Thursday, April 7, 2022

If I Had A Hammer

It's relatively rare for me to crave any specific item in an mmorpg. As a rule, I'm usually content to make do with whatever comes to hand. It makes me largely immune, or at least strongly resistant, to those kinds of temptations and obsessions that lead players to spend more time or money than they feel comfortable with as they try to get that one specific object of desire.

Back when the genre was young, camping rare spawns for rarer drops was something people both did and complained about doing with equal fervor. I was mostly happy to leave them to it. I had a rough rule of three, meaning if I was interested in something I'd give it three tries before crossing it off my list. And that was only if it was reasonably easy to camp to begin with.

Similarly, I've never been much of a one for long drawn-out quests. If you can't get it finished in one session, two or three hours tops, is it really a good use of your time? If it's entertaining or amusing or fun, then yes, of course, carry on as long as that stays true, but if it's a chore and a pain then why bother? Gaming is supposed to be a pleasure not a punishment, after all.

The advent of token systems, whereby you do more routine, regular activities, such as killing mobs or completing tasks in order to earn credit with NPC vendors willing to sell you the kind of thing boss mobs might drop, did little to change my mind. I first came across such a mechanism in Dark Age of Camelot's Darkness Falls dungeon, where it was widely recieved with rapture and wonder. I was very sniffy about it. If I'd wanted to go shopping, well I'd be down at the mall, wouldn't I, not sitting at home playing an mmorpg.

In time, of course, the mall came to me. Cash shops became an established part of almost every game, whether or not you had to buy a subscription. Are there any mmorpgs left, Free to Play, Buy to Play, Freemium or Sub, that don't have any kind of cash shop at all? I can't immediately think of any.

The advent of real money stores inside games removed one of my two main objections: time. I couldn't say any longer that I wasn't prepared to spend hours and hours doing something I didn't really want to do just to get a pretty bauble or a useful tool. It only takes a few seconds to get a credit card out of your wallet and any time spent doing things I'd rather not have been doing had already long since been accounted for. I call it "going to work".

One of the biggest impacts of the introduction of cash shops to the hobby was to make it clear to me just how very low a value I put on imaginary objects. I routinely spend the same small amounts of money in real life on pointless, trivial, transitory pleasures that I would never contemplate spending in games. 

It turns out I don't want most virtual stuff at virtually any price... unless it's being given away "free", of course, at which point, apparently, I'll jump through as many hoops as you care to hold in front of me. But that's a different post altogether and anyway, I'm not here to psycho-analyze myself, attractive a proposition as that may be.

No, I'm here to say that for all my professed lack of interest, motivation and enthusiasm for both the methods and the rewards, there are exceptions. Sometimes I do see something I absolutely must have. To be clear, even then it also needs to be something I feel I can get without doing anything I positively dislike doing or spending money I feel is disproportionate to the enjoyment I'm likely to receive. But there are things I'm prepared to make more of an effort than usual to lay my hands on.

A few days ago, pretty much by chance, I happened across one such in Guild Wars 2 and it was in the most unlikely place: Super Adventure Box.


I'm not much of a fan of SAB. Belghast posted about the 8-bit emulation embedded in a 3D mmorpg the other day, saying "as much as I thought I would enjoy it… I am not really feeling it", which is not too far from how the event affects me, when it rolls around each year. It's extremely impressive that someone was able to build this other game inside GW2 and I have had some fun playing around with it but it's not really what I came to mmorpgs in general or GW2 in particular to do.

There was a fair chance I might not have gone to Rata Sum to see what was happening at all this year. Not much changes in SAB year to year and even if it does I can't usually see it. In all the time the event's been running I've never got further than the end of World One, Zone Three and I've never beaten the final World One boss, King Toad. I Gave up trying long ago.

I can look at the stock on the vendors, though. That's something I can manage. And as I said, although I usually give most things a pass, once in a while I'll spot something that really makes me feel the quickening of desire.

Nothing like that happened when I scrolled through the goods on the regular vendors. I'm not all that keen on the look of most Super Adventure Box gear and anyway I have a bunch of unopened SAB weapons boxes in the bank from the World vs World SAB Reward track. 

I did want the boom box when it appeared years ago, enough to make a considerable effort to get the necessary baubles to buy it, but even then I've always been happy with the basic model. It's not like I want to be able to play the tunes for the pleasure of listening to them. So long as I can see my character running around like an extra in a 1970s Blaxploitation movie, I'm good.

This year, though, there was a new vendor. A kodan, no less. Why a seven foot tall talking bear would be in Rata Sum at all, let alone hanging out next to Moto and his magic box, beats me and the spurious rationale the bear offers is scarcely convincing. Nevertheless, there he is, selling three weapons he claims to have crafted.

How a kodan came to craft weapons that look like rejected prototypes from some illegal, underground lab staffed by renegade Canthan bot-makers and Inquest weaponsmiths is something we'd probably best leave to the official reports. I suspect the bear is either lying or deranged, more likely the latter since derangement seems to be an ethnic Kodan trait.

Whatever the provenance, all three weapons are above average in terms of aesthetic desirability and one, the Hammer, is among the best I've seen in the game, ever. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to have it, even though I don't have a single character that regularly uses a hammer. Always providing it wasn't going to feel too much like hard work to get it, obviously.

The simple way to get the weapons is to buy them from the bear. They cost thirty Bauble Bubbles and four gold each. Someone who's good at SAB could get thirty BBs in a couple of days just by running the event as normal. Even I can get five or six a day at minimal effort. I already had seven in the bank from last year and just a couple of sessions after I decided to get the hammer I have sixteen.

I also have the hammer. 


I didn't buy it. I got it as a drop. If you talk to the kodan he explains that's a possibility but I learned it from Mrs Bhagpuss. I linked her the hammer in guild chat when I discovered it and she said "Oh, yes, I've got that one". 

After a bit of to and fro about how she'd come by it, during which she first thought it had been from the WvW SAB track and then corrected herself to say it was a drop in WvW, from a tower boss, we finally worked out it came from a Super Loot Bag, the reward for doing one of the new SAB achievements. It's all in the patch notes, which, unusually, I had neglected to read in full.

That achievement gives three bags per day, one for each of the first three Champion mobs you kill anywhere in Tyria. All tower and keep supervisors in WvW are Champions, which is how Mrs Bhagpuss came to get hers. Some World Bosses also count. I got one from the Shaman at the Maw and three from the pre-event at Jungle Wurm, for example.

Regular champions, of which there are probably hundreds, work just as well. I've been soloing the Champion Troll in Frostgorge for one of my daily drops, when I haven't had the patience to wait for the Wurm.

The Retro-Forged Weapon Chest is a rare drop from the bags but not that rare. I got one on my third day of trying. Of course it was on the wrong account but still. 

And I do have a character on that account who can and quite possibly should use it. He's one of my Engineers and I took the trouble to spend the points to make him into a Scrapper back in Heart of Thorns, meaning he can wield a hammer. He never goes anywhere or does anything but he could always start.

He also has a well-defined, pirate-themed look that I designed for him many years ago. A glitching, technicolor magitech hammer doesn't entirely go with it. I may have to give him a full makeover because the hammer is that good. It really is.

The character I want it for is my Elementalist. The new End of Dragons elite specialization for her class is the Catalyst and the new weapon that goes with that class is the hammer. 

I'm not proposing to play her as a catalyst, heavens no! She's a staff Tempest and that's the way she's staying. The thing is, Elementalists got a second weapon slot a few years back, having been a class that didn't have one, and I have never used it. The universe is just conspiring to put a hammer in her hand. That hammer.

I'll keep killing the champions because I would anyway. If the box drops from the achievement, all well and good. If not, a couple of SAB runs each day for a few days should see me right with the bear.

My Ele will have that hammer. And when she does she will smite the daylights out of every creature that looks at her funny. Just to make the colors fly.


  1. Looking exceptionally good is pretty much the only thing a piece of gear in an MMORPG (or any kind of game, really) can do to convince me that I absolutely need to have it. So, yeah, I can totally relate.

    Come to think of it, it hasn't happened to me for quite some time. A shame, that.

    1. I guess if it happened a lot it would cease to have the impact. I think once or twice a year for a given game would be plenty.

  2. Well, hey, all MMOs need "aspirational" content, apparently.

    Words cannot describe how much I loathe that word btw, despite being okay with the concept of a longer term goal. It's the aspiring (and the implication of there always being another rung on the ladder) I can't stand.

    1. I'm fine with aspiration, which seems like a fuzzy, untethered kind of maybe, if the moods take you, Sunday afternoon meander to me. The one I loathe is "ambition", which makes me think of Lex Luthor or Elon Musk stroking a hairless, sphynx cat.


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