GW2: Heart of Thorns Beta Screenshots

gw2-masteries

Masteries are now in a more readable UI.

One has to select a mastery that one wants to level up, and earn experience towards that goal. Seems to be an alternate advancement system for those who love the leveling aspect of an MMO. Presumably after you unlock it with experience, you can then spend a mastery point to purchase it.

I got to within an inch of gliderhood but unfortunately didn’t quite get it before the first beta closed. Let’s see if they save character progress in between each stage.

gw2_verdantbrink

Much more of the Verdant Brink map was opened up, though only a few areas were heavily populated by Mordrem so far.

Map has a day/night zone cycle, day apparently set to 75 minutes and night at 45 minutes or thereabouts. I logged in to about 15 minutes of day, and then it quickly switched to night.

There seems to be an overall zone goal of holding/defending Rally Points, escorting Pact Soldiers to said Rally Points and bringing Pact Supplies to build up each Rally Point to eventually unlock more (unknown) stuff. So far only one or two Rally Points got defended consistently, so there will be more to do when it finally launches, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to more organized attempts at this zone goal.

(A beta map is naturally not a place for massive map coordination and organization, everyone’s squirreling off to see the new things, and about 85% of the people were Revenants unfamiliar with their skills and all that.)

After a first hour of intense battlefield Mordrem fighting, I found myself getting tired of the endless war going nowhere (need my organization fix) and wandered off to the quieter and probably still unbuilt areas.

I do hope that the designers don’t forget in their excitement over playing with complex and sophisticated dynamic event chains to look after the little guys, the solo explorers and casual levelers that need a calmer exploration fix from time to time, those surprisingly numerous players who enjoy and miss the feeling of leveling in their starter and intermediate leveling zones – more pastoral surroundings, less tightly packed and threatening mob densities.

Personally, I do suspect we will still have some of these areas, even in the Heart of Maguuma. Even the Silverwastes has its peaceful jumping puzzle, to take a breather from the constant combat chains.

From my short glance at the zone and the spaces and scenery therein, there seems to be a goal to pack a lot into it – something for groups (PUG or organized), something for achievement-oriented soloists, something for explorer-oriented soloists and so on.

But I dunno, I have no words to argue or defend the Vision that others seem to hate so much.

If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t.

So instead, I will just post the screenshots that -I- had fun taking.

gw2-purple

I remembered to take a PURPLE one for Eri’s theory of depressing endgame maps.

gw2-skyrim

I think this one is GW2’s claim to a Skyrim look-alike. The treetop textures, the lighting, the photo-realism just kinda blew me away.

gw2-itzel

I have… no words to describe the Itzel stare.

gw2-moreruins

More of those Maguuma Wastes-style ruins we’ve all come to know and love in Dry Top and Silverwastes. Dying to know more about the origins or creators of these structures.

gw2_pit

They weren’t kidding about the verticality of this zone. (I briefly considered spectral walking my way down – I played a necro rather than a revenant this time around – then in a brief fit of sanity, managed to find the NPC that teleported you into the pit.

Apparently it’s one of those new soloable “Adventures,” which usually challenge you to achieve some sort of task, except that it was either nonfunctional because it wasn’t done yet, or because we hadn’t unlocked the Rally Point that would unlock it, or I was just missing the whole point of what one had to do for the event.)

gw2_drop

The cloudy ominous drop that awaits clumsy glider-less travelers.

gw2_caves

There were some nearly empty caves under the Wyvern Cliffs, save for a few new Mushroom mobs, which were quite cute, in a nightmarish Mario Goomba sort of way.

And then I crawled through one snaking tunnel and went down another and stumbled into the as yet unpopulated Temple of Ameyalli. (Ameyalii possibly being to the hylek as Mellaggan is to the quaggan, an interpretation of the human god Melandru. Or maybe not and she’s just an unconnected animistic goddess of nature. Who knows, at this point.)

gw2_ameyalii

gw2_lights

gw2_shrine

One moment of perfect beauty.

That’s all this explorer soul needed.

CoH: Screenshot Nostalgia Trip #6

*plays the Pink Panther theme*

The Rikti were an interesting mob faction in City of Heroes.

The First Rikti Invasion apparently capped off the City of Heroes beta (wouldn’t know, wasn’t there, just read the previews mostly).

The backstory was that this group of science and tech-using aliens invaded the Earth of City of Heroes (aka Primal Earth,) ensnaring the globe in a massive Rikti War. Eventually, most of the superheroes of the world mobilized to conduct one gloriously bold strike at the invasion’s source, the portal to the Rikti Homeworld.

Alpha Team, led by Statesman, was the frontal distraction, with a corresponding death toll of 4 out of 5 heroes.

Omega Team, led by Hero 1, dived through the portal during the distraction. Soon after, the portal exploded and closed, the fate of Omega Team unknown. Heroes doffed their capes in remembrance (which was, in reality, a sneaky excuse for “we haven’t figured out the tech to let you have capes yet.”)

What heroes saw of the Rikti from then on appeared to be the straggling pink/beige remnants of this alien invasion, though certain storylines let on to a more sinister and intriguing undertone, where one witnessed the human Lost faction gradually mutating into Rikti, and this mutation being induced by other full Rikti.

coh_riktishipcrash

Rikti Crash Site was a max level 50 zone with not much in it besides a lot of apocalyptic urban skyscraper wrecks, the world’s largest collection of tightly packed Rikti spawns for tanks to farm to their heart’s content, and the mysteriously shielded crashed Rikti Ship, looking for all intents and purposes like a giant alien flying saucer.

Some time in 2007, the Second Rikti Invasion struck Primal Earth. This was a threat that united heroes and villains alike, allowing crossovers and teaming up in a special zone for the first time.

The invasion arrived in phases, first with sinister bombs sprouting all over a zone.

coh_riktibomb

Rikti drop ships would glide impassively across the now green skies, striking anyone who got too close with bright green energy blasts.

coh_dropship

Then finally, the Rikti themselves would beam in.

coh_beamusdown

Not even the villains were safe.

coh_villainbeam

Mechanically, this was, I suspect, one of the earlier examples in MMO history where an MMO introduced an automated ‘public event’ that scaled to player densities, and linked it to an ongoing storyline.

(Sure, MMOs before this had events, seasonal or otherwise, but most were either triggered by a GM manually spawning something or set out in the usual quest-giver format for individual players to run through. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, I did miss a lot of the earlier MMO days.)

I think one of the biggest innovations of this ‘invasion tech’ was the idea of adjusting mob spawns and dynamically scaling encounters based on how many players were locally available in the area. We see other games now applying similar concepts.

coh_riktiinvasion

Back in the day, it sure made for great action screenshots.

(Not to mention, encouraged players to actually clump and gather up as a large social group, in order to spawn the elites everyone desired for an achievement – amazing, I know, that this was such a new idea then and not looked down upon and disparagingly called “zerging” in our current day and age.)

Ultimately, the heroes and villains would venture into the newly rechristened Rikti War Zone…

(The problem with a dark/dark powerset)

(My defender main, showing off the problem with a dark/dark powerset. Not only are most of your powers various tinted shades of inky black darkness – kinda like GW2’s shadow dyes, come to think of it – you had to keep making excuses for the inky black blob with eyes that was your pet spilling oil slick all over the landscape. “Don’t mind Fuzzy, he’s toilet trained. The black stuff evaporates shortly, I promise.”)

…to launch an attack on the Rikti Mothership itself.

coh_riktiship

The big bad Rikti at the very center had an unfortunately cheesy name, victim of a designer in-joke. U’kon Gr’ai, or “You con grey.”

coh_ukongrai

The Rikti armor designs of this period were significantly improved, as can be seen in this Paragon Wiki article about the Rikti. No longer were they the naked beige/pink slightly awkward aliens of the past, but a more tech-like robotic enemy, with color-coded armor (warning: TV Tropes link) indicating different powersets.

Ah, dark/dark defender woes.

Ah, those dark/dark defender woes. “No, really, the shadowfall protects you and gives you stealth! How no one can see us in the middle of all this incongruous black splotches, I don’t know, but there’s superhero powers for you…”

The Vanguard were also more fleshed out, along with two Rikti factions, one attempting to sue for peace with humans – hence the conference table setting, and one continuing on their militaristic warlike ways so that our heroes and villains had someone to keep beating on.

coh_riktihonoree

Eventually, we would discover the fate of Hero 1, changed into a Rikti-fied Honoree, who could be fought in the co-op Lady Grey Taskforce, as well as the initial Incarnate introduction mission as seen above.

The story, unfortunately, never really continued from this point, after the game decided to dive headlong into Praetoria instead, getting more and more incoherent as the designers/writers tried to shoehorn in time-traveling and strange in-game lore excuses for however the Incarnate system had to work.

Was a good arc while it lasted.

NBI Writing Prompt: What mob factions in your game are an integral part of its storyline(s) or lore?

NBI: Talkback Challenge #4

Joseph Skyrim’s NBI Talkback Challenge couldn’t have come at a better time.

This weekend has seen me going on a meta quest to learn about learning (this Coursera course is amazing for the vast number of links to read up on and make connections to – I’m seeing the principles apply for games, for writing, for martial arts, sports or exercise, for music, for languages, or yes, even regular school subjects or other things an adult learner might be interested to pick up.)

One of the topics that came up was the importance of mindset, as popularized by Carol Dweck.

Some people stay in a fixed mindset, that intelligence is innate, that creativity and talent are inherent and that these cannot be changed in any meaningful way. To people who were brought up with this mindset, it becomes more important to look smart, to seem competent, to hide mistakes and avoid failure in order not to feel bad and diminished in their eyes and the eyes of others. (Apparently, all it takes is a single line of the wrong type of praise to sway children in one direction or another, which ultimately all adds up to habitual patterns of behavior.)

A growth mindset, meanwhile, recognizes that people can train and practice to become smarter or perform better. This mindset looks upon “hard” things as a challenge and failure indicating that there’s always something more to learn. Valuing the process more than the end goal, holding this mindset lets you pick yourself back up again and persist in the face of obstacles – persistence, after all, being a generally more successful trait in the real world than smarts per se.

Like any other popular philosophy, it’s probably more than a bit simplified, while holding valuable grains of truth or insight.

There’s probably -some- innate differences in aptitude for various things based on our genes, but if one doesn’t practice said thing repeatedly, that innate aptitude isn’t going to be noticeable regardless.

And you probably wouldn’t want to hold a growth mindset 100% of the time blindly either, since you’ll then be forever trying to persist on both important and unimportant things. Prioritizing the things that you value and want to persist about is likely a good idea.

But in a broad general sense, it seems valuable to realize that these two mindsets exist and to recognize when it is appropriate to use either.

(If your boss has a fixed mindset, I wouldn’t suggest persisting in trying to change his or her mind about it. I’d just worry about projecting the desired image until one can find a new job with less dysfunctional people in leadership positions. That’s just me, your mileage may vary. Perhaps you’d be more interested in becoming your bosses’ boss and changing the organization that way or whatever.

Ditto trolls. You -could- persist in attempting to change their mind or perspective about something. It could equally be a waste of some of your valuable time on this earth.)

In that vein, examining one’s perspectives and mindsets on gaming seem valuable for understanding more about one’s relationship to games and learning.

Lust – Do you enjoy games more if they have scantily clad and “interestingly proportioned” avatars? Do you like playing as one of these avatars? Why or why not?

Considering that I can play and enjoy ASCII games, I probably don’t enjoy them “more.”

I likely would question the provenance of the game and whether it would be worth playing it if that’s -all- they had, since it would indicate a rather adolescent viewpoint at work in the creation of said game, and other design choices that might make a game more fun for me might also be missing or not shared by said creator/designer.

I don’t have issues with them including those avatars in a game though. I’m happy to have the more choice and options the merrier, and I know -some- people like ’em. If that’s also a target audience for paying the devs money, then so be it.

I can’t play scantily clad buxom D-cup yet anorexic ladies with any sense of immersion, so no, for those. Conversely, I admit to being partial to unrealistically proportioned hulk-like muscled males (scantily clad is optional, fur and bestial features is preferable,) so yes, for those.

I think, ultimately, that avatars are representational. For some people, realism or consistency in a fantasy setting or creating a persona that resembles their real world selves is important, and these players lean toward the more average-in-looks avatars. For others, they are sort of an escapist fantasy, and they go for more archetypal, exaggerated “superhero” symbols.

Playing big buff monsters is, for me, a representation of my love for melee combat, for running in there and being a sturdy protective tank, for wading in and kicking ass, of being the big supportive guy in the back of any group photo. It’s being someone I wouldn’t have much hope of being in real life, genes being what they are (eg. by and large, Asians are not known for being able to develop massive height and muscularity, as opposed to say, someone with Nordic ancestry, where they -might- have some hope.)

The virtual world enables people to walk in someone else’s shoes. May that never change.

And it’s why I’ll happily defend the right of straight white guys to play their over-sexualized female avatars, ostensibly to ogle their butts and boobs and throw on the brightest or clowniest lipstick and makeup ever. Who knows, maybe the avatar is a representation of some kind of fantasy in their heads, be it sexual or just trying to get in touch with their emotional feminine side, often repressed in real life from cultural mores. Maybe they’ll have the experience of seeing the world from a different perspective, if others treat them differently based on what their avatar projects. From that, is laid the groundwork for open-mindedness and respecting diversity, in small steps.

Gluttony – Do you have a game backlog of unfinished games but still buy new games regardless? Why or why not?

Hell, yeah. Who knows, maybe there will be a great games industry collapse and I will need new games to play on my desert island some day!

Well, seriously, I try to buy games that I’m interested in (and so much catches my interest) to support the devs who make them, so that I will never encounter that scenario.

However, since I am not a rich billionaire made out of money, I generally wait until nearer the tail end of their lifespan to buy ’em for 75% off. I’m a generalist that spreads 1-5 bucks across various games rather than pay $80 outright for one new game to specialize in.

Thus I tend to accumulate a whole boatload of unfinished games – I’ll play ’em for a couple hours to experience what it’s like, to appreciate what this one game is about, but I generally don’t have time to finish via repetition all the maps and levels of each game unless I really really like it in some way, maybe it’s the story or its design or it’s unique in some way or it’s just short enough for me to complete in a reasonable time.

I have decided that I’m okay with this. I’m not breaking the bank or my budget this way, and I’m indulging my love of games in general.

Greed – Do you enjoy hand outs in a game? Have you ever opted to NOT do an action / in game activity because the rewards were lacking? Why or why not?

It depends. If it’s a developer hand out, I assume they are giving the freebie for some kind of purpose, eg. encouraging someone to log on, celebrating an occasion or saying thank-you for something, and I’m happy to take it and appreciate it and enjoy it.

I’m less keen on player hand outs. I suppose it’s okay once or twice as a goodwill gesture, if the context is just that they’re being friendly or helpful. I do find it smothering when taken too far. If someone does everything for another person, they will never learn or go through the process, and that -journey- is the joy, not the reward at the end.

It again depends if the rewards are lacking in a particular activity. If the activity isn’t something I’m interested in to begin with, yeah, I’m liable to prioritize going somewhere more rewarding, in terms of both enjoyment and the goodies at the end. If I -want- to do that activity though, I’m still going to do it once or twice just to say that I experienced it and did it, even if I get zero or negative goodies out of it.

I’m generally a more intrinsically motivated person, so I tend to avoid games that offer external reward loot showers for doing stuff I don’t enjoy. In fact, I’m more liable to bitch and complain about “forcing players” if the game did put an exclusive desired goodie at the end of an activity I didn’t enjoy, rather than endure the activity repeatedly for the reward.

Sloth – Do you ever leech or AFK in a party? Do you discourage others from attempting things that you feel are difficult? Have you ever seen someone that needed help, but decided not to help them? Why or why not?

I wouldn’t ever intentionally leech, it’s just not me. I’m a perfectionist that needs to be effective or at least above-average in optimal to feel like I was contributing to a group. I’m a lot more likely to quit a party if I ever get pissed off at something, rather than passive-aggressively hang around trying to be annoying.

If I do go AFK, it’s a forewarn kind of thing, it’s just manners that I learned from my old games “AFK, bio” or “AFK, phone” or what have you, and only for a couple minutes and I try to minimize that whenever possible.

hate people who are not respectful of others and decide to wander off for half an hour or more eating food, or wrangling with their kid or parent or cat that has suddenly decided something absolutely critical has come up. You’re making 4-5 other people wait for you. I understand that RL emergencies happen. Just fucking come back for a minute, apologize that you can’t continue and leave the group and let them get on with their lives with someone else. I am very likely to bail from one of these dysfunctional groups if shit like this happens.

I generally don’t discourage others from attempting difficult things. I’m fond of encouraging others to stretch themselves, in fact. However, my one exception if this difficult thing is reliant on the whole group getting it done right and I don’t have time or patience that day to make repeated attempts at it, having not joined or been forewarned that such a goal was in mind. Then I’d much rather they attempt the difficult thing on their own or with a group specifically put together to attempt it.

I’ve seen plenty of people who needed help and decided not to help them. One, they won’t learn to help themselves if they are always being helped. Two, they may not welcome the help, especially if they are the obnoxious “I play how I want” sort of person that is not open to improvement with a fixed mindset. Three, I might be on the way to doing something else, and they don’t specifically need my help, just someone to help, and someone else was already going to help them.

I generally only stop to help if no one else is there, and they genuinely look lost or in trouble, as opposed to just being lazy and expecting someone to help them as is their “entitlement.” Or if they are what I define as a “promising young newbie,” someone keen and eager to learn, asking intelligent questions, communicating in full sentences, interested in moving from beginnerhood to more understanding. Or if they try a few times on their own and fail and I realize they need some scaffolding or coaching or support in some way to grasp a concept they’re missing.

Wrath – Ever get angry at other players and yell (or TYPE IN CAPS) at them? Have you ever been so angry to stalk a person around in game and / or in the forums? Why or why not?

I do get angry at other players, though I try my best not to these days, it’s better for my own blood pressure and health to change my perspective about that person’s behavior.

I generally do not yell at anyone. The most I might do is forcefully point out a combat mechanic of some kind, if they’re being very thick about comprehension and I’m getting frustrated by the group’s overall failure and I think that grasping this basic concept might in fact improve the existing situation. I guess I get more angry about a situation or a failed fight than with any player per se.

If a player is obnoxious enough to make me angry, that person usually qualifies for an immediate block from me, probably a report to whatever game authorities they are, and possibly me leaving the group as I no longer want to succeed with that group and enable that person’s bad behavior (assuming no self-penalties for leaving the group, eg. in a PvE dungeon instance, else I usually give up success as a lost cause and work on a personal improvement goal instead with the remainder of the PvP match time.)

I really have better things to do with my life than to stalk an individual that makes me mad around the place. Exactly what would that achieve besides making me even more mad to see a person I detest MORE often? Report to someone who gets paid to look into these things, block (so I never see or hear their ugly mug again), and done. Finito. On to less bloodboiling matters.

Envy – Ever felt jealous of players who seem to be able to complete content you can’t? Do you ever suspect they are hacking or otherwise cheating? Why or why not?

Ok, I confess that jealousy and envy are fairly alien emotions to me. Perhaps I have to thank my parents and childhood for that, but I never really grew up with a sense of scarcity, of feeling that someone had stuff I wanted and couldn’t have. My mum basically taught me to “suffice” – we may not have it all, we may not even have all of what we want, but what we have is enough and can make us happy. Other people may have more things, but who knows, they may not actually be happy even if they had more things.

I only experience such feelings on super-rare occasions, such as when I failed an important language exam by the world’s most catastrophic margin while everyone else in the class was bright-eyed and cheery and in the top god-knows-how-much percentile… and I generally felt super-helpless that there was absolutely nothing I could do to improve my grade further because the exam standard was presuming a linguistic background I didn’t have (years of foundation speaking it) and no amount of effort was going to help this in the time frame I had to improve for the next one… then I felt somewhat jealous of all these other peoples’ A grades and assumption that absolutely nothing was wrong, while I had fallen through the cracks over here and no one (including the teacher, who didn’t want to make any eye contact) had a clue of how to help.

See, here is the basic thing. I generally have a growth mindset for most things, including games. (The one time I felt intense helpless jealousy, it was exactly that, I was helpless, felt utterly inadequate, and didn’t have any avenues I could think of for improvement, so the last resort was just wishing that I was somehow magically better and like everybody else.)

So perhaps this player can complete content I can’t, or plays at a much higher level than I can right now. I take it as meaning that I can improve myself to that level if I work at it. Maybe not immediately today, but eventually.

It’s hard for me to be jealous of that player, it only means that player put in a hell of a lot more time and effort playing that one game or mastering that one aspect that I either am unwilling to put in the effort right now, or haven’t gotten around to doing it yet. If I wanted to, I could work at it too. It’s just a matter of deciding if I want to invest the time to do so.

As for whether they are hacking or cheating, maybe, sometimes it’s hard to tell in certain first-person shooters whether a person just has played so often that they can do snap headshots on reflex and instinct alone, or if they have some kind of aimbot that automatically tracks for them. Still find it hard to be jealous either way though. Either the person worked hard (in which case one should respect that) or the person’s a cheater (and how one envies someone acting so low, I don’t know, they’re only cheating themselves in the end.)

Pride – Are you one of those people that demands grouping with other “elite” players? Do you kick players out of your team who you feel are under-performing? Why or why not?

I guess this one is my deadly sin. I can do a pretty good Lucifer impression.

I won’t demand an elite group, but I do -prefer- smooth runs that don’t go all pear-shaped on a regular basis. I tend to take it very personal if I keep ending up face first on the floor (I’m working on that impulse through conditioning via PvP and dungeon solos. I get it bad in PvE groups though, it’s an image thing. I feel incompetent in the eyes of others if I keep dying and no one else does, whereas if I’m alone, death means I didn’t get the right strategy yet, and in PvP, death is just a thing that happens to everyone.) That does usually mean a base level of competency and efficiency.

I don’t like dungeoning to begin with, so I’d rather things end fast and I get the shiny at the end that I wanted. I rather not have to devote 2-4 hours to a herculean epic struggle against heroic odds where I end up having to coach three other players how to play in order to get through it every time I dungeon. I don’t mind it in the initial stages of discovery of a new dungeon, where it’s all new to everybody and that’s what we do to learn as a populataion, but once it gets old, my exploration drive totally loses interest and I end up only going along due to my achievement urge.

I generally do not kick underperformers who can’t help themselves. Perhaps they’re new to the dungeon, perhaps they’re (stereotyping intensely here) someone’s healer girlfriend, perhaps they’re still struggling with MMO controls in general, or all three. I’ll get frustrated at the group’s lack of progress and repeated wiping due to one (or worse, three) part members not carrying their own weight, but it seems cruel to kick someone who is still learning and trying to get the hang of it. So I bite my tongue and coach and try to think of any and all creative non-standard strategies that might eventually let us progress and wipe along with them until we either get it or some party members run out of time to continue (thank goodness.)

I am, however, very tempted to kick (and usually -will- support kicking) an underperformer who doesn’t care that they’re underperforming and expresses they have no interest in getting better or helping the group succeed. It shows a lack of respect for the group (that they joined, duh?) If you’re running around Leeroying triggering stuff and generally not communicating or cooperating with the group, if you refuse to alter the way you play and it’s getting the group killed as a result (as opposed to playing in a nonstandard fashion and the group -still- succeeding), that kick is likely going to come. Probably not initiated from me, but I’ll say OK, if anyone else has had it with you too.

It’s very situational. Honestly, I think too many self-styled “elitists” aren’t actually that good themselves and are just pointing the finger at other people in an attempt to cover up that they’re weak players themselves. If you copy a cookie cutter build without real understanding of why someone chose those choices, you’re really not an “elite” player, you’re just using someone else’s solution that works, a cook following a recipe, a pattern-emulator.

The real question is, what can you do when the situation changes? Can you solve new challenges with the patterns you’ve learned? Can you adapt on the fly and switch your build to whatever best suits the situation? Can you work with your group to formulate than execute new strategies?

Yes, I’d much rather group with players that show through their actions that the answer is ‘yes’ to all those questions. Things die faster, the group functions more smoothly, I learn a lot from what the true elite players do.

But I really don’t sweat it if “optimal dps” is not being performed at every last second, or whatever. Did things die? Did we complete the dungeon? If so, great.

Are we still in the dungeon two hours later? Did we die a dozen times already? If so, fuck.