I’m sure everyone has already seen the Extra Credits’ video “When Difficult is Fun” that creates a distinction between games that are difficult and games that are punishing.
(In case you haven’t, I embed it here for your reference.)
We will be using “punishing” and “difficult” in that context in today’s discussion of the Queen’s Gauntlet activity that is part of the Queen’s Jubilee update.
(Good, if you like that sort of thing)
- Each boss has a mechanic or gimmick that is consistent and generally plays fair, so defeating them is mostly a matter of picking the right traits/build/gear/profession and playing the encounter long enough to learn their patterns. (One may, however, argue regarding the possibility of players not being able to afford the correct conjunction of characters and the secondary requirement of having sufficient arcade/action reflexes for certain fights. But I suppose for optional challenging content, such are the boundaries that are already laid out.)
- Some of the bosses’ attacks are well-telegraphed. (Halmi Hammerfell, the first hammer boss, has a very clear hammer windup and frontal cleave, Dead Eye’s laser shot is decent if a zerg isn’t under you.)
- The bosses are generally quite well-arranged to ramp up steadily in difficulty (tier 1 is fairly doable, tier 2 is more moderately taxing, etc. T3′s last boss spikes upward pretty hard though.)
(Not so good, even if you masochistically persist past them)
- Each iterative try is gated by a decent chunk of time – by the run back from a waypoint if someone isn’t standing by to rez you (cue money sink, don’t forget repairs), by waiting for one of six cages to be freed up, by needing to farm the group zerg event for tickets.
- One shot kills for making a mistake – either tactically misreading the mechanics or just not being physically adept enough – lead promptly to the above repeated time-waster.
- A few bosses are not sufficiently well-explained in their tips – leading to either trial and error or out-of-game reading to learn their mechanics. (I’m thinking of Salazan and Liandri in specific. “Lethal fire circle” produces an instinctual response to dodge out of dangerous looking circles, much like the rest of the game has taught us. This produces the feeling of a dev busy trolling players when one finally realizes that one does not, in fact, have to dodge out of the ring, in order to survive. As for Liadri, well, talk about ridiculously complex and requiring someone to spell it out in point form out-of-game.)
- Some of the bosses’ attacks are NOT well-telegraphed, possibly due to small model size and/or camera angles in the dome. (Suriel the Blazing Light? She’s a female human, holding a book most of the time. How the hell are you supposed to see her Solar Flare attack? Someone told me she makes a cross with her hands or something. I’m at 1200 range, how the fuck would I be able to see that? I just used her pausing and staying still as a cue, mixed with lots of guesswork. As for Liadri’s AoE, it is obvious it is made to exactly blend in with the floor grating. Trololol, I think a dev would be saying.)
- The zerg below can produce lag, visual culling or significant drops in framerates – which make reading animations and dodging in time extra-challenging, particularly to those with higher latency or playing on toasters.
Ambivalent but Interesting Enough to Note Aspects
- The time limit creates an interesting juxtaposition between trying to balance survivability and damage. It serves to ensure the wait time for each individual encounter is not too long. But it would be much better if the time limit were actually clearly ticking down somewhere in the UI, similar to the Aetherblade instance, so players have a better sense of how long they have.
(And really, no one gives a shit if you fall down from the cage or not, no one in the zerg frankly gives a fuck, there’s a hundred and one dead guys dying arbitrarily from the “anti-zerg” mechanics, there’s so much visual chaos and culling going on, and everyone is really looking at the right side of their screen watching the loot to pour in to care about some stranger dying.)
- Enabling spectators also leads to a curious juxtaposition of interests, On one hand, it could give rise to a small friendly community of players exchanging tips, sharing frustrations, cheering each other on and helping each other rez. I’ve seen one or two guilded parties occupy an arena this way, enjoying a group outing even if only one person is fighting at a time. On the other hand, for introverted soloists, some may not care for being spectated or find it embarrassing. Plus for self-centered loner types, they really don’t give a fuck either about some other guy’s fight, good or bad, they just want to find an -empty- arena to try -their- personal fight again ASAP.
- That quick update development time? Yep, there’s a few bugs.
Personally, I don’t mind a hard fight or repeated tries at it. I appreciate that this has been sectioned off into its own minigame tab for achievements, which at least puts it into a different category in my mind, though this would be much nicer as permanent content so that one could come back to it at leisure, without worrying about queues or not being good enough or equipped enough at this point in time.
I’m not fond of the “farm this first in order to do what you really want” delaying mechanic, but because the group activity is so mindlessly rewarding, I am willing to forgive it.
In a sense, it serves to enforce a change of pace so that things do not get too frustrating. (But lowering iteration times would also minimize frustration and reduce the punishing aspect, while maintaining the difficulty of a solo fight as a challenge.)
I do wish however that the fights were instanced, I can’t shake the sense that I’m fighting at an extreme disadvantage between my toaster computer’s specs, my high latency due to geographic locations, plus throwing in a WvW-sized zerg arbitrarily underneath me at times. I barely break 20 FPS at the best of times, and have hovered around 10-12 at peak hours – which made attempts rather costly and eventually resulted in me just zerging and saving tickets for tries at more friendly off-peak timings.
I don’t know if I’m going to manage all the Queen’s Gauntlet achievements, but I’m still generally quite calm about the whole affair.
I think it helps that this was introduced at the start, meaning four weeks to work on it, rather than two. In a month, I find it realistic enough a goal to level and gear a specific character to 80 if one was really determined on getting through this, whereas two weeks would be a hectic rush. A number of people have also managed to conquer the last boss in a day or two, so it seems there will be sufficient time to spread specific gearing and trait strategies around.
And there have been hints that it is likely to return, possibly on a yearly basis – so it does not seem like this will be arbitrarily forever out of reach if not achieved this go around, which really helps the OCD.
Full disclosure: I’m currently still stuck on Liadri. Nearly all the bosses were done with a berserker guardian.
Except the penultimate boss of the Norn and Chomper, which gave me a majorly hard time on the guardian, which led to a rage-spending moment of buying my new level 80 necromancer (yes, in the past five days before patch, that’s another personal goal that got done, whee) shiny berserker gear, haphazardly traiting for life-leeching high damage minions and brute forcing my way past that encounter.
I would like to return with a later post with tips, but we’ll see. The framerate lag and necessity of farming tickets makes repeat tries for screenshots and the task of learning the encounter well enough to provide suggestions extremely challenging. I might just settle for copycatting a better player and lucking into achieving stuff once – which already sounds difficult enough to me.