Blaugust Day 30: Raids… Crap, What Happens to Everything Else? (GW2)

This morning, I woke up with my mind buzzing from a certain amount of worry.

At first, it was just the expected personal problem of wondering how the hell I was going to fit my personal schedule around the concept of raiding in GW2… especially since I’m in the GMT+8 timezone, making essentially all NA and EU guilds verboten, and even OCE guilds start raids about two hours earlier than I can really afford to be present while holding down a job.

Especially since the intent was to make sure said 10-person group undergoes repeated headbanging failure before maybe succeeding, after a great deal of build tweaking and coordination and practice.

That means a relatively regular group is needed, no?

Then I started wondering about how TTS was going to handle the introduction of raids…

The habit has always been for about 90-120 people gather up for Karka Queen, Tequatl and Triple Trouble Wurm. That’s about the most OCE/SEA critical mass that can be pulled at any one point in time.

Would they do the same, then split them up into groups of ten?

But wait, there might be a problem of lack of organized leadership… which means the number of each potential group that can be formed shrinks…

…which means there’s going to be competition for the desired raid spots… and resultant ill-feeling if you don’t make it in… sorta like how the 160th person sulks if they can’t manage to get into a Triple Trouble map… (except that we almost never hit that kind of number with TT, and we’ll definitely exceed that with a ten person raid)

And what if a huge chunk of leaders decide that they are just going to go form their own specialized raid group instead…

…what happens to the inclusivity of the Teq/Triple Wurm schedule?

And then it hit me, and my commenter Athie also drilled down to the root of the problem, WAIT, NO ONE IS GOING TO GIVE A DAMN ABOUT TRIPLE WURM ANY LONGER.

Why? BECAUSE RAIDS NOW OFFER COMPARATIVELY THE BEST ARMOR IN THE GAME.

Dungeons? Pfft.

Fractals? Fucking Ascended rings, right? And now reduced to one fractal each time. Meh, that’s for casuals.

Triple Trouble Wurm? A lame ass chance at Ascended armor with stats you probably won’t be able to use, and more likely, 5 lousy champion bags and some blues and greens.

EVERYTHING will be shoved aside, and the ALL IMPORTANT GODLY RAID will be placed on a pedestal of awe and desirability.

THAT is going to be a problem. The lack of any other alternative to get one’s mitts on Legendary armor, making raids highly desirable and causing everything else to fall by the wayside and look bad in comparison.

What’s going to happen to our friendly community guilds that welcome any influx of new players cos it means hitting critical mass then?

Torn apart, that’s what. You won’t want new players to learn the complicated raid dance if it sets your group back by weeks. You want the same regular group of 10, period. That forms exclusivity. That forms elitism if that pack of 10 gets all the shiny Legendary armor that no one else can get.

Now I have a sunken pit of dread in my stomach that isn’t going away.

I hope Athie’s right and GW2 makes a dramatic and unpredictable direction swing several months later, because the extrapolation from here is not looking good at all.

Blaugust Day 29: Post-Raid Announcement “Hmm”

It ain’t the end of the world.

Nor was the announcement as ideal or detailed as one had hoped, but about as decent as it could be, I guess.

Raids are now confirmed to exist as a 10-person instanced challenging group content that will test the abilities of players to coordinate and use GW2’s action combat system to its fullest potential.

No attunements – so we at least avoid the ludicrous 12-step hamster wheel to even qualify to enter a raid. Apparently you just walk up to the door and you can go in to get your face smashed any time you’d like.

However, it -is- going to involve the heavy use of Masteries to get certain phases completed.

The example given was that one group would have to clear an escape path before the big ol’ raid boss nuked everyone to kingdom come, while the other group kept big ol’ raid boss distracted/controlled/damaged, and then everyone would have to run the hell away to the edge and glide around for a bit while said nuke went off.

Sorry, guys, while this is not an attunement per se, imo, this is pre-required grind with a different name. If your gliding mastery ain’t high enough, you’re not going to stay aloft for that long, right?

The only mitigating factor is that you’d probably only need a few specific Masteries for specific raid bosses (once the strategies are figured out) so that newcomers would only have to do that bit of ‘lateral’ progression grind.

It was repeatedly stressed that all the classes (ahem, professions) in GW2 are capable of builds that produce damage/control/support (aka fluid combat roles) so that you could play your favorite profession, rather than be forced to wait around for half an hour for a healer to be available, or be asked to play another profession cos X other player isn’t around…

… good and sound, in theory. We’ll see how long that lasts in the hands of players, who are liable to decide that Y class brings the most Z to the table, and therefore Y class is the meta.

I’m not sure what to think regarding the specific number of 10.

On one hand, the low number (aka 2 groups) does provide an arrangement where each player can play a visible important role that isn’t drowned out by visual chaos. It’s easier to match schedules for a smaller group of players, and so on.

On the other hand, if you’re the 11th player, it may not be that easy to find raid-ready groups.

We’ve yet to see just how the formation of this would play out though – can a randomly assembled PUG of 10 be expected to manage the difficulty, or is it going to be a more guild/teamspeak-only kind of affair? Dunno. We’ll have to see.

The big raid reward announcement is that it’s going to be possible to get Legendary armor off raids. Which is really good and appropriate, imo.

Stat-wise, no different from Ascended gear, but it’ll still have that piece by piece build up and show off factor, AND be extra-convenient for stat-switching… which you might expect future raids to require (shifting from zerker to tankier soldier or nomads to some kind of condi, or what have you.)

We’ve yet to see if this is going to come via random RNG drop or some form of gradual earning/token buy system though. The website phrasing says “earn” so hopefully, the latter is the case or is at least possible.

I’m not sure if the concept of Legendary armor imposes any kind of mandatory pressure to raiding. I don’t -think- so, given that the stats are the same as Ascended, and the existing concept of Legendary weapons being entirely optional. But I’m not sure how others might perceive it.

The other piece of good news is that GW2 raids will make use of the dynamic event system, so that has the potential for a goodly amount of task flexibility (beyond kill giant boss monster) and event chaining for raid content.

The underlying principles of no insane vertical gear progression and trying to cut out all the inconvenient and annoying aspects of raiding, while keeping the good stuff, were repeatedly stressed as well.

The concept of making Heart of Thorns basically contain ‘endgame’ content for all and sundry, of which one subset are PvE players who like raids,  (PvP players included, though I note they carefully didn’t mention WvW players) was also covered.

So at least the heart, philosophy and plan are in the right places… even if the reality might not quite match up to the hoped-for plan once it comes into effect…

I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see how it all plays out.

I’m not super-stoked, but I’m not freaking out either – which about as much as could be expected, I guess.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 29.

Blaugust Day 28: What I Hope Does Happen When “Raids” Hit GW2

So now that I’ve taken a cold, hard look at my worse fear – being forced to leave the game I enjoy playing, what do I hope will actually be announced in the “challenging group content” PAX announcement happening in less than 24 hours?

Now is the time I put on my optimistic hat and go with the assumption that my favorite devs aren’t stupid, aren’t stomping all over their stated philosophies when they implement “raids” into their game and like coming up with innovative spins on old systems that polish away the nasty bits while accentuating the good bits.

Now is the time I make my best guesses to see just how close or completely far off track my thinking is from the good folks who make GW2… just for the fun of it.

(Black-and-white for people prone to misreading: NONE OF THIS IS REAL. These are just my guesses. We will hear what’s actually going to happen in slightly more than 12 hours’ time.)

1. Open World “Challenging Group Content”

There will be some raid-like monsters present in the open world. Some may be similar to Vinewrath in the Silverwastes, that is, unlocked by a focused/organized whole map effort doing necessary dynamic events, and then consisting of several different fight phases. We might even see the appearance of ‘rare’ world bosses to hunt down- given a prior example of how we appear to have ‘rare’ mobs in Dry Top making an odd appearance now and then – though I’d really hope they tweak the spawn rate up if that is the case.

By placing some of these raid-like stuff in the open world, we will still have the advantage of making some of this content open to all players, that they can stumble into an organized group attempt and then consider joining said guild or community if they are interested – ie. lowered barrier of entry, as opposed to the typical vertical progression barrier scenario of “sorry, your gearscore is not high enough, you can’t do this.”

It is entirely likely that some of the world bosses in core Tyria that are now on timers will get a bit of a challenge upgrade, even if it is merely as simple as including the defiance breakbar that we know is coming. (This may lead to some bitching and complaining from those presently enjoying the mindless choo-choo, but I personally doubt that the challenge will ramp up to horrific levels, it may simply be a sort of “tutorial” mode difficulty levels for raids and make more world bosses Claw of Jormag tedious until the population adapts.)

2. Instanced “Challenging Group Content”

It will not be just fractals, though we know a fractal revamp is coming that will bring fractals to 100, but smooth the difficulty of the lower levels down so that the barrier of entry will be lowered there too.

It will not just be revamped dungeons, though if a whole bunch of dungeon bosses don’t suddenly incorporate the breakbar with a resultant small spike in challenge, and/or have some of the more egregious exploits fixed… then we will know that Anet has pretty much given up with the existing dungeons.

What I am hoping is that instanced raids are tied to being opened/activated by guilds.

Maybe this will be similar to present guild missions, opening out a spot on the map that anyone can enter (which would make it an open-world raid, see 1. above), or just trigger a teleport to an instanced map that only guild members can use, making it a closed raid.

I’m thinking that the most elegant way of producing these raids would be tying the system with the previously announced guild hall maps. It would make total sense to unlock guild hall buildings and trophies and basically a “group” reward each time the group manages to conquer a difficult and challenging boss.

Maybe the personal reward could be guild commendations and/or an odd specific currency or two – mordrem hound head, mordrem wyvern tail, whatever (as long as said guild vendors expand and offer more neat stuff like Ascended armors, unique gear designs, minis, plus guild hall decorations). We’d have our token buy reward system for raids, we’d have some individual benefit, and still channel most of the effort towards the social/group progression aspect which imo, is one of the better aspects of the whole concept of “raiding.”

The inherent exclusivity of a closed instanced raid is much easier to swallow if you tie it to something that is already “limited membership” only, and then leave the players to set their own barriers of entry. Some guilds will naturally put down some very high bars/thresholds to fulfill (eg. I hear some dungeon guilds want you to be able to solo Lupicus in order to coach/teach others, etc.), and some guilds will remain more open for anyone to join.

Some players will not join guilds, period, and those are the people that are probably not interested or cannot make the commitments (time, certain builds, need for organization) that raids/challenging group content tends to require anyway, so that’s already a first round of self-selection done, without any ‘entitlement’ histrionics.

(I’ve never really seen people throw an entitlement fit over Triple Trouble Wurm, for example. The people who aren’t interested/motivated enough simply assume that they can never do it and either give up or never bother to approach a community. Everyone else who wants something from the wurm, be it seeing done it once, just getting achievements, or running it ad nauseam, found a community that got them what they needed.)

Then all Anet needs to do is keep a weather eye out over how the ‘meta’ threshold requirements are shifting, and tweak mob difficulty accordingly so that it meets whatever the plan is.

With guilds, there’s your kicking mechanism and threat to wield to enforce appropriate behavior right there. Act like an idiot? Boot, you’re out of the guild and you can’t do X raids with us any longer.

With guilds, there’s incentive for a longer term social contract and better community behavior, rather than the merry-go-around “easy, press a button, exchange a teammate” of LFG where some people feel there’s no consequence for being obnoxious to easily-replaceable strangers. We -really- don’t need that extra encouragement for toxic behavior in GW2 raids – we’ll have enough of that hostility in the open world “challenging group content” already, given some people’s tendencies to vent their frustrations and run their mouths in mapchat.

3. The Unexpected / Invasions / Raid “Rifts” as Extra Challenging Group Content?

The last bit of speculation may be a little far out there, but given some hints from data-mining and the oft-repeated desire (not mine, personally) for GW1-like Fissure of Woe or Underworld content, where a crack team of people venture into an instance and get a whole bunch of desirable awards for performing well, and can be assembled up spontaneously from whoever’s around at the time…

… one last cherry on top to accompany 1. and 2. would be the introduction of random portals/doorways into a “raid” instance – akin to something we already see on GW2 Halloween. This would be the middle ground between completely open and completely closed, would satisfy the odd desire of something LFR-like, would have the random lottery feel – both one’s PUGmates and rewards would likely be RNG – and probably allow for bringing back some very old and desirable and $$$ cosmetic skins like jetpack, ghastly grining shield, scarlet’s kiss, whatever.

This might even be seasonally turned on or off, to bring that completely unpredictable and unexpected, high risk/high reward bonus feeling.

Between 1, 2 and 3, I think this would catch pretty much nearly all the different types of raids possible, and offer a multitude of lateral progression gameplay activities for people to choose from. They could do some, all, none as desired, and only lose out on the unique cosmetic stuff, while still (hopefully) having alternative avenues to get whatever desirable stuff they want (even if it’s just buying it from the TP as the alternative.)

Account-bound titles, plus some unique cosmetics, would let the prestige-seeking raiders still show off their things that can’t be otherwise bought, while still making a decent gold profit from the stuff they -can- sell to others who don’t like their particular raid activity.

The key is that as long there aren’t artificial barriers of entry that discourage new influx, a wealth of possible raid options catering to different styles, alternative means/options for gaining desired rewards, and no critical story content tied to said challenging group content that some people aren’t likely to want to do, raids in GW2 aren’t likely to be so bad.

Especially since we don’t have vertically progressing stats on gear AND can freely switch our traits and builds on the fly (where’s that build-saver already, dammit), as opposed to other games with more fixed roles.

How can Anet screw it up? Introducing design choices that are opposite to the stuff named above. New infusions that add on more stats. Grind such and such new stat or mastery to qualify for the next tier of raids. Only do this one raid if you want X item, only do that other raid if you want Y item. Tie raid content to Living Story progression. Set difficulty that demands such high performance that people feel obliged to measure every last number and to kick anyone who doesn’t perform in a picture-perfect robotic and macro’ed manner. Unsoweiter.

I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen.

P.S. I’m really only expecting 1. and 2. to appear in the coming announcement, but I’m ready to be surprised by 3. or 4. Something I haven’t thought of / foreseen, just in case.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Birthday, Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 28.