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Crafting is Required

Divinity: Original Sin 2 (DOS2) has a terrible crafting system.

At first, I felt like this was okay. Crafting in the original game was often a bit overpowered, such that most of the time you were better off crafting upgrades than you were trying to loot them. This was a problem in Skyrim too, which I talked about back in 2012:

Short of the sandbox-esque nuclear option of destroying gear and/or permanent durability loss, I do not see a worthy payout for the costs of strong player crafting. I just completed a long questline to reconstruct a 1,000+ year old amulet whose power started a war and led to it being split into three parts and sealed away; the names of amulet keepers were to be forgotten under the pain of death. After finally reforging it, I held it in my hands and… oh, +30 to Health/Mana/Stamina? I created an amulet with +67 to Health and +40% extra Bow damage nearly 50 hours ago.

/vendor

I am not sure any game has gotten the craft vs loot tension correct. If the best items come from looting, players are incentivized to kill things for loot and ignore crafting. If the best items are crafted, players craft them and don’t care about killing stuff. Sometimes you can make hard enemies drop exclusive crafting material instead of loot, but that’s just loot with extra steps.

The problem is when game designers decide to have a weak crafting system, then seed their game with thousands of random pieces of debris. There is shit everywhere in DOS2: flowers, mushrooms, plates, cups, parchment, individual keys that exist forever for some reason, nails, hammers, and so on and so forth. Well over 90% of it is completely useless, despite it being integral to some crafting recipe or another. The existence of these items and your ability to interact with them is an invitation to their collection. Which, ultimately, just serves to pad game time and make inventory management a chore. It’s all a designer trap, outside maybe 2-3 arrow/scroll recipes.

So why not just get rid of crafting, if it’s going to be nigh-useless? Well… what are they going to do with all these cups and silverware so meticulously seeded on every table? Seems as though if you want interactable widgets, you need a crafting system of some kind to justify it. We’re well past the Metal Gear Solid 2 days when breaking single wine bottles or watching ice melt was an innovation.

Just because it’s an RPG doesn’t mean you have to be able to pick up all the things. But you damn well better have a useful reason to pick stuff up, if you allow it. Which makes crafting required.

The Internet is Forever… Wrong

For the time being, I continue to play and enjoy Stellaris. After spending some 40+ hours in my first sort of easy-mode tutorial, I decided to start a new Ironman game on medium difficulty with a custom-made race in a Large galaxy.

One thing I have learned since starting this journey though, is that Paradox actually updates the game a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I came in at the tail-end of a big overhaul of the game mechanics via 2.0. Some of the changes have been controversial, but since I never saw the original way the game was played, I don’t have any strong feelings about them.

Well, other than the fact that it’s near impossible to actually divine any currently-correct information about Stellaris on the internet.

Which Traditions are the best to take first? Are there any must-have Ascension perks? What’s the general idea with custom ships? How fast is too fast when it comes to expanding your empire? These are all questions that were solved and optimized at some point in the past, but have quickly turned into historical canards. For example, about half of the old forum posts I’ve combed through have referenced Food like it was a big deal. And it was… until Food was made an empire-wide resource, allowing you to dedicate entire worlds to mining or energy with ease while farming elsewhere.

Like most games these days, there is a Stellaris Wiki out there, but it suffers from the same issue as all game Wikis – 99% of it is simple, in-game information with zero analysis. Yeah, Option X gives me 5% more Y. But is extra Y even useful considering you can get Z instead? Sometimes it is flat out wrong. For example, there are some “Prophet’s Retreat” utopia-esque planets out there that are guarded by otherwise end-game Fallen Empires, who get really mad if you try to colonize the planet. But could I build a Habitat (e.g. colony space station) orbiting the Prophet’s Retreat without angering the Fallen Empire? According to the wiki:

[Habitats] cannot be built on habitable planets, asteroids, moons or planets with an anomaly.

I gambled with 10,000 minerals and several in-game years and it turns out you absolutely can build a habitat in orbit around the Prophet’s Retreat world without angering the Fallen Empire protecting it. So that wiki entry is either flat wrong, or incredibly misleading (perhaps the author meant anomalies would block all attempts?).

I am also beginning to understand that a lot of the Stellaris community is perfectly fine with inefficient/bad options for purely role-playing purposes. Which is fine, whatever, you do you. It’s one thing to pick an option because you want that to embody your virtual empire, and something else entirely when you pick an option that sounds good but is really just a newbie trap.

Stellaris is by no means the only game that suffers such (unintentional) misinformation. But the whole situation does give me pause. The internet is forever… but that also means it will accumulate more and more shit over time, in a perfectly entropic metaphor kind of way. Search Engine Optimization can force the cream of useful information to float to the top of Google results, but that is reliant on an engaged audience still producing currently-useful information. Over time, there will be less and less engagement, and the actual answers will be lost in a soup of nonproductive energy.

…well then, as a fan of Sisyphus, let’s get this rock rollin’: as of the date of this post, in Stellaris 2.0, you can create a habitat around a Fallen Empire-protected, habitable planet with no issues.

[GW2] Noob Tube

Way back in the day, I played Battlefield 2 pretty religiously. During one update or another, they introduced a 1-shot grenade launcher as a new weapon. Considering the grenade launcher didn’t require precise aiming (auto-detonated when it struck an enemy) and it usually instantly killed your opponent, it got a bad reputation: the Noob Tube. If anyone saw you killing people with it, you would be subjected to verbal abuse for the rest of the round.

Of course, the problem is that the Noob Tube was rather effective. The Time-To-Kill in BF2 was short, such that most people had only a moment or two to outshoot an opponent that appeared around the corner. As long as the titular Noob had the Tube ready, they had a fighting chance against even the best veteran – just fire in their general direction and hope for the best. Plus, the firing of the weapon and the resulting explosion also felt rather satisfying, even if you did not kill your opponent.

In Guild Wars 2, I have turned the corner with my interest in the Thief, by virtue of equipping the equivalent of the Noob Tube: Pistol/Pistol (P/P) Unload spam.

GW2_Unload

Extremely satisfying.

P/P is not an approved meta build for Thief DPS. If you bring it into a PvP match, you will be laughed at/accused of throwing the game, depending on which team the abuse is coming from. It is so unsupported by serious players, I don’t think anyone has even bothered explaining whether a Power or Condition Damage build is better. I’m guessing Power because big numbers, but GW2 is sufficiently convoluted that it being Condi wouldn’t surprise me.

But, whatever. Spamming Unload just feels so damn good.

Given my displeasure over stance dancing, this shouldn’t come as a big surprise. But what surprised even me is, again, how fun it is. My Thief is running around with dual pistols and literally unloading both of them into trolls and elementals like some goddamn John Woo fantasy movie. The sound of the skill is satisfying and has weight behind it. If spammed with sufficient speed, the hits are totaled together into a number that quickly breaks five digits. Although the skill is channeled, I am completely mobile throughout on top of it having a decent range. Each attack buffs you such that subsequent attacks hit harder, and the talents I have chosen multiplies that damage further by debuffing the enemy as their HP decreases. There is cadence and staccato and… I really want to press the button again right now.

Of course, it’s likely that Unload is a newbie trap. I will not be invited to Raids or PvP zergs by spamming Unload. Relying on a single ability will not hone my muscle memory in an otherwise stance-dance meta. It is EZ mode, the equivalent of a WoW Hunter spamming Explosive Shot, back when that was a thing. I should feel the shame as one would taking up BF2’s Noob Tube.

…but I don’t. Pistol/Pistol is fun, effective for the content I currently engage in (dailies), and that’s more than enough for me. You can pry this Noob Tube from my cold, dead hands if you dare. UNLOAD SPAM FOR LIFE.

Or until I get bored, or find something else better. Whenever.