Some simply shiny sentences showing skritt sentiment.

Dak here, with an in-depth look into one of my surprise favorite elements of the game.

So I briefly mentioned the skritt in my last post talking about the asura.  Now, I’ll be… not so brief.

The skritt are a ratlike race who, along with the asura, were originally living in the depths of Tyria but were driven upward by Primordus and the Destroyers.  They are opportunists, but not scavengers – rather than dig through your garbage, they’ll mooch off you instead; doing their best to convince you you don’t really need that neat shoulderpad, or if your backpack is really heavy they’ll be happy to relieve you of any unnecessary items.  They’re also exceptionally curious, so if they get their paws on an unknown device, they’ll eventually sort out how it works and why.

Now, what makes the skritt so interesting?  They communicate in a high-pitched, almost inaudible chittering, through which they can relay a vast amount of information in a very short time.  While a single skritt is only capable of basic tasks and survival skills, through this chittering a group of skritt can work together to solve a problem.  The larger the group, the more complex the tasks it can tackle.  While a single skritt is rather dim, a big enough group could potentially rival an asura in intelligence.

Over the beta weekend, the skritt were available for interaction at last.  I first encountered them in a fort just south of Artergon Woods: a pair who had been trained for the simple task of guarding supplies.  I was instantly enchanted when I heard them concentrating so hard on guarding that they were, in fact, saying “Guarding.  Guarding guarding!” back and forth to one another.  My amusement was interrupted by a sudden hylek attack on the fort, which a group of players and I managed to repel. (one thing to point out, I love how whenever an event begins, a group of players seem to materialize from nowhere to join in and make the event more… eventful).  The invaders successfully routed, the Lionguard commander in charge of the fort decided it was high time to take the fight to the hylek and regain their stolen items, and sent a single skritt named Rikkiti to a Lionguard assault force near the hylek village.  The event is then to escort her as she runs the message to attack.

Rikkiti started out dutifully enough, but soon was distracted by the much more interesting moa nests by the side of the road. “Stuff stuff stuff!” came her shrill cry, until an angry moa (which we swiftly subdued) scared her off and she fled back to the path.

Imagine, if you will, the sight of some 20 people of all races chasing after an eager, innocent skritt as she quite accidentally attracts the ire of a giant grubs, a golem, disgruntled krewemembers, hungry raptors, and a full pack of apparently teleporting jaguars, with shouts of “Ooh, shi-hi-hinyyy!” and “What’s that!” It was quite the unexpected quest, and a ton of fun centered on a surprisingly endearing individual.

“Sheriff want shinies back. Rikkiti get shinies!  Teach hyleks stealing bad.”
“And did our ineffectual sheriff offer any thought on how precisely we might accomplish that?”
“Yes… no… what?”
“(sigh)Sheriff say how we get shinies back?”
“Oooh.  Deputy talk like Rikkiti stupid! Rikkiti not stupid!”

All the more surprising was when we reached her destination, and it flowed smoothly into a more traditional event: Destroy the hylek village and essentially burn -everything-.

Rikkiti joined us for that, too, and soon she had gathered all the “shinies” from the decimated village and returned to the fort while we taught the hylek chieftain that stealing was bad.

That event chain left a great effect on me, and I was delighted when I moved north into the Brisban Wildlands and found that there was, in fact, a massive skritt city called Skrittsburgh dug deep into a mountain.  While none of the skritt there were as singularly endearing as Rikkiti, it was interesting in another way: With so many in close proximity, these skritt were, in fact, more intelligent.  They were able to speak about more complex ideas and offer rewards for tasks, and as I delved deeper I found among their piles of hoarded items full, working tailoring and smithing stations.  Only a short way away there were even shops run by entrepreneurial skritt.  In the deepest reaches of Skrittsburgh, skritt soldiers held back encroaching Destroyers from underground.  It was a full, living city, and the race isn’t even a main one!  Kudos to Anet for this sort of dedication and the masterful way in which they fully realized this concept.

While I’m looking forward to the entirety of the game, when we hit launch I’ll be putting aside time to spend with the skritt, whether it’s helping them defend what they’ve rightfully stolen, or just chuckling at their more innocent antics.

Gotta give credit, that is pretty accurate.
…hey! – V

Dak’s Beta Weekend!

Time for my take on the final Beta Weekend!

While Verene spent almost the entire weekend as a sylvari, I immersed myself in the much-anticipated experience of the diminuative asura.  Through what I believe to be a combination of factors, this weekend was a marked improvement over the previous two, and the coming weeks will prove a most grating ordeal of impatience indeed.

Dashing, isn't he?

My character of choice this time around was Zott, a dignified asuran Elementalist from the College of Synergetics, with a particular affinity for the lightning strikes of Air attunement.  His first invention was the Infinity Ball, a remarkable device that predicts the future (and so what if it doesn’t predict it correctly every time?).

The asura experience begins with a call for aid in pacifying malfunctioning golems (not yours, of course), which introduces you to the Inquest.  The Inquest is a sort-of krewe, who believe ethics only get in the way of scientific progress, and without them the true nature of the Eternal Alchemy can be unlocked and so enable them to run the world like a massive machine.  During my beta play, this usually manifested itself in experiments fusing asura with their golems, whether the asura in question really wanted it or not.

The asura as a race are absolutely unique, and my new favorite.  The info we’d gotten from the team in the past always seemed to paint them as rather serious, almost dour scientists, studying the world yet aloof from it.  In actual play, this is far from the truth, and the asura don’t take themselves nearly as seriously as the other races think.  For instance, the first area, Metrica Province, contains a school full of asura children (called progeny).  As you walk by, you hear many bits of childish chatter, and one part that stood out to me was the “your mom” jokes.  Oh yes:

“Your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks norn cows go ‘moot’!”
“Well your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks ‘elemental’ is four letters in the middle of the alphabet!”
“…Seriously though, your mom is really smart.”
“Yeah, yours too.”

It was a heartwarming, adorable moment that really cemented the asura as a living race for me.
Other notable looks into asura-based humor included “STA/B-0 the Super Golem,” and another golem labeled “OVR-9000.”

The asura themselves seem to slip and then stumblingly recover their aura of dignity in conversation.  And if you look hard enough, you’ll find individuals who just really, really like bunnies.

Open-ended research could mean a lot of things...

Not so above it all, eh Zojja?

The asura starter area, Metrica Province, showcased the refinement of challenge as we inch closer to full release.  Events did an excellent job of guiding you around the area, keeping your experience gained about equal with your level needed for the next zone you were led into, giving the entire area a very dynamic feeling of organic growth.  The next thing you see is always a fun challenge, but never too difficult to take on.  It felt very good and I applaud them for that careful balance.  It also looks absolutely beautiful, and is filled with plenty of neat things to look at and do (oh Vistas, how I adore thee).  It’s great seeing how much the asura have built up in the last 250 years.  The events to be found were all very fun, and granted a new look at the hylek and the skritt (I will have to write a separate post on my beloved skritt).

My personal story was also a kick, dealing with unfusing golems and, eventually, a new application for my old Infinity Ball that, long story short, led to meeting myself as an evil overlord from another dimension’s future.  Talk about your fun cliches!  Every step was well-executed, and it left me eager for more when the game launches for real.

Actually sitting on top of a giant arch.  About 200 asura high.


The sylvari fangirl report – BWE3 roundup!

Eirlyss at the end of the weekend.

The third and final beta weekend event for Guild Wars 2 has come and gone. We just have over a month left until release now.

This is going to be a long month.

As should be surprising to no one, I spent the vast majority of my time in the sylvari areas. My main of choice for this BWE was Eirlyss, a sylvari Guardian. I did create several other characters (Katte, an asura Warrior, Dairina, a sylvari Elementalist, and Riannah, a sylvari Thief…yeah, I like sylvari!), but I spent the vast majority of the time on Eirlyss. I did play all the way through the personal story available for the beta, having chosen having a vision of the White Stag and finding “Where life goes, so shall you” as the most important of Ventari’s teachings as my personal story choices. I have so, so, so many thoughts on the sylvari storyline that I saw that just…wow. If you’re a Guild Wars lore buff? The sylvari storyline will likely be your favorite. In the beta, a few questions were answered, and more brought up.

And it certainly did a damn good job of getting me extremely patient for launch to see where this storyline goes. A small hint – remember seeds that Ronan found and planted one of, that grew into the Pale Tree? We find out a bit more about that.

I also noticed that the sylvari storyline seems to be the widest and the most concerned with the outside world. Yes, the story is still about you, but what I played of the other storylines (completed human, made a bit into the other three), they remain heavily involved with just you. The sylvari storyline is…definitely less so, and I like this. For example, in the White Stag storyline, I was trying to stop the Nightmare Court from corrupting the White Stag, a creature of the Dream that is a manifestation of hope, to despair and letting it loose back into the Dream to try and corrupt future sylvari. I defended the Grove from an attack from the Court. The “where life goes, so shall you” storyline I don’t want to go to into at the moment (I’ll likely dedicate a future post solely to that) involved trying to keep the Nightmare Court from getting what they referred to as the Harbinger, something or someone they wanted to use against the Grove and the Pale Tree. The sylvari storyline also has the earliest mention of the Elder Dragons that I noticed, with the Pale Tree herself telling her that she believed that you and Caithe would be the ones to face Zhaitan, and that you would be victorious.

Talking with the Pale Tree

So, essentially, I really, really enjoyed the sylvari storyline thus far.

The sylvari themselves are, essentially, perfect. I love how beautiful they are, while remaining something that’s very obviously not human. They have this air of elegance and nobility to them…but if you watch their idle animations, you get to see another side, one of a very young race that is intensely curious, and that is full of innocence. It’s just so absolutely perfect – it looks as though they’re humming something in their head, and sort of idly swaying along with it, along with stopping to look to the side as though they just spotted something interesting, as well as the occasional happy grin.

The Grove is definitely, as far as the capital cities go, the smallest of the five. This, however, is definitely understandable, I think. It’s built in several levels, being more of a vertical city than a horizontal one, which makes sense as it’s built into the bottom of the Pale Tree. It’s also the newest of the cities, housing the newest of the races, which logically speaking is also going to be the smallest in population. It shouldn’t be a massive, sprawling city like the others are.

During the weekend I reached level 25, and got 100% map completion on the Grove, Caledon Forest, Metrica Province, and Brisban Wildlands. If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that I wish that the asura and sylvari each had another zone that’s just solely theirs – they share Brisban, which is a level 15-25 zone. I can understand why – the Maguuma Jungle and Tarnished Coast are only so large, after all – but the other races had a 15-25 zone of their own! Not fair, says I.

I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed playing Guardian. I tried it briefly during BWE1 and thought it was okay, but I wanted to give it another go. I was undecided between that and Elementalist, and decided last moment that Guardian would be the winner. I actually really, really liked it. Yes, it’s definitely the most support-based profession, and normally I don’t like support. But it’s also a very flexible profession, and I enjoyed being able to swap roles quickly and easily depending on the situation. And my ability to provide support was given the ultimate test during an event in Metrica Province.

Being led to our deaths by Mr. Matthew Medina, aka @barefootmatthew. Whoops 😛

Ahh, yes. The Fire Elemental in Metrica. It spawns at the end of an event chain if the previous one is failed and…well. “Overpowered” is an understatement. The first time I tried it I had to map out to a waypoint after dying and reset my skills and bust out my staff so I could lend some heavy support. I then spent the entire fight healing people, setting up walls to block projectiles, and ressing everyone as they died. We did manage to succeed at the fight…however, as I spent the entire fight lending support instead of attacking, I got no credit for the fight. No gold, no karma, no experience, nothing. I certainly more than participated – of everyone on that bridge I probably spent the most time alive and actually doing things – but as I did not directly attack the elemental it didn’t count? I was a bit annoyed.

The main issue with that fight is, I think, just a variety of elements coming together and working off of each other to wind up being far stronger than intended. The leadup to the room where the fight is is a narrow bridge, which creates a massive chokepoint. The boss does massive AoE attacks, as well as spawning Embers which also attack.

I wound up getting killed by the elemental another time on Sunday evening – a note of warning, partying up with an ANet dev will likely cause in you dying. I almost feel bad for the random people who spotted the ANet logo as we ran past and followed along only to be led to their deaths…but on the other hand, I think that attempt was one of the highlights of my weekend. Plus now they know exactly how overpowered that event is, always a plus!

The finale, the Hunger Royale (Hunger Games and Battle Royale combined) was certainly entertaining, but I felt like it was hindered by the size of the map. Metrica was just too large for something like that – we spent the most time just running before we’d come across anyone else. Still, I got to send Dak flying as we wound up on opposite teams, so that was entertaining.

I never did get to climb to the top of the Pale Tree, but I did go up into the Omphalos Chamber and found the highest spot in there I could get to, so I guess that wins!

As far as new additions…I love vistas. Some could be quite the puzzle to figure out how to reach, but as I’m a veteran of games like Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed (and oh how heavily did vistas remind me of syncing viewpoints in AC!), usually just a moment or two of studying the area gave me a path up. They’re also amazing for taking lovely screenshots of the area, something which I took great advantage of.

Now, if only it were August 25th…

Beta giveaway has concluded!

Well! This has been a busy weekend, and I’m glad to say that all of the beta keys I was given have been sent to loving homes. I did a series of mini giveaways on twitter and facebook yesterday, and have just finished selecting the top 15 jokes of the entries I received for the joke contest!

I wound up with a couple hundred entries, so judging wasn’t exactly easy. I managed to narrow it down to the 15 punchlines that made me laugh the most, though 😉 So, here we go!

So, a sylvari and an asura walk into a bar…

So, a sylvari and an asura walk into a bar…and the bartender says “Where have you guys been? Everybody’s been looking for you. I haven’t seen you the past few weeks!?”
– Ravenmurder

So, a Sylvari and an Asura walk into a bar. The bartender looks at them, and says, “I’m guessing you’ll both need some Miracle Grow.”

So, a sylvari and an asura walk into a bar…
The asura walks straight up to the barman and orders two glasses of dihydrogen oxide. The barman looks to the Sylvari for a translation. “Don’t mind her, asuras are show-offs and have to use fancy names for everything,” says the Sylvari, “we’d simply like two glasses of the source of all life, please.”
– Nemi

So, a sylvari and an asura walk into a bar…
The sylvari inquires as to the origins of the bar, and the asura curses the damned inscrutable location for the bar to have been built.
– Finnguala

So, a sylvari and an asura walk into a bar…
The sylvari was astonished, as it was her first time at a bar. The asura knowing the memories are shared amongst the sylvari, thought of an experiment. “What if i give this plant some alcohol?” And so, the next generation of sylvari are now in rehabiliation.
– Armageddon621

So, a sylvari and an asura walk into a bar…
Not really, the asura walked under it…
– CubanMM

So, a Sylvari and an Asura walk into a bar…The Sylvari looks at the Asura and says “Leaf me alone”. The Asura then turns to the Sylvari and says ”Give it a little time, I’ll grow on you!”

What did the sylvari say to the charr?

What did the sylvari say to the charr?
Nothing, the cat had his tongue
– DrFawx

What did the sylvari say to the charr?
The dreams tell me you like to scratched behind the ear.
– Magg

What did the sylvari say to the charr?
My bark is worse than your bite!
– Aeryxia

What happens when a norn challenges a sylvari to a drinking contest?

What happens when a norn challenges a sylvari to a drinking contest?
Wheat-rye’d to see what happens, but the sylvari could barley hold their liquor!
– Tamblyn Wilde

What happens when a norn challenges a sylvari to a drinking contest?
All the sylvari share a hangover.
– Xelloss

What happens when a norn challenges a sylvari to a drinking contest?
The Sylvari starts ordering Rootbeer.

So what happens when a norn challenges a sylvari to a drinking contest?
They go neck and nectar.
– General Manchesthair

what happens when a norn challenges a Sylvari to a drinking contest?
She finds out the hard way why you don’t over-water plants.
– Trax

So, once again, thanks to all who entered, and congrats to the winners – I hope to see you all in game next weekend!

No beta key? No problem!

As the lovely folks over at ArenaNet are awesome, they’ve been giving various fansites beta keys for the final BWE that’s happening July 20-22. And we’ve got 25 of them to give away here at Under the Pale Tree!

So, here we go. How do you enter, you may be asking? Well, it’s quite simple. All you have to do is come up with a punchline to one of the following joke setups! As you can see, there’s a bit of a theme here 😉

  1. So, a sylvari and an asura walk into a bar…
  2. What did the sylvari say to the charr?
  3. What happens when a norn challenges a sylvari to a drinking contest?

Now, the nitty gritty. To actually enter, send an email to, with the subject line “BWE3 Key Contest”. Please include three things: 1. The joke you’re answering, 2. Your actual punchline (obviously!), and 3. Your online alias you’d like to go by. One entry per person, obviously – this means you can only come up with a punchline for one joke! All entries must be in by 8pm CDT (9pm EDT, 6pm PDT) on Sunday, July 15th. Keys will be distributed to our favorites by Monday afternoon, and our favorite punchlines will be published on the blog. The keys are only good for BWE3, and not for any other stress tests that may happen after that point.

Also, be fair and please don’t enter if you’ve already got your beta place. Let everyone get a chance at playing next weekend!

Good luck, and have fun!

EDIT: IF YOU ARE COMMENTING ON THIS POST, YOUR ENTRY DOES NOT COUNT. ALL ENTRIES NEED TO BE EMAILED TO ME TO ACTUALLY COUNT. Please, if you are going to enter a contest, take the time to actually read and follow the rules.

The Pale Tree Climbing Expedition!

So, I was thinking things over.

The Pale Tree is massive. It is described as “towering like a skyscraper over the landscape“, with the lower levels of the Tree being the city of the Grove. The pods that sylvari grow in and are born from are high enough from the ground that a fall from them can be fatal.

Guild Wars 2 loves to let people explore. There are jumping puzzles and all sorts of little goodies that you can find from poking around.

Just how far up the Pale Tree is it possible to climb, then?

As I said previously, I already intend to spend most of my time during the upcoming BWE exploring the Grove. Exploring the Grove includes exploring the Pale Tree itself, of course.

And I intend to see just how far up the Tree I can climb.

I’m sure I’ll fall and die many a time during the attempt. But as someone who likes exploring, who likes to find all of the little details, and who just plain loves all things sylvari, I intend to keep pressing on and see how far up the Tree I can make it.

I wonder if it’s even possible to make it to the top…


(If anyone wishes to join me, I’ll be climbing my way up on Eternal Grove!)

Sylvari fangirl, reporting for duty!

If you’re on this blog, there’s likely one fact about me that’s quite obvious. If somehow you’ve missed it…I’m a bit of a sylvari fangirl. Just, you know, a tiny bit. From explaining why they’re unique and speculating about the redesign long before it was revealed, to wondering what makes them incorruptible, exploring their sexuality, to writing up a very short story from the point of view of my sylvari character…yeah, I rather love the sylvari. I think the only thing that comes close to how much I talk about the sylvari and how much I like them, is my love of Mesmers. Not surprisingly, my main character in Guild Wars 2 is going to be a sylvari Mesmer.

Then, this morning, ArenaNet posted up a new blog post, revealing that the sylvari (and asura!) will be playable in the last BWE?

Well, I was quite pleased.

…that may be a bit of an understatement.

Originally I had planned on getting my human Mesmer to level 30 and doing the Ascalon Catacombs during the last beta. Now, however…you’ll be far more likely to find me in the Grove. Exploring everything, taking videos and screenshots.

Part of me wants to wait for release to create and play a sylvari. But part of me…the fangirl part of me that fell in love with the sylvari the moment the very first Guild Wars 2 trailer was released back in 2009…doesn’t want to wait. And the “I’ve waited long enough” part of me is the bigger and louder part…and hence I’ll be spending quite a bit of time on the 20th in character creation, making my sylvari and getting her just right. And then screencapping the settings so I can recreate her come August 25th when early access starts.

I’ll see you in the Grove!