GW2: SAB – The Lemonade Perspective

It's a boar, it's a shade, no, it's Rhino Charr!

I’m more or less killing time while waiting for tweaks to arrive to the Super Adventure Box, so I thought: I’ve already spent the last three posts kvetching, let’s try a positive post for a change!

I mean, if I didn’t like the SAB at all, I would have opted out like Bhagpuss and save myself the bouts of occasional grumpiness.

I’ve just been mostly puttering around in the World 1 levels because they’re a lot less stressful.

One piece of good news: The secret rooms are not once a day only like the dig locations.

The earlier rooms unfortunately only give 5 baubles or thereabouts, minus the one bauble spent on the bomb, which isn’t much profit for time spent but there are a few exceptions I’ve been marking out. Presumably someone else will figure out the most optimal route for least amount of time, but that someone ain’t me.

farming-1-1

This one in 1-1 yields a 15 bauble profit.

This one in 1-2 is worth 24 baubles.

This one in 1-2 is worth 24 baubles.

I suspect World 1-2 will still be the friendliest one to farm even after all the dig locations have been used up.

The other thing I think will become popular is unlocking chests. If you slaughter stuff until a key drops, the chests deliver anywhere from 20-40 baubles.

I mentioned before that I really appreciate the Quality of Life tweaks made to the earlier levels.

qol-1

Much <3 for this barrel, since I can now take the “pro” route without pressing dodge-jump and praying to the latency gods.

qol-2

These trees now have friendly outgrowths so that all the monkeys are accessible, if you don’t like being pelted by them.

Maybe they’re used in Tribulation Mode, who knows, I haven’t watched a video yet or attempted it, since I do want to buy an Infinite Continue Coin for that mode, but am holding back until normal mode is less crazy.

(I have certain principles about contributing to datamined statistics, especially where a cash shop is concerned, and I strongly suspect the amount of people who flung their hands up and bought a convenient way out is already high enough. Slippery slope and all that. We may rant a lot but sometimes it boils down to numbers and wallet votes.)

I like that they’ve got a Mini Moto for 20 baubles and Mini Miya to forge. It’s a casual’s sort of reward, being less costly to accumulate than the weapon skins and thus easier to strive for.

The components for Mini Miya seem to be fairly readily available – they’re also avaliable on the TP. The wig seems to drop just by killing random mobs. I believe I got a dress out of a jumping puzzle chest. My tiara came from a Metrica Province Fire Elemental chest, so it looks like it’s a reward from chasing dragons (ie. the open world bosses on a timer).

Information for obtaining the nunchaku or chain-sticks from the secret shop have filtered their way into the Reddit hivemind, so today’s mini-goal was to farm up World 1 for enough baubles to revisit the World 2 level on Infantile and buy that upgrade.

With dig locations, which are sadly, once a day only, I got about 465 by the time I hit the Queen Bee Dog area in World 1-3 so I left before King Toad and slooowly clambered my way on rainbows to the correct location. (Seriously, still too large a map, as much as I deeply appreciate Josh’s enthusiasm and willingness to put in excessive overtime to make the SAB an epic experience.)

The chainsticks were absolutely worth it though. I tackled a few assassins after that and felt like I had better reach and slightly faster animation time per swing, which does help in scrums.

I finally noticed the sword assassins had a knockback – which led to a few deaths hurtling involuntarily from a long height – but did my best to try and position myself with back to walls and so on.

If I successfully dodged their first swing, the fights generally went well. Things tended to get more difficult if I caught their charge with my body because I would get knocked down, frozen in position with invulnerable on, and then slowly clamber up in time to catch another charge from the assassin, sometimes just as invulnerable wore off. I wonder if the charr getting up animation is slightly longer than other races, or just a latency problem?

Sorry, got diverted for a sec there. Back to positivity again.

You know the one part of the SAB I really really like? As a Bartle Explorer first and Achiever second?

Discovering nifty secrets.

Sometimes I just stumble into them without really trying because my eyes are always going, “what’s that funny thing over there, why is there like a path here that doesn’t seem to go anywhere?” then before I know it, I’m gambling away lives trying to get to places that maybe were unintended to get to, or maybe absolutely were intended.

Why is that flower all the way down there?

Why is that flower all the way down there?

Aiming in the most probable and suspicious location (always look behind waterfalls, you know?) and voila, secret passageway with cool stuff.

Bears' secret sign stash

Bears’ secret sign stash

That eventually leads to a chest and bypassing of the first bit of annoying rapids via high platforms. (WTB: More ways to bypass moving water.)

I told you all I was waiting for someone else to nicely compile dig locations in a guide for me, right?

I can’t help it, I am sometimes magnetically attracted to these things. Maybe why I take so long in levels is that I sometimes succumb to the urge to compulsively dig per square inch, because those dig locations are so finnicky, y’know? Maybe there’s something here no one else has found yet…

2-1-digloc

World 2-1: Just before the long bridge with the assassins that leads to the raft, take a right and slip down the edge of the cliff…

2-1-diglocb

…Sliding down all the way here and digging reveals a chest of 50 baubles! Yes, 50! Once a day, but still, not 5, not 20, 50!

There’s someone else on Reddit that has been nice enough to share the other stuff he’s found. There seems to be quite a bit in 2-1 that I’m quite eager to get to… eventually…

…I really can’t wait for the water / rapids / geyser bits to get tweaked a bit more. It actually is fairly peaceful to roam 2-1, if not for the lingering hydrophobia.

The best lemonade from malfunctioning water?

As usual, I got kicked off some rapids or other, flung bodily into the abyss, and somehow between lag and appearing and disappearing in funky locations because client and server couldn’t quite agree on which x,y,z coordinates my character was in… somehow managed to steer myself through a waterfall which I suspect was never meant to be reached.

The prelude to nothingness: a platform going nowhere.

The prelude to nothingness: a platform going nowhere.

I dug around, threw bombs, didn’t find anything, though granted I didn’t dig in every single pixel or tile.

When I got tired, I threw myself off the side, thinking to commit suicide and… ended up in another world altogether. (Ok, ok, at the very bottom of the map.)

Welcome to the LOVE MMO, GW2 edition.

Welcome to the LOVE MMO, GW2 edition.

There was something poetically awe-inspiring about running on all fours as a silhouette.

There was something poetically awe-inspiring about running on all fours as a silhouette.

You know me, I am so easily bribed by a memorable screenshot.

I’ll put up with funky water for a few days if it inadvertently leads to one moment of perfect beauty.

(Just a few days though. I can’t quite reach the end of the level by falling under it.)

I do have this to say, though: One of the best things about the SAB team is their willingness to interact on the forums, share their insights and respond to feedback.

Josh Foreman catches a lot of flak and negativity from frustrated people looking for an outlet, and he’s just right in there, soaking it up and learning lessons and being willing to iterate and learn lessons and make things better.

That’s a special brand of masochism right there, which probably explains why he can make and play through sadistic platformers in the first place. The “live, learn, and constantly iterate” attitude is worthy of serious respect, and for that, I salute the SAB dev team.

Please keep striving to make things better. As a player of your game, I am very happy that my devs care.

P.S. My prior grumpiness has pushed me off my arse and gotten me to update FRAPS. Yet another positive. I may actually dabble a little in videos now and then.

I present for your viewing pleasure (please have a strong stomach) World 1-2 cage fight on a charr.

It’s not a complaint, by the way. It’s not something the SAB devs can fix specifically, I don’t think. I’ve lived with it since the previous SAB, and I’ll live with it this time around too.

I just wanted to share, since sometimes people don’t see or think there’s a problem when they don’t see things from another person’s or computer’s persective.

Have a good laugh, give thanks that you main a human/sylvari/asura, and continue to have fun.

Signing off, your furry friend.

quotes-770

GW2: Fixing the Fractures

At the moment, it's ugly as sin, but there's always hope for tomorrow...

I still can’t stop thinking about fractals.

But rather, it’s nagging me at a deeper theoretical level.

Design is so important to a game. It’s so easy to nudge players into behaving one way or another, and inadvertently, I fear Guild Wars 2 has let players slip back into some of their older, negative gaming habits with how effectively current day fractals are -fracturing- the community.

Everyone knows the gathering node example by now. If two players are set up in competition for that one resource, very quickly, people start cursing that other bastard for ‘stealing’ ‘their’ node.

If it’s a shared node, then there’s less of a rush and time pressure, and opens out the option for the two players to cooperate on their way to the node, and harvest it together, both benefitting.

Of course, in practice even in Guild Wars 2, we see a certain subset of players having created their own personal version of rush and time pressure (get as many nodes as possible in a short period of time) and acting selfishly as a result. These would be the ones that ignore the mobs on the way, either using you to fight for them or assuming everyone is equally in a hurry and will run past, grab their nodes and go.

Depending on your expectations of their behavior, you might either get upset by their actions, or just aim a muttered curse in your thoughts in their direction, or shrug and ignore them because you like killing the mobs anyway. Or you may quickly change and adapt and follow their example, snatch the node and head off yourself. Or maybe you and they were on the same page from the beginning and both snatched and went without a moment’s thought that other players might play differently.

Complete unity is impossible. A well-populated MMO naturally contains different groupings of players with differing priorities. It’s quite natural that they will gravitate to those that share their own interests. What is important in the game’s design though is to try not to shove them at each other and force them to accept one group or the other’s playstyle because that’s just asking for a headlong confrontation complete with screaming, yelling and kicking in-game and across all manner of internet channels and bad blood across both divides. (Unless that result is what is desirable for the game for whatever reason.)

Ideally, you might want the different players to still come in contact with each other from time to time and find reason to work together or tolerate each other if the sum contribution is still valuable. GW2 was striving towards this in its world events, where pretty much any body is welcome, an extra hand, to do damage or rez or support, even if some levels are better than others, some builds are better than others and so on.

WvW also still relies on a sizeable militia body as well as organised groups, (if only because no one server can field sufficient organized group numbers 24/7 and maintain that for long),  even if differing values and strategies and opinions and the flood of adrenaline and competition can occasionally lead to some dramatic implosions or fractures in a community.  This generally results in fairly controlled, mostly mature behavior even through numerous disagreements from a majority of players, if only because overall unity is still the only way to get somewhere. But you can see some of the hidden, negative behaviors shine through when the situation breaks down – griefers, forum trolling, exploiters, back seat commanders, commanders turning on each other, individuals fleeing to save themselves, the works.

Failing which, another alternative is to separate out and leave the different players with differing priorities hobnobbing in their separate circles, achieving success in their own way and having little reason to quarrel with each other.

In retrospect, it seems Guild Wars 1 used this route quite considerably. PvPers did their own thing – make a PvP character, get all the skills already unlocked for your meta building contentment and eventually the devs did separate out PvE and PvP skills from affecting each other (there may have been some screaming in the meantime, I’m not sure, I wasn’t paying attention back then.)

For PvE, they included heroes and henchmen, and a very shallow level and stat cap. You know what this did? It immediately allowed all the soloists to segregate themselves and -still- feel like they were making successful progress in their own staggered time. You might race through all the missions in a week or two, I might take a month or more to get there. Doesn’t matter, we all got there in the end, and me being slower does not have to affect you because I would never join your group, my heroes would do just fine.

Of course, the drawback was that this left out the sociable groupers to quite an extent, who complained that it felt too lonely, the lobby instancing made it less ‘world-like’ and couldn’t find groups easily. However, the partial solution for them matched their nature – they could find a good guild, whom they might socialize with, group and play with and progress that way with others. No one’s solved the guild matching problem just yet, though.

World of Warcraft is perhaps another interesting study. There’s the obvious achievement focused hardcore raiders, whom are all found at the max level plateau, happily chugging through their vertical progression ladder of tiered raids and item levels. And, though I’m lumping them very generally here, there are more casual-oriented players who spend most of their time in the leveling game, socializing and what not. What is their unique focus? Chris Whiteside mentioned it in the GW2 AMA and I thought it very intriguing. Collection. They collect stables of alts of various races and classes, god-knows-how many cute pets, mounts, achievements, costumes, etc.

The real fanatics, of course, do both.

All kidding aside, to me, it seems they generally do operate in their own little spheres, content to ignore each others’ playstyles. However, it is contingent on the WoW casuals having cheerfully accepted that they will never ever reach the level of perceived ‘progress’ as the raiders. Any discontentment along that front and you can get quite the war.

And it does seem these days that Blizzard has had to stagger things out along a casual to hardcore spectrum or continuum in order to try and make everyone happy, rather than carry on with the bait and switch leveling/raid divide. The drawback in their system? People getting tired or jaded and burning out from running an endless treadmill of vertical progression.

Guild Wars 2 has an exceptionally tricky puzzle in their hands now. Both the Clock Tower and the fractals have demonstrated just how violent the uproar can become when one inadvertently forms and highlights divides in the playerbase (even along arbitrary lines, hello, character SIZE as a discriminating factor? Wow), and how reflexively negative behavior aimed at others can result.

Which is completely counter to the overall goal of having players cooperating and working with each other in relative unity, even if they do have to segregate out now and then into their little ghettos to hang with others of their kind.

We’ll have to leave it in the devs’ hands to see what they will do next.

If it were up to me though?

The first thing that comes to mind is to try and diminish the immediate divides. Fractal levels are way too fractured, and players are only receiving progression benefit from players of their specific level tier (or higher, if they would deign to come down to join the hoi polloi, which rarely occurs.)

The pool of players that can offer each other benefits has to expand a lot more rapidly, including making it easier for cross-server groups or guildmates of currently different fractal levels to play with each other, and indeed, for players to find and draw from the totality of the pool (aka LFG spam is not the most ideal of group finding methods.)

They’ve already said they will be including opportunities to obtain Ascended gear through other activities. Which should help to keep the separate groups happy doing their own thing.

What now concerns me is that the divides have already happened. This will leave scars in the psyche of the playerbase. We might already have gotten meaner, more elitist, less trusting, more selfish.

We’ve already seen most of the world abandoned, except for Cursed Shore and Frostgorge Sound, little comfort zone areas of the farmers – despite tweaks that have made other zones decently viable to run level 80s about in. The profusion of things to do at any one time also separates people – harvest nodes, chase world completion, WvW, PvP, jumping puzzle, umpteen dungeons including an infinite one now, farm DEs for loot, farm DEs for karma, farm mobs for crafting items, I’m sure there’s more I’ve missed in my casual run-on sentence list.

What I’d really like to see ArenaNet focus on in the next few months, or even in the long-term (because realistically, companies can’t react that fast) is to try and reiterate a sense of unity in the playerbase. Make us value cooperation and coming together again, if only for a little while.

I know it sounds very cheesy-Treahearne heal-the-scars-of-the-land at the moment. And lord knows I don’t want another one-off lagfest of epic proportions.

But I’d like to be able to run with a group of 10-20 out in the world again, taking down world bosses, running through mini-dungeons, falling and being helped through jumping puzzles, loling and laughing in a friendly manner with each other, cracking jokes and bonding with each other.

Hell, even a costume brawl. Or revive an interest in Keg Brawl. New mini-game activities of a nonserious non-end-of-the-world omg-the-dragons-are-here nature.

Get a guild, you say? I got one, thanks. And we -do- do this sort of thing in WvW, which has helped quite a bit with my recent morale problems.

But why dump the sole load and responsibility on individual guild leaders and officers and players? Design for the feature and give us players a hand here. Throw us already premade into random groups of 10 or 20 into not-too-difficult fun instances. Help us laugh and have fun with each other, not resort to blamethrowing and shit slinging for whatever twisted behaviorial reason. The dragons are always fun to take down together, but it’s notable that players have had to resort to an out-of-game dragon timer in order to congregate en masse. Guilds might benefit from more tools and features to get their members working together and hanging out together in one place. Hell, if you can solve the age-old problem of player matching with suitable guilds, that would be a design miracle and be ripped off by all future MMOs just like the uber-customizable character creator.

Here’s hoping to good things coming for Wintersday. Toys. Toys equate to casual fun, right? How could they possibly screw this one up?

Whines and Cheese

They're not Ewoks, but they'll do. And yes, unpopular opinion warning: I think the sentient hamsters are cute lil buggers.

aka a post on negative opinions and cheesy casual games

This post has been brewing (or should I say, fermenting, to massacre the metaphor) for a while now. Finally found the time in between RL stuff to write it.

Some time ago, Shintar from Going Commando and Psynister from Psynister’s Notebook mentioned that their enjoyment of a game they liked (SW: TOR in this case) were affected by the current Zeitgeist of negative opinion surrounding it.

Besides feeling like they need to make apologies or justifications for why they actually like something that is seemingly so unpopular, they perhaps get a little worried that this will affect the basic longevity of the MMO, such as the rate of new subscribers to it, the retention rate of existing subscribers, and the amount of developers that can be supported (cue news of Bioware layoffs.)

(I perfectly understand if what I’m going to say next makes you delete the automated linkback in your comments, so no hard feelings, guys.)

You know what? Screw all that.

There are 7 billion people in the world, many of whom don’t even have internet access, but of those who are on the World Wide Web, there is already plenty of diversity. Nobody will ever agree on anything.

Stop worrying about pageviews, stop worrying about perceived popularity or population in the game of your choice. It is okay to be unpopular. It is okay to like and play a game other people don’t like. Hell, SWTOR has a million subs. Most non-WoW MMOs are celebrating if they hit 400k, and most hover around 100-200k.

(Unless maximizing views is your goal, then by all means, find the most popular things to write about. Making gold, easy leveling, cheat codes, the meaning of life, and so on come to mind. And yeah, go for the games with the most mainstream appeal. Write about WoW, Starcraft, Diablo, LOL, DOTA, TF2, Minecraft – I guarantee you’ll get a ton of hits.)

Heck, I play a game with a population of 800 characters and declining, a good half of them probably alts. (No prizes for guessing which MMO that is.) Part of the reason why I write about it is to preserve its uniqueness for posterity.

In the final analysis, nothing lasts, but your memories and your love of game.

If you like something, you like something. You’re a blogger, tell us why.

To me, this feels like WoW newbie to other MMOs syndrome, or can I use WoW tourist to describe this? WoW players have had the luck and fortune to start playing their game at a time when EVERYONE and their mother (except for me!) was singing the praises and playing the living daylights out of their game.

Me, I saw the raid grind and bait-and-switch coming a mile off and chose not to participate. Did anyone listen then? Haha, no. So yeah, I shrugged, having made my distinctly unpopular opinion known, and figured, folks have to undergo the burnout cycle to know it, I’ll give you guys four years and check back in then, and waited…

More people think like me now, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t people still deriving fun and enjoyment out of WoW and are happy to blog and share their experiences. That’s the whole point. It is okay to hold an unpopular opinion. It is also possible for something to be paradoxically good and bad at the same time, depending on your perspective and frame of reference.

And that’s what we want when we read your blog, your perspective and your frame of reference. Because only Tobold is Tobold, Zubon is Zubon, and so on. Syncaine, Bhagpuss, Melmoth, Gevlon, Spinks, Tesh, Sente, etc, etc. As I say these names, surely you’ll recognize at least some, and can link basic personalities and styles to their respective blogs.

So go ahead. Say it. My name is _____. I play ______. I like this game. And here’s why: ….

No apologies necessary.

My name is Jeromai. I think SWTOR is a steaming pile of generic WoW clone. I never hit max level in WoW, especially since they keep moving the goalposts. I refuse to put aside days of my life to raid for what is ultimately bytes and pixels. I want to form good memories and take beautiful screenshots with me when I move on from a game, and I believe that need/greed loot grinds and raid progression and the general community of the game would not contribute positive things towards those goals.

I also hate the Star Wars universe ever since I saw the trilogy, and the revamps and new episodes did not help that opinion at all, what with George Lucas’ ego and excessive CGI in every frame. The only guy I liked in the first movie, they killed at the end of it, leaving an oafish bumpkin as the main protagonist. Great.

I also liked the Ewoks, something most people who love the Star Wars universe detest. They made Return of the Jedi watchable, because all the other characters sucked. At least the walking teddy bears were funny and cute. Thankfully, I do not like the Gungans, so you can stop screaming now.

As much as I want to, this dislike of the setting makes it nigh impossible for me to play KOTOR, which is widely regarded as an excellent classic, let alone SWTOR, which is not. I tried and have barely got out of the intro sequence.

I also think light side, dark side choices are a lame prop and mechanic for so-called moral choices and roleplaying decisions. Are you truly doing anything meaningful by having decided beforehand, ok, this character is going to be the angelic Paragon and choosing all the good options by default (because that’s where the best loot and rewards come from, being one extreme or the other) vs the second run through of Ok, now it’s time to play the Evil Asshole and grabbing all the ‘evil’ options?

But you know what? These are all opinions. Mine, not yours. You are free to agree or disagree as you like. You can leave kudos or dissent in the comments, write about it in your blog or not read me at all because we are so diametrically dissimilar.

So go ahead. Tell us why you like or dislike something. Especially if you like something, tell us why.

Who knows, you may convince a few fence-sitters to try out your game, even if you may never sway the extremists.

And now for the cheese.

My name is Jeromai, and I have a very bad habit. When I’m procrastinating on RL deadlines, I stay away from MMOs because I cannot justify the amount of time spent just to log in, let alone play. But I have a not-so-secret-now love of cheesy casual games, that I buy for a buck fifty or so on Steam, which I am happy to fritter away small chunks of time with, in between attempting work.

During this recent Steam summer sale, I finally got around to buying the Popcap bundle after having dicked around with their demos and the full Plants vs Zombies on the iPad.

Yes, I deride SWTOR for being vapid mainstream crap, and I play even more vapid mainstream crap that only kids and housewives and people with no taste are supposed to enjoy.

There is no contradiction here.

Here’s why I like fooling around with cheesy casual games:

  • They (usually) take short amounts of time to play, meaning you can get a lot of gaming in for your time buck.
  • They focus on doing only one or a few things very well, leaving them a certain simplicity and elegance to their mechanics, which are also easily grasped.
  • Some of them are amazingly polished.
  • It’s extremely fun to find a diamond in the rough and go, hey, wow, these devs are on to something here.
  • All can be learned from, the bits I like, the parts I don’t, without much of the innate timesink grind of MMOs… though you have to watch out these days for timesinks put in to be skipped by paying (thanks, F2P model).
  • They don’t even make the excuse of having an endgame. When you’re done, you’re done. If you like it, buy the inevitable sequel, expansion or chapter 2.

My name is Jeromai. I play Bookworm Adventures Deluxe and I really love this game. Head on to the next post to find out why.