[IRL] Kobo Lives!

The other day I was rushing to get the kids out to their daycare. I made my lunch stuffed my Kobo Reader into the lunch bag (it has a nice pocket for that) then put the bag on the kitchen table. I rush the kids, keep them moving, get them out the door with snowpants, school bags, hats, gloves, neck warmers, and clear off the car. Drop them off at the sitter’s place then drive off to work. After a little struggle through traffic, I get to work, reach over to the passenger side to get my lunch bag… it’s not there.

Crap.

No big deal, I’ll just buy a lunch.

I get home later that evening (later than usually – I’m working a little late to deliver an ‘automated build delivery system’) and find my lunch bag in the fridge. Good thinking on TheWife’s part – preserve my lunch for the next day. I check the pocket and there is my Kobo Reader, nice and cold… and fresh.

It still worked too.

I love my Kobo.

[GW2] Typical SmakenDahed Fashion…

In typical ‘me’ fashion, I pick at a game trying to find out why I keep stalling then end up spending the next day playing it lots.

I settled on the Charr for a race. I liked the personal story and militant nature of them. This time I went Ash Legion instead of Blood Legion so there was a different start.

I went Ranger for class. I figure I liked having a pet in WoW, might enjoy it in GW2. So far I do like it, it is quite different from WoW.

You don’t have as much control over your pet – call back, attack my target, toggle aggressive/passive and trigger a single special ability. In WoW you could set up macros to handle casting a varied number of abilities (not sure how much that was impacted by Mists of Pandaria, but I suspect it was) so you had a little more control over them. I also haven’t sorted out exactly how it works for taming a pet. It seems a simple choice to “Charm” when you stumble across something that can be tamed. I see a panel of pets I could have charmed and what seems to be two actively available which I can toggle between with F4 – which is nice. Some pets are not available under water (makes sense) so you automatically dismiss the non-water pet and pull out the water capable one. It’s possible (and likely) the pet management window has two spots for land and two for water – I didn’t really look closely at this and it wasn’t shoved in my face since I have the tutorial tips off.

I have three pets at the moment: Devourer, Hyena and Bear. The Devourer (scorpion looking thing) is amphibious so that is what pops out when I go into the water. Its special ability is to drop a poison cloud effect on the ground (looks like it can be used in combos too). The Hyena’s special ability is to spawn a duplicate/ally that I have no control over and it seems to roam about agroing stuff when what I’m fighting was dead. The Bear has a roar special ability which (I think) is a debuff.

I think I found an issue with the pet naming system. I named the Devourer something, loaded up the Hyena in the second slot and renamed that. Then swapped the Bear into the first slot (in place of the Devourer) and the Devourer’s name stuck to it. I could rename it, just weird that it didn’t refresh back to the other name (or Juvenile Black Bear).

The are Abilities you can pick up that impact the pet; buff it, make it go faster, attack harder, or even eat conditions that are affecting nearby allies. I avoided those for now since I have a limited number of slots available.

Your Heal Abilities all affect you and your pet, with the exception being the Healing Spring which is a ground targeted AE and your pet will likely run out of range of it to fight with enemies (you can call them back and the mob should follow or you can wait and drop it where the mob is fighting).

The other Abilities appear to be traps (mainly) which are actually not bad. Some you plant where you are and other you can toss a short range out. I haven’t gotten too far into these to really see what they’re like. One non-trap, non-pet ability I picked up was a passive benefit to move speed of 25%… so says the Ability tip. The actual buff tip says 10% which seems pretty insignificant but I guess 25% increase was too much. The ‘active’ effect makes your pet attack a little harder.

I’ve got him up to level 14 or so.

As can be expected, pet classes seem a little more durable in PVE than others. With my Bear out, I can easily take on the Veterans, sometimes swapping the Hyena out, spawning an ally, then swapping back to the Bear (there is a cooldown on the swapping). If one happens to die, one key stroke and I have the other one out. It’s kinda nice. I hope I can expand the number of pets in that cycle but I think it’s going to stick to two.

After a few guild invites, I decided to see what was involved in creating a guild.

One lone silver piece. That’s all it took. So I created Clawed Defense Caste or CDC. Yes, that was intentional… it is me we’re talking about.

Seems the guild mechanism is interesting. It’s fueled by Influence which is gained by a number of ways (dungeons, PVP, quests – I think) including selling out some coin for amounts. I shelled out enough to buy the first level of Politics. That took 16 hours to complete – it just sits in a queue baking (mmm… bacon). So I hopped on last night for a couple of minutes to queue up the Emblem item which required the Politics first rank. That will enable me to create a guild emblem – which I just did. Go me. I queued up the only other thing I could, which was a banner to get me some Karma bonus.

Thing about banners (and why I mentioned ‘fueled by influence’ above) is that they are one shot – I think – some sort of limitation applies. I’m not sure if it’s consumed on use or if it is ‘carried’ by someone. I’ll find that out tomorrow at some point.

It doesn’t seem like guilds level at all, short of advancing in one of the four trees; Politics, Economy, War and Architecture. Scaling up in these open up other benefits and banners or effects. Architecture seems to open up Vault options for the guild. Politics seems to revolve around Influence, Karma and displaying Guild colors. Economy looks to be focused on increasing crafting related things. War focuses on rewards or impacts in PVP – duh.

Not a bad system really.

That’s all I have for now…

[GW2] Breaking Through my Wall

I’ve got an odd wall blocking me in GW2 and I can’t determine what exactly is causing it so I’m going to do what I normal do and just blather about it… and make all my readers suffer through it.

Where do I stall?

Mid-20s though my highest is mid-30s.

I admit, I floundered a lot trying to find a class I would like. I managed to get three to The Wall (my creation, not something specific to the game).

The first was a Norn Guardian, my highest, who I managed to get to level 35. I completed her personal story which was amusing and I appear to be getting into the next portion of the actual game story. By this point, I’ve unlocked all the weapon abilities (most people will have done this long ago), I’ve grabbed a bunch of talent abilities (including a 10 point one), I’ve explored (100%) several of the lower zones for Norns and I’m into the Human/Scar areas. I’ve done numerous events and heart quest areas, done vistas, skill changes, gathering and crafting to a comparable level of my toon and now I have little interest in continuing.

Problems that I can see?

I look a lot like I did when I first started playing. My armor has a scale look instead of a chain look. It’s rather boring and it hasn’t changed much in 30 odd levels. The evolution from chain to scale is minor, slow and sorta blah. Dyes only do so much. My weapons haven’t changed in appearance much either, though they are growing in power and strength, they’re nothing to get attached to.

Skills are also not changing. Once you unlock the weapon skills (which can be done really early) you’re pretty much continuing to use them through all the 80 levels. Yes, you can swap weapon sets giving you different abilities in the fight, they really aren’t all that different. They don’t change over the levels. I think I find this somewhat boring and doesn’t encourage me to continue.

With regard to the talent points you spend on abilities (Skills); certain ones seem to be of more value than others and I find myself using them over others. Obviously, some favor PVP and others PVE but once you’ve unlocked them, they are available for choice. I do like that there is a limitation, you can only have a certain number available at a time, it encourages choice… I like that. I don’t like that there really isn’t a lot to choose from. These abilities typically have lengthy cooldowns depending on what they do and how powerful they are. Again, I find a limited number interesting enough to pick and the others are just filler to gain access to the next tier of abilities. I think this is the core of my issue with continuing – I feel I have all the progression I need and won’t gain any more short of unsexy numeric gains (more health).

The other points you get are for traits which give you unsexy gains (numeric gains) with waypoints at (5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30) that grant you extra effectiveness in line with the stat you are increasing. At the 10, 20, and 30 point you get to pick from a set which typically augments one of the Skills you pick up. It’s a nice system with a lot of choice available, a reasonable amount of complexity (lacking in other games) and synergies built in to encourage certain builds. The sort of thing I miss from other games (like WoW)… still, it doesn’t have any draw to me.

Dungeons – at level 30 I have yet to do a dungeon. I think I’ve stumbled on to only one so far. I hear it is probably a good thing I haven’t done a dungeon yet. Apparently they are a little lacking in reward and challenge – but that is hearsay. The fact that I don’t have an easy means of trying one out and that I’ve only seen one in 30 levels of play, leads me to believe that dungeons aren’t an important aspect of Guild Wars 2… which could be reasonable given it’s PVP focus. I think this is another pain point for me, I generally enjoy dungeons.

Lack of quests is an intentional design. They wanted things to be more dynamic, but what that really means is if you miss the event, you miss the quest. If you know where the event goes, you could try to find it and help out but if you don’t, then you can either move on or wait for it to start up again. That is assuming you even know one occurs there, if you don’t, you may wander by without even encountering it. They do have NPCs that will randomly run up to do you and tell you there are events happening near by and you might see an indicator on the map. I’m not really sure this is a better system than having quest hubs… it does feel more natural if you encounter it, but if you don’t, you miss out.

I come from a background of EverQuest where you had to run around and hail people, use keywords to get quest information and you didn’t have a quest log to track progress, you had to do that yourself. I say this so people reading this know I’m not a WoWbie where everything is handed to you.

I don’t like this dynamic event system. I can’t put my finger on why – the chance of missing something? The animatronic nature of it? If ever there was a ‘theme park’ mechanic, having rides that you hop onto and they run every few minutes seems to describe it better.

Lack of resources is another thing I don’t like. Character classes don’t exactly have resources limiting them – this is untrue for all cases, I realize this – instead they have cooldowns limiting the use of abilities. I don’t think I like this system as much as managing my resources. It comes down to managing cooldowns instead. Now I mention that it is untrue for all classes, examples of this are the Warrior who can build up Adrenalin then burn it in a powerful attack or Thieves who do have a limited resource they build up and consume, but ultimately, there is no limiting resource on something like an Elementalist short of cooldowns. Ultimately, this feels more like whack-a-mole than any real set pattern (again, some classes may be exceptions, like the Thief). There is a way around some of this, such as swapping weapon sets (which is encouraged by many classes gaining temporary boosts by swapping weapons) or changing elements (in the case of an Elementalist). Some pattern play can arise from this, but I find it less different.

I’ll take my Elementalist as an example. Regardless of what weapons I’m using (Elementalists don’t have the ability to swap weapon sets like other classes, instead they swap elements; Fire, Air, Water and Earth), each of the elements perform similar actions or results with the exception of Water which typically has a healing ability tied to it. So if I’m wielding a staff, my 1-5 abilities typically follow the same pattern between the elements. Button 1 is an AOE on the target, 2 is a cast timed DD (sometimes AOE), 3 is usually some sort of AOE sometimes with a slowing effect, 4 is almost always a movement ability while 5 is a targeted, channeled AOE. It doesn’t matter which element I’m in, the pattern remains (exception being Water, which typically has a heal effect added). The elements differ in the special effects (bleed, burn, heal, etc.) added, combinations opened (a lot of the placed AOE abilities can be used by other classes for additional effect) and appearance. The Elementalist can get around some of the cooldowns by switching elements, so if you’re not switching, you’re doing it wrong.

There are a lot of really neat ideas and systems in Guild Wars 2 which should appeal to me greatly (I love systems) but for some reason it doesn’t. I have no motivation to advance to the cap or continue playing once I’ve gotten far enough to see how a class plays and gain most of the abilities that interest me.

I have played the Guardian to 34, Elementalist and Warrior to mid-20s. I’ve played the Thief, Hunter and Necromancer into the teens. Nothing really sticks.

What motivates you to keep playing?

Anything I say stand out?

Is it the sum of all the little things that makes the game not last for me?

 

[PC] 2 Games2 Down

Over the last little while I managed to complete Torchlight 2 and, more recently, Borderlands 2.

I definitely enjoyed Torchlight 2 more than I did the first which seemed more and more about delving down deeper and deeper (mostly), kill quests on those levels and the odd side dungeon. TL2 has more of a linear horizontal story, taking you outside with dips into dungeons as part of the story or as side quests. Much better than just the single town as a hub if you prefer a little more exploration.

I liked the randomness of the levels more than I did with Diablo 3 (which had better graphics). There outdoors seemed to be somewhat randomly generated. I didn’t replay too many of the levels to get a feel for how they do it (and I didn’t look it up) but it seems different enough from when I played alone or with the boys.

I also preferred the leveling/character growth options in TL2 over D3. I found the D3 abilities sort of lacking choice and customization – a direction that seems to be common for Blizzard now. I like the choices and ability to pick between trees or combine them. I like choice. I’ll stop there before I go off on a tangent.

Steam reports I spent about 23 hours on the game – this includes some time dabbling with the different classes and playing with the boys who didn’t really take to the game as much as some other games.

Borderlands 2 was completed just the other day. I started playing as Salvador with the boys (LBO was playing Axton while LLO was playing Zero) but we didn’t get too far before LBO took off playing Axton while I wasn’t around, vastly passing me in levels making playing together difficult – he was hosting on my old (but awesome) machine so enemies scaled to his level and his missions progression was much farther along.

I took to playing single player and decided to try Maya out. I got farther along with Maya, enjoying her ability more than Salavdor’s. I got her up to mid-20s when the LBO needed some help with the Bunker mission so I helped him out – even being several levels too low, Maya’s ability to do some crowd control helped out. I also had her spec’ed to do acid damage when shooting targets and explode with fire damage centered on the target she CCed – both of those were vastly beneficial against Hyperion loaders and the bunker itself.

I then proceeded to help him in the Angel Core.

Downside of that was it updated my quest log and appeared to cause me to lose some quests since I wasn’t far enough along to actually do the Bunker mission. Very strange and that caused me to stall on continuing. I popped on to help LLO with Bunker and the Angel Core then later loaded up LBO’s Axton to help LLO with the Warrior. He had was loaded into LBO’s game when LBO beat the game and so he got credit which meant he wasn’t going to face Jack and the Warrior, just the Warrior. He was really disappointed with this because only one Jack face head mod dropped and he missed out on it.

So multiplayer doesn’t quite separate single player progression. I suggest keeping a character for single player if you’re a completionist and don’t want to miss out on anything.

With Maya’s quest log in a messed up state (some quests were categorized under ‘blocked’) I decided to reroll as Zero. I started going down the Sniper tree but decided it was too similar to how I was playing Mordecai in the first Borderlands so I decided to try out the melee (Bloodshed) spec.

Damn… once you hit the top of the tree it becomes a wrecking machine. If you kill a target with melee, deception triggers again, pops out a decoy again (only one up at a time) and resets the timer. In combination with Execute (lunging towards the target in your crosshair, doing lots of damage) it works well for disabling a whole squad of enemies. For the tougher ones, you can soften them up with a grenade then zip through, assassinating them one by one.

Fun.

Downside?

The Warrior isn’t really an encounter that doesn’t really suit melee very well. I beat the stuffing out of Jack though.

For the last few parts of the game, the boys hopped on and helped me out. First the LBO showed up with Salvador (well suited to him – he tears around the maps in a frenzy shooting everything) and later the LBO popped on with his Axton (I respec’ed him to have a Longbow, Nuke turret which was impressive). Amazingly, LBO showed a lot of patience and didn’t do much more than bail me out if I was in a downed state since he was already into the second playthrough (which means he was level 40 something, 10 levels higher than I was, and geared up with far better gear).

It was definitely a lot of fun, especially playing with the both the boys. We decided we would use the skin customization for “Bandits” and be the “Bandit Clan”… okay, they decided that, I wanted to use the Hyperion skins for an extra F U to Handsome Jack but got out voted.

Again, another game with a talent tree allowing you to focus or adjust how your play your character to emphasize on different aspects or generalize.

I won’t go on a rant about how WoW’s simplification of this is a bad thing for players – really only a good thing for developers. Devs have it easier to balance the game since they don’t need to worry about predicting hybrid specs; yes, they did away with a portion of this by forcing you down one tree… now they’ve taken trees away entirely.

Sad panda. (see what I did there?)

The game itself is pretty much like the first one, only a little more story driven. The same twisted humor exists in the game, be it quests, introduction of bosses or NPCs you interact with (Tina is a nutter and Elle is … well… jeez.).

I like what they hinted at with the end of the game – a map of various systems containing vaults. Oh, that was a spoiler, by the way.

At first I wasn’t too keen on the change to the customization system – you basically find or are rewarded with skin or head customizations which are preset. After some time, the collector in me started to enjoy it and I suspect I spent a lot of time running from vending machine to vending machine to collect all the different company based skins (Dahl Elite, Maliwan, Torgue, etc.).

The multiplayer setup was much easier than the previous version. It ties right into Steam Friends or XBox friends (if you’re playing the XBox version) and lets you see (and join) friends when they’re playing. There are settings to make the game private though, so if you don’t want to be disturbed, you don’t need to be.

Steam says I’ve spent 95 hours playing Borderlands 2. Wow! That’s not to say one play through takes that long, it’s a combination of my playing Salvador, Maya and Zero through a lot of the content.

Fun game.

[BOOKS] More Reading

Long time no post so lots of catching up to do in this area… and I’m no book critic by any measure, so the reviews will be short and sweet.

Finished up The Mistborn series – which was pretty good; easy to read, not hard to follow and edited well as opposed to something like The Hunger Games which I found the tense and point of view shifting so much that it was jarring or The Waste Lands which had several odd grammar issue which I suspect came from e-publishing (extra periods, misused words, etc.). Light reading, not a whole lot of depth but definitely a different and interesting take on magic. I enjoyed it and may take a look at the follow up series which is supposed to take place much later in time.

Read The Gunslinger by Stephen King. It was an interesting read, much like his other books (or movies) he grounds things in the real, twists it a little so it is surreal and strange but strikes a chord deep down inside because it is still familiar. Not scary, but creepy for sure. A lot of flashbacks and foreshadowing. In the foreword Stephen King notes that it was the revised version where he changed things around so that there was a more of a point to the story where previously he admitted he had no idea what he was planning to do with it.

Read Frozen Heat by Richard Castle (nom de plume). It was entertaining much like the TV show, but I was a little disappointed by the ending which I won’t go into other than to say it left things a little unresolved. Yes, that deviates from show which typically is wrapped up in the one or two episodes (exception being X2K killer). It also left me with a very blunt, “buy the next book for the rest” type of feeling which I wasn’t too keen on. I’m guessing the resolution of Nikki Heat’s murder case carried more weight in my mind due to the ties to the show that I was just expecting a whole lot more from it. There was decidedly less repetition from the TV show in the books as there was in the previous ones and there were returning characters that continue the story line. Entertaining, well written, enjoyable, new and fun.

Back to The Dark Tower series with The Drawing of the Three which I’m enjoying more than I did The Gunslinger. Right up until Odetta Walker was introduced. Odetta Walker parts are difficult to read, I’ve never cringed while reading a book before – there are just some pretty harsh things around it. Things I don’t typically read. Once I got through it, it got better. Unfortunately that runs from about a third of the way into the book to the end. The end was predictable and I saw what was coming with Jack Mort as well as all the questions it raises (and which appear in the next book).

Once again I took a little break from The Dark Tower series and hopped into The Summoner (Book One of the Chronicles of the Necromancer) by Gail Z. Martin. This is more of a traditional fantasy telling with a decent start and foundation. It reminds me a lot of David Eddings’ Belgariad series though not for the story, just for the character growth which is simple but expected.  It starts with a young noble, second of three and some minor antics with his friends turning into something more when they witness the murder of the King at the hand of the eldest son (half-brother to the main character). They discover the youngest (sister) and mother were also killed and decide to flee to a relative’s kingdom in hopes of raising an army against the evil eldest brother (it’s always the older brothers isn’t it?). In some ways it reminds me a little of Fable III (the game).

Aside from the main character (Tristam a.k.a. Tris), the other characters are fairly shallow, playing supporting roles short of (what I suspect) the main character’s future bride (Kiara) who seems like a Paladin of sorts and the guide (Vahanian) who shows personality. Admittedly the bard (Carroway) shows some likable qualities, but ends up more of a side note than major player in the first book.

I have to admit, there is a lot that happens in the first book and I enjoyed it despite my hesitation to get back into reading fantasy style books.

Next up was The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks. I had previously enjoyed his Night Angel trilogy (though I found the conclusion to that series a little rushed) and took a hesitant step to reading The Dark Prism but enjoyed the depth of characters (including the villains), the underlying secret and what stems from that. The different spin on magic was also an interesting change so I was excited to see this book available. The story continues with the Prism losing access to the Blue spectrum and further advancement of his son/nephew Kip, some of the politics around that, the Prism’s father and scheming of the Color Prince. Very enjoyable, well edited and a solid read even if he delves a little into romantic drama. I’m eagerly awaiting the next story.

Back to the Dark Tower series with The Waste Lands by Stephen King. It continues being gritty and focuses on the paradox of (SPOILER!) his letting Jake die in the Gunslinger book, then killing Jack Mort before Jack Mort pushes Jake in front of the car. Because Mort does not kill Jake, Jake never meets Rolland and Rolland never needs to decide to let Jake fall to his death. Only Rolland is aware of Jake and remembers  both happenings which is driving him slowly insane. On the other side of curtain, Jake remembers and expects to die. He remembers Rolland and their adventure together and Rolland deciding to let him go, choosing the pursuit of the Dark Tower over Jake’s life. He is also unraveling. There are more intricacies to it but that is it in a nutshell. Eventually Eddie helps Jake come back over to the old world and the group moves along on Rolland’s quest to find the Dark Tower.

I’m still reading it, I think I’m about half way through it. It remains interesting, detailed, well written though this edition (epub) appears to have several minor grammatical errors; misplaced periods and the odd misused word (things a software spell checker would not catch but a human editor would). I do wonder if it is intentional but there doesn’t appear to be a need for emphasis or pacing where they happen. Either way, it is more of a dip into the grotesque (the bear), the horrific (the haunted house/gate guardian) and eerie (old people scare me).

One prediction I have to make is around Susannah and Eddie coupling and Susannah’s handling of the ‘gate guardian’… something’s brewing.

That’s where I am now, they’re working their way into a city, having just left the town of old people.