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A Daily in the Life of: GW2

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.

Done.

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?

Log off.

Skyscale, Go

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!

10 Years of Guild Wars 2

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.

World of Guildcraft Wars, Too

World of Warcraft’s next expansion was revealed today, and its theme is… Guild Wars 2.

Sorry. It’s called Dragonflight, deals with helping dragons reclaim their legacy, will “provide a more in-depth open world experience going forward,” and features new dragonriding skill that lets you “defy gravity while using your momentum and skills.” Here is a video of it in motion:

I get that the entire history of WoW is copying other peoples’ homework and all, but something about this is… a bit too on the nose.

Anyway. There were some other items that popped out at me.

Cross-Faction Coming Soon. Technically old news (first revealed in January), it was nevertheless interesting to hear cross-faction grouping being brought up again. While Blizzard is still being ultra-conservative with it – not being able to join guilds is probably going to make organized raiding problematic – cross-faction play of some kind is one of those things that never really made sense not to have in WoW during its heyday. I have had real, non-theoretical conversations with coworkers in the past wherein we (briefly) got excited to learn the other played WoW, only to face the double disappointment of being A) on the wrong server, or B) the wrong faction, or C) both.

If only we knew why it took so long…

…oh, right.

Talent Trees Return. Overrated. It’s mildly interesting that they have a class tree and a spec tree separately, but that is just lampshading the “lack” of a borrowed power system in the expansion.

WotLK Classic. Expected, but nevertheless still hit me in the feels. Everyone has a WoW entry point they feel nostalgic for, and for me it is WotLK… despite my actually starting to play in Burning Crusade. Epic scope, epic music, ground-breaking raiding (in 10m flavors!), and some great guild members relationships. Devs mentioned intentionally leaving out the Dungeon Finder for “social fabric” reasons which, okay, whatever. It will be interesting to see what happens to said fabric when everyone is trying to farm badges for gear.

UI Improvements. This sort of thing might seem minor at first, but not being able to get my screen looking like it did the last time I played WoW ends up being a rather large, subconscious barrier to reentry. Addon Managers can remove some of the tedium, but having a lot of the same functionality within the base UI is more ideal.

Cosmic Plot Intermission. Coming out of the narrative disaster that is Shadowlands, it’s refreshing to see Blizzard basically hitting the pause button. Nothing in the trailer hinted at some kind of Big Bad Guy to face, or that the fate of the world was once again at stake. It’s always possible that that comes later, but the tone is being set early on. Reminds me a bit of Mists of Pandaria minus the faction war.

Everything Else. K.

This is the part of the post where I talk about how I’m intrigued by what Blizzard is doing and will probably resub to see the new content. Probably not this time around.

A pause in the power escalation is necessary, but… I don’t like dragons. Not quite on the level of hate Syp has for elves, but dragons are a solid third place above “It was all a dream” and Time Travel in terms of ire. What possibly interesting story could ever be made concerning dragons? I don’t just mean in Dragonflight, I mean in any fiction. Yes, I watched The Hobbit, played Skyrim and Dragon Age, etc etc. In all cases, dragons could be replaced with an infinitely more interesting colossal beast with no impact to the storytelling. Dragons are flying, hoarding tropes. Vampires? A lot of directions you could take a story. Dragons? Replace it with an eldritch horror of some kind and get a much more engaging tale.

So, yeah. Good luck, have fun.

Idles of March

I am once again experiencing a long stretch of gaming ennui.

Guild Wars 2, which had hitherto commanded a solid portion of my daily gaming allotment, fell off a cliff in the weeks leading into the End of Dragons expansion. There were really three things in play. First, I was beginning to question “the point” of my toil – as good an indication of any that one has shifted from intrinsic to extrinsic motivation. Second, I could not readily commit to which version of the expansion to purchase. This remains a barrier even now, because when I do log in I see items in the Gem Store that are enticing, which suggests I should buy the $80 version of the game (which comes with gems). Surely buying the standard $30 version and then buying gems separately is the worst of all worlds. So… I do nothing.

The third reason was actually recently addressed: I was not certain whether End of Dragons was to be the last GW2 expansion. Who wants to grind things in a “dead” MMO? Well, ArenaNet announced they are working on a fourth expansion. Whether it is coming in 2 years or 4 doesn’t matter so much as that it is coming at all.

Beyond all that, I am actually playing a lot of different games. Not the ones I committed to in December, of course. I completed Undertale, but then hit a wall with SOMA insofar as trying to decide whether I wanted to keep playing with monsters on or off. I (used to) own all of the Silent Hill games and enjoyed all of the Resident Evils through the years, but I’m not a particular fan of the helpless horror genre. Dead Space and Prey? Good. Amnesia and Alien: Isolation? No thanks. The anxiety and thrills feel cheaper than, say, from a roguelike or at the end of a long raid-dance sequence – I either one-shot the area or get killed enough times to abstract the encounter into a puzzle.

In any case, I do not particularly want every post between now and Summer to be an Impressions piece of whatever indie game I take for a spin. So, I have been writing next to nothing. Which is probably worse, on balance. Hmm. This is what I have been playing recently:

  • Black Book
  • FAR: Lone Sails
  • My Friend Pedro
  • Outriders
  • We Happy Few
  • Sunset Overdrive
  • Sheltered

That last game, Sheltered, is really a sort of Fallout: Shelter-esque time-waster that nevertheless sucked 6 hours out of me and reignited a burning need to collect random garbage in survival crafting fashion. Unfortunately, I have pretty much played everything in the genre already, and what’s left will remain unpurchased until Epic’s Summer Sale. A mere 50% off doesn’t do it for me anymore: I need 50% + $10 off.

So, that’s my life at the moment. How are you?

Priorities

The hardest thing is starting. The second hardest is continuing.

In the past few weeks, I have formulated zero long-term gaming memories. I have continued to throw myself into Guild Wars 2 and Hearthstone, making quite some “progress” in both. The time passes easily enough. And I am entertained during play. But I couldn’t tell you specifically what I was doing last Tuesday. I cannot present an argument for why you should (or shouldn’t) play GW2 or Hearthstone in a way that did not already exist a month ago.

Things happened, but nothing changed.

It is a tad early for resolutions, but here is mine: commit to distinct experiences. Any given MMO can consume thousands (or more) of hours of your time. It is indeed a great value, in comparison to how much money you would have had to spend on the equivalent games. Journey is what, 2-3 hours? And yet the experience of Journey remains a core memory eight years later. That music, the visuals, that nameless stranger who guided me to the summit. Would I have traded 100 Winterberries for that experience? It’s absurd, and yet I find myself doing that every day.

Prose aside, this desire came from a Reddit post talking about how there would be no Dark Souls without ICO. While I have not played Dark Souls much – despite owning several of them – I understood the sentiment because I played ICO. And yet how many people out there never did, or ever will? That game is a transformative experience. One that predated my first contact with MMOs. What if I… hadn’t? Too busy with WoW or whatever? Could there be an ICO in my unplayed gaming hoard right now?

Now, I’m not actually expecting to find another ICO in my library. And this sentiment is different than the sort of vague, “I should play everything just in case it’s genius.” I’m also still planning on squeezing in some MMO time in there too, assuming I’m not hooked on something else. But! Let’s take some baby steps towards the thing I actually want to do – generate unique experiences worth talking about – and not get sucked into killing time all the, er, time.

It’s silly, but here’s my starting list:

  • Death Stranding
  • Undertale
  • SOMA
  • To the Moon
  • Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
  • Final Fantasy 15

Some are 100s of hours, some are less so, some aren’t going to be worth it. Final Fantasy 15, for example, gets shit on a lot. Let’s see why, eh? I’m getting better at dropping “good” games that have exhausted their novelty, like Dishonored 2 and Subnautica: Below Zero, so that shouldn’t be a factor.

I owe it to myself to give these games (and others) a chance. Especially since, you know, I already own them. I’m not going to find my next Xenogears just doing daily quests all the goddamn time.

What Do I Really Want?

Specifically: what do I really want to buy with money?

Short answer: I dunno.

Long answer: buckle up.

The other night, I spent literally 40 minutes agonizing on whether I was going to buy 2000 discounted gems in Guild Wars 2. The agony was specifically derived from the fact that there was a 20% discount on Shared Inventory Slots, but only for one day. Discount of a discount is a great deal, yeah? The way the math worked, I could buy 3 Shared Inventory Slots for about 1500 gems, then combine the leftover gems with an upcoming 400 free gems I was earning for hitting 5000 in-game achievement points and then buy a 800 gem Character Slot. Best of all worlds!

Alternatively, I could not buy Shared Inventory Slots at all and just get three Character Slots with the same gems. Which got me thinking: “what’s the actual value to me of… any of these things?”

A Shared Inventory Slot is what it sounds like: a slot that is shared across all of your characters. I have two of them currently, as one comes with each expansion. Right now, the first slot is filled with a gem-store item that basically disenchants gear. That’s helpful when cleaning up all the random crap gear you get showered with in this game. The second slot used to have a portal scroll to the most effective farm area (Bitterfrost). I now have it filled with the Quartz resource, as I use my alts to farm 10 Quartz at a specific area, then log into my main and turn 25 of that Quartz into one Charged Quartz, which is a time-gated crafting material for goods down the road. All of which is convenient, but not particularly exciting.

So what would I even do with three more? Don’t get me wrong, those slots would get filled with something of marginal utility. There’s a neat “positional rewinder” item you can get to help with Jumping Puzzles, for example. But I’m not using my alts for Jumping Puzzles. In fact, right now, I’m not playing my alts at all, beyond the 30 seconds of farming Quartz. I’m really focused on the “Return To X” achievements, both for the rewards and the fact that I actually never played some of these Living World stories. So even in the case of Character Slots, it is not as though I would be utilizing them right away. So maybe I just don’t buy anything at all.

“Besides, there is so much more I could buy for $20-$40.”

That thought got me down another rabbit hole. Because… is there anything else I want to buy? Surely, yes? I have 44 items in my Steam Wishlist, for example. But even with deep, current discounts, I have had zero compunction to purchase any of them. About the closest ones are Wildermyth, Red Dead Redemption 2, Disco Elysium, Horizon Zero Dawn, and some random assorted Roguelikes and Early Access Survival (redundant, much?) games. But would I really stop my current routine to play them immediately? And if I didn’t, what are the odds they would end up on the Game Pass by the time I did?

Yes, folks, Game Pass really has broke me. Know what the final straw was? Dicey Dungeon.

I really had not played a single game on Steam throughout all of August and September and most of October. Then I bought Dicey Dungeons on October 24th for about $5. Played it about 3-4 hours. Guess what showed up on November 11th? Yep.

“It’s just $5, who cares?” It’s the principle. I already have hundreds of purchased games I’m not playing, on top of free* games I’m not, to be buying more. Although I guess in this case I actually did play it right away, so whatever. The principle!

This journey of self-flagellation did reveal something a bit deeper to me. Namely, that I can’t really answer the question in the title. I’m apparently actively avoiding spending money in Guild Wars 2, I don’t want to buy games on sale lest they become free on Game Pass, but I’m also not particularly saving towards anything either. I mean, I’m not a mindless consumer that feels as empty as my shopping cart. But is that also a proxy thought to not looking forward to anything? What am I excited about? It was going to be Battlefield 2042, honestly, but it plummeted to the the top 10 worst-reviewed games on Steam within two days of release.

So, yeah. I got nothing. Or maybe just gaming ennui.

GW2: Expansion Math

I think it’s safe to say that I will still be playing Guild Wars 2 in February, which is when the End of Dragons expansion is coming out. Which means I need to start doing some expansion math.

Under normal circumstances, I never opt for anything but the base expansions for whatever MMO I am playing. GW2 is a bit different since it’s more freemium and cash shopy – there are more utility items than straight cosmetics. For example, the base expansion costs $29.99 and includes (among other things) a Shared Inventory Slot and a max-level boost. The latter two items cost 700 gems and 2000 gems, respectfully. Or roughly $8.75 and $30. So… if you wanted an instant-level 80 boost anyway, you get the expansion for free! Not that an instant 80-level character is that valuable, of course.

In any event, the tiers get a bit weird.

Standard – $29.99

  • Shared Inventory Slot (700 gems or about $8.75)

Deluxe – $54.99

  • Additional Character Slot (800 gems or exactly $10)

Ultimate – $79.99

  • 4000 gems (exactly $50)

Again, there are additional items in the tiers there that I don’t care about, and thus value at zero.

Character slots are definitely something I want more of, but that middle tier ends up being much more expensive than what I could buy via gems on my own ($25 vs $10). But once you hit the Ultimate tier… things change. It costs $50 for 4000 gems, bringing down the hypothetical cost of the Ultimate tier down to the Standard level. But since you get the character slot from the previous tier too, the scenario is that I would get 5500 gems worth of things I value (or roughly $70) and the expansion itself for $10.

How could I possibly afford not to purchase the Ultimate edition of this expansion?!

It’s a trap, of course. Ish. Getting an MMO expansion for $30 straight-up is pretty good, notwithstanding it comes with something as valuable as a Shared Inventory Slot. And let’s also be clear that nothing here is breaking my bank – I’m just a parsimonious bastard. But kudos to the accountants at ArenaNet for making me do some math and seriously consider paying $80 for something I’ve spent less on in the last nine years of playing.

[Fake Edit: Black Friday Sale Edition]

I drafted everything above last week, but as it turns out, there are sales happening on Black Friday:

  • 20% off Gem Cards – $20 = 2000 gems ($25 normal)
  • 20% off Shared Inventory slot – 560/1512/2240 gems (700/1890/2800 normal)

Doing the math… nothing much changes, actually. The relative value of the Ultimate deal drops since it costs $40 for 4000 gems instead of $50, but that still doesn’t make the Deluxe edition worth it at all. What it does do is make it a bit palatable to skip the Ultimate tier and just buy what you need with gems. Getting 4000 gems with the Ultimate tier all at once will mean they’re gone on possibly silly shit within minutes. For example, there are infinite gathering tools on discount currently, and those + 3 shared inventory slots is basically 4000 gems right there.

On the other hand… ugh. The “discount” forces you into the $20 for 2000 gems category, which means that I’m going to be buying the Standard edition ($30) + 2000 gems ($20) and immediately spending at least 800 of them on a character slot anyway. Having 1200 leftover gems is, again, way better than the Deluxe edition. But now I’m at $50 vs $80 for the Ultimate, the latter of which includes a Character Slot.

Like, props to the fucking sadistic accountants over there at ArenaNet, but this shit right here is a dumb position for any player to be in. I shouldn’t need to do calculus to see if something is a good deal or not. Yeah, my situation in valuing only certain items is probably unique, but needing to math things out at all is likely to result in my purchasing nothing instead, as all thought shuts down from overheating.

That and, you know, I could buy a lot of other games for $80. Probably 4-8 of them, even.

Mount Up (Still)

Almost four years ago, I said that mounts in Guild Wars 2 are a lot of fun. I’m here to say… they still are.

Indeed, this comes a few weeks after having unlocked the Griffon mount. And it is amazing. There is always a fear in making active mounts (e.g. needing to press buttons to move) into too much of a gimmick, especially flying ones. “Ugh, I have to flap its wings every time?” But I would say GW2 devs have threaded that needle with the Griffon.

For one thing, it’s less a flying mount and more of a gliding one. Pressing Spacebar will cause it to do a leap into the air, with further Spacebars causing it to beat its wings once while consuming the entire Endurance bar. If you do nothing else, it will glide down to wherever you are pointing it. Press Spacebar when you have the Endurance to do so, and it will gain a little altitude for a moment and continue gliding down. Hold Spacebar and it will automatically beat its wings when the Endurance bar fills up, but you’re still losing altitude overall. Time the Spacebars at 75% of an Endurance bar and you can technically maintain roughly the same altitude as when you started, but that of course requires some concentration on your part.

Here’s the key though: it’s fun and engaging.

I find myself often using the Griffon as my primary mount, even though it will lose to other land mounts in a horizontal race between two points. I just like looking for those opportunities to bound up a small hill and gain some airtime. Once you unlock its Masteries, your Griffon can go into steep dives to gain some forward momentum which will beat out land mounts, at least while you are in the sky. And those times are the best.

This sort of thing would not work in every game. For example, I don’t think WoW could pull this off. That said, a lot of the developer pushback during WoW’s Flightgate was how flying trivialized questing content. GW2 does not have this problem. Even in the scenarios in which a Griffon can get you somewhere that lets you skip portions of a jumping puzzle – and there are plenty of enforced no-fly zones around jumping puzzles – you are still engaging in the terrain in other ways. Getting on your Springer mount and climbing up mountains. Using Jackal portals. And so on. Flying over the gates and landing directly on the objective feels more earned, from both a player and developer standpoint.

Supposedly, the Skyscale is a more traditional “helicopter” mount that lets you stay flying indefinitely. I have not unlocked that one though, and possibly never will. Then again, I never thought I would be playing GW2 every night for the last month and a half, but here we are.

Specifically, climbing hills and flying off them.

Checkpoint: Guild Wars 2

I’ve been playing some games. Let’s talk about it.

Guild Wars 2

At the end of September, I complained about the impenetrable nonsense in GW2. Since then, I have been, er, penetrating it daily.

Originally, the goal was to keep the oven pre-heated, so to speak, by doing some daily chores to score the 2g payout plus login bonus. That way, if the expansion coming in February piqued my interest, I would have a nice stack of cash heading into it. Plus, you know, if I didn’t like playing the game prior to the expansion, I could come to my senses and not buy it.

Somewhere along the way, I got the idea to go ahead and unlock the Griffon mount.

Oh boy.

The impression I had going into this endeavor was that you needed 250g saved up and you basically walked flew away with a Griffon. That… is not even remotely accurate. Step 1 is completing all of the Path of Fire expansion. Which, I admit, is a reasonable request for someone who purchases expansions. At least, in normal MMOs – I have never actually finished the Personal Story in all the years I have played GW2.

The Path of Fire story was quintessential GW2 material. I had no idea who anyone was, why they were there, or what was going on. And that was fine because it didn’t matter. Oh, and here is a huge, stunning domain of a god that you can explore for 15 minutes before never coming back. I swear that ArenaNet devs must be made up of 80 artists and 2 scenario writers who hate their job.

Story complete, you can now start on the Griffon achievement. Which requires 250g… and five map achievements. Which each have a half-dozen boxes that need checked off. Some are simply exploring and finding Griffon eggs in certain locations. Others are defeating Legendary/Champion bosses that require a group to accomplish. Somehow that little detail always got left off of the Griffon description.

As of the time of this writing, I believe I have the hardest elements taken care of. It took 5-6 days to luck into groups of other late-Griffon enthusiasts, and the LFG tool factored into zero of them. I managed to snag credit for one of the kills simply because I noticed a player wearing a Commander tag down in the general area I knew the boss to be. I dropped everything I was doing and frantically galloped my way there and tagged credit on the last 10% HP. It was cheap, but I’ll take it. And did. But there was one escort mission that took multiple days for it to even show up as an option and I almost abandoned the effort, thinking it was bugged out.

Once the Griffon is unlocked, then what? Part of the impetus to get the Griffon was how annoying it sounded to get the “Return to X” achievements to unlock, among other things, a 32-slot bag. So that is probably the next goal. We’ll have to see though how difficult that happens to be now that it is no longer “meta” to do so. If it’s more like the Griffon quests x10, then… I dunno.

Then again, what else am I doing?