spent nearly as much time playing other games as I did playing World of Warcraft. Within a month or so after I quit raiding, I met my lovely bride, and things changed again.

I may be a bit of a gaming nomad now, but I am not alone in my wanderings.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Gear Treadmills: I've Lost that Lovin' Feeling

We're talking about normal and heroic raiding in WoW!
Balkoth's Word, "Why Have Gear?"
At last I understand your consternation, Balkoth. You think we're talking about your preferred playstyle. You're one of those players that seems to think that "the game starts at end-game." However, since I don't play WoW, and I don't think Jeromai does either, we were not discussing WoW raiding. When we did, it was mainly to highlight why we don't participate in that style of play. My original post—as did Stubborn's, in my view—had more to do with guild drama, and some root causes of it, than the merits of WoW-style raid-gear treadmills.
At least these people will see results.
[EDIT: OK, I missed somehow that you did say it's about killin' the bosses.] You seem to derive a lot of your fun from exciting loot drops. I don't. I find them to be a form of game design that keeps people playing, but doesn't engage them. I prefer content that challenges me as a player as opposed to my character as "properly geared." I'm not saying that gear can't play a part, but that it seems to be the focus of WoW raiding (this from my personal experience).
Viewing your "ideal" gearset as a goalpost is a problem because it ultimately doesn't matter that you complete the set in the first place!
Now I see that it is not just Blizzard who keeps moving the goalposts. You're the one who set the gearset goalpost in your original example, Balkoth. I don't have an ideal gearset, because I am not on the raid treadmill. Nothing you have said about tiers being temporary at best has induced me or players like me to run through that Skinner box again. You emphasize what you like that Stubborn says about obsolescence and ignore his two statements that bracket it.
I don't like it, even though I think it’s accurate. . . What bothers me is that there’s an enormous amount of obsolete content that must come to years of man (and woman) power just sitting collecting dust.
~Stubborn, "Skinner and Obsolescence"
It bothered me (and others I have spoken with) that so much time and effort was spent on TBC raid content that so few people saw because it was hidden behind gear gates and other barriers. Blizzard has acted to change that in subsequent ex-pacs with Flex and LFR, and that is a great thing. But my time with WoW is long past at this point.
I also don't understand why you're using the phrase "hard-charging loot hounds" — people want to kill the fights faster because they're in competition. . .
Your reasons for being a loot hound don't change the fact that you are one. I'm not in competition with other players or with other guilds. That sense of competition is, in fact, the cause of most drama I have seen and experienced playing WoW.
The raid leader's yelling at idiots to get out of the Fire. Someone doesn't appreciate having to "carry" other players not pulling their weight. Someone misses out on a RNG loot drop. Someone feels they deserve something because of "all the time" they put into the raid. Someone is being left out because they're not part of the In Crowd. I want no part of that.

I went to the effort to do all the holiday achievements and get my violet protodrake, at a time when my raid leader was poo-pooing them because they weren't the end-game raiding drakes. Guess what, I got my drake. He never did in the time that I associated with him. I am sorry, but in terms of achievements, I'd rather work slow and steady than pray for just the right combination of numbers in a loot lottery.

I've said it before, but you seem not to be listening: Extrinsic rewards and virtual slot machines are not why I go through a given bit of content. I may sound condescending. I'm not trying to be. If you enjoy end-game raiding in WoW, that is wonderful. I did for a while, but then I realized I didn't, so I stopped.  Eventually, I stopped playing WoW altogether.
When a game company places an item in an event, like a mount… that is usable every day… and makes it a super rare random drop… I want to stab them.
~Belghast the Aggronaut, "Halloween 2013"
If the gameplay itself is not engaging me, I stop playing. Hence why World of Warcraft and end-game raiding are no longer on my docket. Blizzard gutted the leveling game because they listened to people who thought reaching the end of the journey was the point. I guess they were right, because millions of people still play. But I don't, because it is no longer fun for me.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Too Much Time

Some of you have entirely too much time on your hands.
(I only have a little too much.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

GW2: Mirages

I've had these pics sitting in my drafts since Monday morning, but there other topics occupying my mind that took priority (plus, I kind of forgot about them). Syp's post today on Bio Break reminded me that I did have pics to show from a minor adventure in Guild Wars 2 on Sunday.
Scooterz and I decided to start two new characters on Sunday, after having not played GW2 in months. I had always wanted to try out the Mesmer, so I created the beautiful Norn, Weiden Speigelung. (Thanks Google Translate!) Scooterz created a Norn Necromancer who is just as attractive, but I didn't manage to get a pic of the her. I really like the Mesmer, though her multiple mirages confused me almost as much as they did my enemies; and her voice doesn't match her face, which reminds me why I like the mute PCs of TSW. We only got up to level 5 or 6—after spending way too much time on the creation screens. But it was a fun evening.
However, a strange thing happened while on the mountain pass that starts the Raven and Bear shrines. We were just ending a battle with a giant spider, when Weiden fell right through the mountain and into the "World Ocean." Or maybe it was just an aquifer. Either way I was below the now invisible valley floor. The rocks you see on the left side of that pic are part of the Bear shrine. I ended up having to use a waypoint to get out from underneath Tyria. How's that for a mirage?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

LoneStarBelle: The Masquerade

Sam stepped out onto the Grand Staircase of the Palazzo del Consiglio on the arm of John Majors, sheathed in a silk and chiffon column of cobalt blue that accentuated her eyes, and a lightly sequined midnight blue bolero jacket. A sapphire-encrusted pyramid pendant hung around her neck on a platinum chain. Majors, for his part, was outfitted in a tuxedo that matched Sam's jacket, the same pyramid on his lapel and cuff links. He handed the herald their card, who then called out their names:
"The Honorable John Majors and Dr. Samantha Hawthorn!"
Sam laughed inwardly. "'Honorable?'"
Majors looked sidelong at her as they headed down the stairs. "Well, despite your opinion, Hawthorn, I do have a reputation and rank in this organization. Not everything can be solved by pulling a trigger."
"No, but squeezing a couple times usually does the trick in this line of work."
"Not this line of work," he corrected her.
* * *
Thirty-one hours earlier . . .
Majors plunked himself down in one of Kirsten Geary's Barcelona chairs, waiting for her to get off the phone.
"No, no. . . I don't care. Keep those stooges from the CDC from sending more people. . . I don't know. Lose the paperwork, falsify a report or something. . . Yes, that is why I have you down there. Handle it. Ciao ciao."
Ending the call, KG turned to Majors. "Did I say you could sit down, Katzu?"
"Funny, I didn't bother to ask. I don't answer to you anymore, remember?"
Geary folded her arms and sat on the edge of her desk. "Then why are you in my office?"
"We need to get a better handle on the situation in Tokyo. The files we pilfered from the Orochi mainframe included some rather disturbing, if fragmentary information. And the Council scooped up that device from the Cairo train before our agent could get a good look at it."
"You act like I'm not reading the same reports you are. Tell me what you're doing to remedy the situation."
"I'm attending a Council reception tomorrow night in Venice. I want to bring an agent that can infiltrate the Council Archives and find out what they know about this device and how it relates to Tokyo. We also need to see how far into bed they've gotten with the Serpent."
"Looking for an excuse to jettison the agreements?"
"Not necessarily," Majors said. "But the Winged Lion is increasingly toothless, and I think it maybe an abscess that we can root out."
"So you want one of my agents?" she asked.
"Yes, I've already called her in. She's due any minute."
"Look, I don't appreciate you poaching my people, Katzu."
"Trust me, Kiki. This wasn't my preferred choice. If one of my own could do this, I wouldn't be coming to you."
Geary narrowed her eyes, but kept her cool.
"More like end-running me, which is going to cost you," she said through clenched teeth. "Who do I have to reshuffle then?"
With uncanny timing, the distinct sound of boot heels echoed up the ramp from the main floor of the Labyrinth. Geary rolled her eyes as first a Stetson, and then sunglasses and red hair came into view. Samantha Hawthorn looked like a character out of a Louis L'Amour novel, from her hat and boots to the antique Colt Peacemakers holstered at her side. Her blue eyes were masked by nearly opaque aviators, the only sign that she didn't belong on some nineteenth-century trail between Deadwood and Tombstone.
"Ah," said Majors. "Here's our Lone Star Belle now."
Geary glanced from one to the other. "I thought you two weren't on speaking terms."
Samantha glowered at the Company man from behind her shades. "We're not. He blames me for what happened at the Wabanaki casino."
Majors waved dismissively. "Bygones. I have a job to do, and you're the perfect person to help execute my plan."
"Well, I am good at executions," Sam quipped, folding her arms. "But who says I want to work for you?"
Majors stood up. "Look, I don't have time for this. The limo's downstairs. We need to get you over to the Garment District, and traffic will be horrendous at this hour. I'm sure you've got nothing appropriate for this occasion, and our couturier will need time to make you something 'fabulous.' I'll brief you on the way."
* * *
"I can't believe I let you talk me into this," Sam muttered to Majors, as she looked out over the small crowd of people already gathered in the Salone da Ballo.
"You've never been to a ball before? I thought you Southerners were all about debutantes and cotillions," he said.
"First of all, why does everyone assume that the South is Gone with the Wind? Secondly, I am a military brat. Cotillions weren't exactly a thing in Germany when I was a teenager."
"Texans don't dance?"
"Yes, but I'm more comfortable with the two-step than the minuet."
"No minuets here. You'll do fine. This is just a meet-n-greet like all those faculty mixers I'm sure you've attended."
"None of those mixers involved such high stakes."
His response was cut off by the approach of the Illuminati delegate to the Council. Lyndon Rezník was a debonair—if slightly weasel-faced—gentleman attired similarly to Majors, with slightly more ostentation that distinguished him as a diplomat. Despite his status on the Council, Rezník was not Beestung. His beady eyes raked across Sam before settling on Majors.
"John!" He made a show of shaking Majors' hand. "How good to see you again."
Turning to Sam, he grasped her fingers. "You must introduce me to your lovely companion."
"Of course. Lyndon Rezník, let me present Dr. Samantha Hawthorn, one of our top field agents."
"Enchanté, Doctor," the diplomat said, raising her fingers to his lips. Sam suffered the gesture, though the weasel made her skin crawl slightly.
"I've read the reports of your exploits on Solomon Island and Salamanca."
"Then not all of my 'exploits' have been declassified," she responded, a bit coolly. Majors gave her a warning glance. She put on her best Southern smile, but escaped Rezník's oily grasp.
"Indeed," he said, returning her smile and giving no sign if he'd taken offense. "Allow me to introduce you to the other members of the Council."
The delegate led them to a short reception line. Despite a large bureaucracy, the Council itself was rather small, only about a dozen members, including the Society representatives. But not all were in attendance. Majors gave her a subtle signal when they greeted Sam's mark, Signore Antal Lugosi, a Hungarian-born consigliere and Curator of the Council Archives. The balding, bookish Lugosi had a soft spot for tall redheads. Pouring on her Southern charm, she lingered a bit with him.
"An archivist! I'm actually a historian by education," she touched his arm and leaned in conspiratorially. "I'd love to see your . . . collection." Ugh, I can't believe I'm doing this.
Thoroughly bewitched, Lugosi unconsciously smoothed his comb-over. "Perhaps that can be arranged."
"Oh, good," she smiled again. "I look forward to speaking with you later."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Secret Monday: Run Like Hell

I wasn't going to write about Secret Monday with the Knights of Mercy, primarily because I didn't get any great screenshots. (I stole the shot below from Syp's Bio Break.) However, I feel the need to clear up a couple inaccuracies.
A Stylish Yet Motley Crew
First Syp, then Ten Tentacles reported our successful, though slightly bumpy trip through Elite Hell Fallen, the second of TSW's Hell Dimension "Dungeons," and the last dungeon that can be completed in "Normal" mode. (The three Transylvania instances are Elite/Nightmare only.) Since I have another character already eligible for Nightmares, my fellow bloggers understandably forget that my doppelgänger, Dortmunder (above second from left, in red), had only done two Elites prior to last night. This was also the first time run-through for Dex-y (Scooterz) and Ocholivis (Ocho of Casual Aggro, both on the right). Rounding out the group were Chucho (Tenten, far left), and Yeti (Syp, center). Maric, Pid, and Wicked were on but ended up pugging Lairs, I think.

Since Mogsy (KoMie tank) and her hubby (Komie healer) were off frolicking with the Kennedys, it fell to Chucho to be our APC, and I took on the ambulance role. Contrary to popular belief, this was not my first rodeo in the healer's saddle, even in TSW. However, the build (and gear) I was looking at when I switched to "Healing" was obviously less than adequate for a trip through Hell. I took some time (and extra AP) to put together something that just might do, and off we went.

The funny thing is that my first advanced Templar deck was the Preacher, which I had expected to be a healing deck, but is actually more like an Affliction 'Lock: very DoT heavy. Once I realized it wasn’t for healing, I was too far along to stop. Then it seemed like KoM needed more tanks, so I took up hammers for a while. Dortmunder is a mess of disparate abilities, really. But I think I shall devote points for a while to the healing arts, since Tenten is clearly able to fill in as Tank. No hurry, Mogsy, we got this.

I gotta say there are fights where being the healer is by far the easiest role. While the leader explains the fights and which mob to hit when; I just have to keep focused on the tank, occasionally throw a heal at a DPS, and stay out of the fire. OK so maybe it's not easier exactly, but the focus of the fight for a Healer is very different from DPSing or Tanking.

Anyway, some of the fights gave us a bit of trouble. But we finished most in a single attempt, which is excellent evidence of the skill of our DPS (since the Tank and Healer were duffers). As I improve, Tenten will be able to drop his health down to a reasonable level, and generate more damage/hate.

As I was thinking about this post though, I was reminded how awesome it is to have a great group of friends to run around with. Many thanks to all my TSWeeps.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Doom Raids and Dice Rolls, or Chasing the Loot Piñata

Today, I am responding to a continued discussion Balkoth and I were having in the commentary of my Guild Drama post from earlier this week. Since the conversation was dragging on, I decided to cheat and get another post out of the deal.

Some of this might not make sense if you haven't followed that thread, especially since some of the points Balkoth brings up are less about Guild Drama, per se, and more about Raid mechanics, and why I personally do not participate in raids in any game (all quote blocks from Balkoth unless otherwise noted):
I'm mainly curious in what's making you tick here since game design is something that interests me and I admit I find many of your desires perplexing. They make sense from an individual perspective but they would seem to be terrible game design — hence my questions to probe at the heart of the matter.
This is ME!

Before I take this any further, I want to point out that I feel Balkoth is operating from Whatever I Think Is Un-Fun Is Bad Game Design Syndrome. I have repeatedly stated what I enjoy about about MMORPGs and what I do not; even things that I used to enjoy that I do no longer—like raiding—and why. And I am far from unique in my opinion that certain aspects of raid design and gameplay are not enjoyable.

Keeping Up with the Proudmoores

Jeromai had brought up ArenaNet's personal reward system wherein each individual player gets a private reward for killing a boss. This works out generally well in Guild Wars, where "grouping" is often no more formal than standing next to someone and shooting at the same thing they are. We won't go into here how the lack of competition for resources and kills creates a friendlier player atmosphere in the game, in my opinion.

Needless to say, I agree with Jeromai's assessment. However, Balkoth begs to differ, because it "eliminates part of the raiding meta-game."
Except we're talking about a social group, right? Where you know what gear others have? And can see that some of their gear has changed? . . . You will remember what your guildmates have, though (especially if you notice that they recently obtained an item you want).
There is only a certain subset of player who care enough about the gear of others to bother to inspect them. Even in my closest Guild groups, I think I can count on my fingers and toes the total number of times I have inspected someone's gear with more than mild interest in a given piece of gear. In seven years of MMO gaming. And to know whether it's changed since the last time I looked? Not a chance.

No Wonder It's Called Playing Craps

Balkoth had asked whether I disliked the pace of gearing or the randomness to which I responded, "The Randomness."
So let's say the current averages you at 0.5 items per boss killed and you will, on average, get your ideal set in 50 boss kills. Would you prefer a system where each time you kill a boss you get 0.1 items and you're guaranteed to get your ideal set in 250 kills? You'd always make progress toward your goal...but you'd make it more slowly.
I'll ignore the fact that Balkoth changes the rate of progress between his two scenarios and go with the faulty reasoning of the "average." Most RPG designers use Random Number Generation to determine what drops out of a loot table on any given kill, in addition a host of other game events (fight damage, etc.) I saw an article a few months ago, I cannot for the life of me remember where, that discussed a problem with this system when dealing with a quest drop. The scenario follows as best I can remember.

Let's say the devs design a quest to collect a doodad off a specific type of mob. Since I can't remember, we'll call them "Zhevra Hooves." They build the loot table so there is a one in ten chance for the hoof to drop, and then place ten zhevras in the general vicinity of the quest. The assumption here is that by the end of the killing the ten zhevras, the player will have the hoof. The problem is that each kill resets the dice roll. The player's chances of getting the hoof are no better on the tenth zhevra than they were on the first. A certain percentage of players will get the hoof on their first kill and a certain percentage of players will not get a hoof within ten kills, therefore having to wait for the respawn. In fact, it's within the realm of possibility (though highly unlikely) that a player will never get that hoof. (Just for journalistic integrity: the actual drop rate for Zhevra hooves is about 31%, overall. The article proposed a way of increasing the drop rate based on the number of kills already done, but it hasn't been implemented in any game that I aware of.

Now back to endgame gearing. In the scenario Balkoth favors, he says the average of 0.5 items per boss killed leads to an average accumulation of an ideal set in 50 boss kills. By that I infer that there are 25 components in an ideal set; and that, at a minimum, a player would need 25 successful boss-kills to get the set. (This ignores the possibility that a single boss might drop more than one component of the set, but these numbers a complete ass-pull, anyway. I suspect that the true mean rate of gear progression is far lower than 50 boss kills, or even 50 complete raids.) Such a lucky person is likely being carried by a group of friends—who don't need any of the gear—doing this person a favor. Remember, it's not just about the loot dropping, but winning whatever system is in place to actually receive the loot over everyone else in the group. (Full disclosure, I have been carried in such a way, fairly recently.)

Since there is a discrete non-zero minimum and it's fairly close to the mean that Balkoth references, I'd guess that a majority of players might get their gear between 25 and 50 boss-kills, in that scenario. The reason I'd guess that is because there is no upper limit in that probability curve. It's entirely possible that some players would never complete the set in any number of boss-kills, certainly not within a reasonable number like 150. And the Game devs, with every new raid tier and every expansion, slide the goalposts further back, meaning this patch's ideal set will be next patch's vendor trash, at least for those hard-core souls on the bleeding edge of content. So for many players, maybe most., the slow, steady progress of tokens or currency is at least an alternative to "striking it rich" with dice rolls and loot piñatas.

And I'm not just talking abstractly. Poor drop rates on RNG loot is a significant source of angst for many players. How many players like me have decided the loot is just not worth the time and effort? The grind through the first four or five bosses to get to the next one, to bash our collective heads against it until it's down, to get it eventually "on farm" and move on to the next because we're finally all geared up enough is simply not interesting enough, in and of itself, and then the rate of extrinsic reward is pathetic as well. In the case of WoW, the gold sinks of repairs and such were so onerous they had to create dailies, just so people could make the gold they needed to be able to continue raiding. And don't get me started on the disparities between PvE and PvP gear, and gear progression.
Yes, people will argue that the RNG of loot drops is what makes killing a boss exciting, but after killing a boss for the 20th time and still not seeing that sword you want, I don't think it's really excitement that you're describing.
~Dan Sz, Altoholism, "The Problem with Boss Loot"
This video from the excellent folks at Penny Arcade discusses the Skinner Box of RNG, and the difference between compelling gameplay and engaging gameplay:

"L2P" - The Warcry of the Hard Core

I also said, "In end-game raiding, the only progress is gear-based (especially if you're a guide student, not going in "blind" to learn the fights)." To which Balkoth responded:
I think you're seriously underestimating the difficulty of execution. Even something like "Dodge the lightning orbs on Heroic Jin'rokh" — that's a lot harder to actually do than it is to read in a guide.
Balkoth, I think you're terribly underestimating my ability to gauge difficulty. The Gatekeeper DPS challenge in Rift (with no other reward than unlocking Nightmare modes [EDIT: and some XP]) is simple: don't stand in the fire, purge at the right time, and stay away from the add—all while while maintaining a steady rate of damage on Oscar himself. Anyone who's actually done it can tell you how difficult those instructions are to execute. I'd estimate it took me at least 8 hours of actual game-time—and countless attempts—to learn the "dance" and complete the challenge. And that was after I made sure I had an "ideal" set of gear, not to mention "spell" rotation. Even then, my preparation was probably sub-optimal.

But my point was that unless a group is on the bleeding edge or going in blind on purpose, there are plenty of guides out there on every boss fight in every MMO. Raid leaders (and members) are expected to study them to learn good strategies for beating each boss. Execution is a different story, and folks going in blind will have to the learn the fights "the hard way." In all honesty, I prefer this method, because there is an element of surprise and excitement to the dungeon. But hard-charging loot hounds would rather get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Make no mistake, I love experiencing new dungeon mechanics, and mastering them. But then I want to move on. I want the challenges to be skill-based, not gear-based.
Think about this the next time you see some player character in truly Epic Pixels strutting their stuff in Orgrimmar, Destiny's Reach, or Meridian: Despite what may be months or even years of raiding, learning strategies and tactics for epic battles against nigh invincible foes, everything they're wearing boils down to good luck on some random dice rolls.
As a concrete example of a game in which I have found my "desires" fulfilled, I greatly prefer The Secret World's system of gear progression. While there are loot tables and RNG, the crafting system is set up in such a way that gear no one needs can be broken down into materials that can be combined into things the players do need. The endgame dungeons have tokens that represent steady progress toward better gear, in addition to the random drops. And then the mysteries, narrative, and other features of TSW—while not necessarily unique to the game, as shown in the PA video above—are engaging enough to keep me interested, without the top-end gear chase.

Perplexing Playstyles

There is no One True Game ideally designed to appeal to everyone. If there were, I suspect we would all be playing it. But there isn't, hence the proliferation of different games, not just in the MMORPG genre, but all forms of "play."

I've said it before: "You may not be an "always-on" hardcore player, but you clearly find enjoyment in doing different things in game than I do. And that's OK." [EDIT: I felt my style of play was being criticized.] I find that all too often devs and players forget that the R in in RPG stands for Role and not Roll. But I'm not saying you have to stand around a tavern speaking pseudo-archaic English; something I almost never do, either. If you're into min-maxing and raid progression through lucky rolls on loot, that's great. Not everyone wants to play that way.  I hope that clears up my perplexing position on Gearing and Progression.

Friday, October 11, 2013

I Find Myself Vindicated, In a Manner of Speaking

In light of previous discussion on this blog (which is also relevant to my statements in the past couple days, I'll just leave this here:
Photo by Jeff Kubina. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
On the other hand . . .

I won 232 Planarite!

NBI: Blog Layout

OK, I'm stirring the pot a bit here, but I've seen this tidbit of advice before, particularly from Tobold:
Just a short advice post for new bloggers, based on one of the dirty little secrets of gaming blogging: Most of your readers will read your blog from their work computers during office hours. When they are at home on their gaming computers, they'll rather play games than read about them. In consequence it is advised to keep your blog "safe for work": No sound, few graphics, and a color layout that looks sufficiently neutral to look like a serious website from a distance. Your readers will thank you for that!
But Tobold himself takes it to an extreme. News sites like BBC, CNN, and Fox News are not nearly as dreary as Tobold's layout. I will agree that a neutral color scheme with no sound is a great choice for a "serious" blog. This isn't MySpace. But whether you have extensive graphics in your blog posts is far more dependent on your chosen subject matter and format than consideration of your audience's reading locale. For example, if you're doing something like Hipstalotro, a self-imposed ban on graphics would doom your blog. So don't be afraid to include screenshots or other pictures that will help tell your story or get your point across.

However, here's another dirty little secret. Depending on your company—and some of my IT department readers can back me up here—there is a good chance your blog will be blocked by the net nanny software in place. In my case, just about every MMO-related website not ending in "blogspot" or "wordpress" is blocked on my office network, as well as many that do. I can't even get to Tobold's supposedly work-friendly layout, even though we both use Blogger. So I had to copy that quote from my phone to my computer through email.

Another huge chunk of your readership will be reading from a mobile device or an RSS aggregator like Feedly, so they won't see your precious layout anyway.

OK, break's over. Now get back to work!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"A Wonderfully Feisty Character"

Kickin' Ass. Who cares about names?
A new friend on Twitter, the talented TSW player behind Simon "@Grumpynatti" Potter, drew this awesome picture of Dr. Samantha Hawthorn. Hopefully he'll come elucidate his method, since I am not knowledgeable enough to take a guess, other than "computer assisted." Other than the missing Stetson (he was tired of drawing hats) and perhaps a pistol, I think think he captured her very well, considering the relatively brief interchange we had on Twitter before his undertaking.
What are you looking at?
With a graduate level education and a no-nonsense take-no-shit attitude, LoneStarBelle combines two of my own aspirational qualities. She finds much of the back-room dealing and glitzy parties of Illuminati politics distasteful in the face of the apparent apocalypse. Her proficiency and inclination to use (anima-infused) firearms belie her razor sharp intellect, which often gets her in trouble with her Illuminati handler Kirsten Geary. But KG can't deny the results she gets when Sam is in the field, and the Illuminati are all about results.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Guild Drama

You do not form a team working towards a common goal, you are forced to group with others who are also competing for individual goals.
Samus in a comment on Sheep the Diamond
Samus brings up an interesting "fundamental" flaw in endgame raiding. He is referring to the way a group or guild must work together; but more often than not, individuals spend time without any reward for their efforts. DKP schemes are only a player band-aid for a faulty reward system design. Flaws in gear stats design can compound this, for instance when I was locked out of a loot roll in Ice Crown Citadel as a healer because the item had increased "hit," but there were no items that had a stat exclusively for healers. Occasions like that caused me eventually to forsake raiding altogether in every game I've played since. And it's a factor in my hesitance to run Nightmares in TSW, despite that they're smaller affairs.

I just finished reading Stubborn's post "A Resolution" about an ongoing situation in his now-former guild that probably didn't end when he quit the guild on Monday. In fact, it spilled out onto his blog repeatedly. The short version is that a small group of more hardcore/elitist members of the guild were conducting raids that, because of lockouts, ended up interfering with scheduled guild runs. Officers in the guild (apparently the GM is absent) did not handle the issue to Stubborn's satisfaction.

One of the clique of self-styled elites commented on an older post, "Our guild is like a big family. There is dysfunction at times. . ." Laughably, the commenter also took issue with Stubborn "airing out our dirty laundry" on his blog. Frankly, any time someone starts talking about "family" and "dysfunction" in a guild, it's probably time to go. But I refer you, Dear Reader, to my statement at the top of the right hand column. A bloggers blog what they want, and sometimes results are only obtained in the public eye and the light of day, rather than back rooms and closed fora. Now the dirty laundry has spread even further. If I still played WoW, I would be very interested in the name and location of this guild, so I could avoid it.

I've been part of guilds that had a certain elite group that pushed to do things that excluded others, but their numbers were usually insufficient to fully break off. A progression-oriented clique in a larger casual guild is a cancer that will only lead to trouble. Not that being progression-oriented is wrong, but they should find a guild that fits their needs rather than ruin it for everyone else. I think that progression guilds don't attract this sort of drama (though there's other drama) because casual players are rarely part of progression guilds, but progression players are often part of casual guilds.
If you want to raid, find a guild that’s serious about raiding to the level that you want. Anything else is just asking for drama.
Gazimof, commenting on Stubborn's post
Stubborn lasted longer in that guild than I would have, I think. He also has advice for guild leaders seeking to prevent this sort shenanagins.

Are You Ready for This?

Yesterday, I woke up at 5:45 a.m. (about an hour before I normally do) and decided to get ready for work, then write an early morning blog post like Belghast, since I had the time. Because I didn't want to drag out my laptop (no permanent desk set-up at home for me) I decided to write it on a steno pad. I've done this a couple times before, and it actually works pretty well, especially for avoiding internet distractions. (Like the five minute fruitless "research" I just went through trying to find one article of many I read yesterday.) However, I never got around to typing what I'd written in the Blogger interface.
Having defeated the Gatekeeper's DPS Challenge, I now kind of wonder what's next for me and TSW. Unlike some other games, it seems like there's still plenty to do. I haven't finished the main Storyline missions on any character, and still have yet to even get the Ability Wheel half-complete on any character. There's lore to gather, regional missions to complete, etc., ad nauseum. And Nightmares. And the Issue #8 is expected to drop next week. Whew! So the Gatekeeper really isn't the end, or even really the signal of endgame.

Am I really ready for Nightmare mode? Magson offered helpful advice about getting into noobling Nightmares. But I think you know, Dear Reader, how I feel about PUGs. Luckily, Galactrix and the rest of Beyond the Veil have been chomping at the bit to group up and do some Nightmares. I am willing to run them, but the urge to complete another gear grind just isn't there.

Interestingly enough, Belghast posted this morning about a great PUG analogy he came across yesterday that reflected an experience he had last week in FFXIV. TL;DR: no le fue bien.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Polishing My Oscar

Rare Applause.
It is, as they say, finished. After doing some research and tweaking my build a bit, and making sure I had the absolute best talismans I could currently get, I went and faced Oscar again. This was only the third day I'd tried, the first two being Monday and Tuesday evenings. I needed to get some AP first, to purchase some Hammer abilities that had been suggested to me by CherryBomb, so I ran "Enter the Filth" and then worked on my story missions and Issue 7 stuff in Shadowy Forest before facing Oscar again.

I discovered that while my purge opportunities (needed for Phase 2) came from Hinder procs, Oscar is immune to Hinder; so I was screwed using that old build. You'll see what I did use below.
"The LSB Within"
As you'll see even further below, Magson suggested I focus on shotgun abilities. However, there are some parts of Oscar's platform outside the shotgun range, so I used Elemental abilities for sustained damage no matter where I was positioned. The deck I used to beat Oscar:


  • Ignition (Strike) ~ This is the only builder I ended up using;  728 DPS at my current Combat Power.
  • Raging Bullet (Strike) ~ 573-1348 damage, depending on range. I had to have my purple shotgun equipped for the Weapon Power, but this ended up being the only Shotgun active in my "victory deck."
  • Lightning Manifestation (Stationary Chain "turret") ~ More for the purge of Lightning in Bottle (passive), though the added DPS was nice.
  • Speed Freak (Buff) ~ For a boost in Phase 3, when the little red guy chased me around.
  • Turn the Tables (Heal) ~ just in case. I think I used it once or twice, not absolutely sure it's necessary.
  • Short Fuse (Buff) ~ 25% increase in DPS with Final Fuse, again for Phase 3.
  • Thor's Hammer (Strike) ~ 1860-some-odd damage. I only used it when LM was on cooldown during Phase 1; too risky during the other phases.
  • Vector-Space ~ I used it a bit, but the aux weapons aren't necessary to beat Oscar, and I have a mod (or something) that provides an occasional heal, which was useless, given the no-heals debuff Oscar threw on me. (Strangely, TtT is unaffected by this debuff.)


  • Lightning in a Bottle ~ Causes LM to purge buffs; important during Phase 2. This ended up being my guaranteed purge, but I had to time it so that it covered Oscar's three one-shot-you self buffs.
  • Elemental Force ~ Guaranteed crit every 8 hits.
  • Final Fuse ~ Increases percent damage increase of Short Fuse to 25% for 10 seconds, used during Phase 3.
  • Big Bang~ Increases damage of Lightning Manifestation (and other things).
  • Grounded ~ Purges cause damage. (Honestly not sure how this stacked with LM/LiaB.)
  • Strike Force ~ Increases Penetration chance of Strikes by 7.5%.
  • Wrecking Crew ~ Increases crit power of Strikes by 20%.
  • Energy Transfer (in this case) ~ Reduces the damage of Vector while increasing the damage of Space.

At the start of a bout. After that there was no time for pictures.
In my post about fighting Oscar from a few days ago, I requested some advice from my readers, and got a couple responses, like the suggestion from CherryBomb through Twitter. Magson, however, did a thorough workup of a good build and posted it in the comments. . . about 45 minutes after I'd beaten Oscar with the build described above. I wanted to include it here with my gratitude for his research efforts. [My comments look like this.]
  • Striker - Builder. Same damage as Single Barrel, is a Strike so you don't need a 2nd builder in Ignition, and always takes advantage of Strike Force passive for the 7.5% penetration increase. [I had SB on my deck earlier this week. I don't have Striker, but I could have gotten it. I didn't even see it, but most of my abilities were Elemental anyway, due to the range issue mentioned above.]
  • Out for a Kill - Consumer. Raging Bullet does max damage at melee range. OfaK does identical damage to that max but at all ranges. [Despite more consistent damage than Raging Bullet, OfaK is not a Strike, which is what I built many of my passives around. Besides, at my Combat Power, it was only about a 15% difference at max distance.]
  • Flame Strike - Strike consumer with same cast time as the GCD and only 2 resources so it can be cast faster and more often than Thor's Hammer and thus have higher sustained dps. [FS would have been great, but I haven't worked on that arc of the wheel at all.]
  • Magnetic Wipe - Purge [I was actually working on the points for MW when I decided to give Oscar another go and ended up beating him.]
  • Turn the Tables - self heal  [I used that one!]
  • Short Fuse - Excellent buff! [I used that one, too!]
  • Breaching Shot - Excellent buff #2! [BS would have been good. I use it regularly.]
  • Strike Force - increased pen chance for Strike attacks [I used that one!]
  • Iron Maiden - increased pen chance for all attacks, after you pen an afflicted target [I don't have the ability.]
  • Bloodsport - applies afflict on any non-glancing hit [Works with Iron Maiden. But glances remove the afflict. Might have worked, but I am honestly not sure how much I was glancing.]
  • Incision - pens cause an additional afflict [I don't have the ability.]
  • 3rd Degree - every 4th pen causes another afflict [I don't have the ability.]
  • Sudden Return - pens do additional damage [I don't have the ability.]
  • Gross Anatomy - when afflicts expire another hit is taken by the target. Whenever I've parsed this out with 3 afflicts in the build like this it does as much damage as a finisher - passively. It's awesome! [I don't have the ability.]
Downside to this build is that it needs 2 blade passives which you'd have to build toward, and you don't have a lot of Blood on your chronicle, so it's unlikely that you have 3rd Degree or Gross Anatomy either. So an alternate set of passives might be like this. The 4 substitutions are:
  • Mind over Matter - afflicts on critical hit  [I have a low crit rating (7.9% chance) other than the guaranteed 8th hit from Elemental Force.]
  • Brawler - +15% crit damage [Low crit rating]
  • Elemental Force - every 8th hit is a crit. Make your rotation put this on Out for a Kill as much as possible. [I used that one! (Not OfaK)]
  • Cool, Calm, and Collected - 8% boost to all damage for 10s after a crit. EF keeps this up 100% of the time. [Could've worked.]
Oscar knocks me over anyway.
Magson mentioned some other things from his research, like you should have at least 600 DPS (which I did). Everything else is about positioning (shifting almost constantly) and kiting the little red guy at the end. Magson mentioned practicing against the target dummies in the faction HQs, helpful for checking DPS and rotation. Personally, I despise DPS meters, and based on my research into offensive stats, I knew I was good on that front. My DPS only suffered on Monday and Tuesday when I stopped casting to reposition.

The most important thing is to understand the fight itself and a few key things about each phase. Then practice the dance. Once I became more comfortable with moving around—and developed a plan for avoiding the circles—casting wasn't a problem. But since challenging Oscar and learning the fight comes without cost other than time spent (in other words, no repair bill), I stand by my comment that the only way to "practice" for Oscar is to practice with Oscar.

Other than having a guaranteed purge handy, I have no advice for weapons. OH! Many casts include a self-hinder, like Assault Rifle "aimed" shots. Using these will guarantee that the little red guy in Phase 3 will get you. So make sure you have plenty of instant casts, or at least casts that allow you to run. I didn't use Thor's Hammer at all during Phase 3.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Beyond the Veil Take 60: Whispering Tide

Beyond the Veil, Take 60 is now available to download on Holosuite Media. With the Whispering Tide event in full swing, the BtV crew runs the "Enter the Filth" instance in Agartha and discovers the tentacles of Filth have a finite set of hit points, being damaged with the completion each mission.
We also discuss the Defend Agartha Contest being put on by Beyond the Veil and sponsored by WeLoveFine and Funcom. The deadline for entries is THIS EVENING at showtime, so send them in.
You can also subscribe through Holosuite Media's RSS feed, through iTunes (with older episodes here), and now through Stitcher. Be sure to catch the live show every Thursday—that's TONIGHT—at about 7p.m. EDT (11p.m. UTC) on Holosuite Excess.

Finishing Elites and Facing Oscar

It's Thursday morning, and I am just barely getting to what happened on Monday. (I told you, someone turned me into a newt!) Early Monday evening, I got together with Galactrix, Gigabyte, and Scooterz to run The Darkness War Elite instance on LoneStarBelle. I've been through it a lot in normal mode, and the last boss fight in particular has long given groups fits. Xander joined us not long after we started, and the bosses went down like clockwork. I think I died maybe once, due to an add.
Sent the Mayans packing
Since we made it through The Darkness War so quickly, Galactrix suggested we run the last instance I needed before facing the Gatekeeper, The Facility.
Taking on the Secret World
This one had a few surprises for Scooterz and me, but we made it through fairly easily, wiping only once on the last boss.
LSB's Posse
I am ready for Nightmares, right?
Staring into the Abyss
Only one hurdle to endgame dungeon running remains, Oscar, the Grouchy Gatekeeper. I chose Furia, or the DPS challenge. According to some, DPS is actually the hardest version of Oscar's Challenge.
a.k.a. Dr. Goldhatten
As I said to Mogsy and Mario yesterday, my build rocks; my footwork, not so much. I think have the right stats, but either my hardware or my wetware is not up to the task yet. The DPS fight is not overly complicated intellectually. But my reflexes aren't quite up to snuff, and I tend to step in a circle at just the wrong time.

Here are my current stats, and my current Deck. I just realized this shows the "Volatile Current" passive, which is useless without "Shock." I was playing with Shock, but was trying to increase the number of "Strike" attacks to take advantage of the "Strike Force" passive. I need to replace VC.
"I think I got some filth under my nails."
Granted, I've only spent a portion of two evenings in the attempt. I missed Secret Monday with the Knights of Mercy. Tuesday, I went out to eat with my daughters, then spent a chunk of the evening battling Oscar. Last night, I ran a quick "Enter the Filth" run and spent some time working on this blog and reading some short stories from the superb series "A Bumbling Colonial in London" starring Frank Calhoun.

Now I open the comment forum to you, Dear Reader. Do you have any pointers on beating the DPS Gatekeeper?