Pay to Lose

Today I caught a Massively article from yesterday about leveling via crafting in Guild Wars 2. One of the devs, Linsey Murdock, had posted an explanation of how leveling by crafting works in GW2, basically leveling a trade skill from 1-400 grants 10 levels of XP so leveling all 8 trade skills grants 80 levels. While that’s interesting in and of itself what really intrigued me was the forum thread that prompted that explanation.

One player had started a thread in the crafting forums titled “Cooking = Buy to Win.” The poster stated that he or she had sold gems for gold and then used that gold to power level trade skills and gained 15 levels in the process. In his or her eyes this was a pay t0 win scenario: money was paid to accelerate leveling and apparently leveling is winning.

I may be in a minority here but to me, that’s paying to lose. It’s one thing if you enjoy doing nothing but crafting, have at it and take advantage of the ability to skip things you don’t want to do (grind gold and/or mats) to do the things you want to do (craft). But paying money to grind, just to make a little number go up isn’t winning anything. It’s doing something you don’t want to do just so that you can skip the bulk of the game, and paying for the privilege; in effect it’s paying to not play. If that isn’t the raw end of a deal, I don’t know what is.


Big Bada Boom

Tanks, turrets and flame throwers; that seems to have been the theme last week. As anticipated, I didn’t get much gaming in but that’s not to say I didn’t get any in. Even though my feed reader keeps filling up faster than I can go through it I did get some game time in. Though no WvW for the BWE.

Didn’t I have an empty garage slot?

I started my garage cleaning in World of Tanks, and immediately started filling it back up. USA TDs, here I come. I’ve been seeing a lot M8A1s zipping around and think that might be fun thing to try so I bought a T82 and started at it. But that’s not my main focus right now. The hit-and-run flanker play-style of the French lights and mediums appeals to me. That’s how I play my PzIII and M4 so the prospect of a tank actually designed for that play style is enticing. Last week I moved from the AMX38 to the AMX40 so it’s just one more tier to go. I have heard that there are many people out there who assume that French lights are the same as the other nations and berate players who use their French lights as force multipliers instead of scouts. Hell, I even got called a noob for the crapy radio (that was fully upgraded) and slow speed of my AMX40.

Rift Wars: Knights of Telara.

Yeah, I didn’t get a single chance to login to either SWTOR or Rift. This week I’d like to finish up Nar Shaddaa on my Assassin and, since I’ve been itching to play them, dust off my 37 Shield Spec Vanguard and 22 Sawbones Scoundrel. I’m still interested in going back to Rift for a little while in July so I’d like to roll up a Warrior and see where that takes me.

Go to plan B.

BWE 2 Score Board

A typical WvW score board during BWE 2.

First the bad news, none of my plans for Guild Wars 2’s second BWE came to fruition. Now the good news, I got to play more than anticipated and had a lot of fun with something I wasn’t expecting.

As I posted on Saturday, there wasn’t much WvW to be had on my shard: Tarnished Coast. We dominated WvW by what I can only assume was shear force of numbers, since the one time I saw action there it was just a zerg, and every time I opened the WvW pannel it was all us.

So Instead of jumping into WvW I ended up just running around and PvE-ing most of the time. During the first weekend I created one each of the four professions that I was most interested: Guardian, Mesmer, Engineer and Warrior. My intention from the start was to play a Guardian and I enjoyed it as much as I thought I would. I also greatly enjoyed the Mesmer and decided that would be one of my day-1 professions. The Warrior and Engineer didn’t impress me as much. I enjoyed both but walked away thinking that neither would be a big focus for me.

My Engineer running through Divinity's Reach

My Engineer running through Divinity’s Reach

But there was something about the Engineer that called me back. In other games I’ve always been turned off by engineer type classes but then enjoy them if I try so I thought I’d give Engineer another shot. I’m glad I did. Once I started to get the hang of switching between kits while fighting and choosing the right kit to complement my weapon and situation everything started to fall into place. I found myself ignoring the hearts and just fighting stuff for the fun of it. It was one of the few times I’ve ever grinded just for the fun of combat.

Things were a little different in sPvP. On Sunday afternoon I got around to playing some structured PvP and could not get into the grove with the Engineer. I fumbled around and got destroyed, contributing virtually nothing to the group. The Warrior was just the opposite, everything just clicked once I entered the Mists. I had a blast and did well with the Guardian too, even if I did get a little cocky when I tried to take on half the enemy team by myself. So a tentative plan for the next BWE event is to figure out the Engineer in PvP and give the Warrior a shot in PvE.

Being a beta still one would expect a certain level of roughness but the game was running incredibly smooth. The only hitch I encountered was connection issues on Sunday evening. Based on general chat it seemed that I wasn’t the only one. Over the course of a half hour or so the problems not only persisted but expanded, culminating in a crash to desktop. After the crash I started the client back up and everything was smooth again. Hopefully they’ll get that issued ironed out.

Looking back it seems that I played a lot more than I thought I did last week. But maybe it wasn’t the quantity of gaming, just the quality.

So Much For the Zerg

I logged onto the Guild Wars 2 BWE briefly last night and jumped into WvW. My shard, Green team, was dominating solely by force of numbers. The zerg moved from tower to tower, destroying everything in its path. After the fact I thought, “hey that would have made some nice screen shots.” So once I got an opportunity to log on tonight I immediately jumped in WvW to join what I assumed would be another zerg to take some screen shots, instead I found this…

Where are the blue and red teams?

A Different Kind of Lunch-break Research

AMX40 slowly climbing a hill

A light tank so slow that heavies and TDs easily out run it.

I can’t help my self, the past couple nights I get a chance to sit down to play for a little bit, click the SWTOR icon, close the window and open World of Tanks. The game has fully caught my attention again, and for good reason. It offers so much more than just a fun game.

Take a minute and think about it.A while ago I mentioned that one of the things I love about WoTs is that you have to play smart. The game is a constant challenge which means that there’s always room for improvement and unlike most typical MMOs, improvement doesn’t mean epics. While you still have to upgrade your tank, it won’t get you very far. You have to improve your game. It’s the inverse of most MMOs. In SWTOR, WoW, Rift, etc player skill is important but the best player in the world will get trounced by a gear discrepancy. In WoT the better tanker will always come out on top, even in a lesser tank. And I suck, so that’s usually not me but there’s time to grow and learn.

You can’t win them all.

So many games have conditioned players to expect to win all the time, but most WoT players have about a 50% win/loss ratio. When WoT first hit the scene many people complained and even rage-quit over the fact that they lost half the time. The most common complaint I saw was that they play to unwind and losing just upset them. I’ve always been one who games first-and-foremost to unwind but there’s a difference between unwinding and being bored. There’s nothing fun about winning all the time, it’s repetitive and repetition is boring. A challenge, something that occupies the mind and allows the worries of the day to fade away, that is relaxation. Sure booze do a great job too but have that nasty tendency for dependency, and hangovers.

A different kind of lunch-break research.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who brings up their favorite game sites for a short distraction at work or during a break. Check the news feeds, a couple blogs, maybe even a forum or two. Every time I get engaged with WoT I find myself looking up different information: history. It’s fun to research the real-life counterparts of the tanks you drive in the game. It feeds my inner war-buff and history geek and creates a connection to real life and a level of immersion unparalleled by fantasy and/or sci-fi games.

Give it a try.

So If you haven’t tried World of Tanks and my reasons for enjoying it above sounds interesting, give it a try. If tanks aren’t your thing, planes and ships are on their way too. I highly recommend it and, if nothing else, it’s a great distraction from the normal MMO rotation.

When it rains, it pours…

I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for regular posts and the first one, and as of yet the only one implemented, is that my first post of the week should be a review of what I did the previous week and weekend. Real life, of the most serious variety, stepped in last week and made that first post of the week also my last. I was also unable to play much: my Sith Assassin gained half a level, I created but didn’t play a Dwarf Rogue in Rift and I got a handful of World of Tanks matches in. Since I don’t have anything to share about what I’ve been playing I thought I’d share what I’m planning.

Is that a Marder II on cinder blocks?

I got an okay session of World of Tanks in yesterday, only a handful of matches but I felt good about it afterward. I did realize one thing though: my garage is a fucking mess. When I first started last summer I gave each nation’s tier I tank a try and then decided to attempt to elite the entire German tree, with a focus on the tanks. I’m currently sitting with a Wespe, Hetzer, Panzer III/IV, Panzer IV, Leopard, and various old tanks from the journey (the Panzer III being the only old one I actually ever play). And of course being the altoholic that I am I branched out: I “needed” a Sherman, wanted to give Soviet heavies a try, and their lights, and when I started back up I wanted to try the French tanks. So now I’m just a tank pack rat with a full garage.

Time for some cleaning.

Step one: sell all of the old tanks I’m saving “in case I want to play them again later.” I play the Panzer III, and even bought a camo skin for it, so I’ll keep that one but the rest have to go.

Step two: decide my goal tanks and the progression paths I want to follow. Elite-ing the entire German tree is a fool’s errand, especially when I’m not running a premium account. I don’t even like playing arty and although I enjoy TDs, I have to be in the right mood for them and I’m more interested in the US tree. The the new plan for the German tree is to get a Tiger. I’m going to elite and then sell my Wespe, Leopard and Hetzer, shelf my Panzer III/IV (until I later come back to work toward a Panther) and focus on my Panzer IV to progress toward the Tiger. I haven’t progressed far in the Soviet tree (just a T-46 and a T-50) so i’m just going to stop it for now. I’ve barely progressed on the T-50 so I’ll sell it to free up the space while I’ll unlock everything for the T-46 before selling it. I’ve come to really enjoy the Sherman so I’m going to stick it out with the US mediums and continue down that path. I’ve started on the French medium tree and plan to continue to try and get a feel of them.

So my goals for World of Tanks are: (1) clean shop, (2) get a Tiger, (3) progress all the way down the US medium tree and (4) give French mediums a fair shake.

I can taste the freedom.

As much as I’ve been enjoying my little sabbatical into Rift Lite, and am excited about the upcoming expansion, I’m trying not to get hooked. My SWTOR sub is up in July and I’m finding myself excited about being liberated from a subscription. I’ve had at least one active MMO subscription running constantly since I started playing WoW in July of 2005. The big reason I’m excited is for the freedom from feeling like I have to play game X to get my money’s worth. Then again I might just wait for Guild Wars 2 to go subscription free.

Stepping into the Mists

I already know I’m not going to have much, if any, gaming time next weekend. I originally had some grandiose plans for the second Guild Wars 2 BWE but have paired them back, maybe next time. Instead, if I get some time to play, I’ve got a very short list of what I want to see: PvP.

I never got around to PvP during the first BWE and only stepped into the Mist for about 1/2 an hour during the stress test. This time I’d like to try taking my Guardian and/or Engineer into both sPvP and WvW. We’ll see how things pan out.

So that’s about it for now. I’ve got a couple of plans for the blog this week: take more screen shots for posts (I know I’m horrible about that), complete the blogroll (lots of NBI blogs to add), add podcasts to the blogroll, and follow my desired basic post schedule: Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The Feral Assassin

What a beautiful holiday weekend. Great weather, good food, wonderful company and tasty beverages (every grocery store in town had New Belgian beers on sale, now available in cans!). The only hitch was two little thunderstorms that both miraculously timed themselves perfectly for when I was grilling dinner on two separate nights, but at least they helped keep me cool. Between the holiday and coming off a busy week at work I didn’t have time to blog, hell I’m even behind on reading blogs right now, but I did get some gaming time in.

Khem Val Hates Me

So my Assassin has crossed level 20, 22 to be exact at this point, and moved onto Nar Shaddaa. Belsavis was fun, slow to start but I enjoyed it in the end. I got to “enjoy” the greatest affection change I’ve yet to see from a companion: -160 Khem Val for a light side choice, and that was right after we had a little chat about mercy. Sure I could have just dismissed him and avoided the lost but that breaks immersion and cheapens the experience.

Leveling has been proceeding well. I’m still not doing Flashpoints and Warzones, skipping Heroics and Bonus series, and not exploring and I’m almost not out leveling content faster than I can complete it. I still had a quest log full of greens when I finished Belsavis but I’m sitting with proper-leveled quests right now. I still think it’s absurd that I have to skip so much content just to not out level zones; I can’t wait for Guild Wars 2 and their downranking system.

I think I’ve also figured out why the Assassin is clicking so well with me: it plays a lot like a feral Druid. Sure there’s no “John Madden rotation” but the same “feel” is there. I realized it one day when I was thinking: “it’s so nice to have a pocket tank so I can actually shred instead of mangle.” Yeah, so there’s that.

I also gave Commando a try. I had leveled another Trooper through Ord Mantel a while ago and stopped after picking Commando as an AC. I picked it back up last week but it just wasn’t working for me. I’ve always been more of a melee player but can enjoy ranged classes if they’re very mobile, the Commando seems to be just the opposite of that. I’m not deleting this character just yet but I won’t be playing a commando as my healer.

Defying The Cleric

We are go on Rift Lite. I patched up my client and jumped into Rift Lite. Picked a new shard and then created a Defiant Mage and a Guardian Cleric. With the cleric I instantly started falling into my old Cleric ways: Shamicar. The Mage captured my attention though. I never got far with a Mage when I subscribed so I just picked one of the soul templates and went with the flow. My limited previous experience with a Mage was as a Chloromancer so I chose one of the DPS templates, the mobile one, and just fell into it. I was shooting lightning left and right and the next thing I knew a couple of hours had flown by.

The soul templates are a great idea. I was able to just pick it up go without having to worry about exactly how I’m going to spec my character from the start. I can get the feeling of the class first and then take it from there. Sure I’m missing out on the “accomplishment” of unlocking the different souls but that felt more like a grind rather than an accomplishment, especially after they removed the quests in favor of purchasing them.

I’m looking forward to playing some more of the Mage but I might be rerolling the Cleric as a rogue: the other class I have little experience with. My desire to come back with a subscription is only being fueled by the news of a possible expansion, but that’s a discussion for another time.

On A Second Thought…

I miss how all the TV channels used to play old war movies all Memorial Weekend long. It was nice being able to turn on the TV at any time and find either The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape or Kelly’s Heroes on, but no more. So I decided to jump into some World of Tanks for a WWII fix. And then I looked at my garage: German, German, German, US, German, German, etc. Yeah, maybe rolling around in a panzer isn’t the best way to celebrate Memorial Day. So one match in my Panzer III and I was out.

So that’s about it for last week. Now time to start planning what to do in the recently announced Guild Wars 2 BWE.

A Fissure In the Force

For many years I was less of an MMO gamer and more of a WoW player. I’d give other games a try from time to time by WoW was always my home, I guess the proper term is “WoW tourist.” That was until I pickup up Rift. Like many other players, I saw Rift as somewhat of a dark horse. I wasn’t really following it and wasn’t expecting much of anything from it. I guess that’s why it impressed me so much.

After picking it up I was swept away by the open classes,  rift/invasion system, Trion’s update schedule and their dedication to their customers. Sure, the quests were nothing special and rifts often ended up feeling like more of the same after the umpteenth time but the game is incredible fun and well-made. Last fall I decided to take a break. My Cleric had hit 50 and I started to settling into my typical end game groove of battlegrounds, but then the gear grind reared its ugly head. I found myself essentially committing suicide by R8 PvPer in order to farm gear to compete. There’s nothing fun in that and so I decided to play something else, at least for the time being.

Fast forward 6 months. Trion’s been working hard at adding new things and generally improving the game. I’ve heard some good things about the current state of the game and I’m very intrigued by the newly announced Conquest system. The itch to pick it up again is here. But it’s different from my typical urge to give a game another shot, it’s the desire to go home. I want to go home again but home has moved: it’s not in Azeroth anymore.

I’ve still have quite some time left on my SWTOR subscription so I’m not resubbing to Rift anytime too soon but I might patch up the client and give Rift Lite a try with a new alt. Maybe when my SWTOR sub is up for renewal I’ll find myself in Telara again.