I’m doing it again! I need help…or do I?

First of all, our vacation was very nice and relaxing, so sorry but not really for the long pause since my last post.

Anyway, on to today’s topic. What is it, exactly, that I’m doing again? Having brand new content for my current main games at my disposal and not actually playing any of it, that’s what.

Warframe’s latest expansion, Heart of Deimos, launched just over a month ago. It includes a new open world zone (albeit a smaller one compared to the first two), so in theory it’s right up my alley and I’ve been looking forward to it quite a lot, and yet I haven’t returned there since I finished the few story quests that came with it. Then there’s ArcheAge’s Garden of the Gods update, which was released in fricking June, and I haven’t so much as gone near that new region either.

Looking back upon my history with MMOs I’ve realized that I’ve almost always done this.

For example, when Everquest II’s Rise of Kunark expansion launched in November 2007 I continued to do whatever I was doing at the time for another month or so, despite my main already being at the previous level cap and ready for the new content. This ultimately led to a mad scramble on my part trying to catch up with my guildmates later on, which turned out to be quite stressful.

It’s definitely not a conscious decision I make every time, it just kinda happens. But why? How come I always put off playing new content for a while before finally plunging in?

For one, I’m an extreme creature of habit. Being in familiar surroundings and doing familiar things just makes me feel comfortable. On the other hand however, given how much I like to explore and go on adventures, this surely can’t be the main, let alone only reason.

Another, more important one is that I always dread the redundancy of old content, old gear etc. that often comes alongside the release of new MMO expansions. You made me work for that stuff and learn the zones inside and out, and now you expect me to throw it all away and move on like it all never happened? I really don’t like it, and I think by not leaping at new content right away I’m kind of trying to delay the inevitable in such cases.

Then there’s the question of whether the new content is actually any good. I mean, it might be crap, right? If I just don’t go and see I’ll never know and consequently not be disappointed. It’s silly, I know, because even if it turns out to be crap I can still just go back to the old stuff. Regardless, I think this is also something that plays into this on an unconscious level.

Of course there are other, more rational and tangible reasons for not playing new content right away too.

Bugs and design flaws, for one. Using Warframe as an example, every largish update is followed by at least half a dozen hotfixes over the course of two weeks or so. It’s usually not exactly unplayable without those, but I’ve found the overall experience to improve by waiting for a bit.

Apparently a great many players aren’t fazed by any of the above at all, and as soon as new content for their favourite game is released it’s swarmed by the hungry masses. Some might like that buzz, but personally I’ve never been terribly fond of having to stand in line for quest mobs to spawn and stuff like that, so keeping some distance by waiting until the bulk of the playerbase has moved on suits me just fine.

Last but not least, having new content still ahead of me means always having something to look forward to. Once I get bored of the things I’m doing now I can still go ahead and check the new stuff out, whereas, had I rushed to the new hotness right away, I would only have “old stuff” to return to whenever that gets dull.

And there you have it. By itself each of the reasons I stated might hardly be worth mentioning or even somewhat silly, but when I add it all up I don’t actually see any reason to forcibly alter my habits when it comes to newly released content for the games I play.

So I guess I don’t need help after all, but thanks for asking anyway.

The Handy Guide to Rare Mods in Warframe

When I wrote my beginner’s overview of how mods work in Warframe I knew that, up to that point, I’d barely scratched the surface.

At the very least I’d grasped the system of mod rarity – bronze for common, silver for uncommon and gold for rare – or so I thought. Turns out though that many mods don’t just drop anywhere. You can play the game for months and still not own even a single copy of a specific mod, even though it might be a supposedly ‘common’ one.

The reason for this is that almost every activity in the game has its own reward table, which means that in order to obtain specific stuff you have to do the right things or you won’t ever get it.

First you have to actually be aware of the various mods’ very existence and which ones to aim for though, which isn’t easy to figure out either when you’re still new to the game. Of course I could just point you to the game’s excellent wiki, but since I’ve already done the legwork I figured I might as well spare you the hassle.

So without further ado, here’s my little guide to rare mods in Warframe, rare in this case meaning You need to know how to acquire them, not necessarily that the mods are of gold rarity (many of them are though). Keep in mind however that not every mod will be on this list, not even close; these are just the ones that any Warframe player should aim to get – in my personal opinion – because they make life much easier and/or enable builds or tactics that aren’t possible without them. Click the images to enlarge.

Corrupted Mods

All corrupted mods have in common that they enhance one stat, usually by quite a lot, while lowering another to compensate. Especially the frame-mods, of which there are five as seen above, are must-haves for any frame that benefits from huge amounts of a certain stat while not really needing or even not actually wanting one or more of the others (Nova comes to mind, whom I usually mod for maximum Ability Duration and as little Ability Range as possible).

You can only find these in Orokin Vaults, special treasure rooms that spawn inside all Deimos missions (formerly known as Orokin Derelict) except for Defense, Assassinate and the Cambion Drift. Keep your eyes open and search every nook and cranny as they are quite well hidden at times. You know you’ve found one when you see this fancy looking door:

In order to open it you need to have the correct Dragon Key equipped. The blueprints for these are researched in the Orokin Lab of your clan’s Dojo, the keys themselves are built in the foundry.

Each key considerably lowers one of your frame’s stats: your max shields, health, damage or movement speed, respectively, are cut by 75% (50% in the case of speed). Working together with other players and spreading the keys out obviously makes things easier, but I’ve found it perfectly viable to farm them by myself. I use Inaros for this and equip all keys except Hobbled (slow) at once. I always run the Capture mission (Horend) as it’s the easiest and quickest objective and doesn’t get in the way of searching for the vault.

Which one of the 23 corrupted mods you get is random, so good luck.

Nightmare Mods

Once you’ve beaten all missions on a given planet at least once, every eight hours one of them gets randomly flagged as a Nightmare mission. Enemies are tougher here and one or two environmental modifiers are in place to raise the difficulty further, like Health Vampire (you constantly lose health and restore it by killing foes) or Energy Drain (you’re permanently out of energy, basically).

The first time you beat one of these each cycle you get a random nightmare mod as an additional reward, which don’t give the biggest of bonuses, but increase two stats each instead of just one. More importantly, they enable you to use one more mod with a certain stat on it, so just like corrupted mods they can help to push that one desired stat up really high. You can see the ones I use the most above.

Combined Status/Damage Mods

This isn’t really one cohesive category of mods in terms of acquisition, but as they all serve the same purpose I’m lumping them together.

When used with the right weapon a high status chance can deal an absurd amount of additional damage. In order to achieve that without losing too much raw damage these mods, which increase both status chance as well as a certain damage type, are indispensable. They don’t have the highest of capacity costs to boot, which makes some of these builds achievable even without investing multiple Forma.

As the game doesn’t treat these as one single category the means to get them differ a bit, so here’s an overview:

These drop from Corrupted Vor, which is a mini-boss that has a chance to spawn in Orokin Void missions of level 40 and higher. I usually run the Survival mission (Mot) and stay until after the 10 minute mark. That way he spawned about three out of four times for me and I got all four mods relatively quickly.

Open all three caches in one of the following Spy missions for a chance at these: Cambria (Earth), Unda (Venus), Suisei (Mercury), Arval (Mars), Shklovsky (Phobos).

Open all three caches in one of the following Spy missions for a chance at these: Bode (Ceres), Amalthea (Jupiter), Valac (Europa), Dione (Saturn), Pavlov (Lua).

Open all three caches in one of the following Spy missions for a chance at these (as well as Hell’s Chamber, which is also a very good Shotgun mod to have): Rosalind (Uranus), Nereid (Neptune), Oceanum (Pluto), Kappa (Sedna).

Open all three resource caches in Naeglar (Eris) for a chance at these. Note that the caches are not the mission’s main objective, but an optional task just like the caches in sabotage missions.

The last two are only sold periodically by Baro Ki’Teer for 300 Ducats and 150k credits each when he visits every other weekend. As he only ever has a small range of his stock on offer it might take a couple of months until you get a crack at one of these though.

Primed Mods

These are alternate versions of various, (relatively) common bread-and-butter mods you’ll have most likely acquired through regular gameplay after a while, the difference being that the normal ones have a maximum rank of 5, whereas the primed mods can go all the way up to 10. Which means that they’re just stronger (not necessarily twice as strong though) for a higher capacity cost.

With a few exceptions these can only be bought from Baro Ki’Teer, which again means that you might have to be patient until you can get a specific one, and especially when starting out the Ducat cost can add up quite a bit too.

They aren’t mandatory, but obviously very nice to have. For starters I’d save up my Ducats for Primed Continuity as more Ability Duration is really great for most frames. If you like using shotguns or melee weapons buying Primed Point Blank or Primed Pressure Point, respectively, would also be a good idea.

Miscellaneous Mods

These last couple of mods don’t really fit into any category, I’m just including them because I feel they’re very good to have for the stats they offer.

Augur Message and Augur Secrets provide an additional way to increase Ability Duration and Ability Strenght, respectively, which is always great. They also belong to the same mod-set, meaning that using both enhances their secondary effect. You can get them by doing various Bounty missions on the Plains of Eidolon. The reward tables rotate every few hours, so check which mission, if any, rewards these before accepting.

Slash procs are great, and using Hunter Munitions on a weapon that doesn’t do a lot of slash damage but has a high chance to crit ensures that you still get these procs often. You can acquire it by doing Ghoul Bounties on the Plains of Eidolon, which are tied to a recurring event that’s active every few weeks.

And there you have it. Again, this is but a small fracture of all available mods, but if you’re just transitioning from being a beginner to a more advanced Warframe player these are the ones I suggest you try to get.

I like having stuff to do, but I hate dailies

Dailies1

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been very busy in Warframe – in a good way. Almost a year ago I praised the fact that the game gives me specific tasks to achieve specific things, which I much prefer over just doing whatever and hoping for the RNG gods’ blessing.

Despite having played for quite some time already there was still a whole lot of stuff I hadn’t done yet, so I set myself an array of goals and got to it.

For example, there’s a plethora of advanced modifications for frames and weapons players can and definitely should get their hands on. Especially those frame-mods enable highly specialized builds that are very powerful and couldn’t be achieved any other way.

Dailies2
Who would have known that less strenght can be a good thing?

So I ran Spy missions with the specific intent to crack all three data vaults (because the mods in question can only drop from the third), did Nightmare missions, hunted for Orokin vaults, purged the Plains of Eidolon of a ghoul plague and beat some puzzle rooms on Lua.

In order to get rid of my annoying Kuva Lich sooner rather than later I also ran mission nodes occupied by his thralls to gather intel, and Kuva Siphon missions to get my hands on more requiem relics.

Sometimes the stars align and I can even combine two or more of these tasks into one, for example when a Spy mission I want to do anyway is temporarily flagged as a Kuva Siphon mission, giving me the chance to nab a desired mod and a requiem relic in one go.

Dailies3

What I like the most about all of this, as I’ve come to realize, is the fact that with very few exceptions I can do everything entirely at my own pace.

You see, almost no mission in Warframe has a cooldown or other form of time-gated restriction to entry. Ran a mission and didn’t get what you want? Just run it again if you like. And again. And again.

Of course that can get boring, and maybe also frustrating if you still don’t get your desired price after your umpteenth run. To circumvent that I try to mix it up. My play sessions in recent weeks mostly looked like this: run two or three spy missions, then a couple derelicts, followed by a bit of stuff in the open world zones or maybe a Kuva mission or two. If I still have time and desire to play after that, rinse and repeat.

As I use different frames, and thus different playstyles, for most of these activities it doesn’t get boring at all, and it’s oh so satisfying to tick one goal after the other off the list, even more so when the rewards enable me to make my favourite frames and weapons considerably stronger.

Dailies4
Or just my hoverboard…err, K-Drive faster

What’s all of this got to do with the fact that he hates dailies? I hear you ask.

Well, that I don’t like ’em much isn’t exactly news, but having so much fun while ‘working’ towards my goals in Warframe – and the process not actually feeling like work at all – made me compare this experience with the other game that had me busy trying to progress in recent months: ArcheAge Unchained.

There’s still much that I love about AAU, don’t get me wrong, but the fact that upgrading your gear is pretty much hard-gated by daily and, to a lesser extent, weekly activities really sucks the fun out of it after a while. And that’s coming from someone who has not religiously done them each and every day, not even close.

Dailies5
I’ve done my fair share though, because there’s just no other way to achieve this

In my opinion the problem with dailies in general is twofold.

One, the amount of progress you can make on any given day is capped, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Have a day off work and want to knock yourself out? Well, sucks to be you I guess.

Two, and this is the biggie, miss a day and you’ll never get it back. It’s no wonder that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), a term I’d never heard until maybe two years ago, is used in context with online games quite often nowadays, because daily tasks or quests are the very embodiment of it.

Ask yourself this: how often have you logged into a game while not really feeling a desire to do so, but because you felt you kind of had to? If your answer is “never” you have much more self-restraint than I do, and kudos!

Now, what do I propose? After all, criticizing without having suggestions for improvement doesn’t help matters, does it?

Ok then, how about removing the timer from repeatable content? Let me do it as often as I like. And while you’re at it, make all content repeatable, not only a select few quests, and spread rewards out more.

Not only does this work well in Warframe, The Secret World has shown that even a proper MMORPG can benefit greatly from this kind of design. Ok, quests in TSW do have a cooldown, but it’s short enough to do the same quests at least twice a day, and – and this is the kicker – there are so many quests on offer that it’s just not necessary to do the same ones over and over.

Dailies6
However, some quests I just wouldn’t want to do again. Ever! Again!

Of course I do realize that this might cause balancing-problems as there will always be activities that are ‘worth’ more measured against the time they take than others, and it also greatly benefits folks with a lot of free time on their hands.

Well…so? It doesn’t happen often, but for once I agree with MOP’s Eliot when he posits that balance in MMOs is overrated.

Especially in PvE-centric games, who the hell cares if other players progress more quickly than I do? Frankly, I couldn’t care less. PvP-heavy titles are obviously a different beast, but those should be much more skill-dependent than gear-dependent anyway – which is a discussion for another day though.

Dailies7

MMOs need repeatable content, that much is obvious. Even I, as far from being a ‘hardcore gamer’ as I am, have proven time and again that I can consume content much faster than developers can provide it – much like reading this has taken you but a fracture of the time it took me to write it.

But dailies, login-campaigns, rewards on a time-logged-in basis…all this stuff that has nothing to do with us having fun playing your games and everything with MAUs and other such crappy statistics you can proudly present to your shareholders…that kind of shit can’t go extinct soon enough as far as I’m concerned.

Another Keepstar bites the dust

EVE_O-P1
Screenshot completely unrelated to the events depicted in this post

If you have so much as a passing interest in EVE Online you’re probably well aware that there’s a big war going on right now. While Wilhelm has posted quite a lot about his own involvement, all of it well worth a read, this is the first time I’m going to even mention it.

It’s not that I haven’t been on any ops since the war started. I just hadn’t deemed anything I’ve been part of so far interesting enough to write about.

The northern front, which is where we (PanFam) are fighting, has not seen much resistance during the first weeks. I’ve been part of several fleets to reinforce or destroy enemy structures and added two more Keepstar-killmails to my personal tally in the process. Some of these ops were long, tedious undertakings, yet during almost none of them we encountered any opposition whatsoever. I might have just been unlucky however.

In any case, during the past two weeks or so the excitement has ramped up considerably. The more we advance towards the border between Fountain and Delve, the more serious the enemy gets about defending their stuff.

Their most important system in Fountain is Y-2ANO. They need that foothold in the region because the distance between it and the neighboring system in Delve is so huge that ships can’t use their jump drives or be bridged by a titan to get to the other side. We already tried to destroy their Keepstar there and had it reinforced once, but unfortunately we screwed up the armor timer and have to start over. We’re not going to make that mistake twice! I hope.

The Keepstar in O-PNSN didn’t fare that well. Both shield and armor had already been stripped away, so yesterday we set out to make it explode. It isn’t nearly as close to Delve as Y-2ANO, but word had it that they were going to defend it anyway. I sure hoped so.

I had my main ready to go in a Ferox, our subcap of choice for most structure fights, and my alt in a dreadnought, hoping for a chance to finally use it. The three-month-insurance’s expiry date is August 23rd, and I’ve yet to fire a single shot with that damned thing.

The subcaps were bridged into O-P, and as soon as the system loaded my overview went completely red. They were going to defend all right.

EVE_O-P2
Gathering at our Fortizar, looking at our target and its defenders

Our tactics didn’t differ much from that in Y-2ANO, only that this time we didn’t have a regional gate to lock down at the same time, hence our carrier pilots sent their fighters towards the Keepstar right away. Those and a fleet of Ravens would shoot the citadel while all other fleets, mostly Feroxes and Jackdaws, provided cover.

Goons and friends had a lot of stuff on the field. Rokhs, Feroxes, Praxises, bombers and ECM-bursting interceptors as well as the Keepstar itself tried to make life as hard as possible for us. Oh yeah, and heavy TiDi too, which goes without saying for this kind of battle.

Killah Bee was FCing our subcap fleet, and at first it looked like we’d be sitting tethered on our Fortizar all evening. But eventually he warped us onto some targets sitting right at the Keepstar.

EVE_O-P3
Aligning back out to our Fort in potato mode

We picked off some ships who weren’t tethered while not losing much ourselves – although our logi wing was pretty busy keeping our Jackdaws alive if I interpreted the cursing from the other side of the room correctly – then we warped back out.

We gathered at the Fort and chilled for a while, but before long we went in again. By now they had undocked a couple of dreadnoughts and FAXes, and of course we wanted those juicy kills.

EVE_O-P4
Dreads and lots of tiny subcaps inside a warp disruption bubble

We’d just started to shoot some targets of opportunity – the dreads were in siege mode and not going anywhere any time soon – when a wing of Praxises landed right on top of us and started cycling their smartbombs.

I was well in range of at least some of them and started taking damage. This is where TiDi becomes a really painful experience because that damage came in very slowly, but my efforts to turn away from them, fire up my microwarpdrive and overheat my hardeners came to fruition just as slowly, and I wasn’t sure whether I’d manage to get out of range in time or if I was just watching my demise in ultra-slow-motion. The fact that Ferox pilots were told not to broadcast for reps as our logi had their hands full with the Jackdaws again didn’t help either.

Just when my shields dipped below one third damage stopped coming in though. I’d finally made it out, phew. Once you’re out of its range there’s not much a smartbombing battleship can do to harm you, so we stayed on field for a while longer and destroyed three dreads, a FAX and lots of subcaps before returning to our Fortizar once more to regroup. Killah’s Monitor as well as one or two dozen other ships had been lost and their pilots had to be bridged into system again after reshipping.

All the while the fighters and Ravens kept shooting at the Keepstar, and it was slowly but surely going down. It was below 10% when our fleet went in a third time.

Not to be surprised by the Praxises again we started to spread out at full speed just after exiting warp, and sure enough they came in, right on top of Killah Bee. Due to our preemptive maneuvering almost no one took serious damage though, and we pretty much ignored them and shot at squishier targets instead.

Whenever we were actually able to target anything, that is. I mentioned ECM-bursting interceptors above, and those took run after run at us now, firing their AoE ECM right after landing and instantly warping away again. And guess who was piloting one of them…

EVE_O-P5
I can now say I’ve been burst-jammed by a fellow blogger, isn’t that nice

Man, that shit is so annoying in TiDi! Please don’t do that again! πŸ˜‰

We still managed to kill some more targets, among them another FAX piloted by Grath Telkin, who is kind of a Goon celebrity as far as I know. Not quite as flashy as that one time when I got the final blow on Asher Elias – ratting in a Myrmidon no less, shame, shame – but you take what you can get, right?

Of course we also made sure to shoot the Keepstar to get on the killmail, and soonβ„’, as in just over four hours after forming the fleet, it went boom.

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No explosion in potato mode, just a low-textured wreck

We stayed on the field a bit longer and killed off the last remaining stragglers, then took a bridge home.

EVE_O-P7

Going by the battle report losses were pretty even if you don’t count the Keepstar itself. Given the defending team’s rather big advantage that’s still a win for us, however we outnumbered them heavily, so there’s that.

Still, we won the objective and didn’t lose two hundred Ravens this time, so op success x2. More importantly though, despite having to chew through a metric ton of hitpoints during heavy TiDi it was quite a lot of fun – although, to be fair, our fleet wasn’t the one doing the chewing – so thanks to Goons for showing up, and please more of the same!

How about today? Still a bit of time left to blow up my dread before its insurance becomes void…

A quote about underrated music

Prompta2020

We’re just one third into this year’s special version of Blaugust, and the awesome blogging community has already outdone itself with lots of great posts about various topics.

The fourth blogging prompt, introduced to us by Roger Edwards on August 3rd, was this:

What type of content do you feel is severely underrated?

Well, that’s an easy one as far as I’m concerned. It’s Metal, of course!

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Err…wait, no, not this.

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Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!

My cousin, ten years my senior, introduced me to Metal when I was about eight. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Ozzy Osbourne, stuff like that. I fell in love immediately.

At the time I didn’t really know what it was, exactly, that I liked so much about it. What I did learn incredibly quickly though was that, generally speaking, most people don’t share my passion. Which is severely downplaying the issue of course, as almost everyone I’ve ever met who doesn’t love it actively dislikes it at best, and regards it as “unbearable noise” at worst. According to the latter group anyone who’s into Metal surely must be some kind of psychopath.

Metal3

I really don’t know where they got that idea from…

Anyway, with kids being kids you can imagine that eight-year-old me, already wearing Metal band patches on the denim jacket, had to develop a thick skin rather quickly. It never grew quite as thick as I would have liked though, and I can still get pretty angry when someone badmouths something that I really like, especially when I feel that they have no idea what they’re even talking about.

Yet over time I’ve wisened up at least somewhat. A couple of years ago I would have, at this point, carried on to beat you round the head with at least half a dozen paragraphs “proving” that many flavors of Metal are, in fact, musically vastly superior to most forms of mainstream music, that geniuses like Bach and Beethoven would undoubtedly be metalheads if they lived today, and that channeling your inner rage through aggressive music does actually make you a less aggressive person, not more.

Instead though I’ll just leave you with one of my favourite quotes – which, incidentally, fits nicely into our Blaugust groove too, as Wilhelm gave us the prompt to do exactly that.

It’s taken from Helloween’s song Heavy Metal (is the Law), where Kai Hansen posits

If you don’t feel it you won’t understand.

Truer words have never been spoken about Metal – and I think it actually applies to pretty much anything human beings can be passionate about.

Media that’s shaped my worldview

Prompta2020

2020’s version of Blaugust is in full swing, and it’s my turn already. Thank you Dragonray for handing over the baton, I hope I’ll be able to meet the high expectations you’ve set for me. πŸ™‚

Here goes.

Blaugust Promptapalooza – Prompt 3

What are some key sources of media (games/movies/etc) that have shaped your worldview?

As I’m writing a blog that mainly focuses on video games in general and MMORPGs in particular it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those will get a mention here. I was born in 1976 though, so I’ll have to start off with some earlier types of media.

Radio
Not ours, but we had the exact same model in our kitchen

You know, it’s funny. I’ve been working in radio broadcasting for almost 20 years now, and during that time I’ve often said that I enjoy it despite not being and never having been a radio listener myself. While thinking thoroughly about today’s prompt I’ve realized that it’s actually not true at all.

I couldn’t for the life of me tell you the stations’ names, but back when I was little the radio was always on at home. My mom also played vinyl (and shellac) records, of which I mainly remember The Beatles and ABBA, but mostly it was the radio playing.

I liked it a lot, and it didn’t take long until I begged for my own one with a built-in cassette recorder so I could record my favourite songs. Once I’d got it I would sit on my bed for hours on end, listen to the music and record the songs that I liked the most. To this day Depeche Mode’s Everything Counts is one of my all-time favourites, for example.

I guess radio shaped my worldview insofar that it taught me early on how beautiful, heart-warming and life-enriching music can be. I can’t imagine a life without it.

TV
Ok, I’m not actually THAT old, but you get the picture

Growing up during the eighties in an urban environment also meant watching a lot of TV. Until about 1985 we still had a black-and-white set and a grand total of three programs to watch, but around my 9th birthday we got a color set, a VHS recorder and cable TV. From then on there was no stopping me.

I soaked up everthing a boy of that age ought to like (at the time): shows like The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, reruns of The three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy; a bit later I was really into The A-Team, Knight Rider, Airwolf and so on. I even got my first taste of Anime (without knowing it) with Captain Future and Saber Rider.

I wouldn’t call any of that life-changing experiences, but the things I watched have undoubtedly shaped me in some way or other.

At the age of twelve or so a true landmark event happened though: I got to watch Return of the Jedi – and thus a Star Wars movie – for the first time. I believe I’d never been so enthralled by anything in my life. Other stuff I’d just watched, but that movie took me to a galaxy far, far away indeed, and I think it really changed the way I watch movies. Nowadays I get totally absorbed by the story – usually even if said story isn’t all that great – and forget about everything else until it’s over.

I have to admit that it can be somewhat demanding to watch movies with me as I don’t tolerate talking, cell phone usage or anything else that might distract me (chips are okay though as long as I can have some too), but that’s just the way it is now and the price, I feel, for being able to immerse oneself completely.

Great movies and shows take me to places and let me experience adventures I would never see and have in real life, and I’m extremely grateful for that.

Reading

You probably wouldn’t be reading this now if I hadn’t been a huge fan of reading all my life.

It started, unsurprisingly, with comics, mainly Mickey Mouse, Asterix and Clever & Smart. I tried to like Marvel and stuff, but those were just too ‘loud’ for me, if that makes sense.

At age 13 or so I shifted away from comics and started to read ‘real’ literature – if you’re willing to call penny dreadfuls literature, that is. John Sinclair is written by a German author and tells the stories of a Scotland Yard inspector specialized in paranormal investigations. I used to read those every week for a couple of years straight, and that’s what kicked off my turning into a serious bookworm. I assume it’s also where my penchant for horror movies came from, to boot.

For the next ten, fifteen years I read a hell of a lot, mostly science fiction and fantasy, but also thrillers, historical fiction and even non-fiction (the latter especially about ancient Egypt).

These days I’m not reading as much as I’d like, but I still do of course.

If you’re reading this I don’t need to lecture you about the power of the written word, do I?Β  Suffice it to say, without reading so much I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I’ll never stop enjoying it.

Games

Playing video games is pretty much the earliest memory of consuming any type of media that I have, and it has always been my main hobby, if you will. It’s much more to me than a hobby though.

A really great game can, in a way, be the culmination of everything I talked about above. Experiencing adventures I could never have in real life? Check. Music that evokes strong emotions and makes the ride all the more enjoyable? Absolutely. Thrilling, touching or funny stories with heroes to root for and villains to despise? Sure thing. Well, sometimes anyway.

Add to that the ability to play an active part in all of it instead of just consuming passively, and in some cases to even fundamentally affect the outcome, and you get something truly marvelous.

Unfortunately playing video games has also helped to shape my worldview in a negative way though, as it has taught me that even amongst ‘normal’ human beings (i.e. not counting scum like terrorists, rapists and so on) there’s a frighteningly large number of dickheads out there. I’ve had stretches where I outright refused to play online-multiplayer games because I just wasn’t willing to take it anymore.

Apart from that though, what can I say, I just love playing video games. They’re inextricably a part of me.

And there you have it.

Tomorrow the wonderful Roger Edwards (thanks for all the great movie reviews by the way!) will be there for you with the fourth installment of Blaugust Promptapalooza 2020, so head on over to Contains Moderate Peril and have a look. I sure will.

Blaugust Promptapalooza incoming

In light of the rather trying cirmumstances we all find ourselves in this year the regular Blaugust event was rescheduled to April, which was great, but left us with the question of what to do come August.

Belghast, reliable as ever, had another great idea though. As being asked to post for thirty-one days straight is quite trying for many – even if it’s voluntary, the pressure to deliver is kinda there once you’ve signed up – we’ll not do that a second time within half a year. This time around we’ll pass the torch on a day by day basis. Enter Blaugust Promptapalooza.

Prompta2020

On July 31st Bel himself will start the event by offering a prompt to write about a certain topic to the blogging community, and he’ll also present his own thoughts about said topic to us. Towards the end of his post the next day’s participant will be revealed by him, who in turn will give us his own prompt on August 1st, and so on.

If the suspense of who’s gonna post when is killing you already, fret not, for it ain’t a secret at all:

I think this is a really great idea, maybe even better than ‘normal’ Blaugust, because it creates more interaction between us, more cross-linking and -promoting, and it also gives us all a plethora of, well, prompts for topics to write about.

Can’t wait to read it all and to chime in!

If you’d like to hear from the man himself about his idea behind the event, here’s the original post.

New gaming rig ordered

I built my current PC in January 2015. It was the first time I could afford to spend more than my usual 1000-1200€ for the whole thing (Monitor and other peripherals excluded). I was really looking forward to having a high-end machine that, hopefully, would be able to run current games at max details for years to come without the need for further upgrades.

I ended up spending about 2000€, and my plan has worked out beautifully. To this day I haven’t had to replace or expand anything, and it still runs everything I play pretty well.

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It even looks like new if you don’t get too close

So why a new rig then? Well, there’s actually not one single main reason but more like lots of little ones that, added up, have become a pain in the butt lately.

The 500GB SSD I run Windows and the most important software and games on is constantly full, so every time I want to install a new game I have to uninstall something else first. Of course I could buy another one, but now that we have NVMe I feel money spent on a SATA SSD would be kind of wasted.

16GB RAM don’t cut it anymore either. I run multiple game clients at the same time quite often, which, together with browser, voice chat and all the other stuff that’s constantly running in the background fills up the memory rather quickly. Some games even manage to claim it all by themselves and still wanting more (looking at you, Cities: Skylines). For over four years I had the Windows swap file deactivated, but I eventually had to turn it back on, and I don’t like it.

I’m also still running Windows 7. What can I say, I’m a big fan of ‘Never change a running system’. I’ll have to switch to Win 10 sooner rather than later though, obviously, but I just can’t be bothered to do it on my old machine when I know that I don’t want to use it for much longer.

Then there’s the usual small stuff like fans not running smoothly anymore and thus making more noise than they once did, or the fact that, after more than five years, re-applying the CPU’s thermal paste is probably long overdue, but I just can’t be arsed.

Again, none of this is a biggie by itself, but all of it combined really makes me crave a new machine.

More importantly though, yes, my old PC runs every game I’m playing now just fine, but barring any more delays this will most likely change come November…

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Not only am I hopeful that Cyberpunk 2077 will be an awesome game, I absolutely want to be able to play it on the highest settings without the slightest hint of framedrops or stuttering. So yeah, need moar power!

After spending quite some time researching what’s currently out there these are the components I’ve settled on and ordered yesterday – keep in mind though that this is by no means a recommendation to buy that stuff as I’m far from being an expert, it’s just what (hopefully) works best for my needs and budget right now.

CPU

PC_Ryzen

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

A lot has been talked about AMD’s new generation of CPUs, and while they aren’t perfect the performance you get for the price is just phenomenal. I got this 12-core beast for just over 400€, and since the boxed cooler is said to be pretty efficient and also looks quite nice I won’t even have to spend another 30-60€ on a better one.

Mainboard

PC_mainboard

Gigabyte X570 Aorus Ultra

At almost 300€ this is by far the most expensive mainboard I’ve ever bought, and it’s mainly due to the fact that third gen Ryzen CPUs don’t run on boards with an older chipset unless you flash the BIOS to a newer version – which you can’t do without having a working CPU installed. As I said above, they aren’t quite perfect.

I do get more bang for my bucks than just native support for the CPU though, like PCIe 4.0, three M.2 slots and high-quality sound-, LAN- and WLAN-chips. Unfortunately all X570 boards – except for one with a 700€ price tag – cool their chipset with a small fan; I really hope that it isn’t too noisy.

Graphics card

None.

The thing is, I just didn’t know which one to buy.

Those I had on the short list are terribly expensive, and to make matters worse Nvidia is expected to release their new cards later this year, so buying one now doesn’t seem like a good idea. Hence I’m going to wait for a bit and continue to use my GeForce GTX 980 in the meantime. Hopefully current cards’ prices will drop some once the RTX 3080 is out, then I’ll decide what to do.

RAM

PC_RAM

32GB G.Skill DDR4 PC 3600 CL18 KIT (2x16GB) 32GTZR Tri/RGB

Why do so many PC-components have names you need a dictionary for? Anyway, as pretty much everything in my new rig will be able to glow in RGB I thought my RAM should too. 32GB is a given, and I decided to go for dual- instead of quad-channel this time to save two slots for a possible upgrade at a later point (my current machine has 4x4GB, which is why an upgrade wasn’t really feasible).

SSD

PC_SSD

Corsair Force MP600 1TB

When I have to pay for a PCIe 4.0 mainboard anyway I’ll buy a matching SSD of course. I’m pretty anxious to see it in action.

Power Supply

PC_power

700W be quiet! System Power 9 CM

Be quiet! power supplies are a bit hard to come by at the moment, many models are out of stock everywhere I looked. I’d have preferred one with full cable management, but as the mainboard cables will all be used anyway I feel this one will do the job just fine. Going by reviews it’s efficient, quiet and has more than enough headroom for whatever graphics card I’ll eventually decide on.

HDD

4000GB WD Blue WD40EZRZ 64MB 3.5″ SATA 6GB/s

It’s a data tomb, ’nuff said.

Case

PC_case

Sharkoon Night Shark RGB

Lakisa and I both have Sharkoon cases right now and we’re pretty happy with them. They’re inexpensive yet built rather well, have a good size and weight and look quite nice. Also, cases with an external 5 1/4″ drive bay are relatively rare these days, but this has one. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m going to re-use my ancient but great Plextor PX-880SA DVD drive once again. Although I don’t actually use CDs to play music anymore I still buy music CDs quite often, so I want to be able to get the stuff into iTunes easily.

And there you have it. All in all this runs for about 1300€, with an additional 120€ for Windows 10 Home USB. The parts ought to arrive by the end of next week (as the Mainboard and the SSD aren’t in stock now but should be by Monday or Tuesday). Can’t wait.

Turning the trinity up to 11

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Why do I always have to go first again? Oh, right, “tank”…

I don’t like to break my promises, I swear (heh), but before I actually, finally, start to talk about The Secret World’s quests and story I need to rectify one glaring omission I’ve made in my posts about its skill- and gear-systems.

Since my return to the game I’ve made a couple of friends (or let’s rather say acquaintances) with whom I’ve been running some dungeons every now and then. Not only are TSW’s dungeons really great fun, doing them again also reminded me of the fact that this game allows for even more creativity when designing your class and build than I’d initially remembered.

Now, sure, the most common way to run the majority of these dungeons is the tried and true One tank, one healer, rest DPS group setup, and that’s also what the group finder looks for when assembling a team of five. The “Holy Trinity”, as it were, if the holy spirit had two siblings. However, in The Secret World even such cookie-cutter groups can vary quite a lot in how they’re set up.

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I wonder if that’s a good safespot behind the tree there…

For example, there are three really strong damage-enhancing buffs that every group wants to have. Usually one DPS player provides two of those (locking that character into a Pistol/Shotgun weapon loadout) and another one the third, but it’s just as viable to split them up between three players, and if needed even the tank or, in a pinch, the healer can fit one into their builds. Of course no good group strictly needs these buffs, but they’re obviously very nice to have, and I really like having the freedom to puzzle out a solution that works for each new team composition.

Also quite important for how a group operates is which kind of healer it has. Technically there are three different flavours of healing, namely Blood Magic for barriers and a little direct healing, Fists for strong direct healing and HoTs, and Assault Rifles for leeching, i.e. healing for a percentage of the damage one does.

In reality though there are just two basic types of healers: ‘full healers’ that mainly use Fists and may or may not choose Blood Magic as their secondary skillset, and ‘leechers’ who use an Assault Rifle and, again, may or may not have a Blood Magic focus in their off-hand.

TSW_Trinity3
If you keep this up no kind of healing will do you any good, mate

Full healers are very powerful and can heal pretty much anything when geared and specced right, meaning that as long as no one gets one-shot, no one dies. Additionally they don’t care much about boss abilities like shields or damage-reflect because they can build their resources without hitting anything and thus just keep on healing however long it takes. The downside is that they deal no damage whatsoever.

Leechers are quite the opposite. They need to shoot stuff to build their resources and, more importantly, they need to deal damage to actually heal anyone. This obviously puts more strain on that player as they need to always be in range of and have line of sight to a) the player(s) they want to heal and b) a mob to hit. If the target has a shield or ability that reduces incoming damage a leecher also heals less and thus has to have some kind of ace up their sleeve for situations like that. This is even more true for some bosses who get a reflect-shield under certain conditions as everyone needs to stop attacking those altogether the instant the shield goes up if they don’t want to kill themselves.

By the way, the whole leeching-mechanic is made feasible by allowing players to have two targets selected at the same time, one friend and one enemy. Whatever hurty stuff you do is unleashed on your offensive target, whereas all buffs, heals etc. go to your defensive target. It’s another of TSW’s great little ideas I wish more MMORPGs had adopted.

The huge advantage a leecher brings to a group, the bigger and possibly much desired challenge for that player aside, is additional damage output equal to, sometimes even greater than a fourth DPS player.

TSW_Trinity4
There are times when you just need to deal all the damage

This is all fine and dandy, but until now we’ve yet to leave the confines of a ‘normal’ group composition. So, what if that’s all gotten boring and you want to mix it up and would also like a bigger challenge still? Well, how about trying yourself at heal-tanking?

Yep, that’s a thing. The idea behind it is that a healer builds up a lot of hate and is notoriously prone to draw aggro anyway, especially of newly spawned adds and such, so why not use this to the group’s advantage and let the healer tank altogether?

This is made possible, once again, by the game’s extremely flexible skill-system. You see, a tank in TSW keeps aggro mainly by slotting a passive ability named Agitator.

TSW_Trinity5

This beautifully simple – and obviously very strong – effect makes it a must-have for any tank. But, as is true for every passive in the game, anyone can use it. All you need is to have it unlocked and one free passive slot.

There’s a bit more to heal-tanking than using Agitator of course, like having more hit points than a normal healer, some defensive stats and a couple more bells and whistles, but basically it’s what it says on the tin: tanking by healing, and healing while tanking. And just like that your group has a free spot for another DPS or whomever else you want to take along.

TSW_Trinity6
Sometimes a severe beating is all that’s called for

Still not enough? Enter the leech-tank.

By now you can easily deduce what this is: a heal-tank who heals by shooting stuff. Or, in other words, it’s a tank, a healer and a full-fledged DPS player all in one neat package.

I saw a video once where a group of three players led by a leech-tank beat the New York raid. That raid is actually meant for ten (!) people, has aggro-swap mechanics (meaning that you need at least two players with some tank abilities) and all kinds of other nasty stuff. Mind you, this was before rising gear-levels made that raid much easier. And what do you know, the video’s actually still up on YouTube:

Unfortunately this isn’t from the leech-tank’s point of view, but it’s still impressive if you know that fight. It looks kind of easy, but I assure you it’s not.

Personally I have never done such extreme things, and it still boggles my mind how stuff like that is even possible. But it is, and this is one more reason why I love games so much that offer loads of freedom in how to play them and tackle the challenges they present us with. Amongst all MMORPGs I’ve played The Secret World clearly takes the crown in that category.

Clothes make the man – but not the stats

TSW_Gear1

The Secret World did a lot of things differently than its contemporaries. Of course different doesn’t necessarily mean better, but one of the design choices that truly seemed like a stroke of genius to me at the time – and still does – was to entirely separate player characters’ looks from their stats.

Sure, pretty much every MMORPG provides some sort of wardrobe system nowadays, but most I’ve fiddled around with require exactly that – a lot of fiddling around. There always seem to be some caveats too, like certain consumables being necessary to convert stat items into appearance items, limited wardrobe space (until you buy more, of course) or other inconveniences.

TSW went a completely different route from the start. It’s quite simple and elegant, really. There are stat items and there are clothing items. With the exception of weapons you never get to see the former on your character, and the latter will never have an impact on your (combat-) performance whatsoever.

TSW_Gear2
Wait…where was I when the 3rd anniversary t-shirt van came by?

Clothing items don’t take up space in your inventory either, they go directly to the corresponding tab of your Dressing Room. As far as I’m aware there’s no limit to the amount of clothing you can store. I have lots and lots of stuff to choose from and can swap around at will knowing that my stats won’t be affected in any way.

TSW_Gear3
Which comes in handy during full moon, let me tell you

The bulk of your stats, on the other hand, comes from talismans. They’re called rings, bracelets, belts etc., but you won’t ever see them on your avatar.

Just like the skill system gearing your character is a rather complex and unfortunately not very intuitive matter, but once you’ve dug into it you can tweak your stats just so to make your build work the way it’s supposed to.

At least the weapons are very simple at a basic level. They only have one intrinsic stat, Weapon Power; the higher that score, the more damage all attacks done with that weapon deal.

Additionally you can wear a total of seven talismans, with each of them boosting one of your three main stats: Attack Power, Healing Power or Health. Here you ‘just’ need to find the right ratio for your build. For instance, if you’re going to be a tank you’ll want to have enough HP to give your healer a chance to keep you alive, but not more than absolutely necessary as you’ll also need to deal some damage to hold aggro. An effective solo-build might even utilize a mix of all three stats to kill stuff and stay alive while doing so.

Of course these aren’t the only stats you need to think about. Each talisman and weapon also has a slot for a Glyph and another for a Signet, which is where things get complicated.

Glyphs add well known RPG-stats like chance to hit, crit chance, crit power, evasion, block and stuff like that to the talisman or weapon you slot it in. Unfortunately the game does a very poor job at teaching you how to actually weigh these. Oh, sure, in order to do damage I obviously need my attacks to hit their target. But how much chance to hit do I really need? How exactly do block, evasion and defence work, and how much of each should a tank have?

Signets add even more complexity, as most of them don’t give a flat bonus but some kind of proc. For example, the Signet of Breaching I use in my sword adds “When you penetrate a target you make that target take 16% more damage from further penetrating hits for 7 seconds”. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But how much penetration rating do I need to a) actually proc this reliably and b) make the most of the damage bonus it gives?

To be honest, while gearing up as a tank for Nightmare-dungeons I relied very heavily on some great theorycrafters’ expertise who’d posted their findings on the forums, primarily this very thorough guide (still worth a read if you play or have ever played the game).

TSW_Gear4
Known for our inconspicuous appearance we were not

So, just like with the skill system, the game should definitely have done a much better job at explaining things, and the failure to do so is most likely one of the reasons why it wasn’t a big success.

But, also just like the skill system, once I’d weathered the initial storm of bewilderment and wrapped my head around it all I had so much fun gearing up my various builds, getting the different talismans and chasing the right Signets – I really think it was more than worth it to persevere.

TSW_Gear5
Who do I want to be today?

Being able to swap your whole build – skills, augments, gear, everything – at the touch of a button is the icing on the cake of course. I’ve never much liked being locked into a specific role at character creation, but even MMORPGs that didn’t do that, Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies come to mind, at least made me level up my new skills or professions the hard way every time I’ve swapped. TSW lets me keep everything I’ve unlocked once forever, and I can now run one dungeon as a tank, the next as a healer and then do a scenario as a Jack of all trades no problem.

Doesn’t this take away some of a character’s identity though? Maybe a little bit, yeah. But I feel my character expresses most of his identity by way of his looks, and he also uses his trusty blade as the main hand weapon for most of his builds anyway, so a common theme is still there.

In any case, of all character- and gear-progression systems I’ve experienced this was and remains one of my favourites.

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Just another day at the office…what, you don’t have a killer-bunny colleague too?

Next time around I’ll finally talk about the game’s outstanding quest design, as promised.