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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.

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.

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?

Happens Every Time

I have tried to have three vacations this year – honestly, just staycations with the kiddo still going to daycare – and yet we are 3 for fucking 3 on him getting sick/having a fever exactly on the week that I am off. Not the week beforehand, not the week after. The exact week I had taken off. Supposedly this is “good” because, hey, I don’t have to use sick time! But, you know… I could use sick time AND not have to entertain a sick two-year old for 12-14 hours when I had plans to do stuff.

If you’re wondering, yes, I accrue a lot of vacation and sick leave each year. Join a union, folks.

Anyway. What have I been up to lately?

Fallout 76

This has been my default, “I don’t know what I want to do… let me load this game until I figure it out” game for a long time now. The fact that I still play is actually beyond all objective reason. But… it’s a survival-esque game not in Early Access (even if it sometimes feels that way) and the moment-to-moment gameplay is spot-on. There is also a Season reward track that awards some special items and store currency for completing some daily/weekly quests. That said, my character can only really progress further with precise, legendary item god-rolls all to tackle content that in no way needs said god-rolls to run.

I suppose I did play WoW for a decade despite hitting similar progression walls. And yet I do not have the same confidence that Fallout 76 will continue having new content developed that necessitates new gear. Or new challenging content at all, really.

Hearthstone

While I have watched more matches than participated in them, I do still complete the accumulated dailies every 3 days or so. As someone who has played since the beta, I do have to say that this meta is perhaps the strangest it has ever been. Not just the Quest combo decks that finish on Turn 5, or how any game going past Turn 7 is surprising. There just isn’t a whole lot of AoE anymore. Swipe from Druid or Fan of Knives from Rogue have been gone (from Standard) since March, I think, so it has been a while. Still, I raise an eyebrow any time I see players committing a half-dozen 1/1 creatures to the board and/or going wide as a strategy for success. At least, until I remember how much AoE is lacking and that they can usually get away with it.

Slay the Spire (mobile)

I have officially surpassed my progression on PC with that of mobile, in the Ascension department. And I keep coming back, as the game is pretty perfect to play in 10-second chunks as you watch a 2-year old. I have played a LOT of deck-building roguelikes over the past few months, and none of them really come close. I sometimes wonder if that is because of the first-mover effect, or if the game is really that good. Every day I lean more to the latter.

Also, all those other deck-builder roguelikes aren’t on mobile.

…And That’s Basically It

I have a huge amount of games that I “should” be playing that I just… don’t. Ones that have been perfectly fun to play, for the few times that I have done so. The problem is: what do you do when you don’t have a consistent play schedule? For example, I was having fun with Solasta, Control, and trying to see if Death Stranding would ever be fun at some point. But once you lose gaming continuity, a lot of things fall apart. It gets harder and harder to to boot that game back up – you forget the controls, the strategy you were going with a character build, you literally lose the plot.

If I only have an hour to play games, I’d rather play ones that I know can generate fun in that hour.

Oh well. This crazy work project will be going on for several more weeks, and there is no guarantee that anything slows down after that (since we pushed back all normal projects to make room for this one). This could be the new normal. Not exactly what I envisioned or hoped for, but it is what it is.

This is My Life Now

Big project going on at work has sucked all the oxygen out of the room. Right before the project started, my son brought home some unexpectedly powerful daycare flu. It wasn’t COVID (we tested), but still knocked him out of daycare for nine days, and I’m still getting over it myself going on 14 days. I wasn’t out out for those whole two weeks, but masks + a runny nose does not mix well. Plus, it doesn’t look great to people when you step outside the room to take your mask off to blow your nose, even if you hand sanitize after. I don’t even blame them – I’d be leery too.

One amusing side-effect of this whole situation is what’s happening with my free time. I’ve been going to bed earlier due to wanting to beat the illness sooner, and also due to the project requiring a physical presence way early in the morning. So while I do still have 1-2 hours to game each night, I haven’t had the drive to do much other than veg out.

It started with watching some Twitch streams of Hearthstone. The new expansion is out, Blizzard fucked everything up by introducing multiple uninteractive OTK (one-turn kill) decks, but I still like to keep a pulse on things, so the streams were entertaining. Then I started watching Youtube videos of the Hearthstone streams, because A) I could see different decks more easily, and B) I can jack up the speed to 2x and thus watch twice as many. Finally, I started going to HSReplay where you can watch, well, simulated replays of Hearthstone games directly. There is a fast-scrolling feed on the main page which tells you the matchup, so you can isolate Paladin vs Warlock or whatever you want.

No joke, yesterday I watched random Hearthstone replays for two hours and then went to bed.

That has to be the nadir, right? I’m not playing the game, I’m not watching other people playing the game in an interactive setting, I’m not watching an edited video of the game playing… I’m literally just watching JPEGs of the game happening on the screen. And I found it entertaining and insightful! If I were just watching TV or something, at least there would be a plot or overarching story or something. I could say “I finished X series.” Still haven’t gotten around to watching the newest season of Handmaid’s Tale, for example. Then again, I’ve been watching that on CNN for the last four years already.

I feel like I should feel worse, but I kinda don’t. Between the two-year old and this work project clown show, I have learned to… let things go. Not in a “woosa” sort of way, but in that Fallout-esque “It’s been 200 years since nuclear Armageddon and I still can’t be bothered to sweep the inside of the house I’ve been living in for a decade.” Might be harder without a broom, I suppose. And we still have unopened, unsorted boxes from when we moved into this house three years ago so I probably I shouldn’t throw too many stones. Or I should start with the ones still laying on the floor.

Blizzard’s Reckoning

You have probably already seen 37 other blog posts or articles about Blizzard being sued by the State of California over sex discrimination. Technically, it’s Activision Blizzard being sued, but apparently the rot and “frat-boy culture” is squarely in the Blizzard corner. Then the company slammed its dick in the car door with a disastrously-bad PR “rebuttal” that included this:

The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.

Lawyers going to lawyer, but that doesn’t quite fit the Blizzard image that they were trying to maintain. Indeed, now over 2000 current (for the moment) Blizzard employees agree that perhaps vigorously denying discrimination/harassment is taking place feels a bit tone-deaf in the context of being sued for… ignoring/disregarding claims of discrimination/harassment taking place. “All voices matter.” “I was groped during a manager-sanctioned drunken cube-crawl.” “La-la-la-la-la.”

Out of the various takes I’ve read, there are two that resonated with me. First, was a deeper dive into the complaint itself over on Nosy Gamer. As they point out, there is a lot of press about the harassment that led to a woman’s suicide, but the bulk of the complaints were more focused on sex discrimination in pay, promotion, and management. The harassment is abhorrent and vile, but the meat and potatoes of the lawsuit seems to be the more mundane misogyny that seeps in and saturates many companies. This is still not what we want to be seeing from beloved studios, especially ones who occasionally appear to care about the cultural zeitgeists in which they inhabit.

The other take that resonated was from Shintar over at Priest with a Cause. In particular, the linked video gave voice to the dilemma one encounters upon hearing how shit one’s favorite company actually is under the surface. Do you take the principled stand and boycott the company and its products? If you don’t boycott, are you tacitly supporting the abuse? If you do boycott, is it a moral imperative to convince other holdouts to also unsub? If you aren’t boycotting, should you point out (Achtually…) all the other evil companies that those people are supporting?

In short, No. Do whatever. Follow your heart. Leave everyone else alone.

That is considerably less satisfying, of course. And it raises uncomfortable questions. But that’s also life. I continue to recycle even if they probably just dump it into the same garbage pile as normal, or shipped it China or wherever back when it was profitable to do so. But I also just throw away batteries, because if it’s that big a deal, you better make it fucking easy to know where I was supposed to drop that bag of batteries off at. Seriously, some places were going to charge me to give them dead batteries. Fuck that, I’ll put it in their dumpster. (I didn’t)

So, there it is. There is a Hearthstone expansion coming out next week and I’m excited to see the cards. But I’m not in favor of sexual discrimination. But… I’m still going to play the expansion and not feel particularly guilty about it. Maybe a little guilty. Then I remember I’m in favor of a strong, regulatory government – such as the one that brought this lawsuit in the first place – and get on playing this childish RNG fiesta of a card game with a mostly clean conscience.

You do you.

Wiki Void

Have you ever played a game without a robust Wiki available when you needed it?

If so, have you ever thought about doing something about it?

It is an interesting dilemma all around. As a developer, you cannot really be in the business of creating or maintaining your own Wiki. That would be kind of a full-time job, even if anonymous internet users weren’t able to change the information at any time. On the player side though, you often don’t have the necessary details to write accurate information. Sure, the text on the screen is there. But you are often not privy to the mechanics behind the scenes, and may not even be able to test anything depending on how everything is constructed.

For one reason or another, I have been playing a lot of games lately that have very limited Wikis. Some of that is because they are mods for games still in Alpha, e.g. Darkness Falls within 7 Days to Die, which incidentally is not the sort of thing you could really imagine happening like 10 years ago. A mod of a game in Alpha? Taking the time to write all of that sort of double-ephemeral data seems extra pointless. Then again, I certainly would have enjoyed having access to the information at the time, as I ended up spending 60+ hours with the mod.

Then you have the obscure games like Fate Hunter. Good fun. Zero information. Well, there is precisely one guide out there in the Steam community – and it’s a good one! – but that’s it. Is it worth trying to fill in a Wiki about it? Eh… probably not. Ring of Pain is another sort of low-information indie game that I did end up adding things to the Wiki because I was tired of going back to and forth with a text file of things I needed to remember (“what’s a Shrine of Neglect again?”).

So, it depends, I guess. Or maybe it’s simple: I will add to/improve an existing product, but not start from scratch. Which is probably reasonable considering that every minute I’m doing that is another minute I’m not playing the game I’m writing about. Which is a price I already pay for blogging.