Author Archives: Azuriel
There are two ways to destroy something: make it unusable, or reduce its utility to zero. The latter may be happening with the internet.
Let’s back up. I was browsing a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) thread by a researcher who worked on creating “AI invisibility cloak” sweaters. The goal was to design “adversarial patterns” that essentially tricked AI-based cameras from no longer recognizing that a person was, in fact, a person. During the AMA though, they were asked what they thought about language-model AI like GPT-3. The reply was:
I have a few major concerns about large language models.
– Language models could be used to flood the web with social media content to promote fake news. For example, they could be used to generate millions of unique twitter or reddit responses from sockpuppet accounts to promote a conspiracy theory or manipulate an election. In this respect, I think language models are far more dangerous than image-based deep fakes.
This struck me as interesting, as I would have assumed deep-faked celebrity endorsements – or even straight-up criminal framing – would have been a bigger issue for society. But… I think they are right.
There is a conspiracy theory floating around for a number of years called “The Dead Internet Theory.” This Atlantic article explains in more detail, but the premise is that the internet “died” in 2016-2017 and almost all content since then has been generated by AI and propagated by bots. That is clearly absurd… mostly. First, I feel like articles written by AI today are pretty recognizable as being “off,” let alone what the quality would have been five years ago.
Second, in a moment of supreme irony, we’re already pretty inundated with vacuous articles written by human beings trying to trick algorithms, to the detriment of human readers. It’s called “Search Engine Optimization” and it’s everywhere. Ever wonder why cooking recipes on the internet have paragraphs of banal family history before giving you the steps? SEO. Are you annoyed when a piece of video game news that could have been summed up with two sentences takes three paragraphs to get to the point? SEO. Things have gotten so bad though that you pretty much have to engage in SEO defensively these days, lest you get buried on Page 27 of the search results.
And all of this is (presumably) before AI has gotten involved belting out 10,000 articles a second.
A lot has already been said about polarization in US politics and misinformation in general, but I do feel like the dilution of utility of the internet has played a part in that. People have their own confirmation biases, yes, but it also true that when there is so much nonsense everywhere, that you retreat to the familiar. Can you trust this news outlet? Can you trust this expert citing that study? After a while, it simply becomes too much to research and you end up choosing 1-2 sources that you thereafter defer to. Bam. Polarization. Well, that and certain topics – such as whether you should force a 10-year old girl to give birth – afford no ready compromises.
In any case, I do see there being a potential nightmare scenario of a Cyberpunk-esque warring AI duel between ones engaging in auto-SEO and others desperately trying to filter out the millions of posts/articles/tweets crafted to capture the attention of whatever human observers are left braving the madness between the pockets of “trusted” information. I would like to imagine saner heads would prevail before unleashing such AI, but… well… *gestures at everything in general.*
Sigil of the Magi is a deck-building roguelike ala Slay the Spire with some Into the Breach vibes. It is currently in Early Access, and I was given an early peak by way of a review copy.
The Slay the Spire influences are front and center with the types of cards available, the pathways, and especially the shops. Basically, if you are at all familiar with Slay the Spire, chances are good that you will immediately recognize which cards are going to be good, which ones are noob traps, and what “relics” are going to pull their weight through a run.
That said, Sigil of the Magi does have a number of other interesting things going on.
First, you actually control a party of three separate characters, each with their own cards and card pools. Second, you literally control them in that you can move them around a very small map. While the UI needs some iteration to make things more clear, you can currently see what actions enemy units will take, and their attack preferences. That is where the Into the Breach vibes come in: if an enemy is set on attacking someone but you move all your characters out of range, the enemy will close the distance but then do nothing. Unfortunately, this sort of turn manipulation only goes so far, as enemies will settle for their 2nd or 3rd choice targets if they are within reach instead. Additionally, many of the enemies in the game have some sort of scaling mechanism that makes delay tactics unwise.
The third feature is what really sets Sigil of the Magi apart though: the Tray. This is a four-slot area under the map where you can pre-cast any card in hand for use in future turns. At first, this really just feels like a consolation prize for not being able to do much in the first turn of battle, before many of the enemies are within range. And since you only get 3 energy to play cards (at first), you typically don’t have anything left over to store for future turns once the melee is joined.
That said, the Tray becomes very interesting once you hit 4 energy and start getting cards that interact with it. For example, there is a card that give +4 Armor twice, but gets +1 Armor each time it is stored. Or maybe you get some discard synergies going, but don’t have a payoff card in hand, so you just bank the enabler. The cards in the Tray also are no longer in your deck when it is shuffled, so sometimes it might be worth keeping the generic damage cards in there to keep them out of your hand.
Is Sigil of the Magi good? Right now… kinda, sorta. The tough thing about Early Access for deck-building games is how so much hinges on card/enemy/relic balance, which can change at any time all the way past post-release. For example, right now, you have to choose a card after each combat encounter. This is literally the first deck-builder I have played that didn’t allow you to skip a card choice, and having to slot in whatever the least-bad, anti-synergy card you get offered feels like a punishment for winning battles. Is this an intentional design, like a sort of auto-difficulty balancing mechanism? I hope not. Conversely, abusing Taunt cards to force the end boss to skip all his mechanics and uselessly attack a very armored Knight was a lot of fun. Probably a bit imbalanced, but fun.
Overall, this is one game that I will keep an eye on as it makes its way through Early Access. The bones are good, and they definitely have things set up to allow for a lot of balancing methods. There are only two parties available at the moment, for example, but I can easily imagine varied combinations or even a sort of random mixing to add flavor to future runs. Plus, I really like the Tray conceptually.
We shall see how the balance goes though.
I have to admit, when I first read the article title “Dreamlight Valley is a waking nightmare and Disney must be stopped,” I thought both that clickbait is getting out of control and… yeah, that’s some quality clickbait that deserves a click. What I discovered is a pretty legit, punchy article that brings up an increasingly odious problem when it comes to Disney and their commercialization of evil.
The TL;DR is that Disney is populating Dreamlight Valley – aka Stardew Valley meets Animal Crossing – with whitewashed villains. For reasons. Probably commercial ones. As the article states:
You can’t sell a backpack with a genuine monster on it, so the various appalling crimes and deeds of the Disney Villains have been meticulously sanded away – these figures reduced to queer-coded girlbosses so gentrified hipsters who love Hamilton can get tattoos of them guilt-free. Earlier this year, Disney released an advert for their doomed Star Wars hotel depicting a mother and her daughter enjoying their expensive vacation by dressing up as space nazis and narcing on beloved revolutionary icon Chewbacca. The pair of them smirk as stormtroopers lead Han Solo’s fluffy best friend away in handcuffs, presumably to either an execution or to be shipped off to a kyber mine as slave labour.
Is this really a problem endemic of the moral failings of society? Probably not. But I was a bit surprised to learn that Disney also has a mobile gacha game called Disney Twisted Wonderland that turns all their villains into anime-inspired versions of themselves. The latest addition is one based on Claude Frollo, whose cartoon bigotry in The Hunchback of Notre Dame has only become more relevant over time, and would probably precipitate a “woke backlash” if it had not already been released 25 years ago.
In principle, I do not have anything against people dressing up as Stormtroopers or whatever. People do that not because they were space Nazis, but because the designs are iconic and, yes, cool-looking. That’s just a win for the Art department. And so I can see the draw for Disney to tap into these hitherto untapped wells of marketing material in the form of villains – demeanor/war crimes aside, they are just as iconic if not more so than the heroes of the films they serve to foil.
So… what’s the big deal? I dunno. Maybe nothing.
Nevertheless, I do feel like something gets lost over time. We probably should not be relying on Disney movies to teach morality to children in the first place, but whatever cautionary tale might have existed in these characters’ stories becomes muddled and unrecognizable through the commercialization process. And what was gained? This is not a Wicked-style introspective on possibly misunderstood villains. It’s just… business cashing in on cachet. Which is what they do, I guess.
While the first Impressions post for Grounded was a week ago, the reality is that I have been mainlining the game daily for the past three weeks. That first post was written based on my first dozen hours or so, but I ended up playing so much that I never got around to actually posting it. So here are my impressions about the game after some 50+ hours.
Grounded is good. Sometimes annoying. Definitely still Soulslike.
The game world continues to be a huge star of the show. Survival games sometimes have to make huge contortions to accommodate varied biomes – lava must coexist with snow and deep oceans and deserts all in the same map – but the way Grounded interweaves its own biomes is a masterclass in design. The backyard is a believable backyard. And yet going from the Grasslands to the canopy of the Hedge is a big transition. Or to the pond. Or in the sandbox, with it’s deadly Sizzle effect when you traverse the dunes without shade. These are different places, with different resources, and different challenges to overcome. And it all feels… coherent. Believable. Or at least, as believable as teenagers crafting crossbows out of grass vines and crow feathers can be.
Some aspects of the game have begun to provide friction. As you become stronger and explore further afield (ayard?), you… well, have further to go each time. Ziplines become a means of faster-ish travel, but they require a LOT of setup – constructing a vertical tower in the yard, carrying supplies to build destination anchors, and slaughtering dozens and dozens of spiders to turn their webs into silk to craft the zipline itself. Meanwhile, the only way to repair your Antlion Armor is to kill Antlions in the Sandbox, the best healing component must be farmed in the Pond, and you feel in your weary bones how much more time will get wasted with each unblocked attack you take while exploring the Upper Yard for the first time. It gets pretty exhausting, especially when you have to leave an area, inventory laden with loot, and know how much busywork is ahead of you before you can go back again.
Perhaps the better recourse would be to build multiple bases instead of one major hub. Problem with that is some of the more advanced crafting stations can’t really be moved easily. Plus, it’s arguable as to how much time you would really be saving building several bases.
In any case, I am decidedly approaching the endgame. Having achieved upgraded Tier 3 Armor and Weapons, I can say that most fights with bugs are less Soulslike than they were in the beginning. As in, I don’t have to Perfect Block every single attack in order to not die. The tradeoff, as explained earlier, is that you end up needing to farm up considerably more healing potions and items to repair your gear. Some of the bugs I am facing do indeed still pose an incredible threat even with all my gear, so don’t believe you can necessarily gear your way past everything. Plus, there are required boss fights in this game, including different Phases and novel attacks.
And this is kinda what gets me about Grounded. The setting, premise, and story do not match the gameplay. Teenagers from the 90s shrunken down and running around their backyard for flimsy story reasons leads you to believe this is a game that might appeal to younger players. On Normal difficulty, it most decidedly is not a game for younger players. Or older players that may be reflex-impaired. Every time I think I’m hot shit crushing bugs left and right, I take two unblocked hits and I’m sprinting away chugging healing potions. And this is in a game where I can hit Save after every encounter!
I have my frustrations with Grounded, but I’m still here mainlining this game for like 3+ hours every night. There isn’t anything special about the story, and yet I find myself eagerly traversing the yard to clear out the labs to get the next morsel of plot. Or, if I’m more honest, to unlock the next piece of gear and craft the latest weapons from the
bones exoskeletons of my enemies. And all this feels fine to me, as there is a definitive conclusion on the other side. No “keep playing until you get bitter and jaded” purgatory here as with ARK or other survival games.
So, yeah. Grounded. Not the worst way to spend 50+ hours.
Grounded is a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids survival game from Obsidian, which recently graduated from Early Access. I played it for about a dozen hours during Early Access, but decided to wait until full release before diving in for real on Game Pass.
What I have discovered is… well, a fun albeit highly incongruent survival Soulslike.
To start out, the world of Grounded is amazing. You wake up in a small cave that opens out into a forest of grass and weeds that towers above you. Although there are giant juice boxes and other items to hammer home just how tiny you are, they are really unnecessary – everything about how you move around the yard, the distances involved, and of course the creatures keeps everything front and center.
Your first experiences with the yard fauna is usually benign. Aphids, Weevils, and Gnats are basically mobile food and resources. Red Worker Ants are curious about you, but only go hostile when you hit them. Same with the lumbering Lady Bug, although they will quickly one-shot you in the beginning when attacked. Mites are typically your first hostile mob, and they are only really dangerous when you’re distracted or get surrounded. But it doesn’t take a lot of exploring before you encounter the apex predators of the backyard: spiders. Orb Weavers relentlessly patrol their territory and Wolf Spiders are the terror of the night, ranging far and wide through the yard from dusk till dawn. Daylight does not offer much comfort once you journey further afield though, as you encounter Larva, Stinkbugs, Mosquitos, and more.
And this is where things go a little off the rails for me. Grounded has all the trappings of survival games, including a huge map where you can build bases just about anywhere, resources needing to be gathered, and so on. But what you are actually doing to progress at all is a series of escalating Souls-like melee encounters. I say “Souls-like” because everything revolves around performing Perfect Blocks against insect attacks, then counter-attacking. You can technically just regular block attacks (with a shield made out of Weevil meat), but you still take a significant amount of damage, can get debuffed, and eventually stunned depending on the frequency of attacks. Meanwhile, you completely block all damage even with a Pebble Axe from any enemy if you Right-Click your mouse at the correct time.
In games like ARK, there’s no Perfect Blocking a T-Rex bite. But, you can still take out a T-Rex through clever terrain and/or structure use. In Grounded, most enemies ignore most terrain that otherwise slow you down, e.g. grass stems. And even if you happen to engage from on top of something they cannot reach, your (early) ranged attacks with the bow don’t deal much damage. Indeed, since you cannot block while using the bow, the game seems to discourage any realistic use of it outside first-strike or fleeing bug scenarios. “What about flying bugs like Mosquitos?” Yeah, sure, try to get a few arrows in. But you will 100% die if you don’t perform Perfect Blocks with a regular melee weapon of some sort, even if you have the clunkiness of having to toggle between it and the bow.
The worst part, IMO, is how there isn’t much of an escape from the bug-based progression. I guess I cannot claim that it is impossible to complete the game without learning each bug’s song and dance, but it is a fact that several crafting stations require bug parts to be constructed. Again, in ARK the dinos are “soft” required because nobody has time to collect 10,000 Stone and Iron to build the goodies you want. In Grounded, you simply aren’t building a Drying Rack without Bombardier Beetle parts. I haven’t made it into any of the later Lab story areas yet, but there are plenty of bugs between me and where I think the front door is, so… yeah. Prepare to “git gud” or die trying.
(Or play on a lower difficulty, I guess.)
Overall, though? I’m still having fun. The first dozen or so hours had me running from everything more powerful than a Solider Ant, but I’m basically approaching Tier 2 equipment and a general level of confidence to take on most things. Had it not been for an Orb Weaver Jr joining the fight in defense of its momma, I would have taken one of those down already. Luckily, the game features both the default survival “fuck you” of dropping all your gear on death AND the ability to Save your game at any time. Which… is weird. I’m assuming you don’t get saves while playing Multiplayer and that’s the difference. In any case, saves won’t, er, save you from getting owned by spiders or whatever, but it at least affords you the opportunity to practice Perfect Block timing as many times as necessary to get the last bug part to craft a new Hammer or whatever.
Forever Skies is a survival sandbox – airbox? – currently in a beta playtest state. The central premise is that the Earth has been wrecked by several flavors of disasters such that the only safe means of exploration is in a customizable blimp above the roiling green fog below.
The beta is severely limited. As soon as you unlock the blimp, a 20-minute timer counts down and things just end no matter where you are. Nevertheless, I still got a feel for the basic gameplay loop.
Forever Skies is essentially a simpler, airborn Raft. One of the principle tools you have is a blimp-based extractor gun that allows you to deconstruct specific objects at a distance. The main two resources have been Metals and Synthetics, which you can extract in unlimited quantities from floating tumbleweed-esque things. These let you build insect fishing lines (which penetrate the green fog below), moisture extractors, water purifiers, and create fuel for your engines. Although I appreciate the fact that the tumbleweeds ensure one doesn’t get stranded in a failure state while exploring, it does sort of undercut any perceived need to explore anywhere – you essentially solve all food, water, and fuel concerns within 5 minutes of getting the blimp.
In any case, one of the limiting factors in the creation of additional higher tech goodies are Solid State Batteries, which are found in sort of light beacon structures on the tops of skyscrapers. I managed to have time to float towards one such structure, explore around, grab the battery, and then build the tool that allows me to add rooms (etc) onto the blimp. I then unlocked the ability to create a turbine, which would have allowed me to fly higher up, presumably granting increased access to other such “islands” above the clouds.
Having written this out, my impression is less and less that Forever Skies is a sandbox at all. Even if each beacon island (or probably their location) is procedurally generated, you are not really “exploring” anything on the way to one. And once you arrive, your goal is to A) grab the battery and B) check for blueprints. Hopefully there are more uncommon ingredients introduced later on, as the tumbleweeds essentially made anything else you could pick up redundant.
It is difficult to gauge where exactly along the Early Access progress Forever Skies happens to be. If this demo is early-early, then good. If what I saw was basically Beta… yikes. The trailer seems to indicate that this is not the case, what with the sample environment not looking exclusively green, there being a few additional tools, and a better-looking blimp.
Still, I have some concerns about the sort of fundamental “island to island” gameplay. In short: meh? The overall concept of the game is different than other survival ones – no trees to punch, for example – but the islands may as well be instanced puzzles inbetween loading screens. This isn’t Subnautica where there are interesting things going on around you, even if you are in transit to another spot on the map. Effectively nothing else exists outside of the blimp and islands, which is why it reminds me so much of Raft. The trailer indicated that maybe your blimp will take damage from storms or creatures or whatever, but again, that alone is not going to elevate (har har) the experience by much, if at all.
Also? The demo has you get a virus early on from eating a melon, which results in you taking damage any time you look towards the sun. Okay, fine, that’s unique. You end up curing the virus by eating a pepper in another area. Like, I know that the premise of the game centers around viral shenanigans, but I’m not exactly sure what this sort of “mechanic” is supposed to bring to the game. Maybe an enforcement of not being able to exclusively grow melons (which you can’t do in the demo anyway)? Are we going to routinely get infected with random shit and need to go to the next island for the cure? In some games, you do need to encourage players to expand their horizons instead of turtling in one particular area. This one ain’t it – there isn’t anything else to do but head to the next island.
In any case, that’s the Forever Skies demo. I’ll submit my feedback in the more proper channels as well.
Slice & Dice is a F2Try dice-based roguelike. You can play the first 12 “levels” for free, but it costs $7 to unlock the rest of the game.
On the face of it (har har), the game appears relatively simple. By default, you control a party of five traditional archetypes – Rogue, Warrior, Defender, Healer, Mage – who face an assortment of enemies. Each round, enemies will roll their dice and indicate who they will be attacking, assuming they survive.
Then your team will roll one die per class. Each six-sided die has different abilities on it as determined by that die’s class and any modifications due to items. If you like a specific die roll, you can “save” it by tapping and then reroll any remaining dice up to two times. After all dice are locked in, you then can use the dice to attack enemies, shield your team, generate mana for Spells, or a number of other unique effects. Any surviving enemies will then attack back. Then everyone gets to do it again.
After each successful battle, surviving heroes are healed to full, any defeated heroes return to life at half-health, and there are alternating rewards of class promotion or random item selection. For class promotion, two heroes are randomly selected to get promoted to one randomly selected option, and you decide which one does. For example, you might be able to choose between your Rogue and Cleric getting promoted to a Tier 2 version of those classes, but not choose for the Warrior to be upgraded instead, or choose between the 5-6 Rogue options. Similarly, with item selection you can choose between two options or go for a mystery roll if neither one works well for your setup.
If that sounds like a lot of randomness, well… it is a dice-based game.
After I understood the general shtick of the game and saw what sort of boss battles were available, I started losing interest. The game seems a bit simple, right? Plus, winning didn’t really seem to offer much progression. But that was when I discovered the Achievements and other unlocks. Basically, the game has 40+ achievements that all unlock something when, uh, achieved. Most of the time these unlocks are additional items that get added to the pool for future runs, but other times there are additional difficulties and new game modes. For example, with Custom Party you can choose to bring 5 Mages or some other mix of heroes, and Shortcut lets you skip the first 8 levels (although you get random items and promotions). The unlocks themselves are not always worth it per se, but they provide something to work towards and potentially discover some fun along the way.
Notwithstanding the progression element, the game feels very satisfying to play in the moment. I often feel the pull of “just one more turn” given how many micro and macro decisions you end up needing to make. Is 2 damage good enough, or do you gamble on a 16.67% chance of getting a blank in order to hit something better? Should you focus-fire the big monster, or take out the small fry first? Do you blow all your mana on trying to save one hero this turn, or let them die to push more damage?
Overall, I am extremely pleased with my $7 purchase and probably have logged 30-40 hours thus far. One of the achievements to unlock Speed Run leaderboards is to win Standard mode in under 45 minutes, to give an idea of average successful run length. I also highly appreciate the fact that the game is short interval-friendly, e.g. there is no real-time component and you can minimize the app without messing anything up. It is no Slay the Spire, but it’s a game that has come closest to scratching the itch.
Log into Guild Wars 2. Alt-tab and open the TaCo addon, which provides invaluable overlay support to extra activities, should I choose to engage with them.
Load main character (Scourge). Collect daily login bonus. Today is Day 8 of the 28-Day cycle, which is four Mystic Coins. The prices of Mystic Coins have collapsed since the End of Dragons expansion, presumably because the new Legendary weapon options that came with it use less of them. I have also heard that some cheater may have been banned a while back, and tanked the market? In any case, they used to be worth 2g apiece and today they are 71s. I bank them with the rest, bringing my total stash to 415. That seems like a lot, but apparently you need like 230+ of them for one Legendary.
Waypoint to Divinity’s Reach, enter home instance. Not many personal nodes in there – the math says you’d need like 500+ days just to break even on the typical 50g purchase price – but the Quartz node in there supposedly sometimes drops Charged Quartz Crystals which are otherwise 1/day limited.
And… holy shit, it actually happened:
Waypoint to bank to deposit goods. Use the Ley-Energy Matter Converter for some “free” goodies, same with Princess (eating some of the thousands of Draconite Ore I stashed for some reason). Between the AH and the vendor, I made about 21s.
Waypoint to Lion’s Arch, near a Skritt vendor that gives me a Provisioner token in exchange for a Mystic Forge Stone. I have 108 of the latter somehow and this appears to be the best use for them. Waypoint to Durmand Priory with its easy Commune Hero Point to turn 25 Quartz Crystals into a Charged version once per day. Waypoint to Black Citadel near another Provisioner token NPC, this time trading one for an Obsidian Shard. Need 50 total Provisioner tokens to exchange for a Gift of Craftmanship, a component in Legendary Sigils and Runes. I could earn more than 2/day from these and other vendors, but the other exchanged goods cost money and I’m not in a particular hurry. Two per day will add up over time – I have 42 total, for example.
At this point, I check the actual Daily quest options. If you complete three “achievements” from a rotating list, you get 2g straight up plus some other bonuses. Some are more annoying than others. I generally hope for “Mine/Chop/Gather X nodes,” “Vista Point in Y area,” and “WvW Big Spender.” Of the WvW options, I will settle for things like killing a Sentry or capping a Shrine, but it’s highly dependent on what’s actually going on in WvW at the time. Today is… ugh. Veteran Creature Slayer or Kill 5 Guards. These aren’t hard but increases the risk of me encountering enemy players. Luckily, a Jumping Puzzle is one of the daily options and TaCo will provide an overlay of exactly where to go and how to jump.
Completed all three, collect the 2g. There’s more I can do, but I switch to alts now.
Load Daredevil. They are already at Flax farm in Draconis Mons. Collect all the nodes, sell the 14 Piles of Flax Seeds for 43s. I could just keep the alt here, but I use the Spearmarshal’s Plea item to teleport to a small corner of a map on the opposite side of the world. Just south of that destination is a guaranteed Rich Orichalcum Vein. Sell the 10 ore for 31.8s. I use a Watchwork Pickaxe bought with Karma, which adds an extra 6.75s worth of sellable goods to the haul.
Load Renegade. They are right by the Rich Orichalcum Vein mentioned above. They get a rare gem proc, which is an extra 7.5s, totaling basically 45s altogether. Use the Season 3 Portal Tome to port to Draconis Mons, in basically a reverse route as the Daredevil. Somehow get 16 Flax and a bonus item, selling for 50s even.
Load Mirage. Repeat above.
Load Mechanist. This alt is parked near a Grand Chest in Echovald Wilds, in the new expansion. Looting it gives a Jade Runestone worth 36s by itself, and I occasionally get two. The chest also has about 6ish Unusual Coins which… probably have some purpose. Not selling anything just yet, just in case.
Load Tempest. This alt is parked near the three chests in the Sanctum of Nabkha from Path of Fire. I honestly don’t really know why. Most of the items can’t actually be sold (below minimum price on the AH). I do get 25+ Trade Contracts, which is a sort of expansion currency. Hmm. After checking the Wiki, the Trade Contracts are necessary to use with other goods to trade for Funerary Incense, which is then used to help build Legendary weapons. So… probably that reason.
Load Firebrand. This alt is parked at Bjora Marches, near the frozen waterfall. There are three chests here that can each be opened once per day for a lot of Eternal Ice currency plus other (low-value) goodies. Eternal Ice can be converted to other map currency, to use in the creation of a Legendary without having to farm in more annoying ways.
Total haul appears to be 2.62g + 2g + miscellaneous currencies. I don’t typically do the Flax/Ore loop on my Scourge, Mechanist, or Firebrand, despite it being fairly easy to get them back into position, thereby losing out on another 2.62g daily cash. Resetting the Tempest would be more annoying than it is worth, assuming I value Trade Contracts at all. Which I do, for the hypothetical future.
At the time of this writing, 4.62g is worth exactly 15 gems. Buying 800 gems costs $10, which means… 8 gems equals ten cents. I earned about $0.20 with all that activity. Not difficult activity, but not nonzero either. Jesus Christ, I never bothered doing the math until just now, writing this post. What the fuck am I doing with my life?
A few days ago I finally unlocked the Skyscale mount in Guild Wars 2.
Unlocking it has been one of the most absurdly grindy things I have done in an MMO. I haven’t played every MMO out there and certainly not even more than a handful with any sort of seriousness, so I cannot speak towards where it may rank, objectively.
That said, the day that I quit WoW for the first time, I made this criticism about a similar grind:
The difference between creating enough content to occupy people for a month versus creating content it takes a person a month to complete is the difference between bankruptcy and a sweet raise. Think about those Tol Barad trinkets you spent 30+ days “earning.” That they required 125 marks and Exalted reputation was entirely arbitrary. It was not about creating content, it was about creating a time wall that needed to be dismantled brick by brick by repetitive activity which creates an illusory value to the end-product. Something you have worked towards accumulates value that simply getting it right away would lack.
The Skyscale unlock chain is not “repeat 30 daily quests” which, at first, is a mark in its favor. But in the final analysis… perhaps daily quests ain’t so bad.
I used this site and addons to work through everything over a period of about two weeks. Again, that’s better than 30 days of dailies, yeah? Ehh… maybe not. For posterity’s sake, here is the basic summary:
- Complete all the Living World Season 4 content
- Find Gorrik on the Dragonfall map
- Pick up 21 Skyscale Scales around Dragonfall
- Complete 5 achievements around Dragonfall to purchase medicine from vendors
- Give medicine to 14 Skyscales around Dragonfall
- Collect 21 Skyscale eggs around Dragonfall
So far, so good. Then comes Saving Skyscales. To complete this achievement, you must complete 12 achievements which themselves have 4-5 sub-achievements from around the game, ostensively to understand under what conditions are best to hatch these eggs.
- Complete 55 sub-achievements from all over the world
- Jumping puzzles, environmental damage, events, a whole gamut of nonsense
- Collect 14 treats from mobs around the game
- Feed your Skyscale 12 times (4/day timegate)
- Food can be bought for 3.8g but otherwise requires 1/day account-bound resource
- Collect 4 toys
- One is at end of event chain, another requires 30+ gold or max jeweler
- Find your hidden Skyscale 21 times
- 8 are in jumping puzzles, 3 at world bosses; can skip a step with 7g/each item
- Play with your Skyscale 18 times, twice
- Collect saddle components
- 250 map-specific currency across six maps total
- Return To X achievements makes this trivial; otherwise it would be weeks of grinding
- Complete 28 flying lessons across the world
At the end of all this toil, you receive the Skyscale, a mount that is essentially a combination of the Griffon and Springer. That is selling it a bit short, of course. The reality is that it is a sort of helicopter that allows for hovering and just enough useful maneuverability to supplant multi-mount swapping. At least, that is what I tell myself to keep the dissonance at bay.
It is probably good game design to have these sort of extreme quests (in the historical form of that word) available, especially in games like GW2. These sort of things give you something to work towards, especially in a game bereft of typical character progression. Although there is already Legendary gear.
I just… don’t like how they went about it. There are steps that were just very obviously busy work. Having to get 250 map currency across six maps is frankly absurd, especially before the Return of X achievements were released. To contextualize that, you would basically have to run around a map looking for special resource nodes, hit them up, and get between 0-3 currency. That’s right, they’re not even guaranteed! The nodes are Account-based, so you are probably looking at maybe 40-50 currency a day by hitting the entire map, doing multiple events, completing Hearts, and more.
All to… build a saddle. Wut?
My least favorite stage was Saving Skyscales with the 55 nested achievements, but at least that ostensively made sense: see if your dragon egg responds to the Spirit of Fire by exposing it to flames from important heat-based lore locations. It’s arbitrary, but makes “sense.” Meanwhile, finding your Skyscale in 21 random-ass places? Busy work. Map currency? Busy work. Might as well have tacked on 101 Heart completions from Tyria on the list for all the similar meaning it would evoke.
In any case, that’s one bullet-point down, five to go. I’m actually on the first chapter of the Icebrood Saga right now, so let’s see if this momentum continues!
Little late to the party, but two weeks ago marked 10 years since the release of Guild Wars 2.
Surprisingly, I’m still playing.
Okay, perhaps “still” needs some quotation marks or an asterisk or two. There have been multiple, years-long periods where nary a guild has been warred. But it is absolutely true that I have been low-key doing daily quests and farming for probably well over six months now. And it is even more true that I ended up purchasing the ultra-deluxe edition of the End of Dragons expansion, that came with a bunch of extra premium currency.
Even more true than that is the fact that… I continue to play the game all wrong.
As any long-term reader could readily diagnose, my problem is an unhealthy desire for efficiency. Why do X when you could do X + Y instead? Because Y requires Z, about 15 hours of research, and meanwhile you never get around to doing X in the first place.
Let’s start basic. What I want to do is set my Future Self up for success whenever I get back to playing GW2 “for real.” So, for example, these last six months I have parked all my alts around a certain resource node, mined it, switched characters, repeat, log off. That plus the log-in rewards plus the occasional daily set if it’s achievable within 5 minutes has resulted in a nice nest egg. Thanks, Past Self.
Now that I am “back” in the game, I have additional priorities:
- Play through Icebrood Saga content
- Play through End of Dragons content
- Try some of the new Elite specs
- Work towards completing “Return of” achievements for free Legendary
- Work towards unlocking Skyscale mount
- Work towards unlocking some Legendary gear
The rational thing to do would be to pick something and do that thing in particular. But we’re not rational, we’re efficient. Which means spending dozens of hours setting yourself up for future success rather than using those same dozen hours achieving it.
So, for example, instead of continuing to mine that random ore node all my alts are already parked at, wouldn’t it be more efficient to park them at a node that provides resources towards completing Legendary gear? Absolutely, let me just try and start plowing through the Living World mission that unlocks that resource. But wait, since I am already low-key working towards a future Legendary, I should go ahead and set things up to work on the other time gates I know are ahead. Okay… I can get two Provisioner tokens a day just teleporting around, and I have plenty of resources to craft the 1/day Lump of whatever cooldown. Druid Stones take… alright, they take completing 4 Hearts in a certain area everyday for like 16 days. Better work that into my daily routine. Man, I already got all the achievements done for the “Return of” meta in this map other than redoing the story mode. I really want to try another new Elite spec for that though, because my Scourge is getting a little stale. Damn, my Engineer already spent all their Hero Points so they can’t unlock Mechanist without doing End of Dragons areas though. I wonder if I can just pop into the new zone real quick and then ignore everything while going around the map? Damn, I’m pretty close to the Skyscale though…
And so on, and so forth.
I suppose it is remarkable enough that all of this is still compelling in 2022. I mean, yeah, some of that compulsion originates from my side of the screen. But there are some things still extremely unique to the GW2 experience. “Quest” chains like the Skyscale are both meme-worthily long and relatively achievable, provided you eat the elephant one spoonful at a time. Combat isn’t difficult, but it can be satisfying. The mounts in the game are both a joy to use and perfectly enhances the scale of the world rather than diminishing it. There is an Explicit Schedule of Villainy that ensures there is something going on practically all the time. And there are people that appear out of the woodwork eager to engage in these scheduled events for some reason. Seriously though, no one really know how the economy of the game even works, but somehow it continues to do so. Okay, sure, the Mystic Toilet requiring you to flush thousands of materials away to create Legendary gear is one reason demand for goods have not yet collapsed, but are there really that many people working towards them simultaneously?
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have the answer as to whether I will still be playing in a week. But of all the F2P/B2P MMOs out there that I have tried, GW2 is the only one that has felt “real” enough to “matter.” As in, time you spent playing and unlocking things would still provide utility years later. Granted, the marketing department is nearly nonexistent, the balance team doesn’t play their own game (although someone is recently cleaning house), and you can never really tell with NCSoft titles how long they are for the world. However! I am glad Guild Wars 2 has made it to the ten years mark, and here’s hoping it goes on for another ten. Or at least as long as my interest persists.