High Rez Images: Photo-bombed

Once again my featured screenshot for the week comes from Trove because… that’s pretty much the only game I’m playing right now. A new patch dropped this week and with it a new form of gameplay, Challenges. Every hour on the hour players are given 20 minutes to clear a certain number of dungeons in a specific biome in order to earn a variety of rewards. The jury is still out on whether this will be fun over the long haul, but for now I enjoy the hourly race with other Trovians.

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However I’m easily distracted and would often find myself taking a detour mid-flight to the next dungeon. Most of the time it was to mine infinium, but a few times it was to take a screenshot of an interesting dungeon design I had never seen before. Enter the Trove pinball machine. I thought the old arcade game dungeon was pretty cool but this pinball machine takes the prize. My first shot went well, I captured the name “Trove” emblazoned on the side which was what first caught my attention. I didn’t realize it was a pinball machine right away, but oh buddy, once I did I hopped on up to the top to take a look.

The dungeon itself is inside the pinball machine and you can view it through the glass top. It’s not terribly interesting to look at, but I definitely give the developers credit for their overall dungeon design. There are often little (or big) nods to the history of gaming— an appropriate direction for a retro-style voxel based game— and they can sometimes be a little tricky to maneuver the first time through with maze-like features and platforming elements.

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I didn’t have time to actually try the pinball machine dungeon, so I went for the quick screenshot so I could get back to my challenge and that’s when I got photo-bombed, literally. I think I must have been standing near the boss which caused it to spawn one of these mini-cannons. Although the boss must have been beneath the glass the cannon spawned next to me above the dungeon and took a pot shot at my head while I was trying to take a selfie. It’s okay mini-cannon, I kind of feel the same way about selfies.

Once the photo-bombing culprit was dealt with I was able to get the intended screenshot however now I’m fonder of the one with the little guy. It’s so hard to capture action screenshots in Trove because you have to physically type in /screenshot which is why most of mine are pretty basic. Having anything more than just my character in the image is a welcome change. I almost feel bad about blowing him to voxel bits.

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Eleven Years, Dancing Cheek to Cheek

Today marks the eleventh anniversary of my marriage to the beautiful, Mrs. Weakness. We met in college and were married shortly after graduation and I’m thankful for every moment I’ve had with her during these eleven years. Not long ago my grandpa shared the story of how he met his wife, my grandma, for their sixtieth anniversary. He had written it down so that he could read it to everyone and then give a copy to his four daughters so that the memory of their parents’ love story would live on. It is in that same spirit of remembrance and preservation that I would like to record our own story as we celebrate the past eleven years.

As I’ve already mentioned, Mrs. Weakness and I met in college. She was a year ahead of me but both of us were latecomers to the art department at our university and thus the second semester of my freshman and her sophomore year, we were in our first class together. There were several required courses for your first two semester as an art student, but the one I remember most was the 3D design class we were in together. According to my wife we first met just before Christmas the year prior. She was friends with a young woman from my home town and we met in passing before the holiday break. Surprisingly I don’t remember any of this. What I do remember is seeing her in 3D design that first day; there was a shoelace tied around her neck. I don’t know why that detail stands out but it does. That’s the kind of woman my wife is though, one who wears shoelaces as jewelry or cuts up old Marvel t-shirts of mine and refashions them into tank tops.

Being quite insecure with women and romance, I was not great at vocalizing my interest in her for a long time. For the first two years we knew each other we were friends. I would make any excuse I could to spend time with her or to help her with an art project. The relationship started off small, but in time I think we were both fond of one another’s company, although I hoped for more. Of all the things I did to gain her affection, the most absurd came after I heard one of her soccer teammates complain that no one supported the girls’ team at games. In response I organized a group of several friends and fellow students from my dorm floor and convinced them to adorn themselves in body paint, don capes, and wear ridiculous clothing combinations. We showed up at their game behaving like crazed fans of a professional football team; it was glorious. The circus act that followed was a great success and the team really appreciated it. If I remember correctly my future in-laws were at that game as well. First impressions, folks. They’re important.

At some point during our friendship—it might have even been at that game– one of my wife’s sisters told her that she and I would marry despite the fact we weren’t even dating at the time. Mrs. Weakness dismissed the comment immediately. To my great benefit, her sister proved correct. And this wasn’t the only premonition foreshadowing our marriage either, the first happened years earlier. When I was in high school I had a dream in which a woman appeared with dark hair, dressed in Native American garb. Despite her appearance, the young woman insisted that she was in fact German. I had all but forgotten that seemingly innocuous dream by the time I met my wife. Almost, but not quite. As it turns out, Mrs. Weakness is of German descent with some Native American blood as well. She is the only person in her family who bears the resemblance of her Native American ancestors, with her long, raven dark hair. God gave me a dream about my future wife long before we met, of that I am convinced.

After the end of my second year in college my wife was attending a wedding in the early part of the summer. I either was invited or invited myself, I can’t remember, but in my mind it was kind-of-almost a date (I certainly wished it was) however I’m sure in her mind we were still just friends. After the wedding and reception we went to her house for a spell, along with her family and her roommate from college and life-long friend. I wanted to say something but instead I said good bye and left her house. A block later I stopped and went back. She and her roommate were still sitting where I had left them and more than a little surprised to see me. In true 1980s John Cusack fashion (minus the boom box) I told Mrs. Weakness that I loved her, right in front of her best friend. My declaration was also made (I would later learn) in front of her entire family who happened to be in the next room over. Astonishingly, I was able to make a second impression more ridiculous than the first. Brave soul that I was, I left immediately, but at least my affections were finally out in the open.

We had at least one conversation during that summer, after my wife had been given time to process what I had said. I would like to say we started dating at that point, but we didn’t. For most of the summer there was radio silence between us, if I remember correctly. Instead, my focus was redirected toward an internship I took with the Methodist church I attended throughout junior high and high school. Along with four other college students, I spent my summer working with the new youth pastor in rebuilding the youth group from the ground up. For many reasons it was a confidence building experience for me and a kind of spiritual growth spurt as well. I had an excellent mentor, close friendships with the other interns, and a better sense of what it meant to be a leader. As a result of all these influences, I was able to “let go” of the relationship that was apparently never going to happen. As it turns out, this was exactly where I needed to be in order to eventually move forward with our relationship.

When the internship ended I returned to school determined to lay aside my infatuation and focus on my classes, my art, and possibly new relationship opportunities however it took one glance for me to realize I was still deeply in love with her. More confident than ever, I told her that I had every intention of marrying her, God willing. I was not going to pressure her or plead my case on the regular, instead I would wait until she was ready. I had the kind of rare certainty that does not need to insist, I was comfortable with waiting. That semester we spent a lot more time together and as a result our friendship grew.

We started dating toward the end of the fall semester and by late January I proposed. Normal people do that, right? It may not have been the rational course of action to propose so soon, but I knew it was where our relationship was headed. It wasn’t an immediate “yes” from Mrs. Weakness; I knew going in it might not be. One of the reasons I proposed when I did was because I wanted it to be an actual question, one with risk and not a prearranged formality. Her primary reservation was that I did not know her family well enough, and they in turn needed to get to know me a little better before she and I were engaged. Given that I had made such a great first and second impression, I knew I would win them over with my “I’ve been dating your daughter for a couple of months and went ahead and proposed” approach. Despite our agreement to wait before any “official” engagement, she kept the ring. At that point we both knew it was an inevitability.

One of the oldest memories I have of my father-in-law is him asking to demonstrate on me how he was taught to break a man’s arm. I love my father-in-law. Well, now anyway; he scared the crap out of me then. We were in his office in the basement of his house and he was telling me about a job he worked in order to pay for college. A parolee working at the same factory as my father-in-law took it upon himself to teach him self-defense. “Have you ever had a guy come at you with a crow bar?” the man would ask my bewildered (and slightly frightened) father-in-law. Sitting in that chair across from him as he told his tale, I could relate. Day after day, the man would teach him different techniques and test his reaction time. It was a bizarre sort of mentorship and my father-in-law thought it important to use my arms for demonstration during the story. Part of me was concerned for the well-being of my appendages; now as a father of a young girl myself, I’m pretty sure that was the point.

After a little more time with her family, about a month after my proposal, we announced our engagement officially to friends and family alike. There were concerns of course from our parents especially; two art students wanting to get married without any career prospects? That would make any sane parent a little nervous. The joke in my wife’s family for our first year or two of marriage was that they were getting the basement ready for us, just in case. The concerns were valid, but we’ve done alright for ourselves so far, and by the grace of God we have yet to live in anyone’s basement.

Finally, in June of 2004 we were married. Our ceremony was held in the back yard of my aunt’s house—a beautiful home built in the 1850s—under a tree at least as old as the house itself. There were twenty-two people in attendance that day, including Mrs. Weakness, myself, and the pastor overseeing our vows. The weather was gorgeous and so was my wife. She wore a simple white dress made for $60 from a seamstress my Uncle knew from his home town in the Philippines. We walked the aisle to Ella Fitzgerald, said our vows, kissed, and were wed. It’s been exactly eleven years since those vows were spoken, and I have been immeasurably blessed to have her as my beautiful bride.

Happy eleventh anniversary Mrs. Weakness, I love you. Here’s to eleventy more.

Seven Tips for Completing Challenges in Trove

  1. Make sure you are mastery level 30. You won’t be able to participate until you reach this mastery rank.
  2. Work on leveling all of your classes to at least level 10. There are bonuses applied to each boss kill if you use one of the two bonus classes listed for each challenge. Completing the second challenge tier is impossible without these multipliers so taking advantage of them is key. Without any bonuses, each boss kill equals one point. For the first tier you need ten, for the second forty, and for the third, one hundred. However with the 3x multiplier from using the bonus class, each boss is worth three points. This way instead of needing to complete 50 dungeons, you will only need 17 to complete the first two tiers. The class multiplier alone won’t get you through the third tier, but it will at least get you through the first two which means four caches each challenge instead of two.
  3. Mobility is key for keeping up with the crowd. Make sure your gear has plenty of jump, and that you have wings. You automatically receive a pair for mastery rank 20, so you will have them by the time you reach mastery rank 30, but don’t forget to equip them for all of your classes. Lastly, if you don’t have a mount faster than Slow Sebastian, get one. Every bit of speed counts.
  4. Work on obtaining and upgrading a magic based damage set of shadow gear and a physical based damage set along with one of each weapon type if possible. There are two other multipliers available but they require access to the U5 (3x bonus) and U6 (9x bonus) zone and will require some gearing and leveling to obtain. For the most caches during each challenge, your goal is to have all the classes at level 20 with gear powerful enough to enter U6 zones. That will grant you all bonus multipliers and thus allow you to work through the higher tiers of rewards.
  5. Stick with the group. When you zone into a map, check where the correct biome is located and then stay with the crowd of players heading in that same direction. If you work through the dungeons together it will go much quicker. And if you happen to be in the lead, I recommend being courteous and letting other players catch up if they aren’t too far behind before going all out on the boss so everyone gets credit (you only have to be close, you don’t need to tag the boss).
  6. Three star dungeons are your friends. You don’t get bonus points for defeating a three star boss, but there are generally two other bosses in the same dungeon which allows you to get three kills without a lot of travel.
  7. Change maps quickly once one has been completed or if the biome isn’t close to the spawn point. Sometimes you’ll be in a map with a small biome for the challenge and all the dungeons are completed quickly. Other times you may find the biome you need is too far away. When this happens you want to change instances quickly. The best way to do this is to port back to your club world and use the portals there. If you don’t have a club world, you’ll need to port back to the hub, build your cornerstone there, then use your personal portals. If you try to build your cornerstone and use a portal to the same Uber level within the map you are trying to leave it will not switch map instances.