GW2: Entertaining Oneself… The Champion Risen Archmage

championrisenarchmage

Grrr… This guy…

Looks small, packs a punch.

It struck me that the one part I was enjoying out of Wildstar’s dungeons – besides trying to get interrupts off successfully fast enough to save the group from a dismal wipe – was the amount of movement and reflexive dodging needed and the sensation of practicing and getting better at one’s timing, plus needing to understand and analyze exactly what each mob attack was doing because it was so punishing to ignore it.

By chance, while doing my dailies in GW2, I walked by the perpetually up Champion Risen Archmage in the Cursed Shores (assuming no champion train running, that is) and decided to give him a go.

Wow.

I ended up spending an hour there, by choice, and respawned about fifteen times from the nearby waypoint, having recreated a very similar feeling to your run of the mill PUG in Stormtalon’s Lair, with the added bonus of not having to wait 15+ minutes to even begin to attempt it, or having any ‘weak link’ scapegoat excuses that someone else was to blame.

This champion has it all, on demand.

A very quick firing small lightning bolt AoE… which hurts.

A bigger lightning storm AoE circle… which hurts like hell…

A lightning projectile that also freaking hurts…

And seemingly one or two other minor attacks that I haven’t really bothered to read yet, besides knowing one of them sorta corrupts the ground and applies two conditions.

He will test your dodging skills and mastery of timing intently, and punish like crazy if you screw up.

Which I did, often.

I am neither a condition thief with the benefit of toughness and lots of dodges, nor a zerk warrior utilizing an area where there were no respawning mobs and able to unleash heaps of damage in close range while still having a big health reservoir, good health regen, an evade and a block (ie. the two successful solo videos out there,) so I may have been trying this on voluntary hard and not-very-strategic mode.

What I ended up trying was just to plink away at range with my one-hand crit scepter and try to dodge every damn tell it had, staggering reflects, blocks and signet healing to recover from the many many accidents.

(In retrospect, maybe I should have tried shelter too.)

I was keenly aware that my timing wasn’t as picture perfect as it could have been, in theory.

Soon, the standard torch I ran around with in casual open world PvE was swapped in favor of the focus and the three blocks it provided.

I ended up staring at my traits and swapping the unused Powerful Blades (after attempting melee and blinds with it, I ate a couple of its projectiles and AoEs at such close range and decided against practising that at the time) for Signet Mastery, which boosted my signet heal recharge.

I started thinking I was running out of endurance way too quickly because I was so clumsy at this, and ate a 40% endurance regen food and put on an undead slaying potion, for kicks…

Biggest progress I made was around 50% of its health bar solo so far, but not for lack of trying, and I’m still dead certain I’m not staggering stuff properly (I tend to panic and start spamming when things go wrong.)

Most amusingly though, was that this attracted one or two Orr farmers when the archmage’s health started dropping, who seemed to be game enough to give a duo or trio a go.

It was somewhat gratifying to see that I was managing to survive long enough for them to take uninterrupted potshots at the champion, up until the point where I rolled a bit too far away and lost aggro from proximity, at which point they started being the focus of attention. And tended to drop after 2-3 AoEs they failed to dodge in time.

However, one ranger was fairly helpful and we actually successfully killed it in our impromptu duo attempt, as his pet actually took aggro some of the time and he managed to roll out of the AoE around 50% of the time.

Having that attention diverted from me gave me some breathing room and for my skills to recharge, ready to take over when the ranger inevitably went down. Since running to rez him would only mean unfriendly skies lightning aoe on both of us, I just ended up solo dodging it from the opposite side of the downed ranger and let him rez up again via his pet. Between that trading off of aggro and the additional damage from him, we managed a successful archmage duo.

Some day though… pulling off a solo would be fun.

And there’s also other classes and builds to try if my casual weak sauce one just isn’t up to the task.

Guess I know what else I can do when I get bored and want to get gud at dodging.

At a couple silver per waypoint (if you really screw up and don’t just flee to reset the fight) and no repair costs, it’s a lot cheaper in money and time spent than wiping repeatedly in Wildstar.

That MMO “Feeling” – What’s Missing? A Purpose? What’s My Motivation?

Destiny's Edge + 1

Ever had a thought that just refuses to lay down and die?

It rattles around in your brain, tossing and turning, gnawing and worrying while you spend days trying to pin it down and articulate it to some degree.

It began with Syl’s post about a lack of purpose in our MMOs of today.

There was something to it, especially in regards to Landmark needing to link some kind of functionality and give reasons to do their various activities (for certain subsets of players anyway, who don’t seem to find the existing framework motivating enough), but it sounded… off. Not quite right. Especially when extrapolated in a general sense.

Further questioning in the comments revealed that Syl meant something like a “shared purpose.” A united vision, a commonality of purpose across players, to work hand-in-hand towards… something.

Be it taking down a raid boss together, or perhaps contributing towards building a project in Glitch (RIP Glitch :( ) or a monument in a Tale in the Desert, or maybe even Tarnished Coast and Jade Quarry’s dastardly goal of making sure Blackgate doesn’t just easy mode cruise into a WvW Season 2 win. :P

Then it continued on across various Reddit and forum posts trying to express why some players really want to like GW2 but can’t seem to deal with the leveling process.

There’s no reason for it, they say. No purpose. Something’s missing, and it’s just not lack of direction or guidance. They’re running from one point of interest to another, connecting the dots, but somehow feeling disconnected with the world. Like there’s no story for the players to be the center of and our characters just wind up around the periphery clearing wasps and helping groups of NPCs do something or other.

Personally, I never had that problem when the game first launched. Everything was new and shiny and unfamiliar. There was something AWESOME to see around every corner, and something novel and cool to discover. Even after hitting level 80, I held back on 100% world completion for a long time because I was terrified by the thought of officially consuming all the content and making the world familiar. Known. Habitual. Boring.

In the lull between Living Story seasons, I have been taking my time and leveling a charr engineer the old fashioned way. While I’m still having no problems keeping apace with levels, probably because I kill everything and am not above popping a food and wrench (20%), and occasionally a 50% XP booster to go with the 18% account bonus from achievements, I started feeling…

…what’s the word… Bored, maybe.

Like something was missing.

In my case, I suspected that I was meta-gaming way too much. I’ve seen all these maps before, several times. I know their schtick and what the NPCs are up to in each of them. I could probably find each jumping puzzle entrance unaided by a wiki, going from memory alone. The personal story from the orders on is SO SO DONE before.

Always on my mind is the possibility that I could log in on one of five other level 80s to do something -else-, and by god, are there a lot of something -elses- to do in GW2 – world bosses, TTS runs, WvW, a dungeon, gather or farm stuff, etc.

Except that I’ve also repeated a bunch of these activities… if they’re not quite to the point of being nauseating, they’re at least to the point of “having been done before.”

Strangely enough, a temporary cure for this malaise was serendipitously found when I saw the “Fear Not This Night” video and decided to watch a series of all its Youtube variants in the other screen while I went around leveling.

Between the stirring music and watching all the fantastical cutscenes and incredible art and rekindling that sense of potential GW2 had when it was new, I think I recreated some of that sense of wonder and awe that I personally CRAVE like a thirsting man needs water.

theworldisjustawesome

I started feeling more like a hero, more immersed into the world again, rather than my character acting as Tool #6 for Future Experimentation with AoE Spam in WvW and Condi Builds in PvP.

There was still one more thing missing though.

And this was where I really started missing the Living Story. It was -hard- to find a story, a linear narrative that my character could get involved in.

In GW1, this was front and center. Every story mission you went on, there was this one big overarcing story that we traced.

In GW2, the stories are fractured and scattered. Yes, I could chase the Personal Story. It’s the most linear narrative we have. It’s spread out geographically though, and with level gaps that enforce pauses and breaks in between.

I could do dungeons and follow Destiny’s Edges’ story – assuming I don’t get kicked out of impatient PUGs for daring to watch cutscenes – but again, the story is broken up by dungeons and levels. Anyway, we know the story. They squabble a lot. Our character tells them they’re being idiots. They eventually wise up, kiss and make up.

The open world itself has teeny tiny storylets that are unfortunately caught in time. They’re interesting, no doubt. I enjoy the Fields of Ruin for instance, the tension between the charr and the humans and the peace treaty and the characters that are still clinging on or struggling to get rid of old prejudices. But we can’t progress those stories in any meaningful fashion.

A narrative needs a beginning, middle and end. A line. Not a closed circle that continuously loops.

So I end up stuck waiting for the Living Story – our last, best hope for narrative in GW2.

Thing is, what’s missing for me, may not what’s be missing for you.

Which led to a fevered attempt to brainstorm motivations and reasons for why people play MMOs.

(Which has, of course, been attempted multiple times by others – some far more scientifically than me.)

In no particular order:

  • To feel like a hero – to be at the center of a story, or to be unique or stand out in some fashion, via prestigious cool-looking armor perhaps?
  • To feel like one is improving oneself, eg. via increasing stats or levels, or demonstrating competency via overcoming challenges
  • To be validated or acknowledged by one’s peers, eg. earning social respect via leadership or game skill, defeating others in a competition, etc.
  • To experience a shared purpose, commonality of goal, ‘teamwork’
  • For self-expression – customisation of a character and its looks, or to tell a story or build a home or express creativity in some other form
  • To experience a microcosm of life – MMO as a ‘flight simulator’ of life, test running and learning life lessons about social relationships and interacting with people within the game (a role also fulfilled by reading fiction or otherwise experiencing stories)
  • To feel like one is in a world – interconnectedness, have real people be doing stuff all around you or roleplaying, playing someone you’re not
  • To experience constant change and bursts of novelty, “new content”
  • To discover and learn new things
  • To master mechanics and optimize for efficiency
  • To experience a story – which segues nicely into the dev-created narrative or player-created narrative debate
  • To experience emotions, such as awe and wonder from seeing fantastic landscapes or large-scaled monsters in comparison to yourself (see WoW raid bosses and Shadow of the Colossus), or triumph and victory from defeating a difficult challenge, or a sense of belonging via falling in with a community of like-minded people

I’m sure there’s more.

And of course I noticed that a bunch of these were overlapping, so to speak, and I struggled to try and categorize them in some fashion.

We could fall back on Nick Yee’s main categories of Achievement, Social and Immersion.

Things to do with advancement, power, ambition, improving of self, mechanics and efficiency, perhaps competition might fall under Achievement.

Anything to do with belonging, relationships, player interaction, shared goals, teamwork and cooperation, perhaps even competition might fall under Social.

Immersion being the grab bag that then covers things like escapism, wonder, awe, curiosity, discovery, story-seeking.

Though we end up with a last hanging thread that I might end up terming as Self-Expression – being creative, enjoying customisation, being unique, storytelling and roleplaying (which overlaps onto Immersion), standing out (which overlaps back onto Achievement)

But then I noticed that maybe, just maybe… there was something even more universal at play here.

Note the many repeats of words like “feel” or “experience” or the various emotions that get named.

We say we play a game “for fun.”

We know that this “fun” means different things to different people, and we keep struggling to neatly delineate even more and more subcategories of “fun” in an attempt to get at what we’re really after.

Perhaps we’re really playing a game to feel -something.-

Preferably not boredom.

Many don’t like to feel anger or frustration in their games, but a few others do crave some of those negative emotions, if only to make the opposite emotion the sweeter when it finally arrives after a long struggle.

Different people crave certain feelings over others.

Different games feed certain feelings over others.

(GW2, as is, is pretty good in the Achievement and Social and Self-Expression categories – they keep pushing those agendas anyway, with a stress on cooperation and community organization rather than competition or elitist domination – but they’re kind of dropping the ball on the Immersion one and I think we’re seeing some of the repercussions in the recurring complaints about stories, lore, new zones, lack of caring about roleplaying, etc.)

If we end up feeling nothing or an overall lack of excitement in a game, that apathy becomes a problem which seems to eventually lead to the game being dropped.

Thing is, who’s in control here of our own emotions?

Do developers have a responsibility to entertain and feed us some of these emotions via their game design, since we’re choosing to play their game, after all?

Will it work if we ourselves are determined to not feel anything, having already been there and done that?

Perhaps an awareness that these things are in play is what we need to cross that divide of feeling and not-feeling.

At any time, perhaps we should be picking and choosing to play games (and do activities within a game) that do reward us with the feelings we’re craving.

It’s not a one-time life choice, after all.

We can swap them in and out like watching a comedy movie when we want to laugh and watching a horror movie when we want to be scared and thrilled.

We just need to remember to do it.

GW2: Endgame Ideas and Adventures in Goal-Setting

Maybe if you squint... there's 225 of 'em... somewhere...

“225 dolyaks in the snow, 225 dolyaks,
Take one down, slap it around, 224 dolyaks to go”

- anonymous Norn drinking song

It has not escaped my notice that during the last few days of blog silence (and game playing), my most popular post getting hits has been the one about Guild Wars 2’s end game.

That one was a rambling little response mostly making the point about what GW2’s endgame is – a smorgasbord or tapas MMO of many lateral progression options once you pass a certain baseline on the vertical progression ladder.

If you’re not fundamentally comfortable with that, you need to go play another game that is more familiar to you and gives you only one linear ladder to climb so that you can feel special about your “accomplishments” which mostly seem to involve the expenditure of time and perhaps how well you can execute a certain move.

Or conversely, if you’re entirely bored of the genre, it’s time to take a break and move on to a game with a completely different feel and challenges you in different ways. At least for a little while. (Here’s my shameless recommendation of a deep, tactical experience where knowing the right move and strategy is given a lot more stress than how long you take to execute it. I’m sure you can find more games out there too.)

However, if you’re still happy with the game and you’re just here to look for ideas on ‘what to do in GW2′, here are a couple of suggestions:

Reddit is a great source of ideas, as it’s got a huge cross section of variously motivated players reading and contributing to it.

  • When in doubt, a reddit search for “goals” should bring you nearly every thread and idea that may possibly interest a person – from the bog standard ‘get Legendary and look pretty’ ones, to be a PvP or WvW master or ‘collect all the things.’
Clothes? I don't need no stinking clothes to look pretty!

Clothes? I don’t need no stinking clothes to look pretty!

If you’re just interested in hearing about the way I play, then read on.

My voluntarily chosen over-arcing goal is achievements, but not in any kind of maniacal, obliged to win a leaderboard kind of manner. I tend to just use them as ideas or suggestions for things I could be doing.

What does end up happening anyway is a decent amount of progress

What does end up happening anyway is a decent amount of progress

I’m perfectly happy to let, say, the last two jumping puzzles sit undone because I haven’t been in the mood to do them yet. Or a bunch of posters and books in Ebonhawke and mariner plaques that I’ll get to, someday, when I want to have an easy immersive experience.

But maybe the next goal that pops up on the summary is 971/1000 trolls and I go, hmm, I can kill 29 trolls today. Hmm, where are there nice and easy trolls to kill? I don’t wiki because I like to remember these things as esoteric MMO trivia. I remember seeing trolls in Bloodtide Coast, but I think, nah, too high a level, it’s gonna be a pain to kill 29 of those. I think lower, and remember seeing a champion troll in Caledon Forest. Aha, surely there must be smaller minion trolls nearby. Sure enough, there are a bunch. Ding, achievement get.

I do tend to attack the time-limited achievements first, because you know, they are time-limited. This has led to some occasional QQ when striving to reach the quantity required by an achievement ends up taking up 100% of my current available playing time, but ArenaNet has been getting a LOT better on this front and giving more moderate sized ones.

Every day when I log on, I check the daily achievements tab and pick and choose. If I tried to complete all of them, I’d go crazy in short order, but hey, some people do. I highlight on the tracker all the ones I wouldn’t mind doing, then try to knock out a bunch with one stone. Maguuma killer, veteran killer, gatherer? Ok, off to Mount Maelstrom to slaughter a bunch of things, grab some easy veterans and harvest stuff then.

Once it hits 5/5, I tend to stop there and leave the rest of the highlighted ones as extras that I might do if I have more time that day. If not, whatever.

The Living Story tab gets checked next to see if there’s anything that I want to work on or knock out. I admit to being voluntarily completist on this one. Many are content just reaching the meta-achievement. My minigame challenge is to do all the non-infinite ones if at all possible.

I’m keeping an eye on the time in the meanwhile. Once it hits one of the scheduled Teq times for TTS, I tend to meander over and attend a run. I find attending Tequatl more exciting than chasing world bosses, and you do get rares and karma out of it too. The eternal hope is, of course, that I’ll pop a mini. One day. Some day. (Yeah, right.)

Minis are my other voluntarily chosen vice. Again, I’m not completist about this. The prices of exotics are crippling. I spit on any ugly gem store ones. (Ones I find cute, I might consider $10 for if I haven’t spend my month’s budget of $10-20 already, or convert gold to gems.) But I did start by picking up all the blues and greens since they were cheap, and as time wore on, I found I could earn enough spending money to buy rare minis sporadically.

And ever since I managed the initially-viewed-as-insane goal of 225 dolyaks slapped in 7 weeks by working on it slowly 5-10 dolyaks a day, I’ve become a little more open to the idea about long to medium-term goals by chewing away at them in chunks per day.

Being able to afford an exotic mini falls under an idea like that. The thing costs 50 gold? Well, if I earned 10 gold a day, I might be able to afford it in five days. Yeah, right. The amount of dungeons I’d have to run in a day to do that would make me slit my wrists in a hurry. Not sustainable for me. But I could probably earn 5 gold a day. Aim for two CoF and two AC runs (maybe only get half of that done in reality), sell some gathered materials and rares, that would work.

Also, temporarily setting aside one goal for another. I had 100 gold sitting in the bank for icy runestones for that someday Legendary.

Also, temporarily setting aside one goal for another. I had an extra 100 gold backup sitting in the bank for icy runestones for that someday Legendary. I couldn’t resist when the price dipped on 12 Dec as people began selling off their stuff to rush Ascended armor crafting. Title get. Screw the jackalope. (At least until I have more spare money for luxuries again. New goal: restore savings.)

The other thing that has caught my current fancy is the possibility of getting the dolyak finisher before they do their drastic revamp of PvP and remove ‘em.

Being that I was only rank 11 yesterday (2785/4000), I sat down to calculate the exact number of points this would take and how achievable it might possibly be. Turns out, one is aiming for 36, 715 more points. Oh god, was pretty much my reaction.

However, at an average of 160 points per match, assuming the PvP ideal of one match won and one match lost (minus some fudging for the preponderence of stacking, and plus some for the ability to nab more points by hitting top whatevers in a certain category or volunteering to autobalance), it turns out that I “only” have to attend around 230 hotjoins.

That’s like 225 dolyaks, ain’t it?!

At 5-6 matches a day, one should be done in about 46 days, or 6.5 weeks. Sort of like the timeframe of a WvW league, eh?

That should keep me occupied until the next Scarlet patch.

Who knows, if I actually improve enough, I might get brave enough to join a solo queue some day.

Or there's always Wintersday in WvW.

Or there’s always Wintersday in WvW.

If you’ve actually read this far, thanks.

I’d suggest that to get the most enjoyment out of GW2, one has to take the time to decide and narrow down a couple of goals for your playtime.

This may be something as relaxed as “have fun and go where the wind and my guildies take me” or something structured like having some short, medium and long-term goals that you’d be happy accomplishing.

Faces only mothers could love

Or something as personal and meaningful as taking your own collection of memorable screenshots or roleplaying.

Point is, you do actually have to decide on something, and let other things be. For a while, at least.

If you get bored, then switch goals to something that does interest you, nevermind whether the first was completed or not. It will still be there and you can come back to it again. (Mostly. Time-limited ones excepted.)

And if you have to, switch games. It’s okay. You’re not paying a dime while you’re not playing GW2. There’s tons of other games out there. You can come back if and when it ever interests you again.