GW2: Fixing the Fractures

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?

GW2: How’s the Flavor of the Month?

It’s only been ten days.

That didn’t really sink in until I started re-checking the dates of the Lost Shore launch (Nov 16-18) and looking at the calendar now, it’s Nov 27.

Less than a fortnight since the FOTM (*ahem* Fractal of the Mists…) dungeon opened, with its unique take on trying to keep a dungeon instance fresh.

Some of it involves randomizing the dungeon instances faced, randomizing the paths within the instance, ramping up some of the mechanics in a later tier so that what worked before might not work as well as it gets harder, throwing in special Agony damage that has a specific resistance counter to be ground for and incremented slowly, and so on.

Mix in GW2’s non-holy trinity approach to combat and the downed/rez mechanic. Take out individual waypoint death rezzing and streaming back in. Toss in a little more coordination, teamwork and communication requirements, including some multiple player synchronizing stuff simultaneously mechanics.

How am I finding it?

Not too bad, actually.

I suspect I’m fairly middle of the road on my FOTM progress. Compared to the hardcore dungeon runners, I’m no doubt below average, since they’ve raced up to the 20s and 30s by now. Compared to the distinctly more casual crowd, I’m perhaps just slightly ahead.

Objectively, I’m currently at fractal level 13, having 64 fractals under my belt (so says the achievements bar.)

I assume it only counts completed ones, there were a couple abandoned ones. It does say something for the Guild Wars 2 PUG crowd that I can count the abandoned ones on one hand at the moment – there were only 4 or 5 teams that dissolved without success.

2 or 3 of those were no hard feelings ones. Either we tried and couldn’t manage the coordination (eg. Failing to coordinate Swampland in the early days knocked one or two members out, which led to a party dissolving) or someone crashed/disconnected and the group lost steam from there.

The last two were nightmare PUGs, which have made me a little leery of looking for fractals at a certain timeslot on my home server and when faced with members from a guild best left unnamed.

One of them started out quite promising, save for one party member who was distinctly squishy, but we were still getting by with multiple rezzing him until the Cliffside colossus’ final boss. Teams have lately been using the ‘kill seal at 75%’ glitch to get by, and pretty much when you’re in a PUG, there’s no choice but to go along.

On that particular occasion, the seal failed to take damage, leading us to attempt the slow way, but by then an incredible amount of chanters and fanatics and veterans had spawned while members were running around like headless chickens trying a strat that failed to work. No one had any agony resistance then, there was that always squishy member to keep picking up, and midway through, the cages decided to add insult to injury and bug out with unbreakable doors, leading to some very trapped and eventually pancaked team members.

To give us due credit, we did keep trying through umpteen deaths/rezzes/restart from checkpoints until we started becoming naked – I lost three pieces of armor, another member mentioned they’d lost two. That was the point I decided to call it, because it was becoming absurd. Fortunately, repairs were ‘only’ 11 silver or so. Not something I’d want to repeat often, or indeed, ever again, but I managed to afford it without flinching too much.

The other left an extremely bad taste in my mouth, and the less details the better, imo. Suffice to say, there was little to no communication or attempt at understanding each other, there was an underlying holy trinity expectation that my Guardian would ‘tank’ (with little to no support, mind you, and I’m not in the standard altruistic healing build, which I’d love to try some day but am hoping dual builds and equipment changes make it in to make switching back and forth more convenient first,) there were insults and blame thrown, overt insinuations of incompetency and threats to kick from party as a first line of communication (little hint: stuff like that causes anger and conflict more than cooperation and coordination, try mild questions and explanations next time) and the party essentially fragmented into two fairly frustrated sides that refused to rez each other promptly (or indeed, at all, later.)

Now that was one PUG that essentially proved the necessity of teamwork in Fractal of the Mists by providing a negative example. Each side attempted to demonstrate their strategy shorthanded, without the entire team on the same page, and failed quite naturally. I hightailed it out of there very quickly after the implosion, with two people on my block list, because there’s no way they and I are ever going to work together again without attempting to kill each other.

The only thing I’d say in my defence is that I didn’t start the quarrel first and did not immediately quit/abandon the team when the first accusation and threat to kick started flying, though it was -very- tempting.

Fortunately, that was the only truly bad PUG experience I’ve had, which is probably pretty amazing when compared against other MMOs – some of whom I hear are like a revolving door when it comes to PUG members hurling abuse and leaving teams.

Some days, I wonder what keeps me going on the Fractals…

At first, it was the newness and the novelty and the learning experience. During the first few days, I had an incredibly fun time hovering around levels fractal 1-3, learning and figuring out how to handle each new and different fractal with their little randomized twists and quirks in a group that was also generally new to it all. Some groups were information trades, where the one guy who’d done the fractal before would explain to the rest of us how to handle it, and then we’d swap roles when he hadn’t done it and we had. I also hopped back down a couple levels lower to run with and guide those newer to the whole affair.

Past level 5 or so, the speed at which one raced through the levels was quite stunning, as one starts meeting people who have already learned the general understood strategy (though interestingly, there are some differences across servers and various groups) and can execute efficiently.

Post 10+, there seems to be another learning curve as certain ramped up mechanics make things less forgiving and agony starts pressuring people with less perfect timing. I’m starting to feel the beginnings of differentiation between good builds and teamwork and the opposite.

Since this dungeon is in effect infinite, there are, no doubt, levels where they become not just helpful, but important, critical or essential.

I’m honestly not sure if I want to go -that- far into those levels if/when a cookie cutter build becomes required. I’ll probably still try to hit 20+, but with less urgency, and let it plateau from there. Then as I feel like it, go for the dailies and try my luck on the pink ring stuff while seeing if I ever get to the point of managing a pink back item.

FOTM has received some flack for its incredible segregation of players with its ridiculous number of levels. I have to agree that this is of some concern. Beyond the obvious absurdity of Lion’s Arch spam for fractal #, people have pointed out the problem of latecomers facing an uphill challenge to persuade enough people to help them progress (similar to how the mid-level zones are now considerably emptier and late levelers are probably never going to see an underwater group event boss fight successfully complete) as well as the possibility that players may eventually spread across fractal levels according to their competency level.

On that last point, I have to say, it’s a bit of a Catch-22, sort of like how the Glicko ratings for WvW are causing servers to face the same opponents week after week, potentially becoming ‘stagnant and boring.’

I think… that is the overall intent of the design. So it is kinda… working as intended. But with potentially undesirable consequences.

On one hand, it does rather make sense that the most hardcore of the hardcore and/or the regular guild mates who always play together at set times and happily supercharge their builds for peak synergy would enjoy playing together at rarefied levels of the same dungeon on crazy hard mode, rather than hobnobbing with the merely average or be driven crazy by those playing at a less serious level than they.

The average players will get by at whatever the middle of the road turns out to be. But it does leave the time-starved at the bottom of the level ladder to be plagued by a higher proportion of the inadvertently incompetent, with potentially a lot more horrible a PUG experience for all involved. Not that I’m blaming the less skilled here, as the bulk of people can eventually learn, given time, practice, patience, good guidance and so on. How many will stick it out though, I’m not sure.

Still, I can’t think of a great solution to this either. If you include enticements for the veterans to go play with the newbies once more, you also run the risk of having the ‘gogogogo’ impatient vet scream at the less experienced and making stuff equally unpleasant. It may just have to boil down to finding guilds, finding friends, and/or lucking into the benevolent individual who doesn’t mind running stuff at a lower level for fun and teaching others. After all, there -is- a daily chest for each tier.

And it may be that as folks start finding the level of difficulty that they’re comfortable with, they will pause there and keep running an even level for the daily (2, 8, 10, 20, 30?), which may help keep the demand and groups flowing… though those who need to increment through the levels are still SOL.

One thing that has me somewhat gratified. ArenaNet has obliquely acknowledged that having Ascended gear only released and obtainable through one activity is not the most desirable of scenarios. This hearkens back to City of Heroes where Incarnate stuff was -only- available through grouping with a horde of people for an extended period of time – screw you if you hate that activity. I complained rather bitterly about that, and I believe the same principle applies here, even if I don’t mind five-person PUGs the same way I do mind putting up with and being herded through 24-man chaos just for the reward. Please let the WvWers, the farmers, the soloists, the traders, the explorers or whatever playstyles all have ways to get Ascended items, thanks. (I leave out sPvP only because they are thankfully still unaffected by the hooha, thanks to their stat segregation.)

As for my take on the Ascended tier being the new max stat level? As of now, I’m still kinda neutral. I did like the old Guild Wars 1 max level max stat ease, but it is very much a different kind of game. Progression there was through missions, zones and hard mode content, as well as unlocking a huge amount of skills and unlocking/dressing up one’s heroes. Guild Wars 2 can’t provide that. (Not yet, anyway.)

And while I myself would have been fine working on leveling all eight professions, getting them kitted out in exotics and maaaybe getting to a legendary a year or two later, I have to admit that there’s a -large- proportion of players who like to stick with only one main, refuse to ever touch PvP, want to feel incremental numerical progress and have reachable goals to strive for. If they dismissed Legendary as impossible to get, and achieved Exotic too quickly, there’s naught for them to do but promptly quit. So Ascended is created as the tier for them, and we all have to live with that.

GW2: Lost Shores – Part 3

In all honesty, the thought did occur to me that I should maybe skip phase 3, phase 1 and 2 having sucked as much as it did.

If I had, no doubt I would have joined that group of really unhappy people over yonder.

But… in for a penny, in for a pound and all that. I want to experience it all. (Even if it’s just to complain bitterly later. Or ahem, provide -informed- feedback.) That’s just how I am.

Before phase 3 began though, I had some time to explore Southsun Cove at leisure, and I did. It was fairly enjoyable.

I killed a bunch of karka, working towards completing the monthly achievement. I picked passionfruit. Did a DE or two. Mined some ore, even orichalcum. Attempted the steam platform jumping puzzle for five minutes before deciding to do it much much later.

And overheard a group of people exploring the karka hive and oohing and aahing over the rich orichalcum node there at the top.


That sounds… intriguing.

I made my way over, and it turns out that this enterprising group of people had found a little hidden gap in the webbing blocking the entryway into the karka hive and were having lots of fun peeking at it. They’d wiped on a champion karka, and enough of them went back again for me to follow the group into the hive.

It was one of my most exciting Lost Shores experiences ever.

Why? The total number of players we had with us was only around 10-15. This is enough to have an adventure with, to have more than half get wiped by a karka barrel roll down the slope and still be picked up by the survivors, but not too many, so that we can actually see the karka and react to its animations, keep track of the other players with us, and fire our skills with no lag whatsoever.

We made it to the top of the incredible structure, went pick-happy on the rich orichalcum node there, joking about the orichalcum price dropping after this, then attempted the champion. Alas, we wiped too, thanks to a well-placed barrel roll that knocked out way too many of us, but it was a fun attempt.

Later, this sneak peek at the karka hive gave me a little foreknowledge at where phase 3 would likely end up, and a nearby waypoint to port to, rather than run around lost and confused.

It so happens I got in at 8 minutes after the noon hour (server time) for phase 3 of the one-off event.

To my surprise (after the previous debacle of phase 2, my expectations weren’t very high), the event had already kicked off. Not a problem. I was actually quite pleased they had apparently managed to get the event to start on time.

I waypointed to Southsun Cove, read the event text in the corner that said the Lionguard was advancing on the karka nesting ground to place explosives in the karka hive, and waypointed again to rush quickly to where I knew the hive was.

The hive assault was distinctly laggier with more people participating, and I couldn’t help but reflect back to my sneak peek experience and think how much more fun that was in a smaller group.

Still, it wasn’t too bad. Skills were firing with not that much lag time, we were able to move upwards through the hive at a good pace, following the lionguard explosive team (which thankfully did not bug out – after phase 1 and 2, I was almost expecting that to happen or something else to go wrong…)

There was even enough leisure time to get into casual groups with people (for better loot, or xp, or support, and what not) and invite in some lowbies who weren’t getting much xp by themselves. (Gogo guardian greatsword or staff farmers…)

The explosives were set. And then we went down the hive again, working on getting them exploded, with some hilarity – apparently the lionguard aren’t too concerned about friendly fire where bombs are involved.

The Ancient Karka came out. There was a brief period of disorientation as folks milled around a little lost, with nothing in their immediate vicinity but lots of veteran karka to shoot at. Being somewhat more situationally aware, I spotted the symbol on the map (what the hell was it doing all the way over THERE?) and made my way towards the Ancient Karka with others who were equally more alert.

We dropped a tree or two on it. Which was amusing. And a well-paced part of the event chain.

Then we fought the first set of karka reinforcements, which was anything but.

You may wish to note the timestamp. It’s half an hour into killing endless waves of karka. Reviving people. Focusing down a single karka to break its armor again and again, to the point of each veteran having, oh I dunno, three health bars? And then repeating -that- for the next veteran karka. And the next. And the next.

And oh, they’re back, with a group of young karka and hatchlings to burn down. Pity the first guys who went too far ahead and took point or aggro. My prior experience in dealing with young karka on Southsun Cove taught me I couldn’t tank a group of them rushing at me – at least, not without a well placed wall of reflection to reflect their ranged spikes back into them. In that kind of crowded lag, you’d go down before you even register that a bunch of karka had rushed you.

I made a point of being the oh, sixth guy there, or something. Near enough to staff attack them down, not at all in the vanguard to be bumrushed down. Then revive the sacrificial meatshields who -were- downed.

Now we rinse and repeat to focus down the big ones x 3 health bars.

Somewhere along the way, I think people started getting bored and losing focus. Some backed off to AFK for a bit. No doubt plenty of people like me gave up using skills and just went to autoattack as the combat dragged on and on and things got laggier and laggier. Those that had died, rather than just merely downed, just lay there and waited for a revive, rather than waypoint rush back. The progress bar crept upward steadily, but at a snail’s pace…

…then the champion karka popped and wiped out pretty much everybody.

Except a few of the more alert players who managed to retreat to the bridge to hold it off, a la Gandalf or the 300.

On the whole, it was okay. A bit long, but a decent enough fight, and one phase of it would have been sufficient and gone a long way.

Eventually, we finished this and chased the Ancient Karka back some more, to the steam vents. This was pretty creative and well-paced too.

I appreciated the inclusion of the in-game hints, so that you could figure out what to do by reading, and carry boulders over to the vents and thus solve the DE.

The Ancient Karka broke and ran…

And everyone had an “Oh shit” moment as we realized there was a second phase of karka reinforcements and yet another bar that would only ever creep its way slowly up again.

This was the worse part of the entire event chain for me. Probably for a good many others too. I’m not sure if it’s because all of us were online for too long, or that particular location with all the steam vent massive wall effect consuming either graphical or CPU resources, but the lag that hit me here was phenomenally incredible.

It took a good FIVE seconds (I counted, there was nothing else to do) for a single skill of mine to trigger. Yeah, my autoattack… wasn’t. It just sat there blinking and only five seconds later, it would fire one little ball of light. Wait another five seconds… then the next.

On the other hand, I’d have to grant Anet the massive feat of engineering that I never once did -crash- out of the game. I just sat there…stalled… for what seemed like an eternity,trying to fight a bunch of armored out the ass karka.

Eventually, reeling around trying to move and rubberbanding relentlessly in place as the server kept telling my client that I was still HERE while my client was trying to tell it that I had moved in several directions at once, I managed to stumble to the edge of the fracas, where I saw some people had found mortar emplacements to help in fighting off the karka waves.

The idea was sound in theory.

In practice, as I found out after grabbing a mortar from someone who had given up with them, a five second delay on your skills means it is fairly impossible to turn and adjust the mortar accurately, or place your shots accurately either as you cannot really tell how long you’ve held the button for.

Still, because the alternative was watching my scepter shoot dinky balls of light five seconds apart, and I’d already done that to death in the first reinforcement stage, I decided to hog one of the mortars anyway because it was a fun change. Something novel.

(There was one more unused mortar next to me, so it wasn’t as if someone with better framerates or response time wanted a mortar anyway.)

And I’d occasionally manage a lucky hit by sheer guesswork and the feel of things, which was fun.

45 minutes of this unending hell later, the expected champion karka popped up to signal the end of this stage.

I think the guy in the screenshot echoed all our feelings when he yelled, “JUST DIE!!!”

A surfeit of refreshed health bars later, it eventually did.

More maneuvering of the Ancient Karka with explosive gas later, which I’d note, only took 10 minutes as compared to the previous stage and was perfectly tolerable and interesting…

…it finally retreated to its hive, where we exploded more stuff on it and finally cornered it and took it down.

Two and a half hours later from event start at noon server time, we were finally staring at the dead ancient karka in the “one-time ever” cutscene.

Now, I’d be the first to admit that I am rather tickled and pleased at the reflection of the ‘lasting consequence’ of this chain right into the scenery of Southsun Cove.

Even now, in Southsun Cove proper, the dead ancient karka still peeks out of that lava crater.

Looking at it, reminds me of Event B in Syl’s little cartoon depiction of how someone can later come across the crater and wonder at how and what created that impact.

But then I think about the guys who were putting aside real life to suffer through Event A, bug-ridden and tedious as it was…

…Add to that my suspicion that more people would really prefer to enjoy a good and fun Event A, rather than stare at Event B and wonder or worse -know- what they missed out on (hi, precursor envy!)…

And I have to ask, are these one-off events really worth it?

My criticism would be that the Lost Shores pace and schedule was too hectic and badly timed. Three days, ending on a frickin’ Monday for some parts of the world.

If stuff breaks, and we know that GW2’s DE system isn’t foolproof (we’ve had skill challenges breaking since beta,) that’s a really short time for Anet to scramble, fix and respond. It’s also an insanely short interval for players to attempt it in. Less players get to see and appreciate it.

My memory of phase 1 and 2 has been mollified somewhat by opening the chest at the end, getting a 20 slot bag and two named exotics out of it. Not precursors, but one of them is a nifty greatsword named Ebonblade, which sounds cool, was worth 4 gold when I last checked, and who knows, maybe they’ll make it a precusor when they have time to make more legendaries? Probably not, but I think my future warrior alt should be quite happy to make use of it down the road.

I’m sure, however, there is a big contingent of people who missed out on this chest at the end who are not at all happy.

What puzzles me is why ArenaNet can’t make “one-off events” that last for several weeks to a month, with event or dungeon instances that help tell the story at a more immersive pace. Once the entire event is over, they are also one-off, in that they’ll never repeat again, right?

After all, with all the overflow servers creating various “zone instances,” it’s not as if defeating the Ancient Karka was really a one time ever event either. There were multiple Ancient Karkas for different folks on different overflow servers. I hear some enterprising fellows even managed to use the partying/guest invite system to defeat multiple Ancient Karkas on alts and get more stuff out of that very nice chest.

So why not limit the group sizes even further to something a little more sane?

Such as that experienced in the Mad King’s Clock Tower, about oh, 15-20 people?

Or go back to dungeon sizes and have it for 1-5 people… I am loving Fractal of the Mists, by the by, and I’ll cover that in a later post.

If we really must, then oh, cap it at 30-50 players a zone or something.

Phase 2 already was showing random staggered timings per overflow instance. On purpose or by accident, I don’t know. But if you’re going to do that, then fer heavens’ sake, stagger it to 3 hour intervals and let folks from all timezones participate, just as in Guild Wars 1.

Lock out the reward if you want, and have it only a one-time claimable reward.

I truly see no functional difference between a limited time event and these so-called “one-off” events except the former is fairer for more parties, and the latter a whole lot more exclusionary for no real meaningful reason.

Story is no excuse. I helped Kormir do you-know-what in Guild Wars 1 after defeating Abaddon. It was a ONE-TIME per character event (unless you joined another player’s party to help them.) It was just staggered off from other peoples’ experiences, and I think that’s perfectly okay and a lot more respectful of everyone’s time.

Trying to make all people at all times in the world share that one singular event?

Guarantees that they will share a laggy crowded un-immersive bugfest.

(If they didn’t miss out entirely, that is.)

GW2: Lost Shores – Part 2

It’s a good thing I waited until I’ve gained some perspective before writing this recap. (Not to mention, some shiny exotics after phase 3.)

Had I gone with my initial urge to make a post just after phase 2 “one-off event” completed, it would be full of the most vulgar expletives and cursewords ever to plague this blog. Every other word would probably be the f-bomb, and your eyes would likely sear after reading it. What happened, you asked?

Well, it started out promising.

I got to Lion’s Arch. An overflow, anyway. (Take note, this will be important later.)

No one knew where to go. There was discussions in map chat. Nothing over Twitter as yet.

Being the inveterate explorer that I am, I took the initiative to revisit the old locale of phase 1 to see if anything changed. That, after all, is what Guild Wars 2 prides itself on, that stuff can keep changing in their world.

Sure enough, I halted in my tracks and blinked. Was this trebuchet here before? I don’t think so…

No one else was around the area in my overflow at the time, so I am quite happy to say I was probably the first guy to find it on that particular server. (It’s the little things that make us explorers happy, y’know.)

I was chatting up the NPCs, getting more and more sure I was on to something here, as the event state finally switched at around 12.06pm server time and reported the Lionguard and their alchemical weapon thing.


Three minutes later, more people started noticing the treb and it was reported in map chat. (I was admiring the workers going for their beer break at the time, hoping something would start.)

Which led to a vast crowd of people around the treb, climbing on the treb, jumping around, all manner of spell effects as we waited, and waited, and Waited, and WAITED and WAITED some more, in perfect befuddlement as the workers cycled between banging on the treb and having so much beer that their bladders ought to have burst.

At 12.27pm, nearly half an hour later than the event was scheduled to start, the trebuchet FINALLY completed itself on our overflow server.

Cue more perplexed stares as absolutely nothing happened for another three minutes.

When the only thing that happened (aside from a bored someone growing a pine tree on the treb) was a tiny event state change (blink and you’ll miss it) that said the Lionguard had moved on from their alchemical weapon thing and were now launching an assault on the karka colony.


One minute after that, the “coat your weapons with solvent” event finally began…. wherein I made the largest mistake of my virtual GW2 life.

While wading through the combat lagfest that had just hit, the ubiquitous overflow queue thing popped, where it asked if I wanted to travel back to my home server. I didn’t think, just went with the vague feeling that hey, this might be more fun if I did it with my home community with recognizable folks, and hit the “Travel” to get to Lion’s Arch back home.

Wherein I popped up in utterly quiet surroundings, no event around me, and a mail in my inbox pointing me to Southsun Cove.

What the-?

Oh shit, all the servers are on different timers… I should not have done that! I missed that part of the one-off event!

Apparently, as I gathered in mapchat later, the event for them popped for only a couple minutes, they got to the big boss, which bugged out, and then shoved them the mail that shoved us all to Southsun Cove.

And if you bothered to read my guildchat, apparently for some of my other guildies, the workers on their overflow server were still enjoying their beer, half an hour later into the event.

Immensely pissed off at this point at ArenaNet, myself, the world in general, I decided to close my eyes and pretend that the trebuchet fired their alchemical weapon, we coated our weapons in the solvent and killed all the karka in Lion’s Arch, purely in my imagination (which probably was better than the real thing) and board the ship to Southsun Cove – because no doubt, MORE one-off events would be firing there that I didn’t want to miss either.

The Southsun Cove fights went a little better. We ran with Inspector Ellen Kiel through several DEs, capturing control points and what not. I think there were a little less people around than in the Lion’s Arch fights, so all our framerates were better.

Being able to hit the big karka for real damage (my weapon is coated, really, just PRETEND with me here, okay?) was quite a refreshing change. I admired the armor knocking off thing that Anet was so proud of before. I vaguely reflected it would probably look better to me if my graphic settings could go up any higher, but y’know, crowds and all that. Still, it was pretty cool.

There was a sinister growing speck of unease that this effectively gave the big karka multiple very big health bars and locked us all in place attacking and attacking for quite a long time, but for now, it was all still rather new and exciting.

We set up outposts, built roads, smashed through trees for a little bit, running in a big zerg that was vaguely reminiscent of launch day crowds.

Then we hit the fork in the path.

I honestly don’t know how many people realized how “momentous” this was. I spotted it for what it was, a way to separate people and get them following different DEs, dividing the crowd, and also making sure that each experienced a slightly different story.

Except, I’m really not sure how appropriate this is for one-off events. I really don’t like missing out on anything. Call me entitled, but that’s just how my feelings roll.

Eventually, with a heavy heart, as I watched the majority of the zerg, 98% of them, race off after Inspector Ellen Kiel on her bulldozing road steamroll of justice, I decided I would rather see the path not taken, and followed the Asura to find the mysterious lost expedition’s camp.

We (and there were only 5-7 of us at this point) fought more karka and escorted the advisors to the lost camp. The reduction in player numbers did make the events more enjoyable and playable, not to mention a little less auto-attacky, we actually used other skills.

We took over the abandoned camp and set up the outpost or whatever…

It eventually segued into a retrieve consortium crates DE which I was beginning to suspect would run on even after the one-off event. That left me feeling a bit empty, like maybe I might have just missed out on whatever Inspector Ellen Kiel was doing, god knows where.

I did however enjoy being possibly one of the first to spot a splendid chest on top of the lost camp’s roof, and made my jumpy way up to get it and a jumping puzzle achievement.


In retrospect, examining the screenshot, it is ironic that Ellen Kiel’s chain also completed around the same time and I got a bronze medal for it. I don’t know what happened with her, and never shall, unless I check out a youtube video.

Feeling a little sad, and lost and empty, which are very strange feelings for a new zone with new content just being opened… I stared at the rest of the island on my map, unsure of where to go next, whether there was any other one-off dynamic events that I was probably missing out on…

Sighed, and gave up.

The island would be here for good. I could take more time later to explore it at leisure. Running about lost and aimless trying in vain to catch another one-off event or another, while being uncertain whether this one DE would be here all the time or which other DE was a one-off…

…it was just too depressing to fathom.

So I logged off, feeling oddly disappointed and feeling like I missed out on very crucial bits of the story.

My entire misadventure with phase 2 gives me a lot more sympathy for those who couldn’t attend the event, could only attend bits of it due to real life, who may have inadvertently crashed or disconnected, who had bad luck and ran into event-stopping bugs, and basically everyone who might have missed out on a specially advertised  “one-off event.”

It doesn’t feel very inclusive or community-building at all.

And if the attitude of those who did catch it is “lol, too bad, I saw it, you didn’t, and that makes it all the sweeter and more special,” I’m not sure that kind of elitist schadenfreude is the kind of attitude we want to be encouraging with Guild Wars 2 either.

GW2: Lost Shores From Yet One More Perspective – Part 1

As mentioned, I’m crazy enough to attend these events when I can, simply because I HATE the thought of missing out, even if they ARE scheduled at 4am local time for me.

It so happens that I was able to arrange my real life schedule to accommodate being up at 4am on MONDAY morning -this- time around, but I admit to this sense of impending dread that I won’t be able to manage it for all subsequent Mondays where ArenaNet has the “bright” idea of scheduling their goddamn one-off events at such an hour.

I really HATE the thought of missing out. And yet, fear of missing out becomes an obligation, rather than fun. So fer heavens sake, ArenaNet, these one-off events are NOT FUN to me.

So I have thusly conveyed in the survey they have just sent out to ask their players.

What was the whole experience like for me?

Let’s begin.

Phase 1:

It started with some promise as eagerness and anticipation overtook everybody.

Attracted by Blingg’s incessant voice-overs (normally I don’t stay in LA long enough to be annoyed,) I was running about checking the new Consortium location and admiring the soon-to-be Fractal portal and talking with the NPCs and screenshotting everything as I suspected these might change once the event was over.

As you can see, at this point, I was still open to the idea of a one-off event for the whole ‘impact’ after, permanent-consequence sort of thing as I was running around trying to capture memories of the “before” event state.

Some person kindly announced in map chat that ArenaNet had just twittered a hint to hang around the lighthouse.

Being the explorer I am, I knew where the LA lighthouse was and made an immediate beeline towards it, while groping for my iPad to check out the Guild Wars 2 Twitter feed for myself (couldn’t find it, settled for grabbing my phone.) Sure enough, that report was a real one, so I joined the couple of others who had made it to the lighthouse at this point.

Meanwhile in map chat, you had the expected “where is the lighthouse?” questions and some griping about ArenaNet and their propensity for using social media to convey this sort of information.

I’m kinda neutral about this. I see their points, and they are valid ones, but Twitter, Facebook or Reddit is a convenient fast way to make announcements too, if the forums can’t cope for whatever mysterious reason. And I’m obviously a hardcore enough player to be able to check them as needed.

The lost ones who needed guidance to find the lighthouse, I feel a little bit more for, but you gotta admit, this sort of “I know and you don’t” makes a certain subset of Explorer types very happy/smug, and too few MMOs these days allow for these guys to have their day in the sun.

Eventually the news, linked waypoints, map directions and so on filtered down to the rest and we were soon joined by a throng of people.

Halp! Can’t breathe….

I eventually found a seat with a much better vantage point. Pretty much lucked into it by accidentally falling off the edge of the throng *ahem*

There was plenty of time to do this, as we waited… and waited… and waited some more for the appointed hour to arrive…

…and were finally treated to a presentable cutscene of the Ancient Karka’s arrival.

Keen eyed observers (or those who don’t mind risking bleeding from your eye sockets) may note that my graphics level has been cranked down to the lowest setting of shitty as I harbor no illusions about my 32-bit Windows GW2 client not crashing out of memory during such crowded events otherwise.

Even so, as the Dynamic Event began and the hordes of veteran karka and young karka and hatchlings began spawning at all the orange fist areas, amidst the throngs of people in varied armors, lag hit. Quite badly.

My framerate went down to about 6.

Which was about 4 better than what some reported, 1-2 FPS.

Skills took a couple seconds to fire off, around 1-3 seconds (this would be still better than what hit during one part of phase 3, which we will get to later.)

And I was sure the karka no doubt looked quite impressive, if only I could see them.

Thank you, invisible culling.

Fortunately, I am clever enough to equip a staff on my guardian for such events. The wide cone means I can just keep spamming 1 and point in the general direction and probably hit something even without actually SEEing it.

Here I am surrounded by young karka corpses, which I can see, and a veteran young karka whom I actually can’t, but at least there’s an arrow and a nameplate, so what the hell, point and spam.

Sheer fear and self-preservation in the face of an enemy that didn’t render got me retreating to the edge of the battle for safety and fighting the miniature-sized ones at first, which worked out for the best, as I lucked into popping two karka samples quite early on.

I scrambled my way through chaos, trying to head for the sample collector NPC icon, stopping to hit one of the veteran karka egg layers which finally appeared on screen for me.

Long enough to register pretty much zero damage, and a check on his buff yielded an “armored” buff which said it was apparently immune to damage. The sheer weight of players and conditions and what-not eventually nickle and dimed this one to death… at which point, another popped up in its place.

Being fairly immune to the Look-Straight-And-Shoot-Everything-In-Front-Of-You syndrome that plagues most players (be it in DEs or WvW), that was the point I said “screw it, I’m booking it out of here” and backed off to get my samples to the NPC.

Whom I couldn’t see either.

But I assume he is there from that helpful icon. In between trying to talk to him and actually, I dunno, READ some of the story, some young karka decided to get extra-friendly with me. From the icons, I think I got face hugged, leg chomped and god knows what else.

If I weren’t on my guardian with heals and heavy armor and toughness and some vitality out the wazoo, I do not even want to begin imagining how many more times I would have gotten downed.

A lot more chaotic fighting later, the collect karka samples DE was completed, through very little effort on my part.


I managed to get the 2 samples I popped early on in, and one more later, that was about it. It had turned mostly into a fight for keeping myself alive, rather than attacking anything on purpose.

Alas, after that, we were supposed to get rid of all the karka plaguing Lion’s Arch. Armored immune-to-everything egg layers and what not. Urgh?

Cue more banging away at seemingly invincible health bars. One take away from this that I hope all designers will pick up, it’s not really fun for players to just keep repeating the same actions with decimal point progress at best, it just becomes boring and tedious (see karka reinforcement stages in phase 3 later too.)

Eventually, after a few more of these so-attractively-big-but-cheating karka, a greater number of immensely bored players decided to shift focus and just clean out the young ones which we could hit. Which was probably the designed intent to begin with, but you know, the more people and chaos you add to a situation, the harder it is to form any kinda of plan, tactic or strategy besides hit the first thing in front of you, preferably the biggest most obvious ones. Cat herding and all that.

Suddenly, while we were still a third of the way through on the progress bar, three mails popped up.


Because I am immensely curious, and can multi-task, and hell, it’s not like I’m actually making much progress or a significant dent on these crabs anyway, let’s let the 23094714 other people do it, I engaged in social loafing and took time out in combat to skim read the mails.

Spoiler: The lighthouse bites it.

Also, I was somewhat tickled, amused and pleased that ArenaNet took the previous feedback about being able to donate construction materials to the lion fountain which was lost on Halloween and applied it to the lighthouse.

Which was still conveniently there on my overflow server, so I took advantage of the foreknowledge to catch one or two last shots of it.

Though to be honest, it’s not much of a lighthouse at these graphic settings. But there was no way I could adjust it up any higher while in the middle of such crowded combat.

Shittons more karka later (are you tired yet? I’m getting exhausted simply recounting this to you,) we finally completed the event, and were treated to the expected cutscene of the Ancient Karka taking out the lighthouse.

Thus blissfully ended the lag-ridden somewhat buggy (mail mid combat, really?) chaos that was the phase 1 one-off karka event.

Subsequently, as the servers (or my computer anyway) stopped choking on the immense amount of people in one place, I eagerly rushed the marked NPCs to talk to them and see what had changed after the event.

Again, I was full of anticipation and hope. The one-off event didn’t really do much for me, but ok, all that lag and stuff was understandable, a bit buggy but we did see the story progress some… now that we were back to something that can be done at leisure during a time convenient to you, surely things would be much better, more sedately paced and more immersive.

Discovering the scavenger hunt was quite fun and thrilling. Most achiever players were still milling around the lighthouse, or looking for a reward chest, or complaining bitterly about lag and you could tell only a small subset of curious explorers were chatting up the NPCs and getting led to the wreckage along the Lion’s Arch beach to continue the plot.

Some clue hunting later, a little Googling of certain named areas as my map isn’t world complete yet, I was having quite a bit of fun racing around my as yet fully unexplored Caledon Forest trying to look for the relevant parties.

Alas, all that delay in finding the next guy led to this scene by the time I got there.

Not only is the amount of people offputting and unimmersive, I got there barely in time to catch the end of his little event with very little knowledge of what happened before that. It was quite impossible to chat and try start the event again for the story as everyone and his mother were also trying to do the same thing, and all it takes is one guy who doesn’t care to read the quest text to beat you to it.

I eventually gave up after a few more beat-em-up scenarios and went on to the next clue in the chain, thinking to maybe come back later when it was less crowded for the story. I suppose I should consider myself lucky, as I hear this NPC may have also broke some time later.

It was at Garenhoff where our luck ran out. Canach was broken, and broken good.

Some aimless running about later, I decided to check out the other bit of the story that involved Zommoros. I was quite pleased where I saw that the mails included the “show me” option, so that there was at least some in-game direction as to the location to head in, as compared to either knowing it straight off or having to resort to Google.

I was LESS than pleased where I got to Pastkeeper Saballa to find her foot stuck on one corner of an underwater cage, the escort event stalled and bugged out beyond all reckoning. Nor was the lagos responding by the time I swum up to him and his chest didn’t trigger at all.

Pissed off by the bugs, and no doubt, the hour I was attempting it at (hello, 5.30am), I didn’t bother to check on the hylek alchemist and logged off to snatch some sleep.

In all honesty, I think I would have stressed out less had I known there was more time to attempt this chain in. Knowing that phase 2 began less than 24 hours later, there was a very short window in which to experience the continuation of the story.

Seriously, ArenaNet, just how unreasonably hardcore do you expect your players to be?

And then to find it bugged, was even more infuriating.

I was quite confident that Anet would eventually get the bugs fixed. And if it were a week long scavenger hunt thing, no worries, plenty of time. But this was hurryhurryhurry all the way and keep watching Twitter to see if and when fixes were made. Not very fun.

Which was a shame, because I do rather like these scavenger hunts. Mad Memoires was very nice.

Eventually, 12 hours later, I logged back on at 5pm local time to get all three NPCs done, they were functional by that time. It took a while longer for Canach, but somehow, I lucked into him being responsive at about 7pm.

That’s wee morning hours for the North Americans, so I dunno how many managed to get them done in that short interval before phase 2.

No doubt, the story must have been quite intriguing, but to be honest, I barely remember it now. I’ll have to read the screenshots I took. All I remember is the bugs and the sense of needing to crank it out and complete each DE before the impending time limit, preferably before it breaks AGAIN.

Later I would breathe a sigh of relief that I got it done, before the miscommunication of when and whether you could continue with the chain while the event was in phase 2 or later. I honestly don’t know if the chain still worked later on. Lots of complaints on Reddit said it didn’t. I dunno. I stopped caring about it.