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.

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10 thoughts on “GW2: No Plan on Paper Survives Contact With Players

  1. BobTurkey says:

    Before I start, great posts. I read every one with interest, but…

    I had to LOL at “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. ”

    TC has the awesome position of rarely fighting higher tier servers. From what i;ve seen so far TC seem to have been in the ideal place to take advantage of the new rotation system.

    Should try being the T10 server fighting TC and some other server tiered above you.

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

    Don’t worry TC will be able to cruise vs a pair of lower tier servers again next week….

    I don’t mean this as just QQ, just trying to say the place you are at is the one the severs lower in rating run into a lot more and with a lot less hardcore players than TC does.

    Gobble gobble.

    • Jeromai says:

      Shrug. The irony is that I haven’t much interest in steamrolling either. It could be that I’m just burning out with WvW and need a week’s break or two to recover.

      It could be social loafing at work too, TC is so crowded there have been queues for weeks at NA time and on some maps at SEA time. If I have to queue, plainly I’m not going to be missed and can have some quiet PvE time instead. The presence of solo candidate trials is also a competitive attractant. WvW is forever, Candidate Trials will go in a week. Must grind moar. In peace and quiet instead of having to group.

  2. j3w3l says:

    Awwwwww, don’t you get all sad now you’re our one bastion of positivity left.

    also I’ll give a wave if I see you on the battlefield.. are you still that spikey charr

    • Jeromai says:

      No, spikey charr is better off PvEing. He is too squishy. Especially now that I’ve been having him in primarily magic find or berserker’s.

      I would be obnoxious asura when zerging, but I’m not sure I will show this week. I can feel personal burnout symptoms quite well and I’m very careful not to push it and make whatever activity I used to enjoy a chore. I’m sure there will be many other weeks we’ll face off again and we can tussle then. (It’ll mostly consist of you chasing me down as I try to run back to the zerg. Tanky support guardian scores no kills, that sort of thing.)

  3. bhagpuss says:

    Great post. Did you read the Bobby Stein interview yet? So many subtexts in there that point to why we’re all either burning out or drifting away. Joao really should start a blog of his own. He’s the last positivist standing.

    WvW is an interesting anomaly, though. Before the ranking revamp Yak’s Bend had suffered week after week of asynchronous grinding as a series of oceanic timezone servers took everything night after night. Attendance was down to a hardcore and a big zerg for us was probably 30 people. On a good day.

    Post-change we had half a dozen thrilling, close matches in a row. Sometimes the order of all three servers was still in doubt up to a few hours before reset. Apparently there were some internal politics among the main WvW guilds (I deliberately don’t visit the YB forums or join Mumble just so as to avoid that stuff but rumor leaks out). Whatever went on, I noticed some new policies and attitudes and a few Commanders that I particularly like seemed to come back to the fore.

    Through their efforts and the improved situation on the ground we picked up a lot more WvW players, our zergs grew to a more impressive size and, as a server, we actually began to play better. I saw some tactics come into regular use that commanders have been trying to get going for as long as I’ve been playing, without much success until now. Where our zergs used to fracture and run when they ran into bigger zergs, now they harden and fight and often win.

    WvW has been the saving grace during this unsettled, unsatisfying period, at least until the last two weeks. Last week was ok, but Sea of Sorrows and Maguuma together is just too much and I think a lot of Yaks are taking a WvW break this week. The new system means we can hope for better next week, though.

    • Jeromai says:

      Not until now. Thanks for pointing me that way. Yep, it explains a lot. Sounds like writing/story and gameplay were going their own separate silo ways until they started talking and discussing a little more.

      I’m glad to hear that they’re going to be making more heavy use of cinematics for exposition, I personally think that’s the best way and ties back into GW1 a little more. A good cinematic conversation like the Dead End bar is not bad too. I’m a little worried about them trying to drip feed story into regular gameplay though – players tend to tune them out after a while. A mix is good, I suppose.

    • João Carlos says:

      “Joao really should start a blog of his own. He’s the last positivist standing.”

      No. To blog gives too much work. I am a lazy person. Best way to use my time is gaming.

      With relation to the “positivist standing”. I am playing MMO since EQ. I played FFXI, Ryzom, SWG, Vanguard, EQII, LOTRO, ATitD, EVE, Darkfall, Warhammer, Rift, SWTOR and a lot of other MMO. Some I played some weeks, others I played almost one year. I played sandbox and themepark, I played pvp and carebear (you noted that currently no one uses that word?), I played raids and crafting, I played corpse runs and death with no penalty.

      After playing and testing so many games, I have some conclusions:
      1. no MMO will be perfect;
      2. the best they can create is a MMO that to pay attention to multiple things that diferent players want;
      3. devs will try make the MMO better with the time;
      4. you need give time to devs, nothing will be done asap, developing demand months and years;
      5. devs can just go the wrong path;
      6. following what the voiced minority wants is the fast way to get to the wrong path;
      7. MMO NEED make money, at least enough for pay the devs and mantain the servers.

      I am from TC. Just take note that yesterday, monday night, all WvW maps had a queue. My guess is that “sandwiching” TC between Blackgate and Sanctum of Rall worked for make the WvW more fun for players from TC. Any rant you can have about the zerg wars and sandwinching TC with two better PvP servers, it is no real concern: players from TC are having more fun, because I see no other reason for the WvW maps have long queues in a monday night. And that is the important thing, the majority of players are having fun in TC with the WvW this week.

      With relation to zerg, sorry to say it, any RvR will ever end being a zerg wars. It is part of human nature, we are social apes. It is not wise to fight against our human nature, you ever lose.

      With relation to the future of MMO, I have some guesses.

      WoW is dying by a slow bleed of subscriptions. More MMO being launched (here and in the chinese market) will accelerate the bleed. Sooner or later WoW will go to F2P (I bet it will happens before the end of 2014). That will be the end of the subscription model, MMO will be F2P or B2P.

      MMO genre is at crossroad now. WoW worked very well in 2005, it was a huge success, but that model is dead now. Themepark need move to more nuanced systems. Dynamic Events can be a solution, at least they are better than the old quest system. I too think they need kill the holy trinity, it is a limiting factor for class variation. The best solution for the solo/grouping problem is not force grouping, but make grouping a permantent and not visible feature (look what GW2 made…).

      Be warned that WildStar have Dynamic Events and it will have a “living story” (updates each 2 weeks?). While they not try kill the holly trinity, WildStar too will have a path system for attend a variety of players “archetypes”, something that GW2 does without a path system. WildStar will be more similar to GW2 than you like to think.

      Full loot PvP MMO will continue to be super niche, sorry, we never will return to the “golden age” of UO. Sheeps (note I don’t use “carebear”, that ever was a word with offensive intent) have a lot of diferent MMO for play, so they have no reason to stay in a full loot pvp MMO where they are preyed by the wolves. Anyone pointing EVE, let me note that EVE average player have 2.5 susbscriptions, so the 400 k subscription is really 160 k players and I sure a lot of that players never go out systems bellow 8.0.

      I don’t think that sandbox is the solution. Take note I played SWG and ATitD and Darkfall, so I have some grasp about how sandbox work. While a themepark have a limitation with relation the content created by devs (devs cannot cerate content fast enough), sandbox have two limitations with relation to content created by players:
      1. the tool the devs give to players: if they give only sand and buckets, players will create sandcastles only;
      2. humans beings are really not creative: we are monkey that imitate other creative human beings that for accident are born.

      That we are not creative is easy to see when you look the forge system from STO and Neverwinter: players ever create the same kind of content. So, the forge system is not the salvation.

      With relation to the tools devs give us, EQNext will introduce storybricks. So, players will not only build building and craft craftables, but too create NPC and stories. While the player low creativity will limitate the effect of storybricks, how the NPC intereact and create a “living” virtual society can have emergent properties. But we need see if storybricks will permit NPC intereact one with another (dynamic NPC).

      TESO will be zerg wars. There is no escape from zerg wars.

      Permadeath? Some people are hardcore enough, but it is not the majority, so it will be niche. Be warned that other “hard features” like corpse runs and no easy transportation too will be niche. By niche be warned, means “you will not make money, with lucky you will not go bankrupt and close the game, but you will need a lot fo luck”.

      The future is the chinese market, and I am sying it with two diferent perspectives. China will be the biggest world economy until 2020, if they are growing 7% or 15% (just make the math…), so the chinese market is a “must have” and more MMO will look first at that market interests and be made for that market. F2P and “livng story” come from the chinese market and they will say what features MMO will have in the future.

  4. BobTurkey says:

    @bhagpuss – Two of my favourite match-up were the two-in-a-row of CD-Kain-YB. Both match-ups decided in the last 12 hours. Awesome!

  5. lothirieth says:

    ” 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.”

    Same situation for me. I never saw an achievement swapping group, but I saw people trying to camp in corners to gank crystal carriers instead of actually playing the game.

    If only we could play with and against friends.

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