Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Runescape - Bond Burnout

I knew it would happen eventually. My third bond recently ended and I’m getting to the point now here I’m pretty burned out with the paid game.

Mind you, I still haven’t paid a cent of real money on the game since my purchased membership ended on 8 September 2013. But the whole situation of having to prioritize making money within the game to pay for the bonds I’ve purchased with in-game currency… it gets old. I’ve fortunately found some ways to recoup the monetary cost of a bond pretty quickly, but temporary membership of any sort still adds that feeling of obligation to the game. For each bond that I buy, I’ve got 14 days of membership, and I have to max out what I do within that time, else I’ve wasted it.

The entirety of my first bond was colored with that “ermahgerd, I’m a member again” magic. Considering my only exposure to p2p in the past almost 5 years was a free membership weekend, having 2 weeks to do whatever I wanted in the game was great. It wasn’t really driven, and honestly, it was slightly overwhelming having the full game thrown at me for the first time in so long. I can’t count the number of items, quests, and training methods that I was completely unaware of, and had to read up on. It was a fun 2 weeks, but it was more exploratory than anything else.

My second bond was more targeted and driven. I knew that I wanted a Crystal hatchet, I knew how to get it, and that basically defined my entire 2 weeks of playing. I knocked out the requirements for Plague’s End, did the quest, grinded out a bunch of Harmonic dust, and got my Crystal hatchet. Ultimately, the goal here was to improve the rate at which I could cut Elder logs and make back the money I spent on bonds. (Side note, cutting elders is SO last month. Mining harmonized runite ore is all the rage now.) It was practical from a standpoint of paying for my bonds, but also an achievement that I wanted for my gaming experience anyway. Two birds, one stone.

During my second bond, I placed a Grand Exchange order for a Dragon pickaxe at slightly above market value. If the Crystal pickaxe was the best in the game and I had the items and levels to acquire and use it, I figured I may as well pick one up and put it on my toolbelt. Oddly enough, my significantly higher offer didn’t purchase quickly. Eventually, the market price climbed significantly higher than what my offer was for. I deduced that it wouldn’t purchase, but I left the offer up, since it didn’t interfere with my f2p Grand Exchange slots. Even more strange than my high offer not purchasing, when I went on to buy another bond to use, the pickaxe then bought at a price significantly lower than market price. I wasn’t sure what generous deity I had appeased, but decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

The third and most recently finished bond (I actually have an active bond right now) was spent exploring some of the other amenities in Prifddinas, and grinding out 99 mining. With Crystal pickaxe in hand, I could mine with the big boys. Seren stones were moderately easy to afk mine, and gave incredible experience rates. Looking into the training methods for f2p vs p2p, it was absurd how much more quickly members could train mining levels. Even though mining is technically a f2p skill, there was no way I would get 99 in a reasonable time frame without membership. Besides, the Corrupted ore from mining Seren stones gave me an easy way to train smithing, too. Toward the end of the third bond, I discovered harmonized runite, and how it can easily net 1.5 million gp or more in a single hour. As much as I had previously relied on Elder logs as my bread and butter during a bond, harmonized runite was significantly faster money, and gave me more time to do other things with my membership. If I didn’t manage to hit Voice of Seren at Trahaearn, I could fall back on elders for slower but consistent money.

In addition to Elder logs and Harmonized runite, I started doing herb runs for passive income and farming xp. A full run only takes about 5 or 10 minutes every 2 hours or so. Low investment, decent yield, fairly consistent overall. Herbs surely wouldn’t cover the cost of a bond alone, but it didn’t hurt having some extra income without chewing up a lot of time.

The one thing that I didn’t achieve in my third bond that I had originally planned for is finishing the quest to unlock Menaphos. Honestly, it doesn’t even look like I will in my fourth bond. Admittedly, there are more pressing goals available that would improve my experience more than a new city. Menaphos is additional content, but I have plenty of content available now. I just don’t have all of the quests and skill levels to fully make use of it.

On a more general note, I’m seeing more and more that I need to clean up my bank. I’m still a good ways off from the item storage cap, but it’s just a cluttered mess. I have all of the items that I use to make money up at the top of the main tab, but everything else is strewn everywhere. I’ve looked up a few different bank organization schemes, but I haven’t yet seen a system that works with what I want. Admittedly, I’m not even sure what I do want. I’d rather come up with an idea before I actually commit to moving everything around, though.

I have learned that membership doesn’t actually end until you log out after a bond expires. So you can game the system by staying logged in for several hours beyond when you would normally be forced back to f2p. With so many of the afk options available, especially in Prif, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to squeeze a few more hours out of a bond for some last minute house cleaning and a few more gold pieces in the bank.

As for my current bond, I’ve made good progress. My center goal is creating the Magic golem outfit. This would give me a higher rate of obtaining runite ore during Trah hour, which would allow me to make money more quickly. To make the suit, I need 20 Invention. To unlock the Invention skill, I need 80 Divination. I started the bond with only 56 Divination, so I knew it would be a long shot, but I’ve already made it to 70, and I still have a full week left. Chances are I won’t get much time to actually make use of the Magic golem outfit, but I should at least be able to obtain it.

I mentioned getting burned out, though. It’s very taxing to spend so much time getting the most out of each bond. I do my herb runs and Trah hour runite mining, so paying for the bond isn’t an issue, but I’m trying to do so much and it’s mentally exhausting. The game isn’t to the point of a chore yet (and I hope not to let it get there), but it has definitely lost a lot of the magic from that first bond. I’m grinding out gold to pay for the bond. I’m grinding my skills to 99. I realize it’s an MMORPG, so there has to be grinding, but is that all there is? Sure, you get a sense of achievement from leveling up and unlocking new things, but when do I use those skills and levels to do fun things?

This won’t be my last bond, I’m sure, but I may tone it back for a little while. I still have all of the items in my bank to grind out 99 Fletching, I just haven’t gotten a chance to do that between bonds. Not only that, but I said I would do more Dungeoneering, and I haven’t done much of that at all. I think it would do good for my experience to cut back on the p2p game for a little while and come back later with a fresh set of eyes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Book Report: "A&P" by John Updike

Note: If you haven’t ever read “A&P,” I encourage you to do so. It is a short read, and currently available to read for free here and here.

“A&P” is a short story by author John Updike. This first person narrative discusses a young man Sammy, and his experience when a group of scantily clad girls walk into the A&P store in which he works as a cashier, and ultimately spur him to quit his job.

Updike’s short story is typically met with a wide variety of opinions, as evident from its goodreads profile. A vocal majority strongly dislike the work, criticizing it for the misogynistic narrator Sammy, as well as seemingly lacking a good point. Some others consider the story tolerable, but nothing special. The apparent smallest group, including myself, consider “A&P” a classic, giving valuable life lessons in a small and entertaining package.

On the surface, it is completely understandable to consider that “A&P” is a shallow exploration of a teenage boy’s blatant lust over a group of girls, and his childish reaction to his employer’s enforcement of company policy. To objectify women the way that Sammy does is undoubtedly misogyny, if something that the majority of young men are guilty of at least some point in their lives. His description of these girls hinges solely on physical appearance, and how attractive they are to him, going so far as to call one “the plump one in plaid, that I liked better from the back -- a really sweet can.” And without digging down into Sammy’s motives for resigning, or examining the implications and ripple effects of that action, the story does lack obvious meaning or substance. However, with the willingness to consider the finer details of Sammy’s experience, any reader can find a sort of self-reflection in “A&P,” and ponder its relevance to the human experience.

Tension of the story builds as Sammy watches the girls walk around the store. He knows that their attire violates store policy, but his chief concern is appreciating their apparent beauty. The climax of the story occurs as the girls come through Sammy’s register to check out. Coincidentally, the store manager Lengel happens to step out of his office as the girls are at the register, and he confronts them on their attire. After some dialog, Sammy decides to resign from his position in defending the girls from Lengel’s perceived disrespect of the girls.

This pivotal action, as simple as it may be, contain a wealth of commentary on Sammy, his motives, and the reader by extension. The most obvious effect is Sammy’s newfound lack of employment, and subsequently the disappointment that his parents will surely feel because of his decision. While Sammy could look for another job, seek the forgiveness of Lengel and request his job at A&P back, or even deal with the consequences of unemployment, what Sammy cannot do is reverse his decision and bring his life back to a state before he chose to quit his job. What’s done is done.

If the key exchange in the story is Sammy’s resignation, some might argue that the entire text leading up to it may be unnecessary to the main point. After all, this dramatic exodus occurs quite near the end of the story. However, I believe the build up serves to emphasize the trivial nature over which Sammy decides to quit. In Sammy’s mind, it may be that he is a sort of white knight, upholding chivalry and defending the honor of these fair maidens against the disrespect of a definitively evil figure in Lengel. To the reader, however, we see that this is far from the case. Sammy finds the girls attractive, and quits in an effort to impress them and gain their attention. There is no undertone of chivalry to Sammy’s actions. He just wanted to improve his favor with the girls.

Motives aside, Sammy’s ability to quit his job on his own volition represents a sort of coming of age. When Sammy initially voices his desire to resign, Lengel points out that “you don't want to do this to your Mom and Dad,” which Sammy then confirms that he doesn’t. However, just because his parents will be disappointed, does not mean that they can prevent Sammy from acting on his decision to quit. Sammy is old enough to work, he is old enough to make his own decisions, and he is thus old enough to quit his job (for admittedly immature reasons) and face the consequences thereof. As many sources throughout history have pointed out, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Sammy has the power to continue or end his employment, but he must wield this power with the responsibility to use it properly.

At the end of the day, Updike tells us through Sammy that we are able to make our own decisions, but we are consequently forced to deal with the repercussions and results of those actions. Not only did Sammy choose to tell Lengel that he quit, he also decided to follow through with the action. As Sammy himself pointed out, “once you begin a gesture it's fatal not to go through with it.” Whether we choose to fall in line and accept social norms or reject the status quo, we are responsible for our own behavior. Even if we react to stimuli, rather than carefully planning our tactics, we choose to follow through with an action or attempt to back out of the commitment.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles

Roughnecks was a television series came out about 20 years ago that nobody seems to remember, but was my absolute jam back when I was a kid.

Source: http://starshiptroopers.wikia.com/wiki/Roughnecks:_Starship_Troopers_Chronicles

Fully titled “Roughnecks: Starship Trooper Chronicles," the show was based on a movie, based on a book. I didn’t know anything of the book or the film until recently. When the show was airing, I just knew it was about military guys shooting aliens with big guns, and that was awesome.

As one can assume, CGI animation from the late 1990s and early 2000s was not very good. The creators reused a lot of scenes, especially one particular explosion sequence that seemed to be in every episode. I only know this because I watched through the series again during my freshman year in college with my roommate, the only person I know who also watched this show and remembered it. We wanted to love the show the same way we did as kids, but it did not age well at all. Much the same way that I think ReBoot would be, Roughnecks was a lot better without newer and more polished animation to compare to. One of the main reasons I haven’t pursued my initiative of watching through the entire ReBoot series again. I want to remember the show the way I saw it long ago.

Source: https://www.amazon.com/Roughnecks-Starship-Troopers-Chronicles-Campaigns/dp/B0009I8QI6

Admittedly, Roughnecks was probably never that good to begin with. The story is shallow, there was very little character development, and the studio never finished the final three episodes of the series. If you didn’t catch the series while it was ongoing, don’t expect to go back now and discover some incredible sleeper hit or cult classic. This isn’t the Earthbound of ‘90s television series. It’s a show that tried to capitalize on the success of other media, but never quite nailed it.

Part of the reason I remember Roughnecks so fondly is because of the circumstances around when I watched it. Around that time, my parents were going through a divorce. As anyone who experienced a splitting family can attest, it was a very lonely and alienating experience. When Roughnecks would air early in the morning, my father and I would watch it together. Oddly enough, it was a bonding experience for us. With everything else going on, it was nice to still spend some quality time together, even if it was just watching a cartoon. It’s funny what people latch onto in times of stress.

Regardless of why I liked Roughnecks so much, I thought it was amazing as a kid. Along with ReBoot and SWAT Kats, it forms a sort of trifecta of shows I grew up with, but quickly became obscure relics of a generation of television. Animation of the 1990s was not great, and CGI even less so. Still, these shows had a charm about them, and for those of us who were at an impressionable stage of life during their airing, they were magical. For a time, I thought I could grow up to be a Starship Trooper and go on adventures in space. Who knows, maybe I still can. Either way, Roughnecks was a part of my childhood, and gave me some fond memories that I refuse to let go of.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Thirsty Thursday Eve - Kirkland Signature American Vodka

Feeling a little adventurous during my most recent Costco liquor run, I decided to branch out from my standard Spiced Rum and try their Kirkland Signature vodka.


I had noticed the American Vodka before (they also have a French Vodka), and noted that it seemed to be the cheapest item by volume in the store. Even cheaper than the rum that I’m so familiar with. I considered picking up a bottle numerous times before, since it only costs $13 for a handle. Still, every time, I decided against it in favor of something else.



Anyone who knows my tastes in alcohol understands that I just don’t do vodka. I’ve tried a few brands here and there, and none of them have done much for me. One of the first alcoholic beverages I ever purchased was a bottle of Svedka, and let me tell you, it was awful. Just north of Southern Comfort, and I’d rather drink Nyquil straight than anything with SoCo in it. I hung onto the bottle of Svedka for a while, out of the inability to waste it, and finally finished it off after I learned that storing vodka in the freezer makes it more palatable. And by “more palatable,” I mean it was too cold to actually taste.

At some point, I bought a bottle of Exclusiv to try, on the recommendation of the owner of a liquor store in Woodruff. “Baby Goose,” he claimed to have heard it called, suggesting that it tasted like the legendary Grey Goose, but with a much cheaper price tag. That’s been 6 years ago now, give or take. I don’t recall exactly what the Exclusiv tasted like, but I do remember it being better than the Svedka, and not really having much of a taste. Apparently that’s the mark of good vodka, being mostly tasteless.

After my second bottle of vodka, I mostly wrote it off as something that would just never be my thing. By then, I was beginning to learn what I did like, and I realized that vodka wasn’t it. If I were going to buy a whole bottle of something, it would be something like rum or bourbon. Something I would be much more confident that I would enjoy. Vodka, like gin, would be something I drink on occasion, in a Long Island Iced Tea, and purchased by the drink from a restaurant or bar.



Rewind back to Costco’s liquor store a few weeks ago. I again considered purchasing a bottle of vodka. Upon investigating the vodka area, I noticed two different prices. At first, I wasn’t sure why two prices were listed, one of them a full $7 higher than the other. Surely, it wasn’t based on the size of the bottle. Nearly every liquor in Costco is sold by the handle. Eventually, I discovered that the country of origin was different. The French Vodka was $20, while the American Vodka was $13.



When I finally discovered the reason for the difference in price, I pondered for a moment on which to get. The French was more expensive, but presumably better quality. The American was cheaper, but how much cheaper would it taste? After a moment, I picked up the American and brought it to the counter. The French, at $20, was even more expensive than the spiced rum. Why pay more for something that I might enjoy less?

Still not quite certain, I asked the cashier if the bump in quality was worth the price difference between the French and American vodkas. His question to me, which I honestly expected, was what I planned on doing with it. I admitted that I would be mixing it, that I rarely (if ever) drink vodka straight. He suggested that it wasn’t worth paying the extra then, and that I would be better off sticking with the American vodka. Sold.



When we got home, I decided to take the plunge and try the Kirkland Signature American Vodka neat. As much as past experience had given me an aversion to straight vodka, and despite the fact that I told the cashier at Costco I’d be mixing it, I figured I may as well try what I paid for. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad. It certainly didn’t have that weird Svedka taste. Like the Exclusiv, it didn’t have much of a taste at all.

Eventually, I also tried it over ice, and mixed with cola. Again, it wasn’t bad. It didn’t have that sweet and spicy caramel flavor of the spiced rum that I love so much, but it also didn’t make the mix taste notably alcoholic. It imparted just a slight variation on the flavor, something I could certainly see drinking from time to time.



All in all, the American Vodka was better than I expected to be. At $13 for a handle, it comes out to about 32.5 cent per shot for 40 shots. Alcohol doesn’t get a lot cheaper than that, and I don’t think GOOD alcohol gets cheaper than that at all. I’ll probably keep a bottle of it on hand for visitors who prefer vodka to the other spirits that I keep on hand. Personally, I’ll probably have a mixer here and there. At this price point, this is a great liquor for maintaining a buzz.

If you like vodka, it may behoove you to step up to the French variety. For $20, it’s still quite a bit cheaper than Grey Goose, and has apparently ranked higher in blind taste tests. If you don’t like vodka, or at least *think* that you don’t like vodka, $13 is a very budget friendly way to check again. Even if you have to mix it with something, it’ll drink, and there are far worse vodkas out there. Trust me, I’ve tried them.

Resources:
BlackBook. (2013, January 22). Exclusiv Vodka: Can a Good Spirit Be Too Cheap To Succeed? Retrieved June 7, 2018, from https://bbook.com/nightlife/exclusiv-vodka-can-a-good-spirit-be-too-cheap-to-succeed/
Delany, A. (2016, August 29). Costco's Kirkland Signature Is the Best Store Brand There Ever Was. Retrieved June 7, 2018, from https://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/trends-news/article/costcos-kirkland-signature-best-store-brand
Gordon, W. (n.d.). Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Is $10 Exclusiv Vodka As Good as Grey Goose? Retrieved June 7, 2018, from https://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/01/drinking-the-bottom-shelf-ten-dollar-vodka-exclusive-compared-with-grey-goose.html
Marshall, W. (2016, September 02). Why Costco's Vodka May Be Your Best Bet. Retrieved June 7, 2018, from https://munchies.vice.com/en_us/article/78mevb/why-costcos-vodka-may-be-your-best-bet

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Douchebag Driver Score

Don’t you just hate it when someone does something rude or aggressive to you on the highway? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could signal to other drivers, “Hey, that guy in the blue sedan is a real jerk!” With the right technology, I think that would be possible.

I frequently muse about ways that technology could improve our lives. Obviously, one of the areas which could use some improvement is vehicle transportation. In many ways, technology has already made our daily commute much safer than ever in just the past few years. With features like automatic braking, lane departure alerts, and other such machine-assisted functions, drivers are probably more protected and assisted than ever before.

It is nearly guaranteed that we will one day have fully self-driving vehicles. A coworker of mine recently took at 100+ mile trip, taking control of his Tesla exactly twice. To me, that’s magical. Still, we aren’t yet to the point where all vehicles can fully maneuver themselves, and I think that state of full autopilot is still quite a while out. For the next few years at least, I believe that people will still have to maintain some amount of control over their vehicle.

Which brings me back to my original idea of douchebag drivers. You know the behaviors I’m talking about. They wait until the last minute to merge onto a busy exit, cutting in line in front of half a mile of people patiently waiting, and assert themselves into a gap barely larger than their vehicle is. Sure, I understand that zipper merging is theoretically more efficient. However, I genuinely believe it to be safer for drivers wishing to leave the interstate at a popular exit to commit to the outside lane early and wait patiently.

Beyond last minute exits, these members of humanity’s cesspool are just as impolite off the freeway. They weave in and out of lanes to get just a few cars ahead, and still get stopped barely in front of you at the next red light. On roads that do not allow passing, they ride your bumper, and the worst offenders even flash their lights at you. The nerve!

They take up multiple parking spaces, just to give their vehicle a buffer against other cars. At all way stop intersections, they go when they want, even if other vehicles were at the intersection first. It would seem that their ego is only eclipsed by their blatant disregard for traffic laws, and the safety that these rules of the road enforce.

However, douchebag drivers aren’t limited only to those who take advantage of the most minute and inconsiderate opportunity. On the other extreme, these drivers are the people who occupy the left lane while maintaining a constant speed of 10 mph less than the posted limit. They force people to pass on the right for miles at a time, with no pending left turn opportunity in sight. This disrupts the natural order of multiple lane highways, with faster traffic advancing on the left, and slower traffic keeping to the right.

Perhaps my biggest pet peeve with these slower drivers is the refusal to make a right turn on a red light. I can understand a hesitation to turn on a red light if the intersection is busy and windows to merge are few and short. But intersections with little traffic, and especially those with a dedicated left turn signal, give ample time to turn right with no trouble merging. Right on red, except where stated otherwise, is a completely legal maneuver. Sitting at these lights isn’t illegal, but it is impolite when numerous cars could get through the intersection without waiting for the green light.

Now, let’s wrap all of this information up in a solution. I want a numerical score that gives a general idea of how frequently and severe these drivers violate the social norms of transportation. This number should be displayed above your vehicle within the augmented reality screen in the windshield for all other motorists. If you commit an infraction, the number goes up. If you do something generous, such as allowing people to merge in front of you, the number goes down. Over time, the number would gradually roll toward zero to accommodate for changes in behavior.

If you consistently cut people off and wait until the last second to merge, you’ll rack up a pretty high douchebag driver score. Alternatively, if you drive mannerably, you can maintain a low score and indicate to other motorists that you aren’t scum.

I realize that there are nuances with this idea that would make it practically impossible. What about people that share a vehicle? One person could give the other a bad reputation simply because the score would be based on car rather than driver. Using driver’s license as the score keeper would be a more accurate metric, but how do you associate the score with the license? My idea of a douchebag driver score is unfortunately in the uncertain area between fiction and technical impossibility. Like Smell-O-Vision, it also wouldn’t be valuable enough to justify the time and resources needed to make it a reality.

As satisfying as it would be to flag bad drivers as such, I don’t see it happening any time in the near future, if ever. Until that time comes, I’ll have to be content with blowing my horn and giving a rude gesture at drivers that refuse to pleasantly share the road with other vehicles. Just know that if you try to cut in last minute at the Woodruff Road exit from I-85, I will do my absolute best to prevent you from getting in. Wait your turn, you jerk.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

RuneScape - The Unintentional Bond

I didn’t *mean* to pop another bond. Well, I meant to, but it wasn’t my original intention to do it so soon.



When my previous bond ended on 14 May 2018, I was genuinely content with going back f2p. As much as I had fun playing the p2p content, I got my fill of it and I was perfectly fine with returning to the f2p grind and finishing out 99 Fletching. Like I mentioned in the post before, there were a few things that I had tentatively planned for the next time I used a bond, but I figured it would be several months before I did.

Unfortunately, the week that my bond ended was the same week that Jagex ran the Mental Health Awareness Week promotional event. This event, similar to the “Going Like Clockwork” event and many others, consistent of a temporary currency that could be obtained by any sort of skilling activities in the game. Players gained Charity Tokens from just about anything that gained experience. After players have earned enough tokens to unlock all of the main event rewards, any tokens beyond the first 10,000 could be exchanged for reward boxes. These boxes could contain anything from dungeoneering token boxes, to fallen stars, and xp lamps.

I call this coincidence “unfortunate” because the xp rewards cannot be banked, and many of them are either members only, or would give much more effect on member worlds. I was put between a rock and a hard place. Do I destroy and/or consume the rewards now at a less than optimal payoff, or do I use up another bond just a week later and go p2p again to reap these items for their full potential?

Since I have a hard time turning down free xp in otherwise tremendously expensive skills, my greed got the better of me and I bought 2 more bonds. Spending money to save money; makes sense, right? I then consumed a bond, and left the other in my currency pouch as part of my growing collection of untradeable bonds. As of 21 May 2018, I became a Runescape member for another 2 weeks.



Fortunately, I had already gained 100% respect in the Artisan’s Workshop again in my first few days on f2p. While I wanted to get 99 Fletching before I used another bond, my biggest threshold was having enough respect to cash out. I bought another Dwarf Multicannon upgrade and dropped my respect back to 0% again. If I ever do decide to use the cannon again, I’ll have it fully upgraded at this rate.

The biggest and most important thing on my “I’ll do that during my next bond” list was finishing out the requirements for Plague’s End. As the gatekeeper for my Crystal hatchet, that one quest was my prime objective for saying that I got what I wanted out of the bond. Since I got 75 Herblore with the previous bond, all I had left was Summoning and Construction, at which point I would have all the requirements satisfied to begin the quest.



While Summoning and Construction can be quite expensive, they are both conveniently fast to train. I successfully reached 75 in each skill quickly, and played through Plague’s End soon after. As for the content of the quest, it had a really good story, and served as a satisfying resolution to the Plague City quest line. At long last, I could access the legendary elf city of Prifddinas.



The next thing on my list was to gain enough Harmonic dust to upgrade my Dragon hatchet to a Crystal hatchet. Playing harps in the Ithell district of “Prif” seemed to be the easiest way to get dust, so I started playing my heart out. Harps give a surprising amount of Crafting and Construction xp, so I made a mental note to myself that I shouldn’t bother training Crafting when I went back f2p. Within the first day, I had obtained the 4,000 Harmonic dust required to get the Crystal hatchet. I purchased the upgrade, added directly to my toolbelt, and went back to the Elder tree route that I had abused in my previous bond.

To say that I was disappointed with the performance of the Crystal hatchet was an understatement. I had even prepared myself by crunching the numbers for a 15% boost over the Dragon hatchet that I was using before, and I already knew that it would only give me another 1 or 2 logs per Elder tree on average. Still, with all the work that I did to get into Prif, I was hoping for a marked and noticeable difference. Instead, I got… a slightly higher average of logs per tree than I was with the Dragon hatchet. There were still trees that I got only 5 or 6 logs from, and trees giving 16+ logs still felt just as few and far between. Yeah, the Crystal hatchet was better than the Dragon hatchet, even roughly matching the numbers that I expected, but it felt like I should be getting so much more.



Disappointment aside, I still did cut quite a few Elder logs as payment for my bond. I didn’t cut anywhere near as many as I did in the previous bond, though, as my time was divided between Elder runs and harps for Harmonic dust. I got my Crystal hatchet, but there were quite a few more Crystal items that I wanted to obtain, and I’d eventually need at least 12,000 for just the permanent upgrades. Crystal equipment is some of the best in the game, so I figured it would be better to have the Harmonic dust available. Plus, harps were tremendously low intensity, and I could tap my phone just once every few minutes without paying any attention to the process.

Eventually, I did consider whether Harmonic dust could be monetized. Most Crystal equipment is not tradeable, but a few are. Notably, the non-attuned variants of Crystal weapons and armor are tradeable to other players, as are the seeds used to create them with dust. Hence, one could purchase Crystal armor and weapon seeds, use dust to sing them into gear, and sell them back on the Grand Exchange. The exact payoff per Harmonic dust varies based on exactly which item you create, but the return is roughly 300 gp per 1 dust. I’ll probably write up another post later about all of the intricacies and nuance with this practice, but suffice it to say that I’ll still be cutting Elder logs as my main source of income on p2p.

By the end of the bond, I had obtained the Crystal hatchet (4,000 dust), Attuned teleport crystal (4,000), Attuned crystal bow (2,000), and Crystal dagger (375), in addition to keeping 18,274 unused dust in my bank. I planned on getting the Crystal pickaxe as well, but my purchase for a Dragon pickaxe never went through, and it wasn’t something I was as keen on as the hatchet. Collectively, I got 28,649 Harmonic dust during my bond.

As of 04 June 2018


More and more, I’m learning of skills and activities that opportunity cost prohibit me from reasonably doing on f2p. Eventually, I might use bonds more regularly and consistently, or even use 2 or 3 at a time to take advantage of those extra days. For now, though, there is enough to keep me occupied as a free player, even if that just means running dungeons for xp and tokens. I’ll still try to buy 2 bonds for every 1 that I use, to continue stocking up. I don’t expect them to drop in price any time soon.

With the timing of the bonds I’ve used, I caught the beginning and end of the Postie Pete event. During this event, I received 4 Deathtouched darts, among other rewards. Since the darts work as 1 hit kills against basically any enemy in the game, I want to use them to kill TzTok-Jad and get a Fire cape. I didn’t get a chance to before the bond ended, but I’d definitely like to use all 4 darts during my next bond. If I get notice that the darts will be removed from the game the way I lost my last few darts, it would definitely spur me to use another bond and use the darts before I lose them.

My bond was set to expire sometime around 9am on Monday. For the previous bond, I seemed to maintain membership until I logged off. I decided to experiment and see how long I could stay online, on a members only world. With harps, I could avoid timing out with very little effort. I ended up staying on until around 5:30pm, at which point I decided to intentionally log out and avoid trying to stay logged in through a busy afternoon. So ultimately, I ended up getting about 8 more hours of membership just by maintaining that last session of p2p time. Next time I use a bond, I’ll definitely consume it early in the morning so that I can try to squeeze as much out of it as possible.



All in all, I’m glad I got into Prif during this bond. It was worth the 16M, give or take, that I spent on it. However, I really do want to stay f2p for a while this time. I have plenty of things that I can do on f2p that will better prepare me for the next time I use a bond. My goal of 99 fletching is still hanging around, and there are a few Wilderness and Daemonheim exploration achievements that are available to f2p players.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon

It seems that the Bloodstained Kickstarter project of several years ago is actually coming to fruition.

Source: http://bloodstained.wikia.com/wiki/Bloodstained:_Curse_of_the_Moon

When I first discovered the project, I was super excited. I’ve always loved Castlevania games, and Koji “Iga” Igarashi is the man behind it all. With his exodus from Konami, any future games in the Castlevania series will likely be a stark deviation from the earlier games, and the Bloodstained intellectual property appeared to be the most true spiritual successor possible. All aboard the hype train, choo choo!

I didn’t fund the kickstarter, since I didn’t own a PS4 at the time, but I definitely followed it closely at first. I followed @SwordOrWhip on Twitter for updates. I checked out all the new art. Being a crowdfunded endeavor, I didn’t want to get too invested and end up being let down if the project failed. Still, everything about Bloodstained looked like exactly what I wanted in a Metroidvania (or “Igavania” as the Kickstarter page calls it) game.

Over time, my interest waned. Sure, the team still released new material and updates every now and then, but the final product seemed forever away. Setbacks happen, but why get excited for a game that might feasibly be years away? I got a PS4 in the meantime, so I could have feasibly backed the project for a PS4 copy of the game, but why put money at something that wasn’t anywhere near completion?

About a week ago, out of the blue, a friend told me about Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (CotM). Apparently, CotM was a stretch goal for the original Bloodstained project that I may or may not have read about and then completely forgot. I was taken aback, since I figured any content besides the main game would come out as DLC or something else AFTER Ritual of the Night came out. Either way, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I haven’t bought CotM yet, but if anyone is planning on getting a birthday present for me, I’m saying that wouldn’t be a bad idea.

In short, CotM is a sort of retro-styled game in the Bloodstained universe. I haven’t read much into it, as I don’t want to spoil it for myself, but it apparently plays and looks very similar to the original Castlevania. Since the backers and those interested in this project are mostly in it as a Castlevania spiritual successor, it makes sense to play toward that nostalgia.

At first, I was puzzled by Iga releasing CotM before RotN. The more I thought on it, however, the more it made sense. For backers, you have investment in this project. For literally everybody else, even fans like me, interest in the project mostly died off. Yeah, I’d check back in on it once it came out. But for a while, it was on the furthest back of the back burners. Now that they’ve officially released a side project game, the spotlight is back on Bloodstained and Iga. People are interested in the project again, they’re talking about it, and it paves the way for a larger and more successful official release. I might have gotten off the hype train a few months back, but I’m hopping back on and riding this thing to the finish.