Reflections

Recently, I was assigned to do a photography project based on a central theme, to which I selected the idea of reflections. While the scope of this project by most standards is not as deeper level as say, the concentration projects I had to create back in high school, such experience has helped me form my vision for this project which ultimately turned out for the better!

With that said, let’s get to it! Image by image, I will detail the story, intended meaning (if any), and how it connects back to the idea of reflections. When I had presented it, I had quite a positive reception apparently, but there were also things I noticed along the way that I could improve upon.


Sequentially, the images are laid out in a very specific and continuous format, one that years of concentration and breadth projects have helped me develop an eye for, even unconsciously (that I will expound upon later). Most images were shot in Camera RAW, and then manipulated minimally in Photoshop to adjust certain flaws and highlight focal characteristics. I used two brands of DSLR cameras: Nikon and Canon, both 50 millimeter lenses.

Reflection1

The Sky’s Mirror

The first image here is actually a puddle within a small denture of a stone block that lines the roads across the heart of campus. I got real close and took several shots across all angles but I ultimately chose this one mostly because this specific close up emphasize the central, literal idea of reflections: the projected image of the sky perpendicular from the camera is reflected off the surface of rainwater. The orange tone of the stone surrounding the subject is excellent contrast to the deep blue of the sky peeking through the stratus clouds. The tip of the evergreen tree also casts an interesting, negative space with its silhouette. I often used low depth of field for my images because most of them tended to be close ups like this one; the focus is once again then emphasized on the reflection or subject matter itself so that there is no question as to what the theme is.

This one was also metaphorically, in a slight way, represented as the reflection of the sky through nature’s “mirror” so to speak. When I was younger I came up with an idea that the ocean is simply the sky’s mirror, so that’s why “the sky is blue.” 🙂 I basically extended that idea to a smaller scale: a puddle of rain water. Thank goodness for the rainy week right before this project was due, seriously saved me more than once.

Reflection3

Daylight Riding Time

This image was going to be more of a filler image but it has it’s interesting perks. I manipulated with this one much more so that the image has a very crisp and definitive appeal to it, almost to the point where I feel that I am back in Korea. The simple reflection of bikes was shot from this specific composition frame, where the real bike tire pokes out from the top so that the viewer has no question about what they are exactly looking at. The reflection itself is intended to have curving, smooth lines with the white of the bike rack, which then leads the eye out onto the bright, white concrete ground. I manipulated this a lot more in Photoshop than other photos due to the original, boring color – HSV values were adjusted to achieve an unnatural blue color, and contrast aspects (Levels) were utilized to erase all the noise within the concrete ground. The one thing I found interesting with this one was the fallen leaf that originally does not look brown, but it seems to have captured my eye being so alone.

Reflection2

Naturescape

The third image was also intended to be a filler image, but somehow a lot of people enjoyed this one. I recall one mentioned that it looked as if it were an underwater scene; however, in the print, the image turned out a lot more “bleedy” because it was not shot in Camera RAW, so the color printer could not read beyond the limited color space of the .jpeg file. This one was more fun and visually interesting despite the lack of focus within any subject matter/focal point. The dappled fade of the leaves at the bottom of the stairs looked pretty cool to me, and the stairs leading into the array of leaves, particularly in the dark spot, seemed almost wondrous to me. It almost gave me a The Secret World of Arrietty feel, although the ATEC stairs, not as much. Still, what blew my mind was that a couple of folks pointed out that the reflected red-orange light streaks would soon lend itself an excellent artistic transition into the next image.

Reflection5

Bleeding Lights

Bleeding Lights was one of the photos that I had to take in a flash (although I cannot say literally here lol, as I turned off flash… wasted pun opportunity there). I remember hurrying to get the camera started and callibrated to the light meter while my sister and I were at a stop light one late night driving home. This basically meant I had one shot to do it, and it came out so fascinating. The dew from the drizzle can be seen in the top section, and I hid the traffic lights at the top well enough so that I could only focus on the reflection. Again, I wanted to make it very clear so that there was no doubt in any of my pieces, which I suppose the “clarity” portion lends itself to the theme as well in that far-fetched sense. The transition note that the couple people made is also present here: the far distance carries also vertical streaks of green, the complement of the previous image. Paired together, there this nice reverse synergy and I was just seriously mind blown when they brought that up, never having thought about that prior to sequencing my images (which was intentional). While I had mentioned just that, the prof did say that I chose these images in this sequence for a reason, hence ultimately my decision. That was awfully kind of her to say, and I took that as a great compliment.

In this, the reflection is not so much an actual subject matter but the idea of reflecting the color of the light itself. I highly emphasized this by intentionally increasing slightly the Saturation values, and then adjusting the contrast accordingly. I titled this Bleeding Lights as almost this subtle, dark warning of what this signifies, beyond the theme’s scope.

Dancing Lights

Dancing Lights

The fifth piece is also full of story. I wanted to do a piece where the focus was a sort of metaphor on the idea of “dancing lights.” That phrase came to mind specifically because in one of my blog posts, I recalled one night while working on a digital painting that I was watching the night lights from my tall window, the lights of passing cars, flash such entrancing dancing lights across the bedroom walls. I wanted to replicate that in some way, but dark light settings are such a pain so I took a shot using (cloudy) afternoon daylight.

I looked around in my older sister’s room, and I noticed she had a lot of knick-knacks or items laying around. I would inspect for something shiny and reflective until I came across this and the idea blossomed right then and there; her dancing trophy from so many years ago, maybe more than a decade I mean, was the perfect subject. I quickly cleared her night table (as I had used that area before for other photos) to create as clean of a background as I could. Placing her trophy at the edge, I opened the blinds of the nearby patio(ish?) door, which I then had to maneuver into staying a specific position so the light rays would hit the subject at just the right angle. Only problem was, it was a cloudy day (which would later rain heavily that evening), and every few seconds I would have to painstakingly wait for the light source to reappear. Because of this, this also became a shot where I had to take the image swiftly and efficiently. Unfortunately, as I look back on it, I realized there is a slight stain that I could have moved the table lace a bit so cover that up… and I realized trying to Photoshop it looked very artificial. So I was stuck with that splotch of color that now diverts my full attention (now that I have brought it up). The other thing that bothered me was that looking closely I can still see the dust on the trophy! Because this was a high light setting in an unlit room (so pure natural light), I was distraught to see the dust details.  But, perhaps that adds some character or something, I don’t know. It is very distracting to me personally. These things become very noticeable once I or someone mention it (although no one seemed to have comment during the review session, whew).

This one was one of the pieces that had a great reception. One mentioned that upon reviewing this image that the series had a cinematic feel to it, which I had not thought of but was pleasantly surprised to hear. I absolutely love the mood of the piece because the original still had great lighting and not much change, but once I had added some adjustments to it, it seemed to have this warm glow that made me feel happy. So satisfying to see an image with natural lighting and really shine.

Reflection6

Summer Halcyon

While this one may reiterate the literal translation of reflection, the title of the piece probably says a lot more about it in a more expansive way. This is probably one of my more favored pieces just because of how vibrant and clear the subject turned out. It was shot at an extremely low aperture of 3.8, giving it the shallow depth of field. I love focusing on the subject matter itself for that air of simplicity, although it was pointed out to me that better positioning or camera settings may be able to clear up the left side of the sunglasses a bit more. The area seems like a beach scene, but it is actually a recreational park on the side of the road that leads to a lake I used to exercise and take a stroll around with my family when I was younger. Funny thing was, I took this shot moments before the heavy downpour of rain; so this too in a sense was taken in haste. I knew it would be raining that day and it was just a matter of time – thank the Lord I was able to finish right on time before it started pouring on our way back home (after grabbing a bite to eat from a bakery <3).

I am so glad my sister is a fashionista because these sunglasses look superb, stylistically. They have a special tint to them, although most of the color correction (or should I say distortion since I “enhanced” it) was done in Photoshop. I amped up the HSV, to which the sky became this unnatural shade of crisp, cerulean blue with a violet tint. The shallow depth of field gives me this sense of relaxation and a “daze.” I like that feeling.

I definitely wanted to shoot something with glasses though. They are easily tied to the idea of reflection through careful thought. But with sunglasses, they are perceived as relaxation, hence the title Halcyon. It often takes tranquility for inner reflection though, and to be gazing out to the sea or ocean (or in my cheap small suburban town world, the pond) deep in thought.

Reflection4

Watching Glass

Again, literal idea of reflection. I’m glad everyone was able to identify my theme even though I would kind of like a more extensive body of work.

I absolutely wanted to incorporate a watch or a clock into the frame of the mirror but I simply ran out of time and inspiration. I also justified that the general blankness of the reflection seemed to lend a negative space that gave me the feeling of emptiness. Not so much in negativity emptiness, but just hollow nothingness that made me think… simply deeper.

The extreme simplicity of this made itself popular with me, personally. I love pieces that invoke feelings of such emptiness, and this one had some preparation involved as well. Actually, prior to the start of my actual project delivery, I was shopping at Daiso with my sister for home and personal stuff. I was already thinking ahead of my idea for this first semester project, and so I spotted an item I could potentially use: a hand mirror. It is actually too bad because the back of the top side has this fake but beautiful sapphire gem embedded onto the entire area. The light source made it difficult to position it interestingly while still spotlighting the entire theme of this project.

Watching Glass is meant to be more of almost a inceptive approach to reflection. We see the reflection of the mirror onto itself, but we cannot see ourselves. The mirror reflects the other side, and gazes at each other in empty unity. The shape of the mirror as an antique hand clock also gives form to this idea. You have no idea how fun it is to press that spring.


Finally, I would like to wrap up detailing the final image of the project. Because it is an image with the subject being my sister, I cannot post it in a public platform such as here even if I’m the one mostly reading and writing content anyway… However, it is meant to be the most deepest form of reflection: Contemplation.

I love that I placed this last because it is a progression of surface level to a deeper, more metaphorical level. This was the entire reason why I selected this theme because I had a clear end point that I wanted to reach.

In the image, my sister wears a plain blue ruffled dress with a white laced under-blouse. She holds a mirror to her face, which is placed at maybe about a 45° angle in order to reflect the cloudy, more illustrious sky behind me. However, behind her is a storm of gray clouds that is more heavily populated across the right side of the photo, with the left side slightly more brighter and whiter. To me, this is the ultimate form of reflection that combines both literal and metaphorical weight: the mirror that reflects that sky is also reflecting her own face to which she gazes upon — we cannot see this but it is implied. The wind, supposedly from the clouded thoughts upon which she contemplates, billows the skirt of her dress in ripples (parallel to the lake). I chose this one specifically because of that, so that there is a bit more dynamic action, with the rest of the composition being highly placid. The colossal lake water behind her is unfortunately a grayish-blue-green, but the ripples are highly defined with shadows stroking the waves. While the water and houses that line in the far distance to the right are completely still, minus minimal action; the waves, the wind, her hair, and the clouds all form this unique dynamic of a gentle yet pushing action to prod her into her still central figure of her strong left arm holding firmly the mirror upon which she reflects on, literally and figuratively.

Aside from the same adjustment types, I had to correct the camera angle/tilt using Transform’s Skew tool. I basically aligned the proper horizon alignment of the water in order to make up for the lack of a tripod for a stable foundation. Even with one however, imperfections of the ground may have caused a slight tilt; thus, I aligned it properly using a ruler in Photoshop to measure a perfectly straight horizontal line. This very much satisfied my OCD nature.

In the end, I am proud to present the Reflection series to you, with a more behind the scenes analysis here. I am beginning to find these very fun, although I sort of worry that I may come off as indulgent or arrogant. To me, I kind of look at it with neutral eyes, detailing what I’ve been told in terms of feedback and years of artistic knowledge. Writing about these things, is also a form of expression of art to me.

While this was the first serious photography project, I was very surprised that I enjoyed the outcome of it. I honestly dreaded this, thinking I would not do well. After all, my older sister is the pro at this specific genre of the major, not I. But, I suppose that also lends itself to my advantage — she advised me a lot throughout the course of this entire class after all.

And somehow, a small part of me is starting to enjoy photography recreationally. 🙂

Latest Favorite Manga & Manhwa

So totally off topic, but I’ve been hooked onto manga again, to the point I’ve even started rereading ones I read long ago but took forever to update so I gave up.

Funny thing is, manga tends to take AGES to update and it drives me nuts. Some of them are not big shot but their story is just so good, it kills me! I wait like a few years, come back, and see that maybe at best 10 chapters have been updated. *facepalm*

But, I’ve been on a story craze – first movies, then anime, and now manga. The cycle never ends, sigh!

Without further ado, here are my latest favorites so far!! Most of them are either historical, shoujo, and romance, or all three, since those are my favorite genres!


Sabaku no Harem

A story about a headstrong slave girl who gets taken in as the prince’s concubine! The manga is also highly comedic and adorable, with a handsome, and surprisingly good hearted prince who despite having a 30+ female harem and the social class divide, falls more and more for the main female lead to become his legal wife! The artwork is fantastic in here and the main female character has an amazing personality and character!

Niehime to Kemono no Ou (The Sacrifice Princess & the King of the Beasts)

A sweet “Beauty and the Beast” tale that has a more realistic taste to the character designs, but the romance is there between a young, silver haired, brave and kind girl and a powerful, menacing, yet caring king, whose half human form takes place every sacrifice ritual. I absolutely love the half human form of the king, he looks so regal yet so sad! Saliphie, the sacrifice who then becomes his consort and his source of strength, is the exact archetype of a strong woman that I admire most: a graceful, obedient, courageous, and a deeply kind child! The mangaka has a very sweet style that is also interesting in that even the beastly looking creatures and monsters can be made to look adorable in their own way, while the villains don’t exactly look aesthetically pleasing, but that’s what makes it all the more realistic and beautiful! I absolutely admire the way the quiet yet courageous young girl Saliphie changes the king Leonhart so, and I can justify the beginning of their love story by her actions without feeling any confusion about plot holes in their romance!

The Ancient Magus’ Bride

A highly similar story to Niehime, except this one has a more darker tone to it. I liked that this manga was even more realistic and more plot driven than the sweet, adorable romance that Niehime has – not to say that this one doesn’t! I absolutely die everytime I see the chibi versions of Elias! While this one doesn’t have a human counterpart that the female love interest can relate to, I think this one bridges the chasms of forbidden love between the beauty and the beast better in its realistic tone. Elias, the formidable sorcerer with an animal’s skull for a head in his normal form, can change into any form he wishes, sometimes using an older blonde haired man throughout the series, or into a monstrous abomination with tentacles or claws. Both Elias and Chise have such complex characters that their budding love for each other almost transcends the typical romance we see in manga or anime. While I didn’t feel as attracted to this one in a romantic sense as I was with Niehime, I felt just as deep (if not a deeper) of a connection to the characters and the story! However, unlike Niehime, I was not initially hooked onto how their love for each other began and their justifications for it. Nonetheless, it was a very plot rich story!!

Geten no Hana

There are so many anime and manga using the direct historical plot of Nobunaga and his retainers, and this is no exception. Nobunaga is always depicted as a headstrong man, Mitsuhide as reserved and cunning with long flowing hair, and Ranmaru as a monkey man. Perhaps this stunning similarity to the anime Nobunaga the Fool that I watched a while back is why I claim so. Still, I love historical manga, so I was quite disappointed (as always) when I came to a stop even while its status is ongoing. The story of a female assassin who can shapeshift as a sparrow while disguised as Mitsuhide’s sister princess falls in love with Nobunaga, who teases her with his assertive nature. There’s definitely love triangle(s) in this story with Mitsuhide’s growing awareness of Nobunaga’s fondness of his hired assassin, and a possible change of the girl’s heart… if only there were more updated chapters! xD

Heart no Kuni no Alice

This was one that I got hooked onto because I’m always fascinated by Alice in Wonderland type stories, which I am sure a lot of people are because of its brilliant story and mystery. But when I saw it in manga form, it was too good to resist! The story was constructed around a dream like state so some of the plot holes were totally justified in that sense – I actually felt heartache for when the original guy didn’t get the girl – what a plot twist! In the end, for Alice, it was interesting how they set it up so that the handsome guy gets the girl – except that both were quite handsome, and the rabbit who kissed her at first promises to always wait for her, sadly, as she lives happily ever after with the Mad Hatter. Or so this visual novel ends, I saw the author has so many other volumes related to this!! 😀

And while we’re on this topic, might as well list other great manga or ones that I’ve at least somewhat enjoyed!

Oresama Teacher

I love delinquent manga like this! The very first and closest one to delinquent genres was Fruits Basket (with just Tohru’s mother being a delinquent… hahaaaa, it still counts!!), but when I read this years ago, I remember laughing so many times! It was a refreshing comedic romantic story, and I was so disappointed that there were no new chapters (despite it being over 100+ chapters) since it hadn’t ended yet, that I had reread it all over again a year later!

Reimei no Arcana

I remember reading this a long time ago and enjoying the overall story, but it’s actually been so long I can’t remember it too well. I plan to add this to my list to reread though when I start getting desperate!!

The Bride of the Water God

For someone who somehow just loves anything historical, especially in romance, this one was a Korean manhwa that captured my heart! The female character I remember was very stoic but serene in nature, but the story was really amazing! I have to reread this again sometime, it has a lot of chapters so I won’t be disappointed on any cliffhangers! :3

Kitchen Princess

This was an old manga I used to read when I was in middle school to high school. Absolutely loved it, the food always looked amazing and it was actually a good story about a young girl who has a passion for cooking and falling and fighting for love. Love triangles everywhere here, but things end up well!

Arisa

Psychological manga like these are great for thrilling experiences, but I always felt this one was not exactly one that I was really into because I was partly always on the suspense on who the King was (I think), and the whole memory loss arc was just confusing and frustrating! Still, for a manga to make me feel that way, and being the same artist by Kitchen Princess, I enjoyed it, until they forgot to update the chapters. Sigh. But I checked again today and they’re completed, so yay! Maybe I will reread it sometime!

Orange Marmalade

A Korean manhwa that is a vampire love story, where the girl is a reclusive vampire-student and the guy is the average, typical looking Korean guy who’s nosy at times. I wasn’t sure if I found it romantic or more comedic and aesthetically pleasing, but I remember closing the manhwa at some point because I got bored of it. May not be my exact style but I certainly, and mostly, enjoyed the artwork (especially the environment art)! I’ll have to double check if it’s completed yet!

Trinity Blood

This manga was one that I felt was more on my level between this and Hellsing: Ultimate, which the latter was a bit too gorey and profane than Trinity Blood. But I love strong female leads, and Esther the red head is just awesome! There is almost a slight romantic overtone too, which I prefer to the obvious romance genres. The series kind of uses the OP card, where the protagonists will almost always win and is ridiculously powerful – there doesn’t seem to feel a genuine sense of danger except around other Crusniks (superior beings), which even then, I as the reader/viewer knew no one would die or anything. After all, Abel is a Crusnik, a superior being who feeds on the blood of other vampires. Tons of Biblical references here as well.

Tian Jiang Xian Shu Nan

This one that I read is more recent, and I enjoyed it! Very sweet and shoujo, with reverse gender roles due to a matriarchal society it is set in. While the main female lead came off a bit strong and overly feisty, she had her sweet side, and the male love interest was “submissive but turns out to be someone super strong!” It was my first Chinese manga that I ever read, I think, and it was so cute! The art style wasn’t my cup of tea at first but eventually I grew on it. What sold me was that it was over what, 200 chapters? I reeeally needed something that would last for a long while; binge reading for the win!!!

Madame Petit

I freakin’ love this manga. Absolutely culturally inspiring with its unique setting and characters, it is a love story, an adventure, a mystery, and my life for 50ish chapters… I’m very happy that the releases are fairly expeditious though. At first, I really wasn’t sure about this – the art style for the cover was ehhhh. But like they say, never judge a book by its cover! The art style, beyond that, is absolutely stunning. I immediately fell in love with the way the artist illustrates their characters; facial expressions are amazing and aims to be more realistic than the typical manga style, which isn’t bad necessarily – just refreshing for a whole new style that isn’t too novel. And the story is just everything: hilarious, melancholic, somber, touching. The character development is growing on me, and I love that the Japanese female lead is strong and independent but doesn’t lose what it means to be a woman. She is caring and loving, and perhaps doesn’t even realize that she is falling for the Indian man, whom I have to say is growing on me too – I never knew Indian men could be portrayed to be so good looking, with all due respect. Unfortunately, a lot of romance manga tend not to include dark skinned or ethnic men as the main characters, at least from my experience. As we learn of their romance, their history is also rich and full of surprises!


And that’s it for now! I just added a couple more to this list, but this post was actually made a long while back so hopefully nothing sticks out. I’m sure I’ll add more as I find other great manga. 🙂

Build Reviews: Fighter & Ranger

This is so overdue but I really need to get it done so that my OCD won’t drive me nuts.

Prior to completing my long awaited TR project, here are my thoughts on the previous 6+ lives! Due to the fact that I spent the most time grinding ITRs/ERs here, there will be just general posts on the overall lives.

Fighter
So the first Fighter life was a Shadar Kai split of 18/2 – I recall that I was trying to test this version out just because I remembered how much faster the life goes if you’re part trapper. Standard Shadar Kai appearance with the blond pony-hawk, and it was a great life! Evasion was killer, and being INT secondary spec really helped my tactical DC’s, thus giving me a form of CC by Stunning Blow. It would later become nearly comparable to that of a pure Fighter. Completely trap capable too, and I enjoyed the INT benefits to reflex saves via Insightful Reflexes. What this build really reminded me of was a Ranger almost with trap capabilities as I was also TWF, but with a side of tankiness.

I then decided to try pure, beginning with a sword and board Vanguard build. As usual, Vanguard is pretty strong (I really don’t understand why people don’t play more of these!) and having over 120 in Stunning Shield was… stunning. 🙂 I once again remembered the awesome sauce of Stone Wall, so that was like double the CC abilities. And really, having so much shield bash % along with a strong shield (e.g. Madstone Aegis, Ultimatum) was as if I was striking with two weapons. Thank goodness Sera kept all those shields!

Being so tanky, I was able to really withstand a whole lot better than Paladin honestly, PRR wise. Sure, there is not a real reliable form of self heal, but being more DPS spec, I was able to take the hits and deal damage as well. Again, in this life, I picked up Harper enhancements and boosted my INT, so I was able to reach crazy tactical numbers. And being pure, I got to get all of the feats I needed and would like, with an extra splurge feat spent on the Artificer Past Life; now that’s surplus!

Of course, I loathed these PDK lives, but it is what it is if I want to play pure, at least iconically. The next PDK life I played was a Kensei THF, also focused in the Legendary Dreadnought ED. This one was slightly more DPS spec than the Vanguard life, but in turn it lost some defenses albeit not by much at all. I saw some reeeally nice crits using an Epic Sword of Shadows that I finally decided to craft on Sera instead of Syl, which was a tough but practical decision. I remember this one I had a short metallic magenta bob as a PDK and I kind of looked pretty spunky with it, which is what I was going for. 🙂

Another life was a TWF PDK this time, and it was practically the same as THF except TWF catered. Playing all different fighting styles as a Fighter really taught me the pros and cons of each – and TWF happens to be so that it is the fastest melee combat wise to build Blitz. Weapon wise across all of these lives were mildly limited to good but not optimal weapon choices (ESOS, Celestia, Balizarde, Ultimatum, etc).

On the final TR life in the Fighter bracket, I did an HTR this time with Viestra and I have to admit it really sucked because that first life was an AA build. It was great for single target boss DPS, mediocre at best across all else. Compared to Vie, it didn’t feel very useful or complimentary, which was probably because she in turn was an SOS wielding Barbarian in heroics which naturally kills everything (I would know because of Shyvanae and she’s a first life). In epics it was a whole lot better mostly due to the EDs, which I know is a bit of a handicap to me and portrays my true abilities/skills. I also have to note that Viestra’s game play in her first time as a Barbarian (I think?) was quite impressive – I often learn a lot just by watching people play or comment on their build, and she was one of them!

AA Fighter was all in all fun – the primary build split was an 18/1/1 Fighter/Artificer/Favored Soul. I absolutely love the Half Elf emotes, and almost even debated going Helf for the final life. Of course, I didn’t want to give up any important feat though. 😦 But it was my first time trying out the race on Sera particularly, and I was overall happy about it. I did feel a lot of frustrations about bow damage, but it was more of the inherent nature about bow builds rather than a lack of DPS specifically by the character. I like them, but I don’t think they suit Sera herself, as I am accustomed to her AoE most of the time. I guess I had the wrong expectations!

Because of such frustrations, I decided to go THF again. It was by far the easiest of all three types and simple; there was no weapon upgrading after ESOS. This build was a lot simpler, although I cannot say better or worse than any other variants above – Helf is certainly not needed for this race as well, so there definitely could be improvements in terms of optimum. Being 1 Favored Soul though gave me enough reason to invest into CHA, which allowed me to gain up to +5 more points to all saves via racial enhancements, and +will saves via Force of Personality. So that worked out well! And of course, 1 Artificer for traps + utility! 🙂

But jeez, I don’t get why everyone thinks Helves are ugly (well, OK kind of) but I really love their looks and emotes!

Alas, I was too sentimental to TR into the next set (Ranger) and was considering RTR except it wasn’t dual like ITR. So I simply moved on!

Ranger
Every life that I began as a Ranger was a Human 18/1/1 Ranger/Fighter/Artificer split. Very similar to the earlier Helf template. While the 1 feat from Fighter seemed miniscule, I needed it to fit in everything; I was so used to Fighter’s bonus feats gosh dang it!

I can’t quite remember how these went in terms of progression, but I remember I boxed the last two lives. While it wasn’t a long experience, I spent most of the Ranger life in the first one where I stayed in epics knock out the final ERs. Ranger definitely would be superier in terms of TWF speed and DPS, except an 18th level Ranger is almost equivalent to a 20th level Fighter, in my opinion (at least based on my experience between these two). Since I couldn’t really go pure as a Ranger after loathing the pure Fighter lives so much I vowed to splash at least 1 Artificer or 2 Rogue, I decided to splash so on every subsequent life. Hence the lack of a pure Ranger evaluation, as much as I would like to give one. I’m sure that it would be much greater in DPS standards compared to a pure Fighter TWF. They’d both be strong, but Ranger would just be more raw DPS. A Fighter TWF seems to have a mix; high defenses, tactical abilities to incapacitate, while Ranger has other capabilities such as self heals, Evasion, and ranged abilities. If I had to prefer one, I’d honestly prefer a Fighter TWF.

All in all, I’d like to wrap up the last of these build reviews. I don’t think I will doing these for a long time, until the next build I TR out of or into becomes of topic. These are great to reflect upon, and I write them so that I never forget, knowing me haha. But playing the game takes a lot of time, and alas I am out of that.

To me in the future who reads back on these posts like a dork: thank you for trying out all of the current classes and spending a year to learn and play, expanding your perspectives on more than just the Favored Soul. Of course, there is more to learn, so get back out there! Perhaps in the future you will do more reincarnations to come – and if not, don’t sweat it, and absolutely the most important thing: have fun! That was something hugely lacking in most of these lives after all; not playing the class you know you want to play sucks. This TR project is proof of that!

😛

TR Project Status: Complete

So, this is kind of weird. I finished the TR project like, nearly 11 days ago. Oops.

But I finally have the time to detail how I’ve been feeling. Yay!

I started the TR project more than a year ago. When I first left my happy but determined Favored Soul life, I was strongly motivated to have it done in months. Which soon stretched to even more months. Past a year. And finally now.

Over the course of this project, I really wanted to make a special post and celebrate the day of, no, the second I became a triple Heroic/Epic/Iconic completionist. But I lulled in doing so, I continued to march towards cap, and here I am now. To be honest I don’t know exactly how I’ve been feeling, considering my doubts and fears about reaching the final life. In truth, its actually kind of… scary. When change becomes the new norm, not changing at all becomes something I would have never imagined. However, I’ve learned and experienced so much more in gain.

I was able to learn each class and appreciate their needs, play styles, and builds. I learned that I really loved playing an Assassin Rogue, and that I could build FVSesque casters out of a non-traditional caster like Bard. I’m really conscious about the toon appearance, so I always played Sun Elves. I adored Deep Gnomes for their size and bounces (jumping), and loathed PDK for their “bounces” (size). I met so many new people throughout the TR trains, and new guildies over time. I buddied with friends as TR partners or groups, then would disband and freely do my thing for a few lives, band together with another friend, and roam free yet again. I compromised min-max’ing XP/min to the rate of enjoyment. I was reminded of the scars that were reopened when I tried Heroic TR’ing; and with that, came the ultimate doubt. The fear of being in this lukewarm trap, where I would never be home in Epics nor Heroics ever again. That after a whole year, whether or not I would love Favored Soul the way I once did.

Well there are two things right now that I have come to realize for sure. One, that I do still love Favored Soul and remember how to play one again. And Two, that I have this crumbling feeling about the build.

Because the build hasn’t been updated in more than a year, I can understand that it is just bound to not be the same as it once was. But after running R1 Slave Lords today in part 1, I just felt crushed. It didn’t help that running in MJ’s R4 Temple of Vol also shattered a part of my FVS pride. One thing I know is that the last thing I want Sera to be is to be a mediocre caster that was forced into mediocre healing.

So I have so many running doubts in the back of my mind lately, and another includes Sera’s SP pool. Perhaps swapping Arcane Prodigy for Completionist really threw me off the bubble, and it shouldn’t surprise me, but it’s certainly not the same anymore. She can barely break 6K, which I don’t remember her “barely” having, although she is running a wisdom build. I strongly doubt she will be able to break 8K, but another part of me is also determined. Whatever it takes, I will have to find a way to fulfill the goals and plans that are still yet to be fulfilled. Even after her TR project, there is still so much more work to do. And deep down, I come to the dreaded resolution, the fact that even though I say to let me finish this project, or this thing, that goal, etc. – that I will never actually tend to the real things that do matter.

Aside from that, this project has given me both so many good and bad things, both of which I embrace and have come to accept deep down. It doesn’t really feel like such an accomplishment, just a title, as many players have done this before, without “cheating” (i.e. Otto boxes, etc.), but as I’ve mentioned before in the past prior to beginning it – as long as I’m having fun and gaining or learning something out of it, it is all right. 🙂

After that celebratory day (well, I celebrated alone in my mind :P), I began to think of so many stories or background for Sera. I changed her surname (finally!), so that her full name reads: Seraphemia Sweetsilk Celestiara. Why the unnecessary long name? Beats me.

But really, as much as the last name Sweetfrost is special to her, I wanted to change it because… to be honest, I didn’t really like it anymore. It became something that was just almost, I guess, pathetic with no real meaning. But I knew that from the start of the project I wanted to change her last name as a part of her story – that she would come to the pinnacle point of her life where she becomes realized of her true identity as an Aasimar celestial princess. And perhaps a goddess, I don’t know, I still haven’t made up her story haha! 😛 Again, I’m the worst writer, I just can’t make up my dang mind! At this point all the stories’ events are dreams. Psyche!

To break it apart, Celestiara was finally decided on as her proper surname because I wanted to associate Sera with Celestia, the astral plane of perfection and pure goodness. Essentially, heaven, her celestial home/world. At first I had just wanted to do Celestia, but then I didn’t want to just rip off a name from a weapon or a MLP character. By the way, I did look into that and finally browsed around the MLP fandom wiki. Interesting stuff and show, and I finally read up more about where the Celestia, Brightest Star of Day weapon reference comes from, but perhaps I’ll watch the show someday. I’m only really interested in Celestia appearances just because of this, haha!

Sweetsilk was just something that I came up with because A) I needed a four letter word that was cute after “Sweet,” and B) coincidentally, it could be a code name for velvet. Because you know, there’s nothing more that sums up me than velvet. 😛

But I had the hardest time deciding this. I wanted to do Sweetstar Celestiara, but then it would sound too repetitive. However this would have so much more meaning to me because in the Warrior Cat series, the nomenclature there would fit perfectly here (upgrading the second part of the combined name to “star” signifies the leadership position of a clan). I’m still deciding to be honest even now and may change it to that someday or sometime, but I don’t know.


In the end, the 2016 Triple-Triple Completionist Project finally came to a close. A few people noticed the name change, others congratulated, one rejoiced in my return as a FVS, and it was an interesting experience. I kind of almost feel that a lot of people expect a lot out of me now, but honestly I think I just need to learn how to balance. No more binge hosting raid nights to the point of exhaustion, but no exclusive seclusion. It almost feels like I don’t really belong anywhere now for some reason. But in my determination, I am motivated to change that, where I can work hard, this time to polish my character in the end game scene. I have a lot to brush up on in terms of playing skills, and many items to grind for. All in all… to those who seek advice in whether or not they should embark on such a project… don’t.

😛

Just kidding, in all seriousness, do whatever your heart sets out to do, and make sure the task gets completed. I promise, there is no greater feeling, especially for the mind of the OCD, than that.

Review: Hirelings

Before hirelings (particularly divine healers) became back on the plat market for Reaper healing, I can recall using them as far as I can remember.

The number one misconception I always hear from players is that hirelings are a waste. They have buggy AI, which pretty much wraps up their mischief: from running blindly into traps, to healing themselves over the player, to countless more. But there is more to hirelings than just the first impression and generalization that all hirelings are “a waste.”

One of the biggest things that people don’t take the time to do is to buff their hirelings. Hirelings already start off with zero buff/effects (save for Druid past lives, feats/enhancements, and ship buffs), extremely minimal gear and spell list, and carry the programming limitations of AI. Buff, buff, buff, if you are looking for a hireling to carry more than 10% of the work. Greater Heroism, Blur, Protection from Evil, Resist Energies, any sort of speed buff (Longstrider’s, Haste), are all easily accessible in some form, typically by scrolls and wands. If you expect a hireling to do more than just flop around like a Magikarp, then expect to treat it like a player member — well, I take that back, the average player nowadays do not even buff other players. Basically, you need to put in at least some effort towards the hireling if you want any decent effort out of it. Strictly speaking, if you want it to survive and heal or CC something, those buffs will grant it the necessary means of basic protections against typical hireling deaths.

One of the other things I notice is that people tend to choose the “wrong” hirelings, and either have not played enough with hirelings to understand their behaviors or do not really think much of it. As an observant player, these behaviors are crucial in determining the types of hirelings to contract with. For example, Larafay, a highly well known and popular hireling for divine offensive caster “DPS/instakill,” is also highly aggressive and is not an appropriate hireling that is focused on healing first. Similarly, we see this between the healer hirelings – Heystack generally has poor performance overall compared to the level 16 Favored Soul, Althea, who performs much better and even carries a Greater Restoration spell which is very handy for that level range in particular.

The number one thing I look for when selecting a hireling is highly dependent on its available actions primarily, and then their behaviors. For instance, I will almost always prefer Althea over Natasha, despite that both are level 16 divines – Althea is typically good about casting Heal on her own when necessary, and I find that having a cure mass spell is much more useful than to Heal everyone individually at points of stagnation in a quest. Another reason for this is that Favored Souls are going to be the superior class when it comes to their other divine counterpart – because hirelings lack the other unique abilities the two classes are comprised of, it is much favorable to select the class that has the more SP, and ultimately, more firepower and heals per shrine. Both may have Death Ward, Mass, which I will touch on later, but there are distinct differences between choosing one over the other which can make a difference when it comes to questing for maximum performance potential. However, because they are in the same level range and it is often bothersome to go to hireling vendors after every hour, I often buy both anyway in the event that I will need Natasha (primarily for her Heal spell usage in circumstances where that is favorable over cure mass) over Althea.

Most of the times, when we purchase hireling contracts, we often select healer types because those are the ones we need the most. Granted, most of the hires that I purchase are indeed mostly divine types for heals, rogues for traps in epics, and Mikayl for DD. Here is an extensive list of the types of hirelings I will purchase over, with more solid commentary from levels 15-30:

  • Erythryn, level 3 Cleric
  • Kendra Estleton, level 5 Cleric
  • Arias Oreth, level 6 Cleric
  • Laerathor, level 7 Cleric
  • Marissa Lorle, level 9 Cleric
  • Fayden Maeleth, level 10 Cleric
  • Lani Vesta, level 9 Favored Soul
  • Miranda Kelvin, level 11 Cleric
  • Duerim Guardwell, level 13 Favored Soul
  • Mikayl the Pious, level 11 Fighter
  • Tempys Lorben, level 14 Cleric
  • Natasha Thorston, level 16 Cleric
  • Althea, level 16 Favored Soul
  • Larafay Do’rret, level 15 Favored Soul
  • Micardya Elsryn, level 14 Bard
  • Albus Gladwin, level 20 Favored Soul
  • Lilo Blackstitch, level 21 Rogue
  • Tarlov Snowtrack, level 23 Ranger
  • Grobbin Halfhitch, level 21 Wizard
  • Garret the Sainted, level 25 Favored Soul
  • Kieran Ostermann, level 26 Fighter

♦ Two of the hirelings are listed solely due to unique spells: Lani and Grobbin for Freedom of Movement and Trap the Soul spells respectively. These two are the only sources found in hirelings and in none other, and may serve to be highly useful in niche situations (often, FOM is best if another player summons Lani in addition to the main hireling, and Trap the Soul is used primarily for soul gem farming).
♦ Some of the hirelings are listed due to usefulness in combat: Tarlov, Kieran, and Larafay for instance. Tarlov is one of the best TWF DPS hirelings with some healing capabilities, Kieran has high HP and can take a hit, and Larafay, as mentioned before, is a divine casting killing machine.
♦ There are very similar behaviors in some of these hirelings, within the same class. Althea, Albus, and Garret are all within the “family” that exhibit decent healing behaviors – they also all carry the same main actions (Mass Deathward, Greater Restoration). Natasha is very similar to her elven brethren within the same level range (i.e. Isadora, Jatrina), which I did not post due to the fact that they don’t carry Deathward. And so on.
♦ Mikayl is highly important due to his Sentinel Dragonmark ability: Dimension Door, which can be casted x3 per rest, and last infinitely.
♦ Lilo is listed as the only Rogue hireling because strangely, she is the best trap equipped hireling out of the four in epics – she is able to trap low level EE quests with a much greater chance than the others who cannot even find the box, which is partly due to the fact that they do not have a Rogue Skill Boost action. With the proper buffs and external hireling effects, she is a competent trapper well past level 25 quests in EE.

If you have not already noticed, Mass Deathward is a huge must in divine hirelings. Because I am one of those people who don’t like to fit in Deathblock as a constant in her gear setup (rather, prefer to swap in when necessary), I recognize the vast important Deathward has, beyond the fact that it can also be a preventative measure for many other things that Deathblock cannot protect against. Thus, it is something I always make sure to carry with me, and something that I encourage others to do as well because I always notice the same mistakes that I’ve observed in both my and others’ game-play. The fact that it is a mass spell makes it so much easier to help protect party members too, who may not realize its importance either.

Knowing how to play a hireling is honestly, more than half the battle as well. If you want it to be stupid aggressive and give it free reign to go crazy, select the active stance. If you want it to stay back, and especially for healers, to perform healing duties, use the defensive stance. Always be conscientious of what the hireling is doing and if it is sabotaging a part of the quest, immediately hit the passive action, recall its location to your character, and force the hireling to go into stationary mode until it is safe to proceed. Perhaps this is just my impression but a lot of people seem to dislike micromanagement, so when it comes to hirelings they don’t really see what is happening beyond the scope of their own character. There is no paid attention to hirelings because of their perceived insignificance, and thus there is a lack of knowledge about them. Hirelings have a highly predictable behavior, generally speaking (because well, AI and programming) – it is our ignorance as players that chooses to blind ourselves of learning the inner compartments of such products of half AI, half bugs. Or at least part of it.

When we pay attention and take notice of hirelings, we learn that there are many predictable moves, primarily due to bugs and the patterns that occur from them, and ultimately, they can truly bend to our will. For instance, and hireling AI will always vary as updates may make changes but for now, there are sets of behaviors that any player can realize a specific pattern. When a divine healer type hireling is recalled to you and your HP falls below ~75%, the typical response is for the hireling to cast Heal upon the player. However, this is not the case all the time – the hireling’s response may be negated by an internal bug that negates Heal spell action to be executed, perhaps the recall action cleared that response, etc. But the active stance, using our basic knowledge of what the hireling actions do, is a sort of this “counter” against that – when you hit active from defensive, or defensive or passive back to active, this allows the hireling to properly respond. This is more of a bug and a fault on the programming system, as when cooldowns were introduced to hirelings, from the coding side, it could have offset the actual performance of some responses. On the bright side, while hot in mid-combat, it has become almost a tactical response to immediately use this loophole in order to get command the hireling, internally, despite it not having the Heal spell on the action bar, to do so. So in that regard, it becomes almost an advantageous bug because we have an internal “Heal” command in addition to everything else on the action bar.

Another bugged response is the use of spells, buffs, or any other class unique action. The cooldowns as mentioned before really screwed up the timing and effective response of most if not all of the class/hireling specific abilities. A prime example would be the use of Resurrection type spells – most of the time, when I have to use it in a dire situation where the party has wiped and the hire acts as “insurance policy,” I drag the hire to my location, preferably in a safe spot, immediately throw it into passive and stationary modes, and attempt to hit the Resurrection spell on my character. However, this will not work where it used to in the past (or as far as I recall) – instead, I am forced to select it at least out of stationary mode, and often into defensive because even passive mode will bug it out. This requires some speed and timing, and even luck if your wipe is bad enough depending on mob size, environment/location, and the above two factors. For abilities such as DD, there is often an internal cooldown in addition that will not allow the usage of that spell despite the cooldown timer reset.

Despite the usual rage and frustration by the general consensus of hirelings, I have almost faithfully used them at any chance I get. There is nothing to lose when you have a divine hireling to save you when things get a little pear-shaped, more XP from trap bonuses in a group where no one ever seems to be the trapper when I am not one that life, and speedy completions through both the actual assistance of hirelings, or a swift DD out. There is the factor of them raising dungeon scaling, which matters in wildernesses. They are indispensable and can be used as fodder, distractions, lever pullers, and so on. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks hirelings, overall, are wonderful products of half bugs, half AI, but they sure have saved my tush more than a thousand times in so many ways.

🙂