GW2: Seeds of Truth and Kernels of Opinion

gw2-caithe

I’ve heard it said that it’s short. Others are a little more positive about it.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a “play everything” person in GW2, or if it’s because I’ve had to increase work hours (with corresponding decrease in play hours) to afford my shiny new computer, but I’m looking at the length of time it’s going to take me to play the content and it’s -not- short, in my book.

It took me the better part of one night (~3-4 hours) to finish the latest Living Story chapter on normal mode.

So sue me, but I actually talk to NPCs and enjoy the pacing when it’s presented to me for the first time.

A friend was going to run his second character through it, and I said, “Nah” and ducked out of the party because I wanted to savor the moment of novelty, rather than end up focusing on entertaining and accommodating the friend and missing the story.

I enjoyed it.

Just, er...ignore the anachronism over yonder. *hides mini quickly*

Just, er… ignore the anachronism over yonder. *hides mini quickly*

For one thing, it gives a look back at GW2 lore, with linkages back to GW1.

An actual in-game look at events that have previously only been touched on briefly outside the game on wikis and fansite interviews.

Regardless of how popular the Sylvari and (even more) Trahearne are, I personally liked getting to see the interaction of the Firstborn with each other, and the Secondborn. This is lore. This is history.

Hooray, they're not just wiki entries anymore!

Hooray, they’re not just static NPCs or wiki entries anymore! Newborn technicolor sylvari! Firstborn and Secondborn!

We even get a Caera cameo, which hopefully, over time will build up and when the first season’s Living Story finally gets re-released in permanent form, Scarlet will end up coming a lot less out of nowhere than when we experienced her for the first time.

We get the asura reaction to the new Sylvari race (and vice versa) shown to us, rather than told to us.

Suffice to say, they don't hold hands and sing kumbaya together.

Suffice to say, they don’t hold hands and sing kumbaya together.

For another thing, the mechanics of this chapter again harkens back to GW1, where we had story books we could enter and play a historical personage with new and unique skills. New lore was exposed in the course of playing through the book chapters, along with a new content challenge in the form of learning and mastering the new skills in order to get past each chapter.

Coming to a gem store near you: Caithe's purple blossom daggers!

Coming to a gem store near you: Caithe’s purple blossom/lotus daggers! (Disclaimer: Just me talking out of my arse, but I wouldn’t be surprised…)

I didn’t mind playing Caithe.

It’s an interesting change to be brought back to the same level as everyone else, unfamiliar with the skills and no longer able to rely on muscle memory.

It’s just like one of the seasonal minigames where you get presented with new objects with new skills to use, after all.

I thought Caithe’s skills were well picked.

(Yes, I died a lot because I have no patience being stealthy.)

(Yes, I died a lot because I have no patience being stealthy.)

She’s a thief, and many of the skills had a resemblance to a normal dual-dagger thief (with the exception of dagger 5), with a unique slightly-OP Caithe spin to it.

First skill is your regular slashy slashy dagger attack, but where a normal thief poisons on the third hit, Caithe gets to petrify – which also interrupts. (Dayum.) In stealth, she gets to pull off a backstab variant with it too, complete with helpfully shadowstepping to the back in question.

Second skill is normal thief heartseeker… on steroids. She leaps super far, and does nasty damage with the leap, and then poisons to add insult to injury.

Third skill is a dagger spin that evades and bleeds, similar to normal thief Death Blossom.

Fourth skill is a dagger ranged attack, but where a normal thief cripples, Caithe immobilizes.

Fifth skill is the most different. Normal thieves stealth with Cloak and Dagger, Caithe gets a Daggerstorm variant here.

Basically, the elite and fifth skill has switched places, as Caithe gets to cloak with her elite and stay cloaked for the duration, even while attacking, iirc.

Utility skills are a dash (that evades while in movement), a trap (of ridiculously humongous radius) and a pull similar to scorpion wire.

The interesting add-on effect of all these skills to produce a fighting style that is recognizably a GW2 thief, but plays out differently than the more standard stealth-abusing one that many thieves are used to.

Caithe is very much a movement-based evading thief (which some GW2 thieves do still use), but taken to extremes. I learned the hard way that she isn’t a stand and deliver sort of fighter, through multiple deaths from attempting to salvage botched sneak attempts, but found relative success when darting through crowds of asura, hit-and-running before dashing off to heal up.

I’ve yet to try the hard modes for this chapter yet, but I expect it will require a bit more mastery of her skills than my first go at it.

Your definition of “content” may differ, but anything in my “to-do-one-day” list for GW2 counts as content to me.

Speaking of which, we have the Silverwastes “grind” that some people are complaining about.

I have yet to find all the Lost Badges (because I don’t really feel the need to check a guide until I decide I want to finish something ASAP), and now I have Golden Lost Badges to also collect, and a jumping puzzle that I’m intent on giving a go sans guide until I’m stuck and frustrated.

Content.

I happen to like playing the Silverwastes events, and still live in the perpetual hope that there will be eventually a ‘need’ (or strong motivation, rather) to semi-organize in similar fashion to the Marionette.

gw2-morevines

Those three western lanes have still so far been unused, and the vines sprouting from that corner appear to be in greater and greater need of a pruning. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the 8th (and last?) chapter.

Content, hopefully.

In the meantime, there are the Luminescent armor collections.

Content.

The Mordrem bodyparts are an obvious RNG time tax for those who cannot wait. If you choose to collect the most current body parts, you buy the green extractor and you hope RNG smiles on you. A basic understanding of probability would suggest that this gets harder the more potential parts show up on the loot table.

If you’re a little more behind, or a little more relaxed on not getting the newest shiniest thing NOW, you should eventually be able to use the white extractor and pick the part you need later, once you’re past the two weeks of the current bodypart of the fortnight.

Ditto the carapace boxes. If you need them NOW, you’re going to have to grind very intently for them, opening tons of chests or accumulating 1000 crests to buy them.

Or you can just play the content over the course of two weeks and see if you get lucky enough with drops, or worse case scenario, build up 1000 crests if you’re unlucky.

So far, I haven’t had to spend 1000 crests on any carapace pieces yet. I got two glove boxes from the Greater Nightmare Chest in the maze, and will just get the shoulder boxes from playing through the relevant chapter with multiple characters.

I am given to understand that one more armor piece in this latest update works similarly, playing through the Living Story chapter multiple times will get you the box, and the last piece is RNG from Lost Bandit Chests or through crests.

I still am not seeing the problem.

We need those chests opened, since Ascended recipes are going to come out of those now, and there has to be some kind of motivation for players to keep digging up those chests. They need shovels, so they’ll keep playing the Silverwastes events, and keep the zone functioning.

Working as intended, no?

If you hate or are now bored to tears with the Silverwastes, it’s time to go elsewhere and do something else. The only one keeping your nose to the grindstone is yourself.

Zone design is still fantastic, considering it's all mostly red rock.

Zone design is still fantastic, considering it’s all mostly red rock.

Take Dry Top.

It’s a little bit more deserted now, but there does still seem to be enough people running around the zone to occasionally take it to T4 – which is sufficient for (rather expensive) Ambrite weapon recipes.

If you’re a cheap bastard like me, who cannot bear the thought of paying extra for anything, then you have to wait for the right time and participate in an organized attempt to get to T6.

Which so happens occurs every week, one hour after reset, on Friday and Saturday (which is my Sat and Sun morning, perfect) by a Dry Top guild that has generously decided to take on the task of herding cats.

Eventually, even if regular player interest in the Silverwastes dies out, there will be the weekly or bi-weekly organized event to do it successfully.

Especially if there’s a final raid-like world boss waiting at the end of the zone. *keeps fingers crossed*

Any feeling of player urgency is self-imposed. You want the shiny stuff NOW. That’s the heart of it.

The NOW demand is what lets other players profit off the impatient at the TP. Been there, done that, from both angles.

It’s a tradeoff that you just have to suck it up and recognize. Same as in real life.

If I want to play Evolve when it launches, I have to pay $60. (*nervous twitch* Why yes, I’m still brooding over that decision.)

If I’m willing to wait a week or few months later, I can probably get a 25-33% discount. If I hold out to a Steam sale, I can probably get it at 50% in about half a year to a year, tops.

If I’m feeling miserly and not terribly in need of the game, I can probably get it at 75% off some time in between one and two years, and it might even drop to $5 like Left 4 Dead after two years.

If I want to be one of the first all shiny Luminescent and being a “Light in the Darkness,” then I’m going to have to play a LOT of Silverwastes and spend many hours in the zone. (Weren’t people asking for a time-and-effort based prestige armor, rather than gem store armor some time ago?)

If I wanted to be one of the first people with Mawdrey, I probably had to drop a ton of gold on the Trading Post, buying outsourced effort for the materials.

Or I could take my time with it and work on it as a long or medium term goal, when the demand has dropped and things are cheaper. (Or in the case of time-and-effort-based objects requiring groups of players, it may take longer. But one will still get there in the end.)

Finally, beyond the Silverwastes, Seeds of Truth also comes with a new spruce up for PvP.

Much shinier UI. I kinda wish they'd allow us to choose what rank emote shows up when we /rank. Kinda reluctant to move beyond Dolyak.

Much shinier UI. Still not much of a PvPer. I kinda wish they’d allow us to choose what rank emote shows up when we /rank. Kinda reluctant to move beyond Dolyak because Dolyak stampede is so shiny.

Despite my limited time, I got two games in.

I was mildly amused with being able to vote on which map came up.

-Especially- amused when RNG picked the 1 person who voted for one map, while the other 4 and 5 people had voted for other maps. (Why can’t I have 1 in 10 lucky RNG like that in the PvE game, eh? For the record, I was one of the 5, so maybe not so lucky.)

I honestly can’t say if the matchmaking’s any better or worse than before, but I do have to say that it’s a lot easier and more encouraging to hit “Unranked Arena” and just -play- a proper game, rather than be relegated to the dregs of hotjoin where people shamelessly stack their way to victory.

I am going to assume it’s easier to actually queue up with friends as a party and play Unranked (without risking your MMR plunging), as opposed to the old system where if you actually wanted to play a proper game, you HAD to play ranked, and your only choice was between Solo queue or Team queue.

There’s content there too, in the form of a new crowd attracted by the changes (though time will tell if it’s temporary or if it lasts.)

Anyhow, with my limited time these few weeks, I’d rather spend more time playing GW2 than blogging about it, which I guess speaks volumes about what I think about the last few updates.

2.5 Things City of Heroes Did Wrong

Ok, besides PvP. That's too easy a target. Here's the most amount of players in a CoH PvP zone ever. Attracted only by killing a dev in giant spider form.

As linked by J3w3l, Reports From the Field wrote a post on 7 Things They Felt City of Heroes Did Wrong.

Since I’m an idiot who can’t seem to figure out how their comments system works, and have a ton of CoH screenshots that are looking for an excuse to be shown off, I decided to do a blog post in reply instead.

I’m a little less picky.

I think they only got two or three things wrong.

Sadly, I think the biggest problem was a fundamental baked-in issue that the existing devs didn’t quite know how to solve.

Repetition

I’ll narrow this down further to non-varying spawn sizes in instanced tilesets that were reused over and over.

Because frankly, a lot of what we do in games is repetition, over and over, and we can still find repetition fun.

City of Heroes had no problems with replayability in terms of alts – the insane number of character slots, classes, powersets and customisation was unparalleled.

The main problem was that each alt had to level up by entering an endless set of corridors masquerading as missions, which were optimally filled by a spawn meant for an 8-person team, and every combat encounter pretty much looked like this:

2007-06-16 22:05:10

2 Bosses, a couple of Lts. and a whole bunch of minions.

Repeat encounter 14-40x depending on how many spawn points were set in that mission, and how big that map was.

Very soon, players figured out that the most efficient way to mow these things down was via AoE attacks.

To let AoE attacks hit as many as possible, get someone to group them up for you.

(Enter the ubiquitous AoE target limit – but still, hitting 10-16 is better than hitting one at a time. And cone attacks hit 5 but need them all neatly stacked up anyway.)

There were only two main ways to do this:

Option A) Herd to a Corner

A sturdy character, usually a tanker or a brute, or in a pinch a scrapper, would initiate, aggroing the spawn and dragging them all to a handy dandy nearby corner.

Once in position, everybody else opens up with whatever they’ve got.

Riffs on this include the more skilled defender or controller with debuffing options who could set up some debuff anchors, turning a nasty spawn’s alpha strike (ie. retarded AI’s initial response of firing a salvo of attacks at the first person to aggro them) into some wimps trying to beat you with feather pillows, which by default, makes anyone a sturdy person. Pull to corner as desired.

Option B) Corners, Schmorners, The Spawn is ALREADY Grouped Up

Well, it’s true, ain’t it? They spawn in a clump to begin with.

Tank runs into the center of the group, taunts by skill or combination of aggro generation powers. The group turns inward on the tank, voila, please be to kindly open up with pewpew now.

Riffs on this include those with control options – usually controllers, dominators or the odd defender who would just alpha strike the alpha strike with an “everybody freeze” power, nullifying the usual retaliation, and then the beating things up began.

There was rarely any tactical variety required, beyond the odd variation of dangerous target to be prioritized or controlled due to faction. Yes, Malta sappers suck. Literally. Draining all endurance from players tends to make powers crash and ineffectual. So hold ‘em or kill ‘em fast.

Others just tended to be annoying nuisances that took forever to kill. Carnival Master Illusionists summoned a bunch of annoying decoys, and phased out for 50% of the fight, making them a time-drain to even hit. Rikti Drones projected so much force field defence that you needed pretty high accuracy or to-hit to pierce through their shielding – but if you did have enough, they were pushovers.

But by and large, it was see clump of enemies, group clump of enemies, fireball (or insert choice flavor of attack here) clump of enemies. Debuff or control if you had the options to, and yes, everybody loves buffs, buff all the time plz thx bai!

AoE attacks, the best way to fry things.

AoE attacks, the best way to fry things.

Soloing, it tended to be even worse.

You were guaranteed three minions or one minion and one lieutenant. This was somehow scientifically determined by a lead game designer as the appropriate amount of challenge for any player or powerset.

Before long, you had your skill rotation down pat.

Repeat over and over as you carved your way through numerous spawns to the end of the mission.

Skip the mobs in favor of mission complete?

Well, you could… but the mobs were a big source of xp anyway. Would you prefer to go through 3 maps of unending spawns of enemies repeating the same skills in the same patterns, or would you prefer to race through 10+ maps ignoring all the enemies except that required for completing the mission to get the same amount of xp?

“……..”

Over time, I ended up street sweeping in order not to have to choose between either mindless option, forgoing the tasty mission complete xp in favor of actually feeling immersed into a world that had NPCs interacting with each other, spawns that varied in size and had to be approached differently, more space to move around and fly and tactically pick off enemies, and feeling like my actions actually had some impact on NPCs that needed rescuing or terrorizing depending on if I was playing a hero or a villain.

Not everyone was as motivated by immersion as I.

The achievement and rewards-driven folk eventually took things to their natural optimal efficiency point.

As Task Forces became more streamlined and rewarded better loot over regular missions, they became the go-to set of missions to run. As fast as possible. Gogogogo.

Imperious Task Force. Even the best TF can only be run so many times before getting old. Note endless spawns of Longbow in background.

Imperious Task Force. Even the best TF can only be run so many times before getting old. Note endless unvarying spawns of Longbow in background. (And yes, this is why one barely blinks an eye at particle effects in GW2. It’s a miracle we knew what all these things meant, with the powers customisation that allowed you to change the color of your powers.)

When Mission Architect released, of course the most popular missions would be the powerleveling xp farms with as many xp packages clumped together as possible, with the gimpiest powersets for doing the least damage to players possible.

farmmaps

And what did you do once you hit max level as fast as possible?

Either do it all over again with another alt, or go through the same set of missions at the end for… I dunno, kicks or something, or bitch and complain that there was nothing else to do and that the game was too repetitive and quit the game because you were done.

Each alt you went through, the chances were more likely that you’d eventually hit the more jaded last option at some point when you finally hit your repetition limit.

If only they could have varied the spawn sizes and positioning in each map more dynamically, I think it would have gone a LONG way towards ending the feeling of repetition.

But I suspect the mob distribution was sadly so baked-in that they couldn’t do anything about it without totally wrecking the game’s code.

The Incarnate System

Oh gods.

Words fail to convey my loathing for this system.

The solution the live team of CoH designers hit upon to prevent this burnout from repetition scenario from occuring was the ye olde raids system.

Vertical Progression. Ever Increasing Power at Max Level. Raids Involving Massed Numbers of Players. Forget Your Alts, You’ll Only Have Time to Build Up Phenomenal Levels of Cosmic Power on One or a Few Characters.

You know, City of Heroes launched at around the same time as World of Warcraft.

WHATEVER MADE THE DESIGNERS THINK THAT PLAYERS WHO CHOSE TO PLAY COH OVER WOW -=WANTED=- RAIDS?

Thanks, devs. I really wanted my game to look like WoW, raid frames, more UI than anything.

Thanks, devs. I really wanted my game to look like WoW, raid frames and more UI on my screen than anything else.

Wanted to be FORCED kicking and screaming into adopting and adapting to the system by virtue of exclusive loot/power that could ONLY be gotten by participating in this brand spanking new system that the designers were so proud of spending their time on?

Personally, I was attracted to the game initially because it didn’t have all of the above.

Because it had a nice friendly community that were inclusive and open to anyone teaming up with anyone, who even gave away scads of in-game money to newbies just to help them out and feel like a hero, a holy trinity flexible enough that no one had to wait around LF tank or LF healer unless they were really really picky, because I could make all the alts in my head that I wanted look and feel like how I wanted, because I had options to solo or group as I preferred.

When the game no longer felt like it was supporting this style of play and when all the brand new shiny content went a way I disliked (which has some lessons that GW2 might be well-advised to heed, given the histrionics I’ve been seeing in my comments from certain players who are perceiving the direction of the game changing in a way they dislike – though I still maintain one piece of content offering nonexclusive rewards is -different- from ALL the content in an update offering exclusive rewards that can be only obtained by playing a certain way…)

…I quit.

I canceled the sub I had been faithfully maintaining for six years, through a few minor burnout episodes that I knew would recover from taking a month or three’s break time, and quit supporting the game with cash.

I sat around watching the game lead their remaining players on from 2010 to 2012 from one piece of group content to another, grinding the same set of missions repetitively for incremental currency to build the next piece of ‘gear’ that would make their characters more powerful, and played another game instead.

Because my preferred playstyle had no viable options for obtaining the same reward.

Because the designers were so insecure in the fun level of their content that they felt they had to sneakily ‘encourage’ participation in their massed group content by making it the only non-absurd way to earn that level of power.

I only came back to check things out when the Dark Astoria zone released, making it -finally- viable for solo and small group players to start earning Incarnate levels of power.

And yeah, I chose to jump into a few raids then, because it was a -choice- on my part to see whether I found it fun (not really, beyond seeing what the fuss was about) and not because I had no other alternative.

Still, there’s a fundamental problem about vertical progression systems that only drag out the death knell.

You separate the playerbase.

You really do.

Those attracted by phenomenal levels of cosmic power and don’t mind clumping together into a group become one subset. Playing at a much higher level of power.

Why yes, I am an Incarnate. And I will take all of you Rikti on.

Why yes, I am an Inventions-kitted Incarnate. And I will take all of you Rikti on.

Those who ignore the content because they don’t like it and continue doing their own thing end up on an uneven playing field of merely ‘blue and green’ level of power compared to ‘purple and orange.’

How do you balance future content for these two different groups of players?

You don’t.

It becomes skewed to one group only.

Applying more and more pressure to the other group to conform and learn the stuff they’ve been ignoring, or they quit.

You better gamble that the group of players you’ve designed that content for is big enough to support your game via cold hard cash.

(Which is another interesting parallel to GW2 – though its fundamentals are different – exotics baseline, Ascended better, no more power increase or they’ll regret it – and the payment models are different. Who’s paying the most in either game? Casuals or hardcore, y’think?

Also, Wildstar is gambling that their hardcore base is big enough, and that their casuals will be content to be strung along with housing and some solo options.

WoW, you’d think, has managed to get by with producing endless series of tiered raids, though I do note that every expansion they keep changing things up, making things easier and easier to access and ‘catch up’, with different levels of difficulty to appeal to different groups, and generally playing a very good balancing act of continually laying treadmill track in front of their carrot-seeking audience.)

Loot / Inventions

The last factor is one I feel mixed about.

It could very well be that City of Heroes could have collapsed sooner without it.

Without loot, without Inventions, without something shiny to chase and look forward to building up and improving and giving room for theorycrafting of various intricate builds, we probably would have lost a great number of Achievement-oriented players who needed the shininess of a gear upgrade to wrap their minds around.

But catering for this group of players had some fundamental repercussions on how the community ‘feel’ changed over time.

In my opinion, a great deal of the friendly community aspect of City of Heroes was lost in the later years due to this focus on loot.

It used to be about fun. About kicking ass, taking names and looking good.

It used to be about fun. About kicking ass, taking names and looking good. Together.

Originally, City of Heroes was about getting together with a bunch of friends.

And everyone was a friend  and welcome on teams because everything scales up with more people, giving more xp rewards to everybody.

No one needed influence (in-game money) beyond those necessary for Single Origins, bought from vendors at a very cheap price compared to how much influence was being given out from missions. So level 50s had so much influence they didn’t know what to do with it, and ended up going back to Atlas Park and sugar-daddying newbies with it, running costume contests and lotteries and fun social stuff.

Once loot came in and an auction house, well, influence had value.

Better hoard it now. Some heroes we were, accumulating large wallet amounts that would then be spent on more upgrades for more power. We turned commercially-minded and mercantile.

Rikti Boss farm - earn large amount of tickets, buy loot.

Plus Mission Architect absurdity: Rikti Boss farm – earn large amount of tickets, buy loot. Yes, handy dandy NPC buffers standing by.

Let’s see, help a newbie or buy a Luck of the Gambler for more defence? We’ll take being godlike, thanks, the newbie can fend for itself. (Of course, not everyone did this, but by design, loot encourages selfishness and self-interest over selflessness.)

Suddenly it didn’t matter so much if the team was just having a good ol’ social time hobnobbing it up while fighting bad guys, but more about xp and loot earned/hour. Fast runs plz. We r wastin time. More missions complete, more chance for shiny loot drops.

And what was the loot for?

For making yourself powerful enough that you didn’t need a team to take on a spawn size set for 8 players.

Who needs a team when I have bots?

Who needs a team when I have obedient bots with better names?

Your ubercharged Inventions-kitted out player would feel free to run off and separate from the team and take on spawns by themselves. Why not? They weren’t punished by faceplanting. In fact, they were helping you clear the mission twice as fast!

They were soloing while ostensibly on a team.

(Which, eventually made teaming pointless to me, and drove me into soloing because I couldn’t stand associating with those players any longer.)

Eventually, an update sealed the deal by allowing any player to control the spawn sizes they wanted to fight by themselves.

Yes, this made farming easier.

Yes, this made farming easier.

And now, there was no more need for teams. Or for much of a community. Or getting to know your fellow player or bother to be nice to them.

Just set your spawn size to 8, and run your endless series of unvarying missions as quickly as possible to keep earning more influence and more loot drops and getting more powerful.

godlike

Farm it, in other words. Farm it to death and world’s end.

Or burnout from repetition.

Whichever came first.

GW2: Schooled by the Super Adventure Box Update

All I seem to do in here is constantly run in circles till I'm dizzy...
  • Dig locations in World 1 seem to have been nerfed, yielding only chests containing 5 or 20 baubles where they used to produce 30 or 40. The ending chest of World 1-1 and 1-2 yielded only a continue coin instead of a Bauble Bubble in normal mode.
  • I used up the 5 free continue coins I got in the mail, trying to get through Infantile Mode in World 2.
  • Even in that mode, I got a little taste of arbitrary death, what with the accidental slips into rushing rapids (“Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up!”) and sampling a dart trap sequence on purpose (since presumably some day I might try normal mode.)
  • At 0 coins and 0 lives left, near the start of World 2-3, my rainbow ended at a frozen ice wall with an NPC telling me my candle was too weak. A shopkeeper nearby sold a torch for 400 baubles.

I logged out in disgust.

I just couldn’t face the grind tonight.

Grind baubles, grind continue coins, grind for this and that to buy such-and-such and unlock whatever. *sigh*

I lost about 100% magic find from the patch too. So that’s a lot of blues and greens to grind and salvage.

Don’t even talk to me about crafting to 500.

This whole update feels like someone just shifted the goal posts and chucked them a lot further away.

Took the words right outta my mouth.

Took the words right outta my mouth.