GW2: Clockwork Conspiracies

Can’t stop to talk for long. Having way too much fun.

Spoilers do follow in the screenshots, but if you haven’t sampled the story by now, you’ve been missing out. Go log in, rather than read vicariously.

Closing Ceremony

unite

Storytelling just as well done as the opening. Moar of the same for future updates please.

Here’s some love for the cutscenes, including the stylized painterly interlude in the manner of the noir one.

Faren's hero moment, soon to be overtaken by the ubiquitous thought "those damn mesmers!"
Faren’s hero moment, soon to be overtaken by the ubiquitous curse of “those damn mesmers!”

Twisted Clockwork Faction

Words cannot describe how awesome these guys are.

dolyakvshorror

The aesthetics are like Necrons mixed with Cryx with a unique GW2 take on things, and the animations on these metallic monstrosities are the coolest ever.

I only wish I had the computing firepower to put graphics settings on medium or high in full on zerg situations, rather than stay at the lowest of the low in order not to crash. Even so, they’re still pretty good-looking.

twistednightmares

Mechanics-wise, I find them rather interesting, with a “downed” state of their own that mimics the need to finish opponents in pvp. Some specifically repair another type, so in theory, target prioritization is needed.

And I’m not sure, but it seems like if some of them reach a certain critical mass, they glom together to form a big twisted nightmare – I just haven’t observed specifically which enemies yet.

This should be interesting and meaningful later on if they ever make dungeons with the twisted clockwork faction in them. So far, the solo scaling allows one to take them out one at a time or all together, regardless of if you prioritize or not – one just endures a bit more delay if they do self-repair. And in zergs, it is also just as effective as to wipe them out in one fell sweep or let a few people do the finishing, similar to WvW.

Scarlet’s Playhouse Instance

Speaking of which, I’m really happy that they made a story instance that is both soloable and groupable according to preference.

Certain people will tell you that oh, it’s sooo much easier to solo because it scales, but I think they haven’t the patience to wait for a group to get the hang of the twisted clockwork faction mechanics together.

I did both.

I went through my first time solo, because I enjoy being a hero by myself, seeing the story and learning the mechanics unspoiled by others. I found the difficulty very reasonable, and appreciated that Scarlet so helpfully cued in her gimmicks at each stage. It was quite doable to survive long enough (hooray, no brutal one-shot instant deaths) to observe her animations and the surroundings and figure out the means to progress or do damage to her.

Then I grouped to see how reasonable the scaling was, and truth be told, I found it reasonable as well, though we did total party wipe a few times. Those deaths were more due to group coordination and some members being unfamiliar with the instance though.

Our first wipe took place when 1 member asked about the 3 min achievement and got no response yea or nay from the group. Seeing him rush for it, I followed suit. The other three hung back. As you can imagine, our cheerful efforts to extinguish fires rapidly produced monsters spawns the team was not prepared for in the least. Whoops. 🙂

notcommunicating

Ironically, our second go, when we started talking a lot more and decided to do things “slow and steady and no deaths,” we scored the 3 min rescue Faren achievement. Go figure.

Of course, that no death hope was rather dashed when we ran into the centaur section of the map and another party member rushed headlong into the first spawn they saw. *wry grin*

Any Guild Wars 1 player would have recognized that sort of movement of the spawns. PATROLS. It’s a TRAP! Dashing into the center where a bunch of patrols meet up? You know it. Splat went the first, then splat went the second who tried to revive. The others who hung back valiantly tried to hold off the multiple spawns rushing them, but yeah… scaling and twisted clockwork mechanics and all that.

When solo, I pulled the first two spawns methodically to kill ’em, just cos I like killing stuff, then evaded past the rest. I am sure you could run past them all, or stealth past as well, solo or group. Just…your group has to be all on the same page. 🙂

We had one more wipe in here, which I would label as unfamiliarity with how to handle twisted clockwork as a group. Some of us got breathed on by a horror, with those oh so fun stacks of confuse, which of course, produces downing in most not alert people. Then the whole repairing thing got away from us and we were suddenly facing TWO giant Twisted Nightmares of silver status. The survivors were doing a passable job sorta kinda ranging them, and I was getting a lot of practice in both quickly detargeting my scepter when the reflect shield came on (and evading the 2-3 stray blue balls that hit the shield before I detargeted) and side strafing the green projectiles it was shooting at me…

…just as I was thinking, oh hey, I’m getting the hang of this, even in pure berserker armor, the thing crept up with sufficient range to fire its flamethrower.

OW.

Fuck. I was not expecting that. Why does it have a flamethrower… Ow. How the hell do I dodge these? Healhealheal. This is not working…

Whoosh whoosh whoosh.

One flamebroiled charr to go.

And then there were two.

And one.

Then none.

The silver thingummies had collapsed into a pile by the time we got back from restarting at checkpoint, but yeah, I’m sure a group that actually had a cohesive plan to deal with them would have carved through ’em in no time flat. Or evaded them.

Difficulty-wise, I’d classify Molten Facility as harder, while not even mentioning how taxing Aetherblade Retreat can be. This is a short and sweet instance that won’t take a long time to run, solo or grouped, and I like it. It’s just right for temporary, seasonal content. And there are still one or two mechanic-based fights in there, rather than tank and spank.

Invasions

Doubly in love. It’s like Rift’s invasion/public quest system mixed with a side helping of GW2.

One of the most fun things for me is simply just running from one place to another together as a collective. Seriously, as long as your zerg is not too big, just toggle off your interface, leave yourself on autorun, turn the camera and look at yourself and the people running alongside you.

GW2’s run animations are awesome (or maybe that’s just me on a charr.) It’s like the Manifesto video all over again, but with yourself in the picture.

The multistage events building up to a climax are neat. Anet rapidly fixed the one minor nitpick of Scarlet having too little hp and dying too fast. I like that the whole zone has a shared goal and pretty much all actions do work towards that goal, map-chat complainants not withstanding.

Really, that’s the one eyesore of the event. I’ve had more fun switching tabs and ignoring map chat. A whole bunch of backseat commanders have sprung up and simply won’t shut up about how other people are not playing how they like.

Jeez, have a little trust in the wisdom of crowds, will you?

Yes, we get it, if everyone spreads out and takes down more dynamic events successfully, the counter will go down faster, we will get to scarlet faster, and defeat her for the best invasion complete loot and two rares if you haven’t defeated her already that day.

HOWEVER:

If we spread out too thin, and struggle at taking down dynamic events in tiny groups and being endlessly downed, then the counter is not going to go down any faster either.

Some people may also not feel the need to get to Scarlet any faster because we have 45 minutes to do the event, and if we complete it in 30min, what are you going to do, stand around and wait for the other half-hour before the next invasion?

Some people are also enjoying the roleplaying and world immersion aspect here – what, leave a bunch of Twisted Clockwork menaces to roam around Tyria just because you’re busy metagaming?

Some people just like killing anything red in front of them.

Some people have an AoE weapon that can’t HELP but damage anything red in front of them. (*hides guardian staff behind back*)

And yes, there is loot. Oh so glorious massive group scaling veteran and champions loot. Preferably from Aetherblades.

And why not? Why get in a tizzy about it? If you don’t like the zerg where it is, go form a group and stay away from the commander tags. Or go solo some events. They scale. Or get a commander tag of your own and see how many people want to follow you.

If you like zerging, then don’t feel guilty, just join the damn zerg and have fun. If you need to sell, go and sell. It’s okay, there are other people in the zone too.

It’s like WvW, really. All parties are needed. A strong zerg is an unignorable force. In invasions, a good zerg takes down each event in record time, mowing through a whole bunch of champions that both move the progress bar and yield loot. A fast way of moving the zerg to the next event is not to scream one’s head off and waste time typing when one could be attacking or tagging, but to just lawnmower down anything standing so that there’s nothing left and the rampaging horde has to look for new targets regardless. 🙂

Roamers, loners and soloists also can play their parts. There are some very easy scaling events (molten alliance tunneling machines come to mind) that can be handled and will also tick down the progress bar anyway. Zergs move and turn like oil tankers, they can only be in so many places at one time, you can pwn those events faster than you can break up the zerg or get the zerg to move somewhere.

And the zerg naturally breaks up and reforms after each event ends when some people waypoint to the next event they pick on a map, or decide to run instead to the next place, and so on.

Really. Every single invasion I’ve joined, save for the very first, has succeeded. Big zerg or no big zerg. To me, it actually seems harder to spread out too thinly.

Just trust in the wisdom of crowds and that the aggregate will get you there.

If you do fail the last stage, what’s the harm? You still get a partial reward at the end, and I think even the achievements increment.

And the invasions repeat every hour, on the hour. For 14 days. And they will continue at a less frequent pace after. One or two battles lost is not the end of the fucking world.

Invasion of steam creatures notwithstanding.
Invasion of steam creatures notwithstanding.

Oh, and I like the predictable timed nature of the invasions. It reminds me of the festival times in GW1 where you could log on and know that every hour, such-and-such would be happening. It helps one plan for it, in a way. Having some people left out is a sad but necessary consequence of such a schedule though.

Yeah, it’s a little disappointing if you miss the window and accidentally zone too late and get in an overflow where the invasion isn’t occurring. But I’m sure there’s other things you could be doing with the hour too.

And I agree it’s uber annoying if you should crash out and be unable to get back in again (I had that happen once when I ramped up my graphics too far) and it would be nice if they had a mechanism to hold one’s place for a while… but for the predictability of the hourly invasions, I’ll take it, warts and all.

It’s better than having a whole bunch of invasions fall out of sync with each other. *Thinks back to karka event where different overflows managed to start 45 minutes later than another*

Speaking of which, I really like the performance improvements between then and now. The karka event was one gigantic lagfest of doom, where skill lag made it took literally 5 minutes to see the result of one button press. I’ve not had any noticeable skill lag in these clockwork invasions, and the only hitch I’ve seen is a long noticeable delay on some Aetherblade waves spawning in a Gendarran Fields invasion.

The culling changes has also improved my framerates in zerg situations slightly, at the cost of me never seeing anybody else’s armor ever again, in WvW or PvE. Oh well. Your vanity is not that important to me, not until I can afford a better computer anyhow. 😛

With that sort of stuff fading into the background and not being noticeably annoying, it’s a lot easier to enjoy the flow of the invasions for what they were intended to be.

Pure unadulterated fun.

Just ignore the naysayers.

Conspiracy Theories

In the one invasion I sacrificed by being on medium graphic settings and awaiting the inevitable crash, I did luck into taking a screenshot of a steam portal at very close range. This was up in Dredgehaunt Cliffs and the event happened to be in a place with two different elevations, including one cliff high enough to look -down- into the portal.

steamportal

One can see steam pipes that look reminiscent of those in the Aetherblade jumping puzzle, and a railing of some sort that looks like the fairly standard sort you’d see in dredge facilities?

There’s some cube-like structures beyond that I won’t even begin to guess what they are.

threesylvari

And an unfortunately low-res Scarlet in comparison to the pictures of Faolain and Caithe stolen off the GW2 wiki. Three different sylvari?

The facial markings of all three -are- different if you google up a better resolution pic of Scarlet.

Then again, the nose is a little like Caithe’s in shape, but has Faolain’s scarring on the side. The eyes do have a resemblance to Faolain’s on the far edges, though they have this crazy yellow glow in the Playhouse instance that is different from the yellow-green in the cutscene. The skin tone is kinda like a mix of green and grey.

Faolain + Caithe = Alternate Reality Batshit Crazy?

GW2: Accessible, Approachable – Which is More Important?

Stubborn has been musing about exclusivity and accessibility in WoW, and as usual, I end up seeing parallels in the game I’m currently playing.

He says:

I can pretty definitively say that… you’ll never please all the people, simply because of the players’ feelings about two mutually exclusive desires.  Every player either wants accessibility or exclusivity, and never the twain shall meet.

Those two polar opposites exist on an axis, sure, and people can exist towards the middle of the axis, but in the end, every player will prefer one of the following two options:

A game where everyone can participate in all activities
or
A game where merit earns you special opportunities

Sure, we can have deeper conversations and talk about points at which one opposite might be more important than the other, but in each player’s heart, one eventually trumps the other, and those feelings are what drives the whinefests associated with game changes.

Finding a good balance along this spectrum seems to be something that GW2 is also feeling its way towards with each episodic Living Story update.

Every few weeks, we sway back and forth between hard, difficult challenges with exclusive rewards and accessible content that can be done by most or all, with a veritable whinefest – or more charitably speaking, bountiful feedback – about that update’s activities.

At heart, I’m still a City of Heroes player. The original game was a magical collection of friendly, generous souls who formed a very strong community with a forums presence to match – folks thought nothing of throwing heaps of influence at random passing newbies to help them buy their next level’s upgrades, teams formed with little to nil picking and choosing of classes or levels (thanks to sidekicking and marvelous group synergies,) and the forums was filled with many helpful people writing guides on various effective ways to play each powerset, and relatively calm and rational discussion regarding the value of each class and the game’s various quirks.

That approachability and accessibility drew me and kept me playing.

Years passed, the developer helm changed hands and with the changing of the guard, there was also a noticeable change in design philosophy. Loot happened. Ways to upgrade one’s character to higher and higher tiers of power made hoarding money and items a lot more important. Rising power levels made the concept of “team” more redundant, and more about each individual and how fast missions that made money could be completed. The introduction of raids set a minimum gear level on participation, and even led to forced grouping for a while there.

You know what? In my opinion, the community went downhill fast.

The exclusivity gave rise to elitism. People got more insular and attacked any dissenters on the forums. A subset of players were all about the speedruns and played all group content that way, with beefed out characters that could pretty much solo the entire chain of missions. To heck with the team, and it came through loud and clear in their attitudes.

There is a reason why I choose not to play World of Warcraft.

The game leans too much over to the exclusivity side of the spectrum for my tastes by making raids the primary end-game activity.

To me, accessibility means inclusiveness.

I should not have to pick and choose and reject any person who is somehow “the wrong level” or “the wrong class” or “the wrong something” for a piece of content. I should not have to look upon any player as a potential impedance to my goals (consensual PvP excepted) and feel hostile towards them.

Players should not feel left out or blocked from progress due to a particular playstyle preference (eg. group or solo, easy fun or hard fun, liking a particular class, etc.) as this discouragement tends to lead to frustration and not wanting to play the game any longer, which whittles away at the community and game population.

And it should take a reasonable amount of time (and/or RL money) to reach an even max-level playing field. New (or poor) players should not be left behind in the dust by veterans who started the MMO at the dawn of time (or rich people with more money than sense) because that again leads to rejection of disadvantaged folk and gradual erosion of the playerbase.

So what about Guild Wars 2?

Well, I’m still playing it.

For the most part, GW2 remains a very accessible game.

Take leveling. There are multiple ways of gaining sufficient xp to reach 80 – the PvE open world (also known as hearts, DEs and map exploration, and/or mob genocide), WvW, dungeons, and of course, crafting.

Equipping yourself as you get to 80 also has multiple options – karma vendors, cultural stuff for coin, dungeon vendors, drops from mobs, crafting it yourself or, of course, the TP. One can pick between blues, greens, yellows or even orange, depending on how affluent one is feeling, and even blues will eventually get you through the content, though greens are the best compromise in terms of stats and affordability.

Once you get to 80, there are again multiple options for “max level” gear (here defined as the orange exotic baseline.) Karma vendors, drops, the TP, crafting, dungeons, WvW, pick your poison. If one finds themselves unable to afford this just yet, level 80 greens and yellows are sufficient to get by until one can work towards this goal.

Ascended items (or the max + 1 level) are meant as a medium term goal to work towards incremental improvement of a character. Again, there are multiple options, if more limited in nature. Laurels, or faithfully completing dailies, will yield an item after 25-40 days, depending on if one supplements them with badges of honor or not. Attending guild missions, which normally span a two week period, will yield an alternate means of nabbing accessories via commendations. Completing a fractal above level 10 will allow one to work towards rings, either via a lucky drop or patiently plodding through ten character-days’ worth of fractal dailies via pristine relics.

It is not unreasonable for even a new player starting from scratch today to reach a max level baseline which is functional and accepted by a majority in a month or two, or less.

And the beauty of GW2 is that they don’t even have to hurry to get there. (With some partial exceptions, there may be some discrimination in dungeons or WvW, and the erratic difficulty level that is the seasonal content of the Living Story may be occasionally frustrating.)

Dungeons are more of a mixed bag, though that’s probably partially the attitude of players who prefer the dungeon playstyle. There seems to be a competitive subset who enjoy speedruns and very specialized builds to eke out the very last scrap of optimal – picking and choosing the appropriate tools for the job and tweaking for efficiency is naturally part of the game for them. There also seems to be another group of players who strive to be like their idols but upon failing miserably to communicate or coordinate, turn on their party to assign blame and play the discriminate-without-understanding and kick-from-party games more than actual dungeon running.

It’s still possible to get into inclusive groups who don’t play in the fashion mentioned above, don’t mind spending a little extra time -and- successfully complete dungeons, so I’d classify them as moderately accessible.

WvW is, of course, one of the more accessible player activities to get into, though one can pick one’s level of dedication to the format through joining various guilds and the resultant community that forms on each server has an impact on how approachable or elitist a server “feels.”

If anything, it’s the Living Story updates that are the most schizophrenic.

One previously controversial update was the Mad King’s Clock Tower, that managed to produce unintended player hostility towards players on Norn and Charr characters.

With the Queen’s Jubilee, we have the Queen’s Gauntlet, which has produced conflict between those who want to farm Deadeye Dunwell for an accelerated gold/hour rate and others who are seeking to complete other achievements. Some players are openly being nasty to others in the hope that this will leave them with a personal arena to themselves for the maximum rate of gold earning.

The champions loot update, while pleasantly rewarding the task of defeating champions across the board, has yielded the unintended ember farm – a dynamic event which produces 20-30+ champions via scaling – whose successful cycling in 5-10 minute intervals is contingent on failing the timed event. This has suddenly produced conflict between those who want the event to succeed and those who want the event to fail, with resultant nastiness across map chat (from non-well-behaved parties of either side) can be more eye searing than the slideshow framerates.

The temptation was too great. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.
The temptation was too great. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

With some irony, I note that the Queen’s Gauntlet is not very accessible (in terms of skills/builds needed) and the ember farm more so (though there’s still calls for grouping and staff guardian preferences,) but both are yielding the same presumably undesired consequence.

An unpleasant community is not an approachable one.

Not being approachable turns people off from wanting to join in and participate in the first place.

And even if they do, thanks to dangling low hanging very desirable fruit, they’re not really enjoying the experience beyond self-centeredly staring at the shinies in their own pocket.

That focus on self tends to lead to exclusive and elitist atitudes – disregarding other people’s preferences or discarding them after using them for selfish purposes.

Which fucks up the community even further in an ever vicious cycle.

I think ArenaNet had the right idea early on in their iterative design process where they tried to make sure that all nearby players’ interests were in alignment with each other. Dynamic events were crafted so that whatever actions players took were working towards completion, and not griefable. Dynamic events are supposed to be completed for the best rewards.

Given a chance, players can and will attack each other. It takes design to create a friendly, cooperative experience where additional players are only welcomed, not looked upon with suspicion.

It’s my hope that future Living Story updates will give a lot more thought back towards their original manifesto. Enough with the individual or dissimilar goals trying to interact in the same space – save those for private instances. Craft us shared goals, provide opportunities for players to help each other, eliminate ways players can grief each other.

And give us back our social cooperative world.

GW2: The Fate of Monty Haul Rewards and Resultant Inflation

Ever feel like you’re running in place just trying to keep up?

Ever feel like you don’t like where the train is headed but feeling obliged to stay on or be left behind in the dust?

J3w3l has a post up about Firefall’s Free-to-Play model affecting the feeling of a community once it opened its gates in beta.

Apparently, all it takes is a couple of selfish-minded individuals to grief a generally cooperating community, suddenly creating bad blood and mistrust and a tendency to retreat back to more insular groups.

I can’t help but see a number of parallels between that and what’s currently happening in Guild Wars 2 after the Queen’s Jubilee patch.

Like Bhagpuss, I too, in the spirit of *ahem* enquiry, took a gander at the various “farms” and gold grinding methods that have sprung up in response.

1) Champion Pavilion Legendary/Destroyer/Pirate Farming

The most obvious one is where most of the population gravitated to, especially in the early days.

Ironically, given what the developers have mentioned in their stream, that they were trying to create a challenge for 20-30 people and that the map holds 75 or thereabouts, I can’t help but think they had these vague hopes that the zerg would simultaneously split into two groups to tackle both legendaries at the same time.

Except, of course, Guild Wars 2 players being all so cooperatively zerg-y (and also wusses in terms of daring to tank a Legendary by themselves or in a small group) very quickly developed a communication ritual of picking one Legendary to tackle at a time as a huge mass of 50-60 people.

Even easier if a commander was on the map – “follow the blue dorito” being an ingrained response to almost anyone who has dabbled in WvW or done guild missions.

The reward for cooperating is significant. Everyone gets two champion loot bags, two chests with watchwork and a ticket, and plenty of veteran loot opportunity. In the downtime, people spam 1 on destroyers, hoping for lodestones, or go after pirates for their bags.

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with Z.
I spy with my little eye, something beginning with Z.

The problem of a farm being too popular, though, is that everyone goes there. Framerates plummet as a result. Tagging can be a challenge with so many people racing to get hits in. Supply is plentiful and prices also take a downward hike. (T5 and T6 claws are a prime casualty of this, and even destroyer lodestones have taken a noticeable plunge.)

To make matters even more interesting, some individuals have jumped onto this ride hoping for free levels as a lowbie. Except non-80s, while they do upscale, simply don’t do as much damage or have as much survivability as 80s. So there’s plenty more people keeling over, the Legendaries are taking longer to go down, slowing down the farm considerably.

I had a good time at the start with running around the Champion Pavilion zerging, to the point I managed to hit DR on my magic find geared character and had to swap out and let him rest for two days or so. (I’m not sure if spending time logged on doing nothing would have helped, but I got so depressed at seeing only white loot pop off mobs, even in normal maps and hitting different mob types, that I had to put him aside and run around with another less afflicted character instead.)

By the time I came back though, some of the initial loot pinata enthusiasm had worn off, the surge in popularity of the Pavilion over the weekend was leaving me at a consistent 9-10 FPS, which was annoying me severely, and I had picked up a new standard of comparison…

2) The Frostgorge or Orr Champions Loop

… Facing the onset of DR in the Pavilion, it was time to go elsewhere and one had already heard the rumblings and talk about an even more lucrative loop than the Champion Pavilion, which had suffered a nerf or two.

It took slightly longer to find, but the presence of blue doritoes was a dead giveaway and random chatter on map chat also helped in the learning process. The first loop or two, I resigned myself to chasing after the zerg, always slightly behind and missing champions here and there. Once one figures out the pattern and locations that the group is using, then one is able to get in on the fray more effectively.

I had another decent time following a commander who only used one waypoint in his Frostgorge loop, for several hours, but there were always these rumblings of noncooperation threatening to arise.

Visitors from other servers would come by to criticize the particular loop that was chosen. Some frustration would be expressed at folks who dared to take down a champion out of sequence. Another blue dorito with their own ideas on the specific chain to be used could spring up and pull their own followers, causing two groups who might work out of sync with each other.

Even more zerging.
Even more zerging.

Out of curiosity, I went visiting Yak’s Bend and Sanctum of Rall, to discover that different servers had somehow evolved their own distinct preferences on the exact order to kill champions in.

More frustrating to me personally were loops which used too many waypoints. Loading times are annoying. I understand I can delete my Local.dat file, which might help, but I haven’t been ready to face the erasure of my customised settings just yet. Trailing behind causes missed champion tags and decreased farm profitability.

Besides, while zerging was fun in a mindless kind of way, it was getting more than a little boring and getting on my antisocial nerves.

(And don’t get me started on farms that are built around intentionally failing or failing to complete events. I don’t participate in those.

I find those completely antithetical to the spirit of the game, with the eventual result that some poor well-meaning but ignorant soul who comes along will get yelled at for not instinctively knowing what to do, or promote “griefers” who really just have to play the game as intended but get the extra satisfaction of pissing off a whole bunch of cooperating “exploiters.”

It’s just a war waiting to happen. I simply don’t want to be there and the sooner developers address those, the better, in my opinion.)

3) Deadeye Gambit Farming

The supposed high risk high reward option for solo players, with the caveat that one needed the right builds, gear and profession.

And, as I found out, also a decent computer with FPS above 10.

I own a berserker guardian. You would think I’d be able to do this without a hitch. He doesn’t have scholar runes or ascended trinkets though, which does drop his damage by a smidgen.

I went for four gambits instead of five, choosing not to risk a giant quaggan getting in the way or losing damage, and after a few false starts of trying to figure out the best rotation (wait for him to teleport over? teleport over with flashing blade to speed things up?) and getting killed shotted for daring to experiment, I was generally managing to take him down 3 or 4 times out of 5.

What was getting me killed consistently was not having enough time to react between his disappearance and me hitting a teleport before he began kill shot. If he failed to get blinded in time, bam, went 12k damage on me, and I only have 12.9k or so health.

I eventually got around this by hitting renewed focus around the time he disappeared then judge’s intervention’ing in, leaving me 3 seconds of invulnerability to soak that kill shot whatever the range, but that meant waiting for the cooldown each gambit attempt, which does, of course, delay farming rather significantly as compared to say, some berserker thief with signet of malice and a pull, or a warrior who smashed him before he could even teleport.

Timing was still an issue. If I hit renewed focus too early, he’d kill shot me just as the damn thing wore off. If I hit it too late, he snuck it in before my animation even started. Timing, of course, being very unpredictable when you’re hovering at 300ms latency from your geographic location and 10 FPS from the zerg doing farm number 1.

There were a couple of odd bugs that got in the way now and then. Deadeye disappeared from my arena a couple of times, leaving me perplexed for a minute or two before he decided to return with a kill shot.

Er, anybody home?
Er, anybody home?

One also ran into the problem of wait times. As the Deadeye farm got more popular, more people start wanting to do it, and once you’re in queue with 3-4 other people, even if all of you manage to kill Deadeye without a hitch, everyone’s collective profit per hour falls off. This naturally leads to some distinctively selfish behaviors showing up in some individuals, like refusing to rez or snatching turns in queue.

Even if you run into nice chaps all around, you can’t help but think you’d all be better off if you could each find an arena to yourselves, so time is also spent running around and trying to guest to hopefully lower population servers – which still aren’t that empty when everyone is funneled into one zone and people with the same idea as you have also guested over.

And while I was fortunate enough not to run into anyone who openly laughed at me trying to kill Deadeye and failing, I couldn’t help but feel just a little embarrassed if I made a timing misstep or annoyed if stuff happened that was out of my control (My finger is over the button in anticipation, Deadeye disappears, I whack teleport, bam, dead at his feet. I’ve no human way of reacting any faster than that, alas. Packets take time to get to my computer and back again, apparently.)

Feeling too much at the mercy of my 2.13GHz processor and mightily sick of the feeling of wading through mud in the Crown Pavilion, I slunk away with my tail between my legs, wondering what else I could do.

At this point, an outsider might be wondering…”Why this crazy obsession about gold and grinding for it?”

Has the bulk of the GW2 population been caught up in some kind of mass hysteria? Why is everyone scrambling to keep up with the Joneses?

Well, besides the natural urge of some people to desire spending on luxuries like working on a Legendary or a shiny new weapon or armor skin or some gem store item once they own a surfeit of cash, TP prices -are- creeping upward steadily as the bulk of the population gets a little wealthier.

Joining a zerg is something most players can do, after all.

This leads to anyone with an interest in not losing too much purchasing power to try their darnest not to fall behind in earning power.

But it may also result in players feeling forced to play a certain way, else feel like they will be facing an unlevel playing field soon.

Granted, there are some gold sinks in place in the Jubilee. Wanting to collect all the rune recipes will set you back 3.75 x 6 gold, plus 275 x 6 watchwork sprockets. We will not mention how much everyone has probably spent trying to get past Liadri. It’s unlikely that inflation will get too runaway.

I’m also anticipating that the coming days of Black Lion Sales will also serve to sink a considerable amount of gold via Gold to Gem conversion, driving up the price in the meantime. This is bad news for anyone looking to “get free stuff” with gold, but moderately good news for anyone prepared to spend money on the Gem Store and maybe even convert Gem to Gold the other way around.

I have a hunch that with the one-year anniversary coming along, this is exactly what ArenaNet is aiming toward, pushing up the currency exchange price a little higher, creating more temptation to just directly lay down cash for Gems instead, or convert it to in-game gold.

Being someone who is prepared to go either way on this currency exchange, I’m relatively unmoved as long as I don’t have to pay more than a month’s MMO subscription to simply keep afloat.

Also, after some thinking on the various ways one might be able to earn gold in-game, I realized that there were less obvious means to generate gold that have been downplayed over the mass zerg farms taking center stage. The new dungeon update, for example, does yield a gold per day for each different dungeon path run. There -are- champion loot bags in the dungeon too.

TP flipping has always been alive and well, through hell or high water.

And there is always some profit in taking the road less traveled and supplying things obtained where the bulk of the population is not, but still want anyway. That’s where I currently am.

It might not pay as much, but it lets me share in some of the wealth being generated, and gives me far far better framerates.

I also got caught in a very weird weather phenomenon. A winter storm with purple lightning flashing all around that gave me chills up my spine regarding chaos magic and potential Thaumanova revelations.
And oh, I also got caught in a very weird weather phenomenon. A winter storm with purple lightning flashing all around that gave me chills up my spine regarding chaos magic and future potential Thaumanova revelations. It was probably always there before, but who knows?

GW2: Wild Story Theory

What if…

… we will soon use the fractals to go back in time to blow up the Thaumanova Reactor ourselves, releasing the Elder Dragons’ magic upon this world…

… because if we didn’t…

the alternate consequence of the Thaumanova Reactor succeeding would have been a world that harnessed its energy and developed magitech / steampunk technology…

… resulting in a particular Mysterious Stranger who would have conquered that world as Grand High Sovereign of a Conclave (an alliance of all races for villainy?)

And might we just look this particular Mysterious Stranger in the face during the (soon-to-come?) Battle for Divinity’s Reach and find out that it is ourselves…

*chants PERSONAL Nemesis*

GW2: Some Love For the Open World

We interrupt this irregularly scheduled focus on the Queen’s Jubilee to bring your attention to a very important discussion thread now taking place on the Guild Wars 2 forums.

Has Guild Wars 2 deviated from its originally stated Manifesto and stress on a Living, evolving world to bring us instead neatly packaged, themepark seasonal content in episodes?

We may disagree on some of the specifics, and the initial frustrated tone of his first few posts, but the original poster Fiontar makes a lot of important points throughout the thread that are well-worth reading through. A few choice quotes:

What should you have done? Well, you should have stuck to the original plan you talked about last fall and created boatloads of new Dynamic Event content. Content that would have advanced the story with in each game zone told by the Dynamic Events that were there at launch. Adapting some, replacing some, rotating some in and out of circulation. That would have created a Living World. that would have preserved the sense of a dynamic game environment. That would have shed the negative stereotypes about Theme Park MMOs.

If people appreciate the ways the game is departing from the Manifesto and prefer adventure by checklist over the great potential the game and the manifesto offered us, I’d be happy to hear about it. Maybe Anet just has a better finger on the pulse of the players and has decided that the Manifesto and the core game design were a mistake to be rectified.

It’s even produced a developer response and spawned a Reddit thread with some hyperbole in the title – “Dev says there is little player interest in adding more events, JPs, and mini-dungeons across the world.” Among other things, Anthony Ordon welcomed the continued feedback but pointed out the following:

The very first living world team actually did the thing some of you have called for. Some 40 or so permanent events were added around the game in our very first content update. They were met with little interest or fanfare. Granted, Halloween may have stolen the show. But those events are still in the game today. I’ve seen very little reaction to them, however, positive or negative.

Fiontar’s response to Anthony is Quote Post of the Day-worthy – if there is one link you click, this is the one. I cannot quote parts of it. It is too beautiful not to be read in its entirety.

Readers who follow my posts regularly will know that I have just finished leveling a necromancer to 80 during the tail end of the Cutthroat Politics update. I went back to basics with this one, systematically map exploring zone by zone, as well as genociding mobs in my way and even revisiting parts of the Personal Story (up to the Straits of Devastation where I hit 80, anyhow.)

In Fireheart Rise, I was just meandering along mining all the things when I suddenly got jumped by a Charr engineer with turrets on steroids. It was a crazy fight, involving lots of stray mobs and hiding behind boulders to avoid splash damage and desperately cursing a necromancer’s lack of dodges while trying to prolong one’s life with death shroud, downed, life drain something back to the world of the living, rinse and repeat. (My leveling gear was all power/precision for swift killing, y’know.)

In another corner of the map, some crazy Norn who seemed like a wererat and was like a mini version of Yanonka the Rat Wrangler with all the summoned rats ambushed me too.

I did notice that both of their Dynamic Events were labeled with Modus Sceleris and vaguely recalled a prior instance of encountering a guild group with this title and an elaborate three event chain fight while leveling the warrior alt. (Well, he had no problems with them and had a great time parading proudly in front of their guild as a prime specimen of Charr ferocity.)

It was the first time I actually encountered these two specific events though.

Did I enjoy them?

Yes.

Was it cool to have a novel experience while leveling that I’d never seen before?

Of course.

Did I specifically know whether they were new or old DEs and exactly -when- they were added?

Hell, no.

I’ve also told you all about the first time I encountered the Skritt thief in a chest.

It took Bhagpuss telling me in the comments that it was added in the Halloween update. I found it in February.

Since then, I’ve run into it a few times more, twice with a guild doing guild missions, which was great fun chasing it down together.

40 permanent events were added, you say? Great! But many players are simply going to run right past them without noticing them, and still less would be able to tell you if they were new.

If your metric of success is the number of players playing a particular aspect of the game, taking notice and commenting and providing feedback about it, then I suddenly understand why all the last updates have been full of festival fanfare and literally signposted and checklist content.

It’s problematic, yes. If a lot of developer effort goes into barely noticed dynamic event content, players may complain that there’s nothing happening, even when it’s going on right under their noses and things are changing around them.

But players notice when stuff is static too, and promptly abandon zones that are not rewarding and boring in the limited number of repeat DEs they’ve seen ad nauseam.

It’s hard to say who’s right. I love the idea of new stuff taking place, and things being different on a subsequent playthrough. Just the same, I hate the idea that we might lose some of the old stuff to make room for the new stuff.

You know me, I want my cake and to eat it too. I’d love for more possibilities to be layered on top of each other – grawl chain here, stampeding herd there, merchants having trouble with an avalanche squishing their dolyak and just generally the chance for more DEs to take place utilizing the same area.

A quick nod back to the Queen’s Jubilee. Having met my initial goal of defeating basic Liadri, I finally got the chance to venture out to the open world to work on the hot air balloon achievement.

At least, that’s what I originally thought I was going to do. Hit every map, run to balloon icon, click chest, collect loot, increment by 1 until done. Easy, methodical, that’s why I left it as one of the last things on my list.

To my immense surprise, amazement and delight (and okay, a little frustration from being roadblocked, by escort quests especially, yeeugh,) it wasn’t as simple as that.

Those balloon pilots sure are picky. The gates stubbornly remained closed as they pointed out they were under fire from that sinister airship over yonder, couldn’t leave until a way overdue emissary arrived, or invited all to test their mettle against a Queen’s Champion.

I’d like to echo what Ravious said about the balloon towers: They make sense. Their stories are intertwined with the ongoing event. And as a result, they’re pretty immersive.

(Yes, even the Overdue Emissary event which causes a metagame groan from me when I see how far that marker is from the balloon tower and how much longer it’s going to take to increment the number by 1 as a result.)

Without words, the story is told. "So -that's- why they're late," you think, as you come across the scene.
Without words, the story is told. “So -that’s- why they’re late,” you think, as you come across the scene.

One especially nice touch is how the event NPCs interact with the other NPCs in the vicinity. They fight each other. Yes, you are not the center of their world. Imagine that.

An Aetherblade Norn goes ice wurm hunting after a hard day's work beating up an emissary.
An Aetherblade Norn goes ice wurm hunting after a hard day’s work beating up an emissary.
Vicious rams join in the action. The same group was beating off some arctoduses when I arrived.
Vicious rams join in the action. The same group was beating off some wild arctoduses (arctodi? what is the plural of arctodus anyway?) when I arrived.

Even the emissaries are fairly rabid, and while it again produces a fourth wall-breaking sigh from one part of me that wishes they would just get with the program already, I’ve also exclaimed in-character at mangy Ash Legion charr representatives not to be distracted and to double time it, quick march to the balloon, stat.

Because when the event feels like a part of the world, you want to be a part of the world too.

I’ll leave you with one final thought, another quote from the thread which saves you from wading past naysayer eyesores who produce pithy Twitter pronouncements of “you suck” “learn to play” “you must have failed at something” “I liked it, can’t imagine why you couldn’t” without actually specifying any reasons for their different opinion:

From minbariguy:

I honesty feel that you guys need to focus more on putting the choice of when to play content back into the players’ hands.

Food for thought, indeed.