Jurak Gearwright

Life in Tyria: Building a better me…

I’ve been messing about with builds lately. It’s not something I’ve done a lot of in the past, I think I was just getting the hang of it when I stopped playing the game in Dec 12 and so I never really got to go deep into the heart of how it affects gameplay experience.

Well now I know, or least I know a little bit more than back in 2012; it affects it a lot and with the coming changes to how we spec out a character it’s only going to become more flexible and powerful and this seems like the perfect time to start tinkering with it.

But let me back up a bit and explain why I’ve been fooling about under the hood. I play an engineer you see and whilst the ‘Engi’ is a fun class to solo with it really is designed to be a strong support class and therefore many of its’ tool kits are most powerful & (possibly only) useful in group situations. I play 99.9% of the time alone. This makes most of the kits and gadgets the Engi has available useless to me, likewise with the traits that back them up, and I find myself relying heavily on turrets to pull aggro from mobs and then lots of dodging and kiting (and healing!) to stay alive long enough to grind the enemy down to a bloody puddle of zero. Yet when I watch my son play his Warrior, a class that has no gadgets but can use more weapons and has access to stronger armour, he can just attack stuff and it dies right there in front of him! Oh I’m so jealous! Here am I, my fingers tying themselves in knots on my G13, my brain screaming DODGE! ROLL! DROP TURRET! GRENAAAAAAADE! DODGGGGGGE! as I dance and wheel around one on-level veteran with my health bubble bouncing up and down like a nervous bride’s nightie, whilst he runs up to a gang of four slightly higher level mobs and casually punches them so hard their bones turn to dust and they shit out gold coins as an apology for disturbing him!*

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My son’s warrior speaking to Logan Thanckery and planning to casually kill mobs whilst napping.

So I took to the traits panel and began to play about with my build. I’m level 80, have most skills unlocked, have OK armour & weapons (all rares rather than exotics but the difference is small enough to ignore on the macro scale of getting my arse kicked by a vet undead giant and his small army of big ass zombie grubs) and well -chosen runes and sigils throughout – to be honest a re-trait is all I have left to play with.

In the past, when I first learnt about builds, I speced myself out to be a crack shot with the rifle and increase both my crit chance and crit damage and this worked well for me. Then I read about the flame-truck build and followed that (basically making myself tougher with a flamethrower) but whilst this was good for a while it did not scale up well and became less effective the higher I got. By the time I left the game I had settled on a turret-centric built that made my turrets stronger and ‘tossable’ but in coming back into the game now and finally getting to Orr I’ve found this wasn’t really working for me, especially as the turrets are all but one-shotted as soon as I have them out. So I tried a few new builds with the intention of mixing things up and going crazy in the hopes of finding a cool niche for myself but straight away I was stopped as all the wacko options use the tool kits and gadgets that are more support orientated. Still I tried. I kept a solid 30 points in the explosives line (it saddens me to say that pretty much all Engis you talk to can’t justify breaking the tyranny of the top line here) and moved a full 30 into tools to try and gain some kit swapping, hit-blocking abilities and the final 10 giving me tougher turrets. With this I lost a lot of nice stuff from the previous build such as reduced fall damage and faster running speed but, I reasoned, if it meant the enemy went down faster it was a trade off worth making.

They didn’t. It wasn’t.

Why. Wont. You. Just. Bloody. Well. DIE!?

Why. Wont. You. Just. Bloody. Well. DIE!?

True I discovered a lovely trait where my speed was increased a lot when swapping to grenades, but other than that the Orrian undead remained undead for far longer than I had hoped. It seemed that just like the combo of rifle and grenades, the only traits that help an Engi solo successfully in Tyria are firearms and explosives.

A chat with my guildies helped a little, they convinced me that other weapon options and traits do work, but I think we all agreed they tend to work in group situations so I headed off to the trainer to once again reset and re-build (at a cost of less than 2sp, I can see why Arenanet are about to make this free – it penalises nothing but my time). The upshot is I’ve gone all the way back to something very much like my first build; 30 in explosives, 30 in firearms and a cheeky 10 in inventions to protect me from fall damage. The main difference this time is that my armour, runs and sigils are better chosen to build my strength, toughness & precision rather the healing and condition damage that (I’ve been reliably told) don’t scale well and therefore are wasted. Once more things I shoot at or blow up bursts into flame and dies in a writhing heap at my satisfied (probably dodging, rolling & dancing) feet. Now if only my turrets were better at agroing high level mobs for a decent amount of time I think I’d be pretty happy with my performance. True that my son’s warrior can still punch things into orbit whilst I do the foxtrot with them, but at least I kill them with some style and panache, eh?

Use all the 'nades...

Use all the ‘nades…

* I may be over stating the case for the Warrior. I think they were silver coins and the apology may have been a death gurgle.

Life in Tyria: How roleplaying in GW2 works…

It’s been a week since the Crimson Ashes Guild accepted me in on a trial period and in that time I’ve been on a steeeeep learning curve about what RP in GW2 is and how it works. Here’s what I’ve uncovered so far.

As in SL, live RP is just a matter of typing out loud (/s) and emoting (/e) the words, deeds and thoughts of your character whilst remaining totally in character. any out of character stuff is done via private, group or guild chat (/w, /p & /g respectively*). There is a lot of suspension of disbelief as well as a lot of nothing happening to the characters on screen, with all the action being described in chat rather than ‘acted out’ on screen.

With the monster hunt I took part in on Saturday I had expected it to be a group fight against a real in-game monster but the day before I had the opportunity to ask the leader, Craywin, about how this would work. Bloody good job I did otherwise I’d have gone in all guns blazing and looking like a right nutter! No, instead of fighting a real game monster, the ice brood minotaur was imaginary and operated by Craywin, who was also there as Craywin. It worked like this:

  • We met up in game and were from then on in totally IC with all OOC chat behind the scenes.
  • We walked to the location Craywin had in mind for the encounter (along the way taking part in any dynamic events that naturally happen but doing so totally IC).
  • Once at the location Craywin OOCed us to start the encounter. From then on in he was being both player and DM and he emoted the beast’s movements and actions in chat.
  • A marker was used to show the rough position of the beast (in this case a banner) so we could better work out a reply.
  • After each batch of emotes describing the beast’s actions, we could emote our actions and talk/shout out loud to each other IC.
  • The length of each ‘turn’ was not set but quickly found a natural pace.Essentially not too much action and no players saying “I hit it dead in the eye and it dies!”, the DM decides those kinds of things both to keep the experience fair & fun for all but also building to an exciting conclusion.
  • Dice rolls weren’t enforced, it’s up to the players if they want to use them to add an element of chance to the action otherwise it’s much more about a shared trust that all parties work together on a shared narrative.
  • It took about 4 turns to kill the beast which took us 40 mins or so.
  • Afterwards we RPed about the aftermath, healed the wounded, etc, Again, most of this was done with out loud IC chat & /e emotes but there was also some use of positional emotes such as /kneel for bending to a fallen player and /sleep to be that player.

All in all it was both not what I was expecting and exactly what I should have expected. It was great fun. It was back to my teen yaers playing MERP on the kitchen table. It was collaborative story telling. It was roleplaying and it was good. It’s a long time since I’ve been this excited about a game, probably since writing Steal Head if I’m honest and that’s because I get to create the story once more. Hell it’s even made me think about SL again, something I never thought could happen!

*GW2 commands are listed here with the emotes here and a guide from the emotes programmer here.

Roleplaying in Guild Wars 2: Meeting the Family…

I was hoping to have written up a follow up to my ‘Humble Beginnings’ post by now but alas, I need to sleep in between work and playing GW2 😀

When I last left off I’d met some of the Crimson Ashes Guild in the Maiden’s Whisper and had been invited to an IC meeting with the rest of the Guild at the same place the next day. I only just made it after tearing down the motorway from work, but make it I did and I walked Jurak up into the pub – right past all the Guildies who were watching my with what I can only imagine was bemused pity as I strode on by. Luckily the same player who had met me both the previous night and in the Lomar’s pass camp was on hand to save the day (and my blushes).

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Victoria introduced me to the group, including who I think is the boss, Craywin (although they may have no overall leader, it’s hard to tell) and we all chatted in character for a while. In the end they agreed to give Jurak (and me, lest I forget) a trial period. Jurak was invited him on a beast hunt deep into Svanir held territory whilst I was told that whilst attendance was casual they do expect active participation a couple of times a week, which seems both fair and manageable to me. They came across like a nice, friendly bunch. I’ve not been in many guilds in my gaming life (this is number three) but I’ve always been lucky to pick friendly ones. My only complaint in the past has been the last of a cohesive narrative for the group to exist, something to hang the whole suspension of disbelief on. Yes it’s nice to chat in the guild channel about the game and the wider real world and that is invaluable, but it can’t (for me at least) be all there is. I think that in Crimson Ashes I’ve found something really special – a group with which to grow and share stories.

Roleplaying in Guild Wars 2: Humble Beginnings

It was, I have to say, a weird night in Tyria last night. I started in Divinity’s Reach at the bank where I had logged off the day before in order to sort, recycle, bank & sell the bag load of bumpf I had picked up from a couple of tours of Lion’s Arch. After that I toyed with the idea of TPing back to LA to start all over again but in the end opted for donning my town clothes (the second time I have ever done so since the game started), toggling the run speed to ‘walk’ and heading off to my home instance to see what was happening. Had I thought about it, I could have answered my own question with a big, fat “Nothing!” because the home instance only ever has one real person in it, you. Luckily I mis-remembered the name of the home instance and didn’t read the map carefully enough and headed over to Rurikton which, in hindsight, was a lovely piece of serendipity.

I walked through the old Ascalonian settlers’ quarter half suspecting this wasn’t my home instance and half determined to keep up my frustratingly slow walk through the town and into the next area (which, given the fact I was heading north, would have been Salma, my home instance). As I passed a large building I heard (and saw thanks to faint chat bubbles visible in the air and through walls) NPCs chatting away. They were coming from the large building, which turned out to be the Maiden’s Whisper pub, so I headed in and straight away found it was full of not just NPCs but also players. Standing around. In town clothes. I glanced down at my chat box and saw they were chatting in character and realised I’d blundered into an RP event! Again!

I didn’t recognise anyone from my previous encounter with RPers but what were the chances of that, eh? I tentatively began to RP with the Charr landlord (the pub seems to be open to all so I guess enterprising RPers just RP they own – I do wonder what would happen if two characters were there at the same time and both their RP stories claimed they owned it independently – what would an RP fight like that look like?). It was fun, I bought beer which didn’t exist with money I didn’t really give and talked to the Charr about how he kept a good brew. It was fun. Odd but fun. In a tabletop game it’s a given the beer & money wouldn’t exist but in a richly detailed 3D world I sort of expected they would. In Second Life the bar could give you scripted drink. In LOTRO I’d have to buy a drink and then use it. I *think* that’s the same in GW2 but I’m not sure. So I just stood there and typed /e takes a deep drink of the ale “That’s a good brew there, barkeep!” and the like*.

After a while I grew a little restless and wandered off. I headed to the Salma district and regretted 1.284 seconds after entering as I was remembered that I would be the only person there! What a waste! I have more to say on home areas and instances but that’s for another “World Building…” posts in the future. I turned around and left, heading back to Rurikton abut before I could get there real life interrupted and took me away from the game for an hour or so,

I logged back in after the kids were in bed and took up where I had left off. I walked back to where I thought the pub was but got hopelessly lost. I saw a couple of other non-armoured, non-running players and took them to be RPers but rather than stop them I pressed on. I became aware that the chat window was cycling over with player chats nearby but it was only after a few minutes I began to recognise names. Names I had last seen in the RP session outside Lion’s Arch by the Durmond Priory. Almost at the same time I realised this I received an in game mail which turned out to be from the RPer I’d spoken to during that event and who had promised to get back with details of an in-game, in-character interview – not only that but it was one of the players in the pub I was stood near to at that exact moment! Someone somewhere was leading me down a path and so who am I to refuse them?

I met up with the RPers in the pub, they were a different bunch from the ones earlier in the evening and I think they were all part of the same guild, Crimson Ashes. I was made very welcome and some faltering RP (faltering on my part I hasten to add) took place in which I was gently interviewed to see what kind of player I was. In the end I was invited to a second interview (tonight – must remember! 8pm! Set a reminder with Google Now!) and if I pass that I’ll end up in a RP guild on a probation period. I’m still really unsure what the players do – hopefully it’s more than RPing in pubs as I don’t think that will suit me. Ideally I’d like to run game story content & dungeons with them but in character as well as plan some interesting storylines we can act out in world, but as it stands right now it’s all a bit of a mystery. Still, so was RP in Second Life but I worked that out in the end 😀 I’ll keep you posted.

Roleplaying in the Maiden's Whisper pub (I'm the blue top).

Roleplaying in the Maiden’s Whisper pub (I’m the blue top).

*The /e means that what appears in the chat window starts with your character’s name so that line would appear as Jurak Gearwright takes a deep drink of the ale “That’s a good brew there, barkeep!” to everyone nearby. I’ve yet to figure out all the conventions of RP but this is a mainstay as far as I can tell. This appears to be a great resource site I have yet to mine for more guidance: http://guildwars2roleplay.wikispaces.com/Roleplay+Guide

 

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the camp…

As I’ve mentioned I’ve restarted my Guild Wars 2 game playing and although I’m enjoying it I’m still left with that weird, empty feeling afterwards. There are several reasons for this, not all of which I can adequately express despite several hours in the last few days of quite serious introspection. What it boils down to seems to be a feeling of disconnection from the game brought about by an unsatisfactory social play model and the inability of the game to tailor an experience for me to lose myself in. I feel it is only fair to say this is not unique to GW2 for me but so far all MMOs such as LOTRO, Star Trek and even Second Life have shared this exact same issue. I plan to write more on this but I’m still trying to organise my thoughts and feelings into a coherent body that I can lay out for inspection but before I do I just wanted to share with you an experience from last night that made my soul sing with the sweet possibility of a solution.

I logged into GW2 and rezzed where I had left off, in Lion’s Arch in the second phase of the invasion storyline. It’s fun but unless you are with a zerg you are screwed. The previous night I reached near the end and fought the Prime Hologram that is somewhere just before the final fight with Scarlet Briar but we (the zerg) fluffed it and poof! I was back on Terra Firma with no more clue of how I got there than I did of how I got into the hologram fight or what the bloody hell I was doing for 99% of it. I was, it’s fair to say, despondent. My time is limited and to find myself so close to the end, whether by accident or design, and then plopped right back at the start felt like a total waste of my evening. Worse, it made me want to give up on the content because I could see no hope of ever getting to the end of it again. I left Lion’s Arch and headed for the old refugee camps to see if I could trade in the guff I had uncovered from the city (in itself another sticky point as I was unable to get an achievement in time due to being a solo player and now I’m stuck with a permanent 80% record despite my best efforts – argh!) only to find the bloody vendors have now gone!

I was, as you can imagine, more than a little hacked off. What is the point in playing if I can’t take part in any but the most trivial of content? Why carry on at all if all I can ever hope to be is a dull foot soldier lobbing in grenades from the side-lines and never getting to the end of the battle? What, I wondered, was the point of playing the game at all?

It was at this point I noticed some players walking. In MMOs this is unheard of except for role-players. I stopped dead, realising I’d just run directly into one of them and our bodies were now clipped together. If this was an RPer then this is just the sort of thoughtless action that would piss them off and I quickly disengaged and backed off. Sure enough the group, which all sported the same guild tag, began to talk to each other. Out loud. Without using LOLZ. Jesus! they *were* RPers! I set my guy to walking speed, found a seat by the camp fire and sat right down to watch.

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The story began to unfold in front of me, each player using a mixture of IC & OOC chat to drive the tale on. After a while I began to join in and rather than getting a private message to butt out they actually let me join in. It was all very tentative, me wondering if I was going to fut my size nines in it and they no doubt wondering if I was about to take the piss or do something to ruin their carefully nurtured sense of immersion. Neither party was, I think I’m justified in saying, disappointed in the behaviour of the other – I tried my best to fit in and not be a cock whilst they certainly didn’t come over as elitist jerks and they were very welcoming. In fact so much so that I ended up asking if I could join their guild. I have no idea what came over me but I just decided that nothing ventured nothing gained – the logical outcome of me not asking would be the removal of the game from my machine in a few weeks so I asked. And they said yes! Well, a qualified yes. I will have to have an interview with them to see if I fit in, but that’s fair enough. If we both like each other then maybe this is the start of a new renaissance* on my gaming. Maybe, after all I have tried this before in SL but never found an RP community I really liked. Maybe in Tyria I will. I’m willing to try if they are 🙂

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Between the hooves and the boots…

There is a wonderfully de-forested plain in Guild Wars 2’s Kessex Hills where the Seraph and the Centaurs are locked in an ongoing tug-of-war struggle for dominance. As a player you get to beat off waves of invading Centaurs and should you fail then the Serpah are pushed back until they lose control of the area, a state that not only means travel there is more dangerous but the Seraph settlements have less to offer you in terms on vendors. The shot below is of Jurak (my main, a human engineer and at the time of typing this a proud Level 20) stood on the walls of the Seraph fort looking across to the Centaur encampment and I think you’ll agree it’s a bloody impressive looking place!
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Whilst I was there, the Centaurs had been beaten back and the Seraph patrolled the camp (camp seems too small – this was a fort really) and I was checking out the vendors that had entered the fort with the Seraph when a dynamic event kicked off that saw the Centaurs try and retake their fort en masse. Boy that was a fun fight but in the end the combined might of the Seraph and the players saw them off and all was once more calm. And that’s when I heard something that piqued my interest. An NPC shouted to her commander (another NPC) that she had salvaged enough supplies to build an arrow cart that could protect the nearby mine… Mine? Arrow cart? This, I thought, must be one of the cues that Arenanet had said we must look for at the end of an event that would herald in another event, and boy did it ever!

Now I seemed to have been the only one to notice the NPCs because a few moments later I was alone and escorting the soldier with the supplies along the road. Thankfully by the time the Centaurs attacked (as you knew they must) a few other players had joined me and we had a long series of fun raiding attacks to deal with until we got to the mine settlement at which point the soldier built a working arrow cart (I used it, it was working alright) and left for the fort. Again the players began to vanish but I stuck around. Something about this cart, this working cart, struck me as odd. No one would put a working cart here if it wasn’t supposed to be used, would they?

Hell no! Although there seemed to be no NPC signal this time, the event chain moved on again and the Centaurs now attacked the village & mine! I leapt on the arrow cart and fired away like it was grouse season but I seemed to be the only one who knew the cart was there & could be used and soon I was overrun by Centaurs and the cart destroyed. By now a sizeable group of players had been attracted by the fight and the village was in chaos! There were Centaurs everywhere and the whole place was going off like Blackpool Illuminations (google it). I fought like a demon but their numbers were too many and I went down! And then a lucky kill rallied me and I was back in the action! I jumped back in with renewed vigour until, at long last, the Centaurs were, for the third time in that event chain, driven back. Boots had triumphed over hoofs, for a little while at least. Ahhh, good times 😉

And people wonder why I love dynamic events so much 😀

Take that, you strangely sexy hoofy, horny lady with a tail, you… Boy, now I think about it, I could quite easily fancy a Centaur…
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