Browsing the blog archives for July, 2006

Guild Wars: Nightfall PvP Weekend, part 2


So Sunday night I spent a few hours to check out the Nightfall PvP event. Unfortunately I was quite busy over the weekend and really didn’t have a chance to play it before then. Naturally I began by playing my new Dervish character.

One of the first things I noticed is that my character was spit out onto the Battle Isles — The Battle Isles are a Canthan-themed area that was released to coincide with the PvP Weekend for Guild Wars: Factions. The Battle Isles altogether are formed up of several “arenas.” These aren’t complicated areas, they are usually set overlooking some scenic setpiece but they are fundamentally just gathering places for players to group together for PvP combat. It’s a disappointment to me that a similar area wasn’t introduced for the new expansion.

At the battle isles.

My Dervish in the Zaishen Elite pre-arena area.

I tried out some of the new emote character animations for the Dervish class. Apparently, ArenaNet decided to skimp even more than I had anticipated. Guild Wars is known for having clever dances for each class, but the Dervish has no dance animation whatsoever. The other animations (such as /excited, /wave, and so on) seemed to be the same as that of the Mesmer class.

Posing with waterfalls in the Zaishen Elite area.

Dervish dresses behave in in strange ways when the character sits down.

The Ritualist has far more inspired visual design than the vanilla-seeming Dervish.

I set out for the Zaishen Elite, a competitive arena where a team of four players is pitted against six computer opponents using specialized builds. After a few rounds here I felt I’d gotten the hang of my Dervish character. Their huge scythe is slow on the attack but hits enemies in an area of effect. This can be quite effective at taking down mobbed enemies. The Dervish also has a variety of “enchantment” spells, with a unique twist. Most of these enchantments are actually more like “spells” — Typically an enchantment will last either a very short duration (under 10 seconds) or will reduce the mana regeneration of the caster until the enchantment is dismissed. The Dervish has several enchantments that have extremely long durations with no upkeep cost.

I was initially playing with the Dervish/Mesmer build that comes preset out of the character generator. I found my Dervish to be quite effective: I would start off a round by using an enchantment that restores 100 or so hitpoints after I have been reduced to below 50% of my maximum health (510). Once the combat begins I would use the Avatar of Melandru to gain 200 health and become immune to all conditions. At this point I would wade into melee combat and use two “enchantments” that the class comes equipped with, one of these creating a damaging nova of ice around my character, the other creating a damaging nova of fire around her. In total these two spells would do roughly 120 damage, which is quite significant for only a half second’s worth of effort. Once I was finished with those spells, I would use some of the scythe attack skills, which typically increase the power of your scythe depending on how many enchantments are on your character. On a good strike my character could do over 70 damage to all nearby enemies.

Over time I decided to mix up the Dervish build somewhat. I noticed that my two area-of-effect spells did over 120 damage in short succession. So I decreased my Scythe skills and increased my character’s Wind Spell power. Dropping my character’s Scythe Master to 1 and increasing Wind Spells to 12 allowed me to do 172 damage in total with both spells — Extremely powerful considering these spells cast very quickly, hit an area, and recharge within seconds. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to think this was a good path to explore. I met up with another group of Dervishes and together we managed to easily wipe out most enemy groups in our way. 172 damage from four characters is enough to take out any character that doesn’t have some specific counter ability.

Posing with my deadly group of Dervish characters. The alternate form is the Avatar of Dwayna.

An action shot taken roughly half a second before we destroyed the enemy team.

More posing, this time with the Avatar of Melandru and the Avatar of Dwayna on display.

I didn’t stop there, of course. As I suspected, the Dervish has an “Avatar of” ability for every god in the Guild Wars universe: Balthazor, Grenth, Dwayna, Melandru, and Lyssa. The Lyssa avatar gives the Dervish an additional 10 mana, which isn’t a lot but it is enough for another casting of one of the class’ area of effect damaging spells. I equipped the Avatar of Lyssa and two more area of effect damaging spells. At 88+88+64+64, or 300 damage from my character alone, any enemy team would be crippled after being hit with that. A group with 2 Dervishes, a Monk, and a fourth character that kept changing (at first it was a Warrior, but then it became a Necromancer when the first left the game when he died and got impatient), we managed to rack up a 10 game winning spree.

The Avatar of Lyssa. Kind of disappointing really, as it’s not that powerful and rather ugly to boot.

Eventually I decided to stop playing around with the Dervish and moved to my Mesmer character. After some time I managed to find an excellent group with a skilled Monk, Warrior, and a Necromancer. We fought a number of really tough battles, from which I drew some observations.

An oriental-themed arena that undoubtedly was released with Factions. However, I haven’t PvPed since Factions was released so it’s new to me.

What looks to be an Elonian-themed PvP arena. I could be wrong about this and this is just yet another Factions visual theme.

Another potentially Elonian-themed PvP arena. This one has a sort of rustic Savannah feel. It’s interesting and one potential area that so far hasn’t been well explored in Guild Wars.

One is that if you are a Guild Wars: Prophecies-only character and you use a skill such as Inspired Enchantment (it steals an enchantment from an opponent and gives it to you), you are crippled. I was using Inspired Enchantment a lot as a way to manage my mana, but half of the enchants that I stole were unuseable to me. Apparently, if I steal a skill from Factions or Nightfall I am not allowed to use it if I only own Prophecies. Unbelievable.

Two is that Rangers or Warriors equipped with the new Paragon weapon, the Javelin, are extremely powerful. As a Mesmer your goal is to cast spells from a distance without allowing Warriors to close in on you while avoiding bow-using Rangers. The Javelin allows Warriors to attack easily from a distance, while the Ranger equipped with the Javelin has a rapid attack that is quite debilitating to enemy casters. It seems of questionable balance to me – I saw a shocking number of Rangers and Warriors exploiting this build, almost as many Rangers and Warriors using Javelins as I saw Dervishes.

Another obervation came when I saw one enemy Dervish who kept showing up on the other team — He was using the Avatar of Dwayna and Protection Prayers to sustain his health. He was essentially unkillable and the only way we managed to defeat him was by destroying his entire team first and then directing our attention back to the Dervish. When four well-built players can barely take out a single enemy opponent you know something is wrong. Luckily this guy kept appearing with weaker teams, it would have been hell if he had shown up with a Spike Dervish (the build I came up with) or the like. Either way, I noticed a distinct anti-Dervish sentiment among the population of the Battle Isles, culminating in a lynch riot for any Dervish that showed up.

I guess it’s a good thing that ArenaNet runs these PvP Beta-Test events.

D&D Distractions

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Last Monday one of my D&D groups finished a plot arc and now we have some substantial time to do activities with our characters. Since my character has been a bit “swept up” in events lately, which means that (a) I haven’t been playing the character in a way that I’m totally happy with and (b) that my character’s goals have been sidelined, this provides me with an opportunity to do some of the put-off things. When our session ended we were told that perhaps we could have some short sessions later on in the week to accomodate this sort of thing.

So now it’s nearly Sunday and two things have not-transpired: First, I haven’t come up with a clear plan for what I would want my character to due in this downtime. Second, my GM hasn’t been around to bounce ideas off of or run any additional game time. Disappointed in myself and frustrated. The GM hasn’t even given out our experience. I don’t particularly care about the experience itself, since I am usually arguing for us to level up slower, but last week we had a conversation that went roughly like this:

Me: “You haven’t updated the experience for last week’s session yet.”
GM: “You’re right. Usually one of the other guys harasses me about it but they haven’t. I’ll do it now.”
Me: “Okay. I guess I will have to harass you about it, then.”
GM: “What’s funny is that I would probably be better about the experience if I weren’t used to being harassed about it.”

So I haven’t made any note to mention the experience issue to the GM, and as a result we’re back at square one: No experience assigned. I feel like this shows lack of interest in having things prepared for the game, even if I should know better.

Yet another example is how I showed the GM an interesting program, Vibe Streamer, an extremely easy to set-up internet radio stream. Since this particular game is played online via Open RPG, Vibe Streamer offers an interesting way to enhance the game with music, as is often done in tabletop games. In fact, Vibe Streamer can be better than how music is handled typically in a tabletop game — My tabletop group uses an MP3 CD with some general moody soundtrack slash ambient music on it. With VibeStream it would be no difficult affair to create specific playlists for certain moods or scenes and merely switch between the playlists at appropriate times. In a tabletop game, unless you already incorporate use of a laptop as a GMing tool, this would be a distraction. Online, it’s a fluid part of what you’re already doing.

Guild Wars: Nightfall PvP Weekend

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The Guild Wars: Nightfall PvP Weekend event started today at 12:01 am. I’ve got some things to take care of before I can really participate. I signed on last night to download the new version of the client and the new assets required to play the Nightfall PvP weekend, but didn’t really have a chance to play.

I did go through the character creation process with one of the new character classes, the Dervish. I was hoping to create a female Paragon character, but unfortunately it seems like ArenaNet has decided to skimp on the art assets for this PvP Weekend event: Currently you can only play as a Male Paragon or as a Female Dervish. Disappointing.


Even with the gender restrictions the customization options are even more limited than usual. The female dervish has five hairstyles (one is bald, though, which doesn’t really count in my book), three faces, and three skin tones. The clothing styles available to her are all very similar as well.


I realize showing off pretty art assets is not the main purpose of this event, but I’ve already expressed my reservations about the cycle ArenaNet seems to be establishing where each bonus pack primarily adds two new classes and new areas. What I would really like is a bonus pack that is just that — a bonus pack. Forget the new classes, I want new models for the existing classes. I want more hairstyles, faces, body customization. These are things I’m willing to pay money for, but adding new classes is really not. I would much rather prefer denser and more flexible character classes to new classes. That is to say: All those new skills you have populating the skill lists for these new classes? Give them to the already extant character classes.

I have to say this ability the Dervish character has is quite cool:


This is an elite skill that transforms the Dervish into the avatar of the nature God Melandru. I suspect the Dervish will have an avatar form for all of the Guild Wars Gods. Neat, and new, but lets hope some of the base classes reap some of the rewards of this expansion.

Victory of the Crude

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I checked Protein Wisdom some time yesterday evening and noticed this post,

Yeah, it ain’t worth it


Back when all this is settled. Once and for all.

Rather cryptic. Obviously this had something to do with Frisch, but I have no clue what. I checked Frisch’s blog but saw only her solemn denials of her previous activity on Jeff’s comments and her willingness to ban anyone who doesn’t want to engage in her whitewashing campaign. No crows of victory or other public displays of stupidity. I then browsed Jeff’s previous post:

If anybody needs me…

…I’ll be at Coors field, watching a once-promising Rockies’ season disappear in a flurry of bad coaching and disappointing clutch hitting.

This had quite a number of comments on it for being a post that essentially says, “I’m not here.” Baseball talk? I begin to read the comments.

KM on 07/27 at 08:57 PM makes the following comment, which I found eerie in itself:

If Goldstein’s at the game … and take my word for it, no chance of rain tonight … that means nobody’s watching this thread. Yet it remains eerily under control.

Vencemeros ( on 07/27 at 09:06 PM follows with:

that means nobody’s watching this thread

Well now’s the chance to take it over.

Debi, Glen et al. (and I do mean et al.), are you with me?

Preserving the rest of the comments behind the cut as a cross-reference. The text of these was taken about 2am Central time, July 28th. Lets see if we get any more frantic lies of redaction.

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Science Fiction Elsewhere and Here

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Jon Hastings has this post on the definition of “Sci-Fi” that I’ve been meaning to respond to. Unfortunately, he’s got anonymous comments disabled and, wow, is it ever a hassle to have to register just to make a short comment. In any case I agree with Jon on this issue — Sci-Fi is determined by its color. If you have robots, artificial intelligences, spaceships, and so on it is Sci-Fi. This is pretty much tautological because the determination of genre is a consensus activity and a consensus of people would agree that these are features of Sci-Fi stories. I suppose the thing that interests me is how this consensus will change as things like robots (Roombas, etc) become more commonplace — Perhaps in the future the color of Sci-Fi will become the quotidian and thus the consensus agreement of Sci-Fi genre stories will move to be more selective. For the time being, though, it is how it is.

Via Digg I find this link to Geeklogie. Some interesting things here, although I won’t waste time mentioning them all. This particular post that I found interesting has to do with using precisely calculated motions to write on water, an idea I had a variation of a few years back that has stuck with me. Intriguing to see these things come to fruition, though I can’t really see an application for it.

Also found on Geeklogie, this post featuring a “license plate blurring device.” Here’s the video from their site:

Personally I think it’s a bit shortsighted to call this a “license-plate-blurring” device. A more appropriate term might be a “No-Field” or “Electronic-Optical Cloak.” Unfortunately the post doesn’t really have any details about how this works or whether it has potential to be miniaturized in the near future. Just imagine all the celebrities in the world carrying one of these around, saving us all from having to see the indignities of their daily lives. I imagine these would catch on pretty quickly with more average people too as governments and corporations move to put more and more surveillance equipment to monitor your every move.

Seven Worst (?) Ideas in GM History

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Recently I saw this post over at discussing “Seven of the Worst Ideas in GMing History.” Martin’s choices seemed kind of lukewarm to me — I guess he can take a pass for the phrasing of “Seven of the Worst” instead of “The Seven Worst,” but I don’t even know if I’d put most of these in my category of “GMing History.” The d100, THAC0, and Attacks of Opportunity are all system or object design related. Mixed typefaces, sealed books, and books without indexes are issues dealing with production and marketing of books.

Chris of Bankuei chimes in with his own list in the comments, which I thought was worth preserving.

1. GM is God (and responsible to FORCE everyone to have fun)

2. Punish the character to teach the player (instead of talking like adults)

3. Tell players, “you can do anything”, while railroading them

4. Lying about GM Fiat. Well, lying to your players at all.

5. “Gotcha!” play- “Oops, you went left, everyone gets hit with a thermonuclear pit trap! Ha-Ha!”

6. Holding back information because players can’t “just have it” (and get the damn game on the road)

7. GM’s Pet NPC to rescue the PCs/Force them into inconvenient and boring prewritten plots.

I feel kind of guilty looking over #2 and #6, the first because of situations I could’ve handled better and #6 because I realize that sometimes my insistence on only revealing things to the players that their characters would know can be somewhat of an impediment. At least I can take some comfort that I only ever had one moment of, “Do you go left or do you go right?” an issue that seems to be fairly common in my current D&D campaign to my chagrin.

Stop Asking Me For Money and Put On Your Pants

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or, my preliminary thoughts on Guild Wars: Nightfall.

If you’ve been reading here regularly you probably know that I play Guild Wars semi-regularly and that I only own the first Guild Wars product, Guild Wars: Prophecies. I’ve been considering buying Guild Wars: Factions but have been waiting for the price to drop a bit before picking it up. Imagine my surprise, then, when I logged in to Guild Wars the other day. I make it a point to at least log on to Guild Wars every few days if only to download the latest game updates. On the “Announcements” panel a new item appeared, proclaiming next weekend to be a PvP preview of Guild Wars: Nightfall.

Here I am, mulling over the price point I want to buy Factions at, and ArenaNet is already almost done with their next expansion pack (I expect it released in November). They really are following through with their strategy of two standalone expansions per year.

Unfortunately the press release was extremely sketchy. The known facts are that the expansion will take place on a continent called Elonia. I believe there are references to this continent in the backstory of Prophecies as being related to the worship of the gods, so it is not a great surprise that the two classes that have been announced for Nightfall both have a religious bent to them.

The Dervish…

and the Pants-less guy… err, Paragon.

Here’s the thing: Given that I still haven’t purchased Factions, the release of yet another expansion/standalone product intimidates me. When I purchase books I almost always purchase the entire series. If I buy Factions I will feel compelled to purchase Nightfall as well, but from what I know I’m not encouraged to buy Guild Wars: Nightfall. Two new character classes do not appeal to me — Seven class choices is plenty. New armor designs to appeal to me, but they can’t justify the purchase price. I don’t know yet if this new expansion is going to have a distinctive visual theme — From the screenshots of the new classes I suspect it won’t. It may have new monsters and new skills and new items, but those things aren’t enough in themselves either.

What I really want are things that will improve the gameplay experience, not adding in redundant content within the pre-existing paradigm. That is to say, my two main desires for Nightfall are (1) that it provides for a more involved non-instanced and/or non-combat play and (2) an auction house. The first is probably wishful thinking but I am heartened with how the introduction of titles added a new sense of purpose to the game. The second is just a plain necessity. An auction house has been “in progress” for two years now, I’m tired of having my characters loaded down with extraneous items that I can’t sell off because I’m unwilling to stand around in the game for hours looking for buyers.

Superman Returns

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So I finally managed to find some time to go and see the new Superman. I’ve been in a relative blackout of information about the movie, not because I didn’t want to ruin it for myself but because I wasn’t particularly interested in it. Superman has never been one of my favorite comic-book characters and the latest batch of comic-book inspired movies have been clearly horrible (Fantastic Four, need I say more?). I can count the few tidbits of information I’ve seen about the movie on one hand: The prerelease promotional photo of Routh in the Superman costume, some postings on message boards discussing alternate casting choices, and Steven’s note about the movie’s less than stellar opening.

Spoiler-ish discussion below…

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Amazing. This is almost enough to convince me to install Valve’s spy/crippleware on my computer. Almost.