Archive for December, 2010

The Most Awesomest Evening

You want to know what one of the most depressing things is?  During High School and early College I fancied myself quite the poet, and about my early College experience I wrote: Loneliness is laughter a room away.

It’s quite melodramatic, I know, but my point is there’s nothing quite like knowing other people (especially your friends) are having fun without you to make you feel like crap.  Over the past months a lot of people in Relics have been knocking out vanquishes and racking up points in their Monument Halls.  I’ve very much wanted to come, but our times don’t mesh (at all) and I can’t afford the drop in performance at work that would come with staying up ’till all hours of the night to tear Snake Dance a new rear-end.

My experience was much the same last night.
“Oh hey, we’re going to go do this awesome fun thing.”
me: “Hey cool!”
“Oh, but it’s late, so you can’t come with.”
me: “Boo hoo!”

So I wallowed around for a little while and then remembered that Jim, with The Notorious [PIG], made me a build for my Mesmer that combines everything I like.  I don’t actually like making builds, but if you give me one I’ll tweak and play with it an have a lot of fun.  It’s an Illusionary Weaponry build that brings a pet along for extra fun.  As luck would have it I had (or had easy access to) every skill I needed except for You Move Like A Dwarf.

So I was hanging out in the PIG vent, listening to the tumbleweeds, when Mom logged on.  Now, she’s not my mom, I don’t even know the person whose mom she is, but that’s what everybody in PIG calls her and her phonetic is something like “Don’t make me spank you”.  Pretty intimidating.

But she was nice and said hi and when I told her I was off to hunt the NornBear she was game to come along.

We started out pretty well, then I realized that my fancy pants new IW Pet build didn’t have a pet!  Outside the Eye of the North I cast around for a friendly warm body and saw only polar bears.  I didn’t want a stinky polar bear!  What animals are available in Eye of the North?  Eagles!  I wanted an eagle, nothing else would do.  So we set off for Gunnar’s Hold and I’m keeping a weather eye out for eagles, frequently minimizing Guild Wars accidentally by holding Alt to look for eagles while hitting Tab to target an enemy to attack.  D’oh.  Thankfully Mom was patient with me.

Eventually we find one.  I squeal in glee and run up and start charming it.  My companion pipes up in vent, “Would you like to kill it or should I?”  I’m sure my resultant pule of dismay sounded positively heart-wrenching.  Either way, the eagle was feather-dust, and I still had no pet.  There were apologies all around and promises to stay far back when next I found another feathery target friend.

It wasn’t until we left Gunnar’s Hold that I found another.  I flagged the heroes back,  Mom lurked behind, and I began to charm.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the range of Charm Animal is REALLY FARKING FAR.  Koss decided I needed rescuing and before I could fumble my clumsy cursor to tell him “No!” my second eagle was a red smear on the snow.

Fine, fine fine.  That one was my fault.  I should’ve had my heroes on passive or put them farther away.  Chapter read, lesson learned.  Our third eagle we found soon after entering into Drakar Lake.  I squealed (again) in delight and went to tame him, but then a Wild NornBear appeared!  It used Charging Spirit.  It’s Super Effective!

Wait, what?  We mopped up the NornBear, killed some meddling centaurs, then I flagged my heroes back at the entrance to the zone and Mom joined them.  Then I charmed my eagle just like that and it was all rather anticlimactic.  Over the course of journeying to Sifhalla, defending the place, hooking up with another PIG member, Fend, then hooking up with yet another, Dave, I hemmed and hawed over what to name the thing.

At first I tried Hitchcock.  Because what’s more awesome than a bird named after the father of The Birds?  However, Arenanet wasn’t amused and wouldn’t allow the name on account of dirty words, intended or not.  I settled on naming him David, after Roland of Gilead’s pet bird when he was just a gunslinger in training.  I’ve been reading The Dark Tower.  It was David or Blane, because he was such a pain to get.  Blane is a pain but you have to take the train…..

Funny story though!  Not five minutes after my (now level 7) eagle was christened David, someone (I think it was Fend) asked me if I’d rather have a Jingle Moa instead.  Would I?  WOULD I!  Heck yes I’d like a Jingle Moa!  Where do I dump this stupid eagle?

What can I say, it’s tough being my animal companion.

So I dumped the eagle in a cardboard box at the trainer behind the Eye of the North and picked up a Jingle Moa quick as you please.  He didn’t even try to bite me while I was charming him, how’s that for a match made in heaven?

I wanted to name him Snowball’s Chance, but that’s far more than twelve characters and Snow’s Chance didn’t have the same feeling of the ludicrous.  Ultimately it was one of the PIG folks who christened him (I feel terrible for being incapable of remembering who).  We called him White Meat.  Apparently there’s someone running around with a black moa named Dark Meat.  Seeing as I have a long history of pink pets named Floyd, I felt the name fit perfectly. (I’m sure I’ll eventually get over associating the name ‘white meat’ with Detta Walker’s fowl mouth)

It was about this time, I think, that we lost Mom, but we continued on anyway.  We ran Dave’s character (One of many, apparently in PIG they don’t call someone ‘hardcore’ anymore, they use the term ‘davecore’) up to Sifhalla, defended the town, and then went hunting for NornBear /steaks/.  It was during these escapades that they told me about a quick-as-you-please pet leveling guide on the PIG forums.  They told me it should only take 20-30 minutes.  Perfect!

So eventually they had enough for the night and I had a pet to level anyway, so we said our goodbyes and I trotted off to the PIG forums to find what I needed.  The guide involves bringing three heroes with specific skills.  One of them was Well of Power.  I didn’t have Well of Power, nor did I feel like romping off into the great beyond to capture it.  I know! I’ll buy it with Balthazar faction!

I only had 800 faction points.  @#*$!

I’m not sure what possessed me, thinking that PvP would be a quick and easy way to get some faction.  More often than not, it isn’t.  But Lyssa’s blessing was with me last night and luck walked at my side.  I hopped over to my monk, threw on my Random Arenas build and ran off to kick some ass.

Our first group was lucky.  There was myself, a monk, with another monk, a dervish, and something else.  I say something else because for some reason he was offended by having two monks in his /random/ party and left after we won our first game.  More’s the loss for him.

In our next battle an assassin joined us.  From then on we were unstoppable.

The other monk’s build was very similar to mine, but different enough that we complemented each other quite well.  The dervish and the assassin were wicked damage dealers, able even to take down the monks in the couple two-monk teams we found ourselves faced against.  Most battles were flawless victories, about half saw our opponents giving up immediately.  Some even cursed us.  That one I didn’t understand.  It’s a random group, we weren’t in the same guild, and we definitely weren’t trying to synch.  We just got lucky.  I didn’t let the cursing bother me, however.  After all, we were winning.

One game was particularly entertaining.  One person left off the bat, two we killed easily, and the last, a warrior with Sprint decided to go jogging.  He ran us around the map for the full time of the match.  It was ridiculous, but not infuriating.  My team took it pretty well and we laughed it off easily.

The groups we had the most troubles with featured mesmers, most often more than one.  The other monk and I began coordinating our casts of Spotless Mind and after a few instances of simultaneous pinging (which always made me laugh) we found our groove and powered through.

I’m sure we could have kept on winning all night, but Random Arena consecutive victories cap out at 25 and as soon as we won our 25th match there was much back-thumping and congratulations all around.  Once back in Balthy’s place I checked my Faction.  I had over 6,000, plenty enough to purchase Well of Power.

As my husband hustled me off to bed (I was 30 minutes past my bed-time) I shared a variation of a popular Chuck Norris joke on twitter:

Two monks, an assassin, and a dervish walk into Random Arenas….. There were no survivors.

Oh The Irony!

So the other day I received a curious e-mail.

Gwen Thackeray is now following you on twitter.

Now my first impression was “How cool is this? Some enterprising soul over at ArenaNet (I hope) has created a twitter account for our favorite fickle heroine!”  As soon as I got home I promptly follwed her and eagerly awaited whatever she had to say.

But then I got to thinking.  Why would Gwen want to follow, of all people, me?  I’m on record as being, not only a charr sympathizer, but an outright traitor to Ascalon!  Never mind that Morgan Ascot has fought and died (repeatedly) in the defense of that noble land.  Given the first opportunity I promptly defected.

In her new life, could dear Gwen be growing soft?  Even Ember Doomforge called her ‘Gwen the Goremonger’.  Or is it that she’s just become more canny?  I’m a female, and a charr enthusiast.  In Gwen’s time female charr are less than second-rate citizens.  They are denied their birthrights, banned from the fahrar, relegated to menial duties.

Perhaps our dear Gwen is realising the truth in the age-old saying: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

I’m glad to swap tweets with you Mrs. Thackeray, may the ladies stand tall!

Crazy Lady With A Knife

Chick is trying to kill me!

Now I have, in the past, made some bad choices in friends.  But those past slights, now dulled by the wash of time and seen through the lens of experience (no pun intended), don’t send me into quite the frothing fury that this little lady is capable of.

Long-time readers may remember that I can take a long ass time to do things.  I remember Hunter being taken aback when I whined at him for revealing War in Kryta spoilers two, maybe three months after the content was released.

This time, though, my slow progress through Hearts of the North isn’t due to my own gaming sloth.  I lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of that lithe little she-devil whose brain is too full of shadow-step dust to follow anything remotely resembling a proper command.

I am BAD at Rangers.  Just plain bad, terribly awfully bad.  I’m also bad at watching my health and energy when it’s not my job to heal or protect people.

The one thing I’m pretty good at, is keeping a called target.  Unfortunately, Crazy-Face Miku doesn’t follow targets.  She does call targets, but that just gives me five extra steps I have to follow to coordinate with her.

REALLY?! You're going to tag THAT?

Miku: I’m casting Promise of Death on White Mantle Enforcer.

Me: Am I targeting an Enforcer? No? Alt-click to show the enemy names.  Oops it was control.  Hold control to show the enemy names. There’s the Enforcer, click on it, oops I clicked the Abbot instead.  Tab-tab-tab, Missed it, wait, there’s two Enforcers.  I pick one, fire off Kerian’s Sniper Shot.  Nothing happens.  I either missed, took too long, or that wasn’t the Enforcer I was looking for.

Miku: I’m casting Promise of Death on Elder White Tiger.

Me: Wat?!  Why can’t you just follow my called target? That Champion is REZZING people.

Miku: Alas for I have died!

Me: Well crap, here they come, what’s my health look like?  Oooh man I’m down to 25% and Nature’s Blessing isn’t up yet.  I couldn’t put it on my quick-button key because it’ll be over-written when I’m gifted that new skill at the end of the mission.

Away from the dialogue for a second, that actually happened.  It was the farthest I had ever gotten and it popped up a new skill for me in position 7.  Problem was, I had moved the heal skill into position 7 because I have that slot bound to a mouse button for ease of use.  Did the new skill sit itself down in the now vacant slot 6? No, it used slot 7, and deleted my heal skill.

Needless to say that attempt at the mission failed.

Now, this post has been a whole lot of whining on my part.  I don’t want you to think that I hate these missions.  On the contrary, it’s nice to be able to run out by yourself and do something.  I have no problems with the format, just the implementation.  With a few small changes these missions could be made much less aggravating for Ranger-stupid folks like myself.

Called Targets:
If I call a target, Miku should pay attention.  She should focus on that target too.
Conversely, if Miku decides to take it into her head to disobey my orders (domestic dominance themes aside) I wish that she would at least put the handy little called target icon next to her name.  If she had that, then when she /does/ decide that Elder Tiger just needs to die (personally I think it’s an unrequited vendetta against myself), at least I’ll be able to click on one icon to switch my target, take out the damn tiger, and get back to business.

Skill Arrangement:
I honestly think this might be a legitimate coding bug.  I’m not very good at memorizing different builds so that, when panicked, I click on the proper buttons.  To combat this I set up all my characters in the same way.  I put the same types of skills in the same places.  Frequently-used attack skills are on 1-4, an occasional attack skill goes on button 5, but normally that one’s for energy management.  Constantly-on, or very rarely used skills go in position 8 and position 6 is normally used for high-energy, occasional skills, often used in conjunction with my energy management skill.  Position 7 is my sweet spot.  It’s for a utility skill that must be ready at a moment’s notice, but that may not get used very often. On my Monk it’s condition removal, on my Dervish it’s an interrupt, on my Mesmer it’s actually my energy skill because position 5 is reserved for a passive interrupt (as opposed to the active one in position 4).

So when presented with Thackeray’s build my first impulse was to re-arrange everything.  That got old fast, so I limited myself to moving skill 6 into slot 7 and spamming the crap out of my mouse button.  This worked pretty well until I was granted a new skill which over-wrote the damn thing!  Every other time in Guild Wars when you’re gifted a new skill it slots itself into the first empty spot, or if there aren’t any it pops up a replacement menu.

This doesn’t happen in Hearts of the North.  It’s a straight overwrite.  You’ve been warned.

If those two things were fixed I think these missions would be immensely less frustrating.  Most nights this week I’ve given the mission a go for 3-4 attempts before I became fed up and moved on to something else.  I’ve got half a mind to do a live twitter session once so everyone can see.  See how terrible I am at this and maybe, just maybe, be there when I finally succeed.

Because don’t get me wrong, I’ll beat this thing, it’s just… taking a while.

Protting, Good For The Laggards

I don’t heal anymore.  I just don’t.  I can do it if pressed, but it’s a job I’d much rather foist on an unsuspecting hero.  However, I still haven’t completely lost my lust for support (my antics as a carnage-crazed sword-wielding Mesmer maniac to the contrary).

And that’s where Protection comes in.

Protection and Healing go hand in hand.  As a Protection Monk, it’s my job to make the healer’s job easier.  In essence, I’m supporting the support.  I can’t even operate on my own.  In a pinch, a healer can run her energy dry by propping up the crumbling tower that is her teammates, but as Prot I have no recourse to recover my team from heavy damage.  I can soften the blows, mitigate the damage, even take pressure off the healer by strategic use of Heavan’s Delight and Divine Healing, but once that large hurt has happened, to one target, I’m not very useful.

Why, oh why, then, would I want to play like this?  One word: Lag, both biological and electrical.

My reaction times have never been my strongest feature.  When I used to heal I always felt frantic, like I was bailing a leaky boat and always trying to catch up.  Protection isn’t at all like that.  Let’s take a look at basic play styles.

Healing

Reactive.  You must watch your party’s health bars and refill them when they drop.  Sometimes you use delayed heals and heal over time skills to anticipate damage.  You need to make sure you stay well back because you squish easily and, as a result, it’s easy to be out-run by the front line.

Protection

Proactive.  You must watch your party’s health bars a little, mostly for conditions or hexes.  You must watch the mini-map for applying skills like Aegis and your weak group heals.  To ensure everyone benefits from area-of-effect protections, you must often be in the mid-line.  You are more vulnerable than an elementalist, but not so vulnerable as an assassin.  You also have protection skills to make yourself a little more difficult to squish.

It’s where my attention ends up being focused and my activity level that marks the greatest difference for me as a Protection Monk.  As a prot, I’m watching the mini-map far more often than actual health bars.  Three of my skills are area of effect, two are direct-target ports, one is condition removal (If you’re hexed you’re SoL with me), one is energy management, and one is Unyielding Aura.  That’s half my active skills being area of effect, three-fifths if you discount the condition removal (which has a decent heal attached which is, incidentally, the best way for me to prop up a fading melee by way of extra Divine Favor heals).

Because I’m so hyper-aware of where I am in relation to my whole group, I’m almost never left behind.  When we encounter monsters I’m immediately casting Glyph of Lesser Energy and leading straight into Aegis, followed by a Protective Spirit on whoever I think is going to be getting it in the face (Assassin) then it’s just a matter of rolling around protections, meting out condition removal, and topping up the group as a whole with Heavan’s Delight and Divine Healing.

Very little of what I do is time sensitive.  As long as I’m keeping up a steady rhythm, if I don’t get a protection out right this instant, my party isn’t going to instantly die.  As opposed to if I were healing and someone took a big hit I would then need to immediately heal them or they’ll be eating dust.  As a prot if I ever let it get to that point I’ve already lost.

Which is why protection is particularly good for when I’m lagging.  Even if everyone on screen is skipping about like epileptic humming birds, I can still sit myself down in the middle of everything and steadily toss out protections.  I can be useful without compromising my group, and it feels fantastic.

The other night I did a bunch of disparate runs with Hamstorm Nation [PIG]   .  They hooked me up with a baby black moa in record time, showered me with brotherhood cloths, and even hauled me through a dungeon.  I think it all took only 3 hours.  I got to do a little bit of smiting but, towards the end, I gravitated back to my familiar role of letting the Assassin die Protection.  Those folks are a blast.