GW2: No Plan on Paper Survives Contact With Players

I’m sure you were waiting for some coverage on the Aspect Arena activity. I thought I was going to write a post about it too, to round up the last part of Cutthroat Politics.

But somehow, with the last “fix” to Candidate Trials completely invalidating much of the “control” portion of the trinity once again and making dps berserker gear king once more, a lot of the fun and joy of the update has evaporated for me.

I just can’t bring myself to play Aspect Arena again. The underlying thought is, “Ok, fine, achievements all done. Time to discard bothering with everything I don’t like.”

This is actually no fault of the minigame itself per se. On paper, I appreciate it a lot more than Southsun Survival. It’s a Kiel game, team-based, three different “classes” with synergies that are meant to interact together.

The main problem is, I can’t seem to find players who want to play the game for what it is.

I took one look at the achievements for Aspect Arena and went, oh, that’s nice, no “wins” required, a lot of this can easily be done just playing the game repeatedly. At most, the only thing artificial might be you waiting a little for some guy trying to get crystal carrier to pick up the crystal -before- you stop him by killing him dead for crystal breaker, but in a CTF game, you were going to stop him dead anyway.

Except my first few forays into the game revealed either a) collusion between teams to get achievements, or b) a whole lot of individual death-matching.

I didn’t really have issues with the first. It was bound to happen. And mostly it made them easier targets and my life easier. When the loud ones started announcing achievement swaps over chat, I said nothing and alternately took advantage of most of them being gathered at one place to avoid the dogpile and run crystals for my team almost completely unmolested, or I ambled over when I was bored and ruthlessly slew the opponent who happened to be carrying the crystal AND being so nice as to stand still.

It’s also really easy for the alliance to break down as it just takes a few players interested in playing the game for what it is to STOP a colluding crystal carrier, and people start feeling like they need to retaliate. Voila, folks starting to attack and play the game once more.

The second frustrates me a lot more. I get that way even in FPS games that are ostensibly meant to be team-based and I end up seeing practically everybody just dueling it out and racking up personal kill counts. I make it a point to guard the flag (crystal) carrier for my team, hassling anyone who comes near with the intent of shooting them, throwing up stability fields, etc. Then when I run the crystal, of course, there’s no one around. If I’m lucky, there’s no one from the opposing team either.

Whatever. I took an immediately liking to the Sun aspect, probably because nearly everyone went Wind in the first few days and I found Sun a good counter. It’s also very flexible and mid-range, where I like to be. Dump the first attack on autoattack, and no matter what range you’re at, you’re machine-gunning somebody’s health off – get in closer to fry more health off as needed. Throw up Bastion to counter the inevitable attempts at knockbacks.

I don’t claim to understand many more of the other skills. I could if I wanted to, but I personally find the whole concept of Aspect Arena a little too abstract and meaningless to master since it’s only hanging around for a week or two. Also, jumping. Geographic location. Aspect skills. All previously established that the three do not mix well. Which kills a lot of the fun attempting to go vertical with the other two aspects.

So I ended up just pounding the hell out of the number 5 Sun skill, still having latency issues with precise control of when it stopped, but just doing my best to arrange very long straight routes to the cap points and trying not to over-dash off any precarious ledges to my doom.

Won some, lost some. Par for the course for a team PvP game. Got the achievements. Can’t bring myself to play much more of it. I mean, it’s basically just Capture the Flag with unfamiliar skills that do not work extremely reliably well for me. With two flags, to boot.

Two flags just means the team is diverted and splintered up even more. Yes, it makes it easy for achievement-seeking crystal carriers. I got a number of carries just going to the crystal where no one was fighting over. But it’s just not very interesting. The skills are unfamiliar, and thus things that happen may feel a little arbitrary. I could play a much faster and smoother CTF game at any time by loading up TF2.

That’s all I really want to say about Aspect Arena. I like the idea on paper. In practice, it’s not the sum of its parts for whatever reason. Mostly players playing it in unintended ways.

Which segues us back into a rant about the Candidate Trials. We finally got a dev response about T4’s “new” aka originally intended difficulty.

Honestly, if this had worked as intended from the get-go, I might not be so annoyed. It’s the whole “changing the goal posts” thing that gets to me. I spent an hour with a guildie trying to duo T4 after the patch, and it was just fairly horrific that using the same strategy that worked before, now kept failing in spectacular ways. I made a few game attempts at T3 with various pickup groups and nothing really worked.

To be really truthful, I can’t really bring myself to care that much because I already have the so-called “achievement,” and have now learned the truth of the saying “Exploit early and exploit often.” Why should I care to be inclusive and help others when plainly both ArenaNet and other players don’t give a shit? I’ll just join them and solo and feel a little more dead inside.

I would actually like to do a T4 run “properly.” As in, a group, with damage/support and built for synergies. Like this guy did in the video he posted on the forums.

But because players are now tuned towards avoid all fucking aggro at all costs as a strategy, plus seeing berserker builds manage it solo, you can expect most PUGs to be in squishy berserk gear with very little condition clears doing their best to scatter and not engage any mobs but plunderers at all.

PUGs, when in a hole, will not stop digging. They’ll just keep doing what doesn’t work and getting the same result.

I don’t have the saliva to spend to convince ’em otherwise. Nor will it actually work because PUGs by definition are not generally very well coordinated, nor can you expect gear, traits and builds to be min-maxed AND synergized with each other.

Grouping is further complicated by the system these trials are using, which makes cross-server groups not easy to form. You have to guest over to the server the instance holder will be in, as far as I know. There are only so many guest passes to use in a day.

Whatever, I’m just feeling tired now.

Which echoes some of the sentiments across the blogosphere on the latest content and the surfeit of achievements that are time-limited and adding a relentless pressure to do things the one true shopping list way.

Those who can’t “cope” are finding this manifests in the form of disinterest and boredom and being turned off from the game. They’re not as attached or invested anymore because they simply can’t keep up with every last niggling detail or have missed an update with some part of the story.

I see a mirror in this with my current reaction to WvW right now.

Tarnished Coast was paired up with Jade Quarry (T1) and Fort Aspenwood last week. Jade Quarry was, no doubt, going to spank us, but for the sake of server pride and facing a challenge after so bloody long of walkover victories, I upped my game and my WvW play time to give a good showing. It was fun, if more than a little tiring during the SEA timezone.

But when faced with unrelenting pressure, casuals eventually ask, should I even be bothering? This is becoming too “serious business” and not very fun any longer.

Tarnished Coast this week is sandwiched between Blackgate and Sanctum of Rall. The only good news is that the other two servers would much rather fight each other. We just need to pick and choose appropriate times to stay out of the way, hold out heroically, be annoying nuisances and opportunistically help 2v1 the other server.

My reaction is mostly, OK, whatever. I can’t bring myself to care. (This week, anyway.)

I’ve been getting the sense that the WvW community is ratcheting up and getting more hardcore in preparation to take on the T1 servers, and I think one unintended consequence of this is that some of the inclusivity is lost.

Some guild commanders have been going tagless – it helps control the sturdiness of their zerg group by not attracting squishy pugs (oops, were we supposed to use the word militia? Not happening these days.)

There’s been frustration expressed at certain gear or builds, but not much done to help anyone besides sit around expecting that raiders ought to put in the effort to show up appropriately geared and with consumables to match. Did I say raiders? I meant WvW zerglings.

A lot of the map sentry network has gone silent. Many of the sentries don’t seem to be around any more. Or they’ve joined the zerg. Some perhaps have “graduated” to Mumble and voice comms and being active sentries, as there are no doubt map spies crawling all over the place in T1, which makes chat channels slightly tougher to rely on.

Some of the fun seems to be gone, replaced with elitism. I don’t actually find PvP fun in and of itself. My enjoyment tends to exist in running around in a group I can rely on and a commander that is both having fun, building morale and making beautiful tactical decisions I can admire. It’s hard to find such commanders when faced with overwhelming odds – not many can handle it, and I don’t think it’s healthy for those who can to pull 16 hour days in WvW either.

And for what? The score is unlikely to change. Increasing rating just means a better chance at more weeks of unrelenting pressure. I’m already having problems keeping up with PvE updates. There’s no way I can keep up with the hardcore expectations of the solely WvW crowd so I may as well just… bow out. Let ’em laugh and scorn. Whatever. In the end, if they fail to respect the casuals, they’ll be the ones fighting oh so heroically alone.

I can’t help but wonder if those not as into achievement attainment are also getting a touch of similar malaise PvE-wise.

Screw hard. Screw difficult content. I’m ready for some easy mode fun. Here’s hoping for the next update.