GW2: Name Recognition, Being Social and Shout-Outs

One thing I haven’t seen in an MMO since ye olde A Tale in the Desert is oldschool name recognition.

That is, the ability to become famous or familiar to each other and be known for various things.

If I played Eve Online or Star Wars Galaxy, that might be different, I’m given to understand that such things can occur there. But in most typical MMOs, everyone runs around in a nameless anonymous crowd, barely knowing or recognizing each other.

At most, one joins a guild and gets to know the group of people inside that in-group. Other guilds or what other people are doing, unimportant in the greater scheme of things, let’s just focus on our PvE, our raid instance, our PvP battleground, or what-have-you.

There’s even a current debate in the blogosphere, prompted by Syp’s post on Playing Together Alone Together, about how much GW2’s pro-social measures help this or fail to.

Speaking just for myself, I am definitely encouraged to be more social by the design. Which is quite amazing, given just how antisocial a loner I tend to be in most other games.

A lot of this perception is in the eye of the beholder, I feel. I don’t mind the wordless ‘being alongside’ each other in normal play. Most will stop to help fight a mob, or revive each other and so on, and the rudest thing that happens is someone who just dashes past the veteran mob you’re fighting to sneak a node and dash right off. I just shrug, probably a WoW-trained person.

I’ve had spontaneous friendly encounters on difficult vistas, jumping puzzles and mini-dungeons. Some of them are acquaintances of the moment, that you may never see again. Some others may simply be names that get more and more familiar the more time you spend on the server. I’ll give a named example, since some people are pouting that we bloggers talk along in generalities, but never in specifics.

(If anyone named is uncomfortable with this, and want privacy or some such, feel free to contact me and I’ll edit you right off.)

So. Isle of Janthir. When I was leveling in the Charr lands, I always saw another Charr running about in the same leveling zones. Vanilla Parfait. I was always extremely amused by his name. He and I have never met directly, just perhaps encountered each other in zone from time to time. Eventually, while forums surfing, I realize that he is one of the contact points for the guild Aegis of Janthir (AoJ), a group I see quite a lot in WvW.

Then there’s Malkier, who seems to have paused in his gameplay, but I have him on my friendlist (which is usually empty in most other games save a real life friend or two.) We met in the Font of Rhand mini-dungeon, he was leading an entire flock of followers to the champion boss, but I noticed that no one made a turn for the sword which was the key to a gate later on. Having learned the secrets of the place with another group exploring in beta, I side trekked to go get it and caught up with the group in time for that inevitable question which arises, “Who’s got the sword?” *confused silence* “What, no one’s got the sword?!”

“I have the sword,” I replied calmly, lugging it as I entered the room. And from there, the two of us guided the rest of the new ones into how to take down the crazy Flame Legion Charr boss, whom I personally suspect was driven mad by having to stay in an underwater room all day.

When he finally died, and chests popped in joyous abundance all around us, there was great rejoicing and much exchange of friend-ing each other.

It turns out that despite that burst of goodwill in a mini-dungeon, most of our timezones and gameplay speeds do not match up, which ultimately, is one of the great deciders of how close friends you can become with someone in game, but still, why not? We can have different degrees of friendship and familiarity, can we not? Not everyone has to be a bosom buddy or a drinking pal. Even if it was a one-off experience in the history of my leveling this Charr, it was a positive social experience and unique to his ‘personal’ story in a sense. When I level another alt, I will not have met the same people.

Perhaps this is the curse of the post-launch frenzy. Slower levelers are by definition more casual in their gameplay style and less inclined to be online long enough to constantly bump into the same people. As folks move through the zones and end up in the higher leveled ones, or start new alts and are now stopping to smell the roses in the really low leveling zones of a race they haven’t seen yet, there’s more of a gap in the middle where perhaps, some are feeling things to be… more quiet where they are.

I hate to say it, but the bots are out in force also. That can no doubt make it feel lonelier when your only pals are a bunch of weirdly named guys known as ‘fdhasd’ ‘fadsh’ ‘fdddhst’ running around in a programmed circuit and you end up stopping and staring at them, trying to decide if there’s someone behind them or an AI, and becoming more and more certain by the time they repeat the seventh loop around the same area. The silver lining is it is quite a fun minigame to click on each one of them, right click their names and report. (Because I’m a big stickler for such things and they’re giving multi-boxing such a bad name, to the point where GW2 makes it against the rules *sighs* Oh well, I have other games that are okay with it, and it’s probably a dumb idea to try with such a movement/dodging focused game anyway.)

Then I need to point out one other thing. Proponents of the ‘forced’ group makes you ‘friends’ philosophy are evidently missing, or not playing parts of the Guild Wars 2 game where you do need groups. Or are strongly encouraged to have them.

Try soloing a dungeon, hey?

If you opt to do dungeons on a regular basis, I should think that one would eventually have repeated encounters with similar people with similar interests or the same goals (must have glow-in-the-dark greatsword…) and perhaps even become friendly with them. Or at least, end up finding a guild which feeds that need, and again, ending up with similarly dungeon-oriented people.

I see nothing wrong with leaving the leveling game as the most casual choice, enjoyable and peaceful even for soloers, with the option to play alongside, and even, if you’re feeling brave and want to use /say to say hi, playing -with- someone who responds back in kind.

Then let’s talk about WvW, where I suspect the slower leveling casual folk have lost most of the level 80s to, on the higher ranked servers, at least.

It’s been one of the best places for me to repeatedly see the same faces and get more familiar with them.

Heck, I even get to recognize ‘celebrities’ in a sense, or at least, people that are active in some way on forums, blogs, guild leaders and so on.

I have had the honor of standing beside Isarien (AoJ), guild leader of the above-mentioned Aegis of Janthir, who also posts quite a bit on the forums I read. This was a successful guardian defence on a door chokepoint – line of warding, ring of warding and so on – with no doubt, a ballista or two or more behind us cleaning up the grouped invaders.
Shortly after, the bulk of AoJ burst out for an orb run. Stonewallis, another AoJ contact point, can be seen, as well as other AoJ members. (And a Love and War (LAW) contact, Sara Blackbird.)

I even caught Eriena [TKG] from The Kelly Gang in a screenshot, aka Ausj3w3l of Healing The Masses. How utterly unlikely is it for bloggers to see each other in the wide expanse of an MMO?
I’m also getting shot by an arrow cart. Stupid arrow cart. I have 18k hp, I can take it! Not for long though. I dodged out, I did.
Kingler, my thiefy guildmate of the incredible 2 vs 5 I talked about in a prior post, is also visible.

Ropang [ND], guild leader from Never Die and his guild mates, building up to an orb rush. (I screen cap a lot of orb rushes, it’s one of the only times I can stand still long enough to hit printscreen.)
Guild tags were bugged out in this screenie. Tbox [ET], guild leader of Extreme Team, it was an extreme honor as I got my eyes opened to some incredible small team WvW tactics just listening to how he commanded over his Vent. Buzz Kapow [ET] is also another name I recognize from the forums. Interslayer [SP] and some of his guys from the Sock Puppets were also representing. On a completely conquered borderlands, they refused to give in or give up, and outsmarted Eredon Terrace and took a northern tower, Cragtop, holding out for a stunning 45 minutes against a much greater number. It actually distracted enough spawn campers that the IoJ pug zerg managed to break out and take the two nearby supply camps for a time.
I’ve seen many more people, Kylia Deprigen from Avatar Dynasty, Darkshaunz from Twelve, Flake, Thalantyr, Grishnakk and Yan Weng from The Kelly Gang, and lots more besides. Just no screenshots yet.

It’s got to the point where I, one of the most antisocial people I know, feel at least…positively inclined towards those names, rather than thinking that they are all strangers and unknown and scary. It’s barely been a month.

Trust and friendship may take a longer time or never (I would be that silent and clumsy Charr lunk in the corner – Finder Blazebane [uA] because I can’t type and fight at the same time, falling off cliffs and walls and doing stupid shit until I figure stuff out) but we are at least, for better or for worse, server mates (until someone transfers off.)

If you yourself don’t pay any attention to the names that you are seeing run all about and around you on your own server, well, whose fault is it?

ArenaNet’s? Must they implement a voice-over that reads out the names of those guys you encounter in your play for you to notice them?

Must they be in some kind of party UI in order for you to see them? And which game have you been playing that you’ve been focusing more on the UI than on the world?

If you don’t read forum boards or take the trouble to read the guild list of your own server or notice the preponderence of such and such guild tags around you, then how can you hope to be friends if you didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to begin with?

I don’t believe in artificial friends. I don’t need people fake smiling at me making nice because they reallly need me to tank or heal (“plz plz u’r so gooood.”)

Read between the lines. It says: “I want my loot. I need you to get me my loot.”

That’s not friendship.

That’s just making use of people.

I’ll take playing alongside each other, together, without words, with the people I see around me any day.

GW2: Fun Need Not Necessarily Come From Winning

No doubt in my last post, you could tell that I was trying to shake off a significant self-inflicted “demoralized” debuff.

Most of it prompted by possibly too optimistic expectations. Guild War 2’s WvW scoreboard is extremely easy to pull up, and crystal clear on how many points exactly are being accrued by each server, and how much of a lead each one has.

When you play with a goal to try and nudge your server to the top of that lead, there’s a fairly high level strategy that has to be thought about – on how to best take points away from the other servers, how to keep your points, and how, if at all possible, to do this with the force you have available to you and can bring to bear.

When you’re playing solo, the typical state of affairs of an MMO player, sans those already with a regular play partner or group of friends, this can make you feel exceedingly helpless to affect anything on the scoreboard. Mostly you can’t, unless you’re really lucky and patiently try to wear down a supply camp that is unwatched by anybody (and how likely is that?)

When you’re playing within an aimless, unorganized pug zerg (or militia, if you’re feeling kind,) there’s the distinct sense of every man for himself, morale is shaky, and everyone is liable to either stay locked in combat (or spawn camped) for hours or wipe themselves attempting to autoattack a door down while defenders indulge in a happy shower of arrows from carts. I apparently learn faster than some other folk, because the futility of such a tactic becomes too obvious to me, and I end up hiding behind a wall sighing, wondering what now, or breaking off and ending up alone again.

When you’re running with a guild zerg, things get better, but can become just as frustrating if the communication isn’t clear, or if the strategy is poor or ill-chosen, leading to multiple wipes or failed attempts or even counter-productively affecting the scoreboard.

I bet members of raiding guilds would recognize similar problems, I’ve just never really been into the whole raiding scene.

Solutions apparently range from working patiently with the entire guild, teaching and hoping practice makes things improve, dumping them and jumping ship somewhere else, instigating conflict and drama through violent disagreement and anti-social actions, giving up and accepting that one’s guild is simply out of that league, etc.

Of course, the typical suggestion to an individual to make the effort, read guides and strategies, work on oneself, become good, get into a good well-organized guild (that somehow matches your play times exactly), get voicecomms, get a mic, etc. etc. so that one can achieve one’s goals and all that.

I had the luck to listen in on a very decisive leader running a small team out in WvW (he was bringing in pugs because he needed the numbers) and was very impressed with the organization and the plans and strategies. Not all of them worked out, but there was always a goal placed on the table and folks were doing their best to keep newbies up to speed, out of trouble, rescue men down, and basically, it was exciting and purposeful. It was fun.

If only it wasn’t an NA guild 12 hours transposed from my timezone… So attempting to join that on a permanent basis is out of the question.

Then again, I’m not sure I have or want to make that sort of commitment either. I avoided raiding because I didn’t want to be locked into a weekly schedule, and it’ll seem more than a little daft to aim for trying to be a hardcore professional on a WvW squad when it may involve much deeper commitment than I’m willing to make.

So… am I screwed? Doomed to an eternity of horribly, depressing losing and getting thrashed by people with more numbers on their side, more timezone than thou or whatever else the whiners claim?

It took some deep thinking to work through this, but a revelation eventually hit me. All I really need to do is work on reframing my perspective.

It’s useless to be upset by the actions of other people or how circumstances turn out, especially if you did your part in trying to make things better.

If you didn’t, and were casting blame elsewhere, then um, time to take a harder look at yourself and figure out what you can do.

Since I can’t affect the scoreboard very much at all by myself, I need to be more focused on the moment and improving my own play in that moment. I win when I do better than the last time, based on my own gameplay. It’s far better than trying to hang my ego on a combined score that changes like the wind beyond my control.

With this perspective, I’ve been having a much better time in WvW.

I asked myself, in the worse possible situation, what can a soloer do in WvW?

Hit and run attacks on dolyaks – better if they were due at some place where supply was needed, but even if not, it is personal practice for how quick you can kill one and be out of there. (Because the organized guilds / zergs will come to check on it eventually.)

Or assassinate a lone reinforcing straggler or two, better if in a spot where reinforcements someplace were needed, but again, practice, and some people like ganking.

Some PvE dynamic events and if you’re really lucky, a supply camp that is unwatched by anybody (barely ever happens.)

I proceeded to amuse myself for a good hour or so in a Borderlands with the Outmanned buff. It mostly consisted of farming nearby PvE mobs (with magic find gear, lol!) while waiting for a dolyak to pop and ninja offing it in between the camp and sentry, and quickly teleporting back to waypoint if things looked too scary (like a horde coming to check on the camp.) Once or twice, I even met a friend and we flipped the supply camp momentarily.

Why not? I’m not blocking anyone from queuing with my random playing around, the outmanned buff said loud and clear no one wanted in, and it was kinda thrilling. Like PvEing on an open world PvP server, where you have to constantly stay on alert. And it was useful for curing my fear and sense of demoralization, sort of like taking some power and control back.

I even made plans to get a more suitable profession, likely thief or mesmer, to do such things more easily when I feel like it. But hey, my chunky Charr Guardian with humongous spikes on his shoulders and a -flaming- sword while fighting managed well enough – talk about the epitome of unstealthy.

Now what about group fighting? Well, it is possible to focus on playing better as an individual even within one.

Yes, the strategy sucks. Yes, we are all going to die in horrible ways. Yes, some (a lot of) people won’t listen and will do stupid things and go off and rambo somewhere. Yes, the score won’t move worth a damn in the direction you really want it to move, and will probably go the other way.

But well, if you’re committed in some fashion, let’s say as part of a group action, why not work on performing your best while you’re there?

This can involve listening to orders better, doing them as quickly as possible, fighting better, dodging better, controlling better, identifying squishier targets and focusing better, not running into enemy AoE better, using friendly AoE fields better, weaving in and out of combat better, trying not to die better, and perhaps even flanking and pushing better (it’s fascinating how effective flanking can be sometimes, people tend to panic when getting hit from an unexpected direction and give ground.)

And even when you’re giving ground, there’s always choosing the next spot to retreat to better. Even as an all out rout, it can be a sort of moral victory if you pull five guys away from their main objective just to freaking hunt you down. Who knows, one day, it could be those crucial few seconds for your team hold out elsewhere because the reinforcements didn’t get where they were supposed to in time because they practiced the habit of ‘chase blindly into everything, omgz0rs, so many krait!’

There’s experimenting with different weapons or skills and learning how to use them best, and playing around with builds and traits in one’s spare time, or steadily upgrading one’s gear.

And when I think like that, I feel happier that I’m getting more personal practice in, even if it has to end up with me faceup on the ground eventually with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.

Of course, it’ll be better once more folks get smarter, but that takes time and practice. And one can always begin with making oneself smarter through consistent play.

P.S. Karma count is now at 95k. If only that exotic armor karma vendor I’m eyeing wasn’t bugged this particular patch…