Memories, New and Old

Do you ever think back on a video game you used to play and get those “warm fuzzies” deep down? Maybe it’s the Zelda Theme that sparks something inside of you? It could be Diablo II. Maybe it’s the first time you ever caught Mewtwo in Pokémon Red or Blue? Ok, I’m giving away some of my most nostalgic memories of video games. Whether it’s the sound of the Magus Theme from Chrono Trigger, or that first moment I saw the Searing happen in Guild Wars, I’m filled with memories that stick with me and help me revisit them to at least some degree. They may never seem the same when I try to play these games nowadays because the time has come and gone.

The problem we often experience is that everybody (young or old) tend to fall into the trap of dreaming about the “golden days.” We end up with selective memory and think that things in the past were clearly much better than they are today. Yes, there were great times, but we can’t relive them. Instead, I offer a different approach.

Make new memories.

This takes work. We have to choose not to be (negatively) critical about what we’re playing, and open ourselves up for new experiences that we’ll enjoy. Sometimes I think, especially as the larger gamer community, we tend to critique a little too much. Check out any video game forums to see that happen.

No, I propose we look at what we love and what sparks our imaginations. This isn’t to say we lie to ourselves and admit we love everything about a game, but instead we should make the game a journey to be discovered. In the same way you would eat a rich cake, or would take in the sound of a symphony, we should breathe in such beautiful experiences instead of rushing on by.

Make new memories by listening to the music, staring at new sights, and choosing to get extremely excited over the little victories and accomplishments.

With that being said, let me share two super exciting memories that I’ve just made in the past month!

My first Ascended Weapon!

My first Ascended Weapon!

It took me about two months to get all of my mats together (and cost me way too much gold), but it was a victory that’s well worth it! Why not get a legendary, you say? Because I actually really don’t like the look of most of the legendaries, and find it’ll take me way too much work that doesn’t fit in with my schedule. I’m ok with that, and would much prefer to grab some more ascended weapons as time goes on! The beautiful thing in GW2 is that there are a lot of options for what you want to work on, so choose something and work towards it. It was rewarding for me!

My Mini Armored Scarlet!

My Mini Armored Scarlet!

This was one of my favourite memories to be made. After beating Scarlet and finishing Season 1 of the Living Story, I felt it was the time to celebrate. When I was interested in grabbing one, it was pretty easy. It ran me 500 Gems though. I purchased the Scarlet’s Champion Mini 3-Pack from the Gem Store, threw it into the Mystic Forge with one Mai Trin Mini (found on the TP), and voila! Mini Armored Scarlet Briar. I was quite pleased, especially since I can crush her with my boot, should she ever get out of hand.

There are many more memories to be made, so my question today for you is:

What’s your favourite memory of Guild Wars 2 so far?
Answer in the comment section! I’d love to hear from you!

“Tell me a Story”

Confusion and Delay
I’ve recently been posed a question by GuildMag and wanted to take some time to answer it, as it’s been a constant topic of conversation between my wife and myself. You’re all there right now, I’m sure, looking back after the defeat of Scarlet Briar. The questions is: “What was the first Living World season like for you?”

Well, to be honest, I was very confused when I heard the term “Living Story,” and I was exactly sure what to think of it. Were they to be progressive updates with a purpose? Perhaps they would be more akin to a TV series where everything and everyone constantly changes (my mind goes to Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Maybe this was their way of giving us an expansion full of work over a period of time! Imagine the potential; imagine the possibilities.

It seems I was mostly wrong on all fronts, with a hint of accuracy.

Shadow of the Mad King had shown us that things were not necessarily permanent. The Lion’s Arch statue cracked and crumbled, until Thorn was released–something I completely missed due to the approach of a single-timed event. Over time, ArenaNet learned that one-time events were not the way to go (although it took the Karka Queen to see how much of a problem this was). To be honest, I didn’t even care for these Living Story updates at first because they gave me very little reason to buy into it. . Sure, I played around, but I didn’t touch anything and even left the game for a while when Dragon Bash was released.

Mad King Thorn – linked from PCGamer

We were introduced to Braham and Rox in Flame and Frost, which I actually really enjoyed. It engaged me, but the story felt thin. I had no clue why we were meeting these people. “Wait and see” didn’t really catch me. In my line of work, telling people to “wait and see” often turns into a lack of engagement from the consumers. The mistake being made by ArenaNet is that we were already completely sold to everything they were doing–a poor assumption for any company.

Still, I waited. I tried to see. I kept my eyes open for what was happening, even during my hiatus–something about “E,” Aetherblades, a Captain’s Council, and Mai Trin. The part that I did jump in for, I didn’t feel compelled in the slightest to go near it. Minor character developments of NPCs we had no need to connect with, who didn’t link in with the already existing story (which the vast majority of good tales always manage to link things into the greater scheme).

I rarely am this negatively critical of things, but bear with me. My frustrations came because there was very little story to be told. There was nothing that drew us in. The Living Story hadn’t gained traction. No, instead, it was (up to this point) a series of games and festivals without direction, with some meaningless characters that I would blatantly say that up until one specific update, were all poorly connected and poorly written. I don’t mean that offensively, but it ought to have been quicker; more successive; more engaging for a person’s main.

Overall, there was a huge lack of clarity from ArenaNet on what the Living Story was to be. Think of it: We beat Zhaitan, bested some of Tyria’s most fearsome creatures. Now, all of us mighty heroes are playing games with Thorn and Tixx, meeting some large-eyed Charr (who I actually loved how she looked, right from the beginning), and some random Fabio-style son of Eir? It just didn’t fit with me. I may love Rox and Braham now, but I wasn’t impressed at first.

Sure, the Living Story updates also had something (<–see what I did there?) that scared the Karka on to Southsun which was a welcome addition, but I would need to write another blog post on Southsun as a whole–which I have no intention of doing, so you won’t hear much from me on that.

As time went on, I tried to log in and connect with each Living Story update. I felt confused no matter how much I read, or tried to experience and see. I was disheartened; this beautiful game that captured my heart more than even Lord of the Rings Online ever had… let me down. I was hurt; betrayed; heartbroken. Yes, those are harsh words, but I believed in Guild Wars 2 more than any other game out there. I blog about this game because I’m passionate about it, but it took a long time to get traction–just like the Living Story.

As time went on, we experienced the Bazaar of the Four Winds–and it was beautiful. Still, there was no traction or depth. Yes, we had an impending election for Evon Gnashblade or Ellen Kiel (who, if you voted for her, I’ll accept an apology of 1 gold piece per person for voting for the wrong one). Yes, the Bazaar was one of my favourite updates, but there was no true story. Cutthroat Politics added some small progress, but up to this point, everything was just baby steps that infuriated people more than engaged them. We live in a quick-paced world with a “Microwave Generation,” as I term it, who like things to be quick and accessible. Taking time to develop and grow characters and a story is acceptable, but this was too long. They wanted to explore a lot of things happening at once, but it was just spread too thin, and lacked the depth it needed.

Braham and Rox at the Queen’s Jubilee – From the Offical GW2 Site

The Game Changed
Ok, not the game itself, but something seemed different. The Queen’s Jubilee was exciting for many (and contained some ‘hardcore’ content), but what was yet to come in Clockwork Chaos was even more exciting for me. Queen Jennah was attacked, a crazy woman named Scarlet Briar was behind it all,  and her twisted machinations come forth as a new and interesting switch to game mechanics, being required to use finishers on monsters. It was exciting. It was thrilling. I was jittering (ask my wife, she laughed at me as I was on the edge of my seat, finally seeing something noteworthy happening!). Finally, the Living Story was gaining traction!

Then it stopped. Super Adventure Box (which was fun), something about Tequatl, and finally we came back to the Tower of Nightmares, the Nightmares Within, along with a few seasonal updates happening. To be honest, it all felt chaotic and directionless to me. It’s not that they did a bad job, but they needed to try, take risks, and make mistakes. This is exactly what they did, and it led us to where we are today.

  • We have a destroyed tower in Kessex Hills
    • A reminder of what has happened.
  • We have a new Fractal
    • A reminder of promises fulfilled.
  • We have a new heroine, Taimi, who is loved by many
    • A sign of progress in writing.
  • We have a new WvW “buffer zone” called the Edge of the Mists
    • A potential sign that ArenaNet has eyes on WvW.
  • We have a new PvP map called Skyhammer
    • A potential sign that ArenaNet has focus on PvP.
  • We have several bosses redone to supposedly be more challenging and offer an olive branch to raid-type content
    • An attempt to appeal to the ‘hardcore’ players.
  • We’ve had Origins of Madness, Edge of the Mists, Escape From Lion’s Arch, and Battle for Lion’s Arch to finally draw us into what’s really happening in Tyria at this time with Scarlet.

The Problem
I honestly felt like nothing worthwhile happened in the story until the Origins of Madness. Finally we get to see what this strange, seemingly psychotic, Sylvari is all about. We encountered her in the Nightmare Tower, but that still didn’t seem to cut it for me. It all felt poorly-handled, planned for too much time, and only offered major character development in the last bit. Progress took a long time, and they took a lot of risks in order to get to where they are today. Yet I believe ArenaNet has learned and grown from these risks. I mean, all things have a right to grow, right?

We often assume that a video game company knows exactly what it’s doing, but what have I learned so far in life? “We all have no clue what we’re doing, and the rest of us are faking it.” This isn’t to say there aren’t experts in life, but I find myself trying to have a lot of patience and grace for people (and companies), as someone shouldn’t be put on too high of a pedestal in my eyes, lest I get disappointed. Maybe it’s my cynicism that seemed to pay off in the end of the Living Story.

The march of victory after Scarlet's demise

The march of victory after Scarlet’s demise

The Story to be Told
I loved these past few updates of the Living Story. 2014 marked the beginning of an astounding adventure and journey (yes, it took that long to feel like it began) in our war on Scarlet. Finally, Asmund was a hero. Finally, characters were getting more depth (many of you love Marjory and Kasmeer but I can’t stand either of them as characters). Finally, I felt like I was finally having a hand in what was taking place in Tyria. Asmund doesn’t have to be the center of everything, but why did I feel for so long like any of my characters were completely unrelated to anything taking place? Why did I feel left in the dark for so long? Instead of keeping me guessing, they left me disheartened for a long time.

Yet, I’ve put in more hours in the Living Story up to this point in 2014 than I did in any update all-together! They’re starting to get it right. All of the information we had been given was for a purpose.

  • Flame and Frost
    • Scarlet built the Breachmaker, which allowed her to tunnel to disrupt the leylines and wake up Mordremoth.
  • Nightmare Within
    • Toxic Miasma, which kept everyone out of Lion’s Arch so she could enact her plan, uninterrupted.
  • Sky Pirates of Tyria/Edge of the Mists
    • Scarlet hid her machination in the Mists to be hidden until it was unleashed on Lion’s Arch.
  • Origins of Madness
    • Her Twisted Marionette was just a test for what would surge through the leylines.

Much of the story finally pulled together. Characters have pulled together, struggling, wrestling between decisions (should Rox keep striving for her warband? What about this scandalous thing with Braham? Will Marjory open up her own form of Angel Investigations [another shameless Joss Whedon plug]). There was pain, as we saw with Kasmeer and Marjory. There was frustration, as we still don’t stop hearing from Evon Gnashblade, or from Ellen Kiel. Slowly, we’re starting to have an effect on Tyria.

My hope is that as time goes on, we’ll have a greater impact. I want to see the world change. I want my game to be disrupted because Tyria has gone to hell in a handbasket, and I’m forced to do something about it. If it’s a Living Story and a Living World, then the change needs to be more frequent and more prominent. We’re on a good path. Heck, I would’ve been happy had Lion’s Arch even been destroyed for good (I have the feeling we’ll rebuild it somehow). Yet after this journey, I’m finally sold. Ever since Origins of Madness, I’ve embraced where they’re going. Unlike a lot of people I talk to, I loved Scarlet. I felt like Harley Quinn was the villain (if you didn’t know, she was voiced by Tara Strong, who also actually did the voice for Harley Quinn in several Batman: Arkham games). To see chaos ensue, method come to her madness, and to watch my character be praised by the group of heroic NPCs we’ve been getting to know? I was pleased.

Now with a tease for what’s yet to come, I’m even more excited. Yes, there have been a lot of disheartening moments, but I think ArenaNet’s risks and mistakes are finally leading into their learning how to handle things better. As a gamer, blogger, and passionate lover of Guild Wars 2…

May 2014 be the year of the greatest Living Story ever told.

Journal Entry: Victory!

As a warning, if you have not faced Scarlet Briar and finished the Living Story, this post will contain spoilers. 

By the spirits, we did it! An entire army of heroes banded together (and praise Wolf for that), fought their way into the center of Scarlet’s evil plan… then we did it. It was cold and empty in that room, perhaps much like that salad-faced witch’s mind. Yet I was fortunate enough to be able to bring my war buddy, Tiny Hero (some call her Ameera Rayne, but I figure that’s just an insult to someone of her caliber). The entire base shook as Scarlet threw grenades at us and attempted to push us back, but to no avail. It was too late. My legend would not be cut short by some villainous Sylvari who was a a few leaves short of an appetizer. Of course, that didn’t stop me. Nothing could stop me. Nothing will stop me from defending the people I love.

"Finish Her!"

So I did it. I killed Scarlet.

I thought we had finished. Tyria was saved, the darkness had been lifted, and the world could begin joining together once again to rebuild what had been taken from us–I was wrong.

She did something. This… this drill… it did something. There was a flash; a bang; an explosion of light that blasted through the ground and followed these strange lines of magic that run through Tyria (or so the Durmand Priory tell me). It was followed by a brief, chilling silence, and was met by a piercing roar that resonated through the world.

We had not finished our war. No, Tyria is going to change from whatever made that nightmarish sound. I would never admit this to anyone (especially the Tiny Hero), but part of me fears that we may not be strong enough to beat what is yet to come…

Oh who am I kidding? We will rage war; we will face our fears; we killed an Elder Dragon, and we will kill anything else that tries to kill us. I am strong. I am mighty. I am Asmund Leifsting, slayer of dragons and Hero of Lion’s Arch. I am the Guardian of Tyria. I am the explorer of magics long forgotten.

I am… The Traveller of Tyria.

A march for the memory of a defeated villain.

A march for the memory of a defeated villain.

Confession: They Called Me Crazy

Ok, so it may be a little crazy to admit. I have a confession. I mean, it was a problem. Maybe more than a problem. They all said I was out of my mind. They said they’ve never done it before. They said I wasted my time and energy, all for nothing. Were they right? Was it possible that I royally screwed things up? They left me thinking, “what’s wrong with me?”

I have to confess to every single one of you. I’ve done the nastiest thing a person could ever do in an MMO… I deleted a fully geared out 80.

He was my first character. I had no clue what I was doing. I rolled a Charr Thief, made him huge, and thought it was hilarious. I was just excited to see Tyria for the first time, and I did. He had full exotics. He was a 400 Jeweller. He had finished the (the Trahearne Story) Personal Story. Yet I deleted him. Heck, I still haven’t used the Pact Victory Token from completing the game!

Wraxis was his name. So much time and effort was put into him. You’d think I’d miss him, but I don’t. I’m not sure if the Thief is a profession that doesn’t fit with me, or if I just had no clue what I was doing. Level 80 is always a game-changer, and I found no lasting love for the Thief; I found no lasting love for Wraxis Shadestorm. Maybe I didn’t have a deep enough connection for this character I created. I mean, that’s really important (as I mentioned in Something Old, Something New). Maybe my altoholism caught up with me, as I only had 5 slots at the time? Maybe I hit a point in my life where I just needed to do something drastic in order to cope?

Wraxis Cropped

Wraxis Shadestorm, Deceased.

This was probably the most extreme thing I’ve ever done in a game. My Sylvari Elementalist, Lefraeyn Whitethorn? Naw. She’s a love who I even got a commission done of her by comic artist and illustrator, Ember Cescon. Asmund Leifsting, my Norn Guardian? Nope. He’s the center of all that I love in GW2 (ok, so my wife talked me into getting that Total Makeover Kit instead of giving him the Norn-sized boot). So what was it? I might not really know today when I look back, but whatever it was, I guess Wraxis just didn’t cut it.

So I deleted him.

Have you ever done something crazy in a game that’s made everyone think you’re insane? I’d love to hear your experiences (and hopefully I’ll realize I’m not as insane as everyone thinks).