GW2: Coda

To be continued...

This time, Ravious and Bhagpuss have beat me to it with their thoughts on the Living Story’s end. (For Season 1, that is.)

As much as I’ve been wanting to say something about the story since the Escape turned into a Battle that led us to an Aftermath in the wreckage of Lion’s Arch, the truth is that I feel that there isn’t much to discuss, nor much to talk about.

That is not to say that I don’t like the story.

Since the Queen’s Jubilee, as the story writers have started to find their stride, and as the boring talking heads have metamorphed into cinematic cutscenes, discounting the odd miss here and there, on the whole…

I have been… content.

It’s an MMO. It’s never going to be fine literature.

The plot pacing improved, ever so slightly. We started to learn more crucial clues and actually understand whatever point the writers were trying to tell us, rather than get strung along with cryptic words and empty promises.

The focus on likable characters and conversational dialogue and humor has been the highlight, as far as I’m concerned, as it seems to be where our crop of GW2 writers shine the most. So it makes more sense to concentrate on that as a strong point.

I find the consequence and impact of the Living Story has been made more meaningful and lasting since the Kessex Hill and Lion’s Arch changes, though I especially appreciate the forewarning so that we can actually spend time recording and documenting how it was before and appreciate the changes better without having to rely on exceedingly faulty memories. A flashback system would be good here, and I think we’re seeing some of the beginnings of that through items or NPCs that play certain cutscenes for us.

If you read the forums and Reddit, it can oftentimes be a cesspool of negativity and criticism where the Living Story has been concerned, full of conviction that such-and-such is lore inappropriate, or that they could write the story better, or that such and such plot point or clue should have best been included so that everything makes more sense. (Sometimes, they’re even right.)

I guess, I’m finding it hard to make topics like that into a point of discussion anymore. Ultimately, it seems to boil down to opinion and preference. I like this. I don’t like that. You like something else. You hate this thing over here. The writers in charge of the story like this other thing.

We’re still going to end up with the story the writers decide they want to tell us.

At the moment, I enjoyed the quiet little interlude at the Dead End Bar, for the most part. Though some of the laughter seemed forced, we got a little conversation time with all our Living Story NPCs, developing their character slightly further, and even had a new character introduced.

I still didn’t understand the whole plot point that included Scarlet in it, especially this crazy little doozy here:

currentsofwhatsit

Leylines are currents? Wha? That doesn’t explain anything, just sounds like a hocus-pocus hand wave.

I kinda preferred the Reddit explanation, the drill disrupted the leylines somehow, and that alerts a jungle dragon that happens to sleeping close to one of them, nomming away at his midnight snack.

Some other people hated all the lovey-dovey talk.

Well, that’s life. You get bits you like and bits you hate. Some parts you understand, and some you don’t.

The overall theme of the hints seems to be pushing us towards Maguuma and the jungle for the next season, anyhow, what with talk of the bandits in the Brisban Wildlands (encamped so cozily in a fortress guarding an exit deeper into the wilderness), and more stuff with the sylvari (the racial prejudice after the disaster being a nice echo to the real world, I thought.)

And well, we’ll see where and how things develop from there.

I trust that ArenaNet has learned some lessons about pacing out the story from the first season, and I am generally content to see where the story takes us.

Other people whine bitterly that they want a new expansion. I sit around thinking that what they want is really a new class, a new race, a new (permanent) zone or maybe a new (persistent) story. All of those can be requested without having to have an expansion.

I dunno, maybe it’s my City of Heroes non-World of Warcraft background showing again. We got regular Issues and updates that gave us new and interesting things, whereas the expansions CoH had never seemed to do much except split the playerbase further across many zones (albeit the new archetypes and new stories were fun) and WoW expansions to me just mean an ever-increasing max level and gear tiers that everyone races to, invalidating all old content in the process.

And here we come to the crux of why I feel it’s pointless trying to turn these things into a conversation point:

All these MMOs are different games.

Different people prefer different things.

We choose MMOs that give us these different things. If people like how WoW does things, they probably have already gone back to WoW. (Or ought to, instead of trying to make all other games resemble WoW.)

It’s been 1.5 years. To me, Guild Wars 2 has already matured. I find very little need for hype or insecurity concerning how the game plays.

I don’t think we have “a large shard of sandbox in a themepark.

For better or worse, what we have is a mutable themepark (with a veneer of sandbox in the leveling game and in the lateral progression options – which I like, mind you) that is determined to change with the passage of time.

And I’m okay with that.

I like that, actually.

I’m happy with enough freedom of choice that I don’t feel obliged to spend every logged-in hour working towards the next tier of gear, or having giant signposts telling me “HERE IS WHERE YOU GO NEXT, everything else is NOT YOUR LEVEL and NOT WORTH YOUR TIME.”

I don’t want to be playing a holy trinity game where my role boils down to TANK THIS NOW TAUNT TAUNT TAUNT -or- HEAL YOUR LIL TITTIES OUT -or- MOAR DPS. If you failed, it very well could be your stats and gear not being up to the challenge, GO GRIND MOAR to get exponentially better at the game.

I’m okay with MOAR DPS, MOAR BUFFS, DODGE YOU FOOL, MOVE CORRECTLY and even occasionally, OH MY GOD I HAVE TO ACTUALLY THINK AND READ / SWITCH MY SKILLS and USE THE CORRECT ONES TO COUNTER THE ENCOUNTER. (Though more of the latter, in a solo setting, would be preferred. GW1 background showing…)

Where GW2 is concerned, I’m happy to not be in a complete sandbox where you have to make your own story, make your own bloody house from materials piece by piece, level your skills percentage point by decimal percentage point, and then lose it all when some bugger comes over the horizon and ganks you in FFA PvP.

There are other games for that.

(Some of ‘em I like – A Tale in the Desert, Don’t Starve and Minecraft all come to mind, and others that I’m not so keen on – Wurm Online, Darkfall Online, Eve Online, fer instance.)

I am perfectly okay to log in and think, “Hmm, what do I feel like doing today?”

Ok, today I’ll do some dungeons – cue the LFG tool because I lack friends who get the urge for dungeoneering at the same time I get these odd whims.

Or today I’ll do a raid – log into TTS Teamspeak and see what they’re up to.

Or today I’ll WvW – see if my guilds are running anything / log into Tarnished Coast Mumble.

Or today I’ll be a hermit and wander some of my favorite mid or high-level zones solo, hunting every mob in sight and collecting every node because I find it incredibly appealing and fun to hit these little waypoints of achievement/collection/loot get/mini-dings.

Or today I’ll experience the next part of the Living Story, or work on the accompanying achievements. Or today I’ll craft. Or play the TP in a misguided attempt to get rich.

Or today I really have to clean up my inventory and bank because stuff is a colossal mess from all the above activities.

Or all of the above.

I don’t want to -have- to be climbing an endless ladder to feel better than everyone else around me, or feel stuck on a treadmill running in place going nowhere.

Attending a carnival or an amusement park – visiting all the booths and rides at least once and then repeating my favorite mini-games (real world sidetrek: did anyone else like Skee Ball as much as I did in my youth? I’d do a pirate ship ride once, and then use up my entire stack of arcade coins hurling a tiny ball at some targets with points inscribed on ‘em) until I’m done for the day or the carnival’s gone – is okay by me.

There’ll be a new carnival or another trip to the amusement park in two weeks.

If you don’t like carnivals, the WoW gym where you can compare your pectorals and how much weight you can bench is over that way.

The 10/10 Project

Because Eversion's cooler than Mario

Syp’s got an interesting idea up, to check out 10 MMOs he’s never played in his life over the course of 10 (not sequential) days.

Despite my being so caught up in GW2 that my ants and camels are busy dying over in A Tale in the Desert (hint: not logging in for 9+ days does a number on the things that require regular upkeep and maintenance,) I think I might just join him.

Though it may take me the course of 2 months or so to get them all. They’ll have to be sequentially installed and deleted as my hard disk is choking for lack of space, and if there’s one thing I have very little patience for, it’s sitting through a 10 gb download with poor speeds.

It took a bit of research to come up with a list of MMOs I haven’t yet played, because I’ve mostly tried any that have caught my eye already.

The following list feels like trawling the bottom of the barrel to me, most were previously dismissed for some reason or other:

1) Anarchy Online

2) Asheron’s Call 1 and/or 2 (not sure if any free trial available)

3) Battle of the Immortals (is it an MMO?)

4) Dark Age of Camelot

5) Free Realms

6) Blacklight Retribution (not an MMO but always been intrigued by the ads)

7) Raiderz

8) Istaria

9) Mabinogi

10) Maplestory

11) Runes of Magic

12) Ryzom

13) Star Trek Online

I note with a lot of irony that a bulk of them come from Perfect World Entertainment. For some reason, the vibe I get from just scanning their stock of MMOs is that cash shop power galore runs rampant, everything is probably very grindy without cash shop boosts, and everything is probably very typical MMO quest and holy trinity combat with a heavy group reliance and an endgame focus on raiding to climb the infinite gear ladder – something I’ve never been interested in from the get-go and thus dismissed even trying them out in the first place.

Perhaps I’m wrong. One night in them can’t hurt, I suppose.

I chucked in a baker’s dozen instead of ten, as I’m really not sure some offer free trials. If they don’t, they’re off the list.

Ryzom is the only game I’ve tried once, and though it didn’t captivate me then, I’d like to give it a second chance to. I think its main problem was that it was so slow and grindy I never got out of the tutorial zone or found I had any impetus to.

We’ll see how far I get.

Oh, and I might just throw in Planetside 2, World of Tanks and Xyson in there somewhere, having somehow forgotten that they exist as I was compiling that list. I’m not sure if my primitive computer can run the first two, but it’s worth a shot, making it sort of a 15/15 project (plus 1 FPS) instead.

MBTI and MMO Gaming

So am I the only one who stumbled on this and got a sudden urge to play Minecraft? Underground subterranean farm with sunlight, it's all here!

A perfect storm of stuff got me thinking along these lines lately:

Some folks in the blogosphere have been commenting about the difference between feelings of “fun” and feelings of “accomplishment.”

It seems one subset of people are searching for a game that gives them that accomplishment (or hard fun or whatever you want to call it) feeling, where it’s okay to “work” or put in a hefty amount of effort overcoming an obstacle so that you can feel this sense of satisfaction or triumph at the end when you achieve the final rewards. It’s okay if through parts of this process, they have to endure occasional not-fun stuff or frustration or grind as long as they reach their desired reward in the end.

“It’s character-building,” they claim.

Still others are looking for more immediate fun (or easy fun or what-have-you) where the moment-to-moment stop-and-smell-the-roses stuff is fun and enjoyable and relaxing and either easy to coast along or seeking that one true moment of perfect meditative flow. Not-fun or frustrating stuff wrecks this right in its tracks and yanks people out into gripe city.

“Whiners who need to L2P,” say the other subset. “Or learn some commitment. Pandering to these guys is what ruined MMOs. I miss the good old days.”

Let us disregard the obvious – that game designers will aim to put both types of gameplay into their game so as to suit the greatest number of people. (The first is more suited for long-term content and the latter short-term experiences, so they are relatively complementary and not always necessarily at odds with each other.)

Let us also disregard that people may not only be one subset or the other – they might enjoy both kinds of gameplay at different times.

Is there some kind of explanation or analysis that can help to explain why certain people prefer certain kinds of gaming styles?

Immediately, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) comes to mind as a helpful tool.

Of course it is over-simplification to classify all the varied people in the world into merely 16 personality types, but as these things go, the MBTI is pretty accurate and useful in being able to discern the preferences of groups of people.

Do bear in mind, no one preference is “better” than another, they’re just different. The main goal of the MBTI, as I see it, is more to allow people to understand that folks around them can have very different, but equally valid, preferences.

It’s beyond the scope of this post to cover the MBTI in detail. If you want one of those quick quizes that will approximate your MBTI, you can try out the Humanmetrics one here.

If you want to just read all the options and pick the one that best fits you, the Personality Pathways page explains what all those funky I, E, S, N, T, F, J, P letters mean.

Doing the Humanmetrics one for myself, I score this result:

INTP
Introvert(100%)  iNtuitive(50%)  iNtuitive  Thinking(62%)  Perceiving(44)%
  • You have strong preference of Introversion over Extraversion (100%)
  • You have moderate preference of Intuition over Sensing (50%)
  • You have distinctive preference of Thinking over Feeling (62%)
  • You have moderate preference of Perceiving over Judging (44%)

Typelogic explains the INTP personality in a lot more detail. I’m heartily amused by their turn of phrase, “A major concern for INTPs is the haunting sense of impending failure.” I’m sure regular readers of this blog are quite aware that I can sit around a lot obsessing about being seen as incompetent.

We’re “pensive, analytical folks,” “relatively easy-going and amenable to almost anything until their principles are violated”, but “prefer to return, however, to a reserved albeit benign ambiance, not wishing to make spectacles of themselves.”

That’s pretty much me to a T.

“So what does this have to do with gaming? “INTPs thrive on systems. Understanding, exploring, mastering, and manipulating systems can overtake the INTP’s conscious thought.”

Like I mentioned before, I play all this shit in my sidebar to grok things out. I may find one or two games that seem worthwhile to play around in for the long-term, but you bet I am dabbling with lots of other games on the side as well. I need my novelty fix or I will go crazy. I’ve learned not to expect that one single game will ever sate me entirely, so I game-hop tons, but keep one or two primary games to focus on. (It’s perhaps telling that I have to quantify and say two games, I don’t think I can ever just focus on one, period.)

INTPs are, however, not a big part of the population. Various sources peg us at about 1-3% representation, which makes us fairly un-average. We easily baffle other people who don’t share our same preferences. We’re quite easily misunderstood. The only thing we really have going for us is people stop and blink when we make one of our insightful or creative comments from time to time. :)

We can’t help ourselves though. We can’t help but wonder about stuff.

Like, has anyone else thought about the MBTI in relation to gaming? Or MBTI and MMOs specifically?

Google to the rescue. Sometime back in 2008, a guy made a blog post about it and made a few predictions for where you might find the various types. I think he’s a little off, and making guesses that veer toward horoscope-y, but at least he’s thought about it some.

What we really need though, is data. (Or so says the Thinking preference in me.)

In 2004, at the MUD Developers Conference, Kevin Saunders wrote a paper titled Applying Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI®) to Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) Design (I can’t seem to link the Quick View version – please google “MBTI and gaming” to get the link if you can’t FTP.)

One of the most interesting discoveries he made was that compared to the general population, we see a much stronger representation of introverts, intuitives, and/or feelers online. He goes on to surmise what kinds of game features would best appeal to this potential customer base. (This was way back in 2004 though, it’ll be interesting to see if populations have shifted any, what with WoW bringing in more mainstream game players.)

For example, introverts recover energy by spending time alone. Speaking for myself, I score extremely highly on the introversion scale, I’d be an 11 on a scale of 10 if they had one. I -need- solo time to myself. I find it very relaxing, especially if I’ve had to face people all day in real life while at work. The last thing I want to do is spend all of my game time feeling forced to socialize with others.

Add on irregular gaming hours and I become quite leery of committing myself anywhere.  Add on a preference for Perceiving, ie. unstructured activities, not being chained to a schedule, going with the flow and a Thinking preference that leaves me more interested in objective facts than what other people think and consensus-building (aka no drama, kthxbai) and I’m not your regular guild attendee. I’m quite thankful Guild Wars 2 allows multiple guilds and that a solo personal guild is quite viable if you’re patient and don’t mind spending some gold from time to time.

I’m not all people though. I suspect those with a Feeling preference would be much more inclined to seek out other people and socialize, introvert or not. And hey, Feelers are apparently the majority online, so there’s lots of potential guild members right there.

Extraverts would probably go crazy or get utterly bored of the game if they had to be by themselves for a while, so guilds and being able to party with whoever and whenever they wish is a game feature right up their alley.

I’ve no real idea how Sensing/Intuition relates to MMO gaming as yet, except maybe Sensers might need more guided step-by-step instructions and tutorials, while Intuitives may be more comfortable just feeling their way through and figuring out new concepts? That’s just a wild guess, though.

The Judging preference might be more telling. I’m guessing that Judgers really like a sense of structure to their gaming. They need to be able to make plans, to see the next goal ahead of them, and are probably the most likely to enjoy making lots of to-do lists and checking them off. They probably make good hardcore raider types. Scheduled activities, regular repetition, sense of progression, and what-have-you. Discipline is their watchword. I wonder if these are the folks that tend to seek that refined sense of accomplishment over just simple ordinary everyday fun?

If you ask me, Guild Wars 2 does a fantastic job catering to all types of preferences. There’s stuff for soloers, stuff for groups, most of it optional or do it at your own pace. You can run through the world going from heart to heart, POI to waypoint like a laundry list of things to get done to accomplish 100% world completion and get a shiny gold star, or you can wander around aimlessly to check out the hill over yonder, ignoring anything that doesn’t interest you (Bhagpuss is the epitome of this style of play, eh?)

You can play WvW or sPvP or dungeons in a hardcore fashion, with schedules, guild organization, alarm clocks, practice sessions and more, for high stakes. Or you can dabble in the same activities in a more leisurely, PUG or hotjoin manner at a lower level of intensity – just accept you’ll be steamrolled by those playing at a higher intensity level. The cost of high intensity is faster burnout, so it all balances out in the end.

Perhaps the only thing that the panacea of Guild Wars 2 hasn’t solved yet is how to help different gaming preferences find like souls.

I did some jumping with a 25% speed thief and somehow squeezed past some geometry into this little private section of Sparkfly Fen. This little illicit thrill of breaking the boundaries exploring and being in a place few ever get to gives me a helluva lot more ‘hee-hee’ laughs and satisfaction than, for example, out-playing someone and getting to do a finishing move on them.

I’m a lot less dedicated than these guys to the art or sport of walljumping, but it’s nice knowing a few like-minded souls are out there. (I learned just by watching someone a little secret climbing spot in the Lunatic Inquisition map, fer example, though it got fixed and blocked later on.)

Maybe some day, an MMO will figure out how to help players with similar preferences and playstyles find each other. Timezones, alas, do not help. (More than once, I’ve seen an NA guild or two that looks it might match me, but yeaaaah… 12 hours difference is hard to work around.)

Until then, I guess we just have to play our MMOs and enjoy them our way, while recognizing they’re populated with a whole host of people with varying preferences and priorities.