We Bathed in Moonlight, Drowned in Sorrow’s Embrace

They told me I had been dead for ten months when they pulled my lifeless blue body from the bottom of Lake Delavan. Why I was now staring at the dull brown ceiling of the hospital in the Salma Quarter of Divinity’s Reach instead of slumbering peacefully in the cool embrace of the Mists was not something the priests and priestesses were able explain to my satisfaction. When, after several hours, I regained the color in my face and the feeling in my fingers, I felt an anger that should have remained dormant forever.

I returned their dispassionate gazes, face up in my bed, as my cheeks flooded with uncomfortable heat. This is what the White Mantle looks like when they imbibe bloodstone, they told me. They’re dangerous. White. Mantle. For as long as adjectives and nouns continued to exist, humans would agglutinate them in endless permutations and use them as rallying cries in their idiotic wars against each other. The fact that my parents had once shared a bed in Kryta did not obligate their offspring to care about the kingdom’s politics.

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I don’t give a damn, I replied. Tell me how you brought me back, since you won’t tell me why. They offered conflicting answers: Engineers had concocted a potion that had the power to reanimate the departed; Rangers had called upon the spirits of the forest to imbue my skeletal frame with verdant life force; Mesmers had conjured up an illusion which was temporarily housing my essence; Lyssa had personally bartered with Grenth for the return of my soul until the Elder Dragons had been vanquished and the safety of the Six Gods’ human subjects had been secured.

I want to go back, I growled through clenched teeth. Tell me what I have to do.

Meet your old friend Logan Thackeray in the Upper City. He and the Queen will help you understand what needs to be done.

So I did. It was as if I had never been gone. The Pact still called me Commander, even though it was clear to me that I wasn’t commanding anything or anyone. Braham wouldn’t listen to me. Marjory wouldn’t be told what to do. Kasmeer was conspicuously absent. Anise had developed a thirst for blood, while Canach had developed an endearing brand of wit. Taimi and Rytlock were the only ones I felt I could trust – Taimi’s burgeoning genius needed an adult catalyst to ensure her transition from progeny to practitioner; and where there was a battle to be fought, as there typically was when I was around, Rytlock would be there to guard my back and tell everyone exactly what he thought of them.

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Logan was the one person who hadn’t changed. As much as we had been through, he wasn’t good for anything but commanding human forces. When he told me that General Soulkeeper had offered him the position of Marshal within the Pact, I stopped caring about the organization altogether. Call me what you will, friends. I’ll go where I need to go and do what must be done. The flow of time wraps itself around my sword and shield while Queen Jennah kills with a flick of the wrist and erects a reflective dome over the entirety of Divinity’s Reach by simply willing it to exist.

Tell me again: why do you need me?

Once we’ve slain the remaining Elder Dragons I am going to fill my lungs with as much of Lake Doric’s water as they will hold and return to Eir in the Mists. We’ll spend our eternal twilight leaving heavy footprints in the frosty snow beneath us as we make our way toward the sound of howling wolves on distant ridges.

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Artemis

Ever since I started playing Smite, I’ve been taken with Artemis, one of the game’s “hunters.” Hunters are what you would call ADCs in League of Legends, which refers to “Attack Damage Carry,” i.e. a character that becomes physically powerful during the end game and can “carry” their team to victory by dint of their large damage numbers. The tradeoff in pretty much every glass cannon build ever, however, is that if you are focused by the opposing team, you are not terribly difficult to take down. Compounding this issue in the case of Artemis is her relative lack of mobility compared to someone like Neith, the Egyptian Weaver of Fate, who has the ability to backflip out of tough situations and whose Ultimate (powerful ability on a long cooldown) is the ability to snipe anyone on the map she can see with shots that do more damage the longer the ability is “charged” up. Artemis, in contrast, relies on traps and stuns; her Ultimate calls forth a Calydonian Boar with an uptime of six seconds which stuns itself and its target for two seconds (hence, maximum three targets). Artemis is therefore generally ranked as mid-tier whereas Neith, due to her mobility, utility, and moderate self-healing abilities, is usually ranked in one of the top tiers.

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Neith, Weaver of Fate.

As far as I’m concerned, chaste, proud, fully accoutered Artemis with her flowing red locks is top tier when it comes to presence. Scantily clad Neith in her stilettos is rather disappointing, aesthetically. I don’t mind playing her (her bow has a pleasant, distinctive sound) as long as she isn’t doing that silly sidestepping animation. No, it’s Artemis whose strength and radiance have so impressed themselves upon me that I decided to make a fire sale out of the year’s worth of materials I had stockpiled and convert the resulting gold to gems with reckless abandon in an attempt to recreate her in Guild Wars 2. The following items were acquired for this purpose:

  • One Identity Repair Kit (Name Change Contract + Total Makeover Kit)
  • One Wreath of Cooperation
  • One Medium set of Stalker’s Armor

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I’m not altogether satisfied with this first attempt. (When I say “first” I mean that spending more real money is a possibility, although it’s a bad habit I typically endeavor to keep firmly within grasp.) There’s no “flowing locks” hairdo for human females that matches what I’m looking for; additionally, the narrow contours of Artemis’s face simply don’t carry over well due to the fact that Tyrian human females, by and large, seem to suffer from Puffy Face Syndrome. I’ve found that you can mask the effect by using darker skin tones which wouldn’t exactly match Artemis’s rather pale looks in Smite but would be more appealing than running around looking like I have pudding in my cheeks. I may darken her skin when I have enough gems for another makeover kit. Rox’s Quiver will certainly make an appearance at some point.

One of the effects that “cross-training” in Smite has had is that I’ve gained a newfound appreciation of Guild Wars 2’s Ranger profession as well as profession abilities in general. Gods in Smite run around with four active abilities, up to two consumable items, up to two active items, and up to six passive equipment items (gear). Knowledge of those four situational abilities on a per-God basis allows for rather rapid and intuitive play and counter-play. Understanding this within the context of a MOBA has made it much easier for me to spot the situational use of many more of the generally somewhat more complex profession abilities within Guild Wars 2, although it does still suffer from the same PvE/PvP ability split found in games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic wherein you may not use and/or grasp the use of half of the abilities available to you until you play your first Warzone (PvP).

I’ve now taken my Tyrian Artemis version 1.0 through six or so of the starting zones using a world completion overlay that was linked in the reddit forums and have decided that I am motivated enough by her appearance and the relative ease of playing a Ranger who uses bows exclusively (much to the chagrin of those who insist that Rangers be played “like Aragorn” from Lord of the Rings, i.e. using swords and such) that I am willing to do world completion on a second character whom I will level “manually” (as opposed to “passively” using Tomes of Knowledge from daily login rewards) just so I can use the exotic-quality “Eir’s Short Bow” that was a random drop from a chest in some open world event which may or may not have been a world boss.

Motivated by cosmetics. Well, then. That’s a refreshing change of pace.

The “default card” images of Artemis and Neith used in this post were taken from smite.gamepedia.com.

Oops, I Tripped and Made a Sylvari Revenant

The soundtrack to Heart of Thorns is fantastic. I’ve enjoyed many of Lena Chappelle’s musical themes for quite some time. She also has this rather innocuous habit of “tripping” on Twitter and accidentally shopping or buying delicious coffee. I seem to have inherited this clumsiness as I recently stumbled over a Sylvari motif that I liked well enough to permanently assign it to my Revenant.

This comes as a bit of a surprise due to the fact that my typical aesthetic sensibilities preclude creating anything other than small-framed humans. I’ve tried to remain attached to a couple of Daikini-sized Norn (of the Warrior and Elementalist variety) who ultimately ended up being reborn as their scrawnier counterparts. Quite boring, you might say.

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The problem is that I’ve exhausted all of the remotely sensible unique Human looks on my eight characters. There were none left for my Revenant. I blew an Experience Scroll on a short-haired Mordremoth-slayer who was heavy on the eye-liner and light on the appeal. I ended up deleting her shortly after creation.

Well, I’ve rectified things. I happened to find a leafy Sylvari figure that I have fallen in love with and will be playing for the forseeable future. She’s got a white theme, like my Human Guardian, with chameleon tendencies: the color of her hair, some variant with “ice” or “snow” in its name, seems to change based on where in the world she finds herself. Her native Caledon Forest brings out a vibrant pink, the snowy climes of Frostreach in Edge of the Mists inspire an equally frosty hue, and the inorganic smoke-boxes of Divinty’s Reach (Humans call them houses) turn her hair a dispirited shade of dull blue.

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Mother and I bear a striking resemblance.

Positively charming. It helps that her running and jumping animations are respectable. She’s able to heft a two-handed hammer with ease. Naturally, she’s wearing a snow-cloaked Ancestral Outfit (rare White dye) that seems to match the shade of her skin – if that’s what you call it – which I’ve left at the default. I could be mistaken, but it’s what you get when you don’t select any skin color for Sylvari. I checked and double-checked: none of the skin colors on the creation screen were highlighted. It seems that choosing nothing was the best choice of all for my purposes.

I’ve been doing whatever I want, which in this case means going for an extended stroll in Edge of the Mists and using Ventari’s tablet to heal all of my group members. It seems to be rather effective, particularly in engagements against enemy players. Tablet, go here and do these restorative things while I blast every field in sight with my two-handed hammer skills and my ranged autoattack plinks away at my target. Switch out to staff for mobility and melee heals as needed. Swap over to Jalis for a self-heal and defensive abilities when I’m taking damage. Tier 5 Ram Mastery to throw up Iron Hide on the group (50% damage taken) and start pounding away at doors the second our siege are built.

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I’m playing a healer in Guild Wars 2 and you can’t stop me.

It helps that WvW ranks now award chests which contain random Hero Point completion tokens, although purists probably still scoff at the use of EotM and WvW in the same context. Even so, I may decide to bench my Revenant and level her passively using Tomes of Knowledge as I have been doing for my other characters. I can’t be bothered to do much more active leveling for its own sake. I have no qualms about “hothousing” my characters in the open world until such time as they need to strike out into parts removed for this world boss or that resource node.

I do all of my completionism-type stuff on my Chronomancer, anyhow. She’s out map-completing Verdant Brink and idly exploring the endless staircases of the Exalted City in Auric Basin. I’m presuming you’ve read the existing blogging literature on Heart of Thorns by the Holy Trinity (Bhagpuss, Jeromai, Ravious). This storyteller has no stories to add. Maybe later. In the meantime, I have randoms to heal and inventories to mismanage. Happy trails.

Mesmer in Dry Top

Blaugust 2015, Day 25 – In Medias Res

I jumped into Guild Wars 2 today to see what kinds of wings and Kasmeer staves they’re peddling during the Third Anniversary sale and it turns out they have all of those things on offer. I already have Miss Meade’s skritt-thumping stick, so I decided to drop some of the gems I had been saving for a day like today and equip myself with a pair of angel wings.

Mesmer with Wings in Dry Top

They’re the feathery white kind as opposed to the metal black skeletal appendages I have long been accustomed to seeing. A bit too feathery and bulky for my tastes, but they’re wings and we’re on track to giving Daybreak Games a run for their money. I believe back-wings are part of the standard issue uniform once you approach 4,000 achievement points, anyhow. Makes it easier for those naughty dungeon meta-speed-runners to weed out the unworthy.

This transaction left me sitting at 300 gems which is 700 short of the thousand required to purchase the latest outfit I have my eye on. I’m generally not interested in 95% of the style items in the gem store, but this one stood out immediately. I can’t tell you how badly I want to wade into a battlefield full of death and fire and blood wearing a white wedding dress and a pair of angel wings. It’s the aesthetic equivalent of jumping into WildStar and putting on a squid head, a bandolier-covered bright orange latex jumpsuit, and a pair of punk rock stilettos with 12-inch heels. Because I’m not authorized to spend any real money on the game, I now have a goal to work toward using in-game currency exclusively.

Wedding Dress and Angel Wings

Prior to being voluntold to re-share the remainder of the money I had squirreled away, I did manage to resubscribe to WildStar. I did some Whitevale questing yesterday on my level 20 Spellslinger with whom I am currently playing through the game at a rather modest pace. This involves jumping into every available dungeon, PvP battleground, and questing area at the appropriate level. I’m enjoying both healing and shooting; blasting away with dual pistols makes dealing damage a delight. Normally, I don’t much care for that role in group settings.

Earlier today, I logged on to my veteran adventure-geared level 50 Stalker and found myself in the Northern Wastes where I had been working on Elder Gem dailies. I was still in Black Dagger Society and still had a relatively full Neighbors list (people who come by and harvest your resource plots, thereby rendering a share unto your mailbox). Rather than fret about what to do next, I just did what was in front of me because it was there. I swapped to my PvE Tank loadout for a Prime that had killed me in my DPS setup and took it down without issue. I slowly absorbed the lore of the place as I completed daily-repeatable tasks. Understanding the nuances of the story – as wacky as it may be – via slow accretion catalyzes a subtle infusion of the game’s spirit into mine.

Blaugust 2015 Initiative Page

Blaugust 2015, Day 7 – Fun Here Now

What is your favorite evergreen game?

An evergreen game is a game that you find yourself going back to consistently despite doing other things and playing other games in between. Usually an evergreen game holds up over the course of months or years. – Void

Sooner or later I end up coming back to Guild Wars 2, even if it’s with my tail between my legs. It’s free once you’ve paid for it. The levels are a formality. The action combat houses satisfying depth. The game’s lore and history, if you remove the particulars of the Living Story’s telling from it, catalyze my own imaginings. As much as I adore other MMOs, their stories have never moved me to tell my own tales within their worlds beyond the idle thoughts that accompany the simple act of playing the game.

If you were to put me on a desert island and tell me I could take one game with me, I can tell you without setting off your bullshit detectors that Guild Wars 2 would be it. (We’re in 2015, so our islands have internet access.)

I’ve gorged myself on the confections offered up by other MMOs whose verticality is numeric rather than environmental. Sugar rushes and the subsequent crashes are the cycles of my life. My stable of Krytan clones, on the other hand, are different flavors of the same protein shake that – taken in moderation – provides an enjoyable, healthy experience that delivers the good stuff without triggering my addictive tendencies.

The protein shake contains nuts: some chewy and delicious, some rather unpalatable, and some completely inedible. You can spit out the nuts (design flaws) you don’t like and still enjoy the shake (game). After all the unbridled, pompous criticism I’ve leveled at the game, I’m still a fan and a player – just not an experienced player.

I had previously set myself up as an implicit authority figure on the game and began talking as such because I saw myself as a fan and I had a public website. The reality is that I’ve never played through most of the content that others have lauded or lamented. I gave a prima facie account of second-hand sources.

I’m just a player; it is as such, then, that I have taken to writing about the games that I play.

Once I realized that playing a Mesmer was not my job – nor should it be – I understood what it meant to really like the game despite its shortcomings in some areas. There are many areas in which it gets things very right: fun, the dynamics of play, experimentation, the joy of exploration. Plain and simple.

You were right, Mr. Iwata. Games are about having fun.

The Alan Watts approach to meditation and presence in the world was described in a nutshell by Ken Wilber as “Be here now.” It’s a hip approach to cosmic consciousness, daddy.

Here’s my gaming spin on that: “Fun here now.” That’s a philosophy I can live by. Guild Wars 2 is, in my mind, a design template that embodies that approach to greatest effect. I’ll be playing the Beta this weekend. I don’t expect to be wowed or even surprised by anything – I just expect to have fun.

Blaugust 2015 Initiative Page