Path of Exile and the Worst Barrier Ever

September 15, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Posted in Article, gaming | Leave a comment

poeAs a Filthy Casual, I’ve been playing Path of Exile (POE) on and off since it went into open beta a couple years ago. Back then, I thought the game was fun but not really more fun than Diablo 3, and over time, as the game developed and became more polished, it grew on me.

For the world-weary D3 veteran, the philosophy of creator Grinding Gear Games is a breath of fresh air. The intricacies of character building and development, and skill gem management, with all its unforgiving glory, resemble Diablo 2 more than D3 does. Twice-monthly patches, regular expansions and periodic ladder races are all things that the D3 player wanted, but never got. These guys got it. It made things fun.

Despite this, my Filthy Casual nature ensured that up until a few weeks ago, none of my characters ever got past level 50 (endgame characters usually run around the 75-85 mark). This changed when the latest expansion, Forsaken Masters, was released. You can now create a hideout! And decorate it! And have buddies that can help you craft gear! For a game that’s free to play, this is a wealth of content. (The game is funded by cosmetic and utilitarian microtransactions such as glowy sword effects and increased inventory space.)

My newest character, a Witch named Tesserai, is now top dog in my roster at level 67. She’s at the very end of the final act of the hardest difficulty, which means she’s on the cusp of starting endgame content. And here is where the barrier arises.

I’ve been playing solo pretty much the entire time, using only gear I’ve found or crafted myself. While I am still progressing, I’m doing so at a much slower rate, due to me dying more than before (like in Diablo 2, you lose 10% XP with every death on the hardest difficulty). Part of this is me occasionally brain farting; the other part is that my gear is woefully outdated.

Enter the POE economy. There is no gold in POE; only crafting materials that double as commodities in a worldwide barter-style market. Some are rarer than others; you can trade up or down, but there is no standardized currency and the market values are constantly fluctuating. As well, there is no true in-game market for easy access to people who have what you want. There are external websites that attempt to fill this void, but it is a clunky and unintuitive process to get involved.

Some people obviously love this. You can get “rich” by playing this market the same way you can turn a profit by flipping cards in MTG. But I, being a Filthy Casual, have no time or inclination to take part. I want to trade for better gear to progress faster, but I have to jump through so many hurdles to do so.

The highlight of the now-defunct D3 auction house was the power of its search system – you can find whatever you want through a series of (albeit clumsily-implemented) parameters. There is an external website for POE traders, but it’s not nearly the same as an in-game system. If I could find traders and listings in-game for items I wanted, that would be the cash-money. But I can’t. And although it is clever and challenging, the POE endgame is intimidating and esoteric enough without requiring a significant time investment just to find new gear upgrades.

140912 POE assetsMaybe what I’m getting at is that the POE endgame is too casual-unfriendly. Or, as an aspiring curmudgeon, I don’t like interacting with people in-game. As my progress continues to slow, so will my interest in the game. Grinding safe zones just to not die because my gear is subpar isn’t my ideal scenario of fun.

Progression or not, I will likely still play POE on and off. There’s a roguelike aspect to the game in trying to see just how far your characters can level before POE just crushes you with its endgame, and trying new characters to do so – this, I find, is something that Diablo 3 lacks.

Or maybe I just need to pray extra hard to RNGsus for new gear. Maybe that will work best.

And the winner is…

June 20, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Posted in Art post, Article | 1 Comment

Thanks to the noble souls who took up the challenge of naming all the cards in my playmat. Your average score was 16.12/17 – not too shabby! I hope you all had fun with this guessing game.

Here is the full list:

  1. Bad Moon
  2. Sorceress Queen
  3. Demonic Tutor
  4. Sengir Vampire
  5. Hypnotic Specter
  6. Lord of the Pit
  7. Royal Assassin
  8. Phyrexian Obliterator
  9. Phyrexian Plaguelord
  10. Gray Merchant of Asphodel
  11. Pack Rat
  12. Order of the Ebon Hand
  13. Bloodghast
  14. Nantuko Shade
  15. Nether Shadow
  16. (Background) Castle Sengir
  17. (Background) Erebos, God of the Dead

I’m impressed that people could get Sorceress Queen at all! In my early Magic years, she was right up there with Hippie as an iconic black card. Did you know she used to be worth 5 bucks back then?

Castle Sengir was another selection that seemed odd or unlikely to some. If you know that I love Homelands, though, it is not so strange. Sure, it’s a terrible Magic card, but Castle Sengir is a land that I feel should be on par with Urborg for Vorthos gravitas. Baron Sengir lives there, yo!

So, without further ado, the winner of the contest – and a “March of the Evil Ones” playmat is…

James Smith!

Not only was James the first entrant with a perfect score, but he also went to great lengths to describe his choices. And, he wisely noted that I could have been a dick and considered Whip of Erebos an 18th card. But I didn’t :) Congrats, James!

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to play. Your emails made my week! And fear not, whether you live in Toronto or elsewhere, these playmats will be available very soon.

P.S. Sorry Marcus! /Worldfire

March of the Evil Ones: Story Time & Playmat Giveaway!

June 17, 2014 at 11:00 am | Posted in Art post, Article | Leave a comment

I’m a sucker for Magic nostalgia. When I was a littler Derf Jr. circa 1996, I’d daydream about the artwork of the cards I owned. There was a mystique about Magic artwork back then: where these creatures came from, what lands they lurked in, and what treasures (or horrors!) lay within the ruins of crumbling castles and dark forests. There was no world building back then, no style guides. My imagination would fill in the gaps and run wild.

Fast forward to today. I wanted to do something different for my latest playmat. I love the themes I used for the last two (Mystics and Squadron Hawks, Goblins vs. Elves), but to mix things up, the next one had to be more…cohesive. Like a united force of creatures, a mix of old and new. And I wanted to bring a different feel to the mat…darker and more mysterious perhaps. And last but not least, I wanted to revisit and reinterpret a little of that old-school nostalgia.

Behold: March of the Evil Ones!

mono-black-thumb

The biggest challenge of this playmat was figuring out what to include. Ask yourself: what creatures do you associate with Mono Black? Tournament decks, casual decks, EDH and cube inclusions…there are so many creatures throughout Magic history that you could name.

A lesser but no less considerable challenge was putting them altogether in one scene. While it would be nice to include half a dozen of the Mono Black-themed lands we all know and love, putting them into one landscape was, I felt, a little unrealistic. And some creatures are just too big-boned to include all of them, and so in true Mono Black fashion, some sacrifices had to be made.

HOW TO WINS A PLAYMAT

monob-playmat-photo

You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned any of the cards I put into this mat. That’s because you have the chance to win one of these mats: by naming all of the cards!

There are [CENSORED] cards depicted in this playmat. Email mtgderfington at gmail dot com with the Subject Line: “Playmat Giveaway” and include a list of all [CENSORED], along with your name (and Facebook/Twitter info if you have it).

If you get all [CENSORED] right, you’ll be entered into a draw. The winner will receive a signed and altered playmat!

I’ll be choosing the winner on Friday morning (June 20), so get those emails in! And sharing this post on Facebook and Twitter will not hurt your chances ;)

-Derf

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