A Guild Odyssey – Part 1 (NBI Talkback Challenge)

“Only those whose lives are brief can believe that love, is eternal. [pause] You should embrace that remarkable illusion.”

– Lorien, Babylon 5

I’ve gone through a lot of guilds.

Not, thankfully, because of drama, but simply because I’ve played many games and keep trying to find that mythical guild that is just right for me.

My first experience with guilds was in my old MUD, Realms of Despair.

Guilds were in-built institutions in the game, divided up by character classes. The idea seemed to be to form collections of likeminded people playing the same class that could share advice. In practice, social culture had a strong effect on who joined which guild and likeminded people hung together while developing whole stables of alts for max level mob “raids” instead.

For myself, as a newbie, I barely understood all this and merely took the route of trying to get into -any- guild as any of my characters hit the max level of 50.

I joined the Guild of Vampires, only to find them rather quiet and stand-off-ish.

So I joined the Guild of Warriors on another alt, and found them friendly enough, if serious and rather oldschool old-guard, preferring to lament lost glory days (yes, this was happening 16 years ago – the more things change…) than actively run anything or teach much to newbies (one actually wondered if they had the knowledge I was seeking at the time.)

Like a wandering Goldilocks, my third try finally hit a guild that was neither too hot or cold. The Guild of Clerics was a group of cheerful and quirky people, bolstered by a very friendly second-in-command (who later went on to become guild leader) that naturally made connections with people.

As a young newbie, enthusiastically participating in any contests she set up, I ended up learning a heap about the MUD (in those days, trivia contests were game-related and involved retrieving items from all over the world, identifying zones and rooms via descriptions, etc.) and becoming a favorite / recognizable name at the same time.

By additional stroke of fortune, she happened to be in-game married to one of THE premiere MUD players of that time. You know, the powergamer sort. The kind that naturally finds the optimal path, runs armies of multiple alts (legal in those days) and knows every darned thing there is to know.

My frickin’ idol. Someone who I aspired to become.

I didn’t really keep either admiration or aspiration secret, but tried to hang out as much as possible with them – since she was nice, while he may or may not have had time for me but tolerated my presence due to her – vacuuming up every scrap of knowledge that was dropped my way.

Eventually, as I started coming into my own, I ended up in-game adopted as their kid (which was cool) and used that connection to join the MUD organization they also belonged to – an Order.

Orders were what we would probably recognize as guilds now. A somewhat more elite affair, with a higher entry barrier in the case of the serious ‘raiding’ orders, while a few others were known to be more social or dedicated to roleplaying.

The Order I joined had an interesting history. It was a new up-and-comer, broken off from an old Order via a mass exodus after some political disagreement or other. In those days, every single organization was hard-coded by an immortal, so forming a new one was not something any Tom, Dick or Harry could do – it was an Event. It was News.

I missed most of the delicious gossip at the time, being all newbie and unconnected, but did join as part of their second or third intake to form the ‘next generation,’ so to speak.

And boy, were we elite. Did we have something to prove. It was a powergamer Explorer and Achiever paradise.

Nearly every person recruited was someone who had ‘shown serious promise or potential’ as a ‘raider’ in the Guilds we had connections to. Clerics was one of them, Druids was another, plus some others like Warriors or Mages.

We ended up naturally skimming the cream of the crop, like calling to like, assembling a medley of hardcore players who had tons of playtime, heaps of MUD mastery and the willingness to lead, follow, and organize exploration and raiding parties to the most inaccessible places to take down the most notorious multi-person mobs.

Some of my best memories of the MUD stem from those days, when our Order managed to discover the way to one of the most desirable ‘raid’ mobs AND keep it a secret only within our group. The way was kept so secret that for a while, my powergaming ‘dad’ was one of maybe two people who would map the way to the mob, the rest of us kept outside and away.

Being insatiably curious, I would keep peeking into the rooms he was in with a ‘scry’ spell while being honest and not moving a muscle from the room we were supposed to stay in, trying to cudgel my brain and figure out HOW he was doing it while being oh-so-close-and-oh-so-far-away from finding out. After the raid was over, I’d try out whatever theories I’d come up with, taking advantage of my characters being parked a couple of rooms away.

It took quite a while, weeks to months, and the secret had already leaked out somewhat (probably via social engineering, which I would not have stooped to) but I did eventually become one of the five to eight people who could map their way to this mob.

In the meantime, our Order had quite a number of uninterrupted weeks where we would regularly down the mob, holding a monopoly on all the loot that dropped from it. We had a lovely social time where the 8-10 people needed to take it down would camp out one room away and wait for the mob to respawn and engage in that weird waiting activity of chatting and being semi-AFK until the next fight.

At that time, all was right with the world. (Nevermind the angry naysayers who weren’t part of our Order and thus subject to our monopoly.)

We were kings. At the top of the world.

We would have been happy to freeze those glorious moments and have it last forever.

They never do.

Six months to a year in, one or two other Orders began managing to organize their own runs at the mob. More sporadically, and one of them was even more secretive than we, so things were still good, and nothing was common knowledge as yet.

Then more upstarts arrived. A group of players who weren’t happy with joining any of the existing Orders and formed an Order-less clique of their own was being led by a player who was pretty much as on top of his powergame as we were. (He turned into one of my rivals in competitions, actually. One of the few who could actually compete at my pace, and then started kicking my ass now and then.)

They cracked the code. They violated the prior sanctity of our personal raid mob monopoly and brought in… public nobodies! No affliations, just… people who were friends with them. They even tried their hand at persuading the MUD coders to make them a new Order (which was indeed created for a while, but short-lived in the long run.)

The next half-year turned into a sort of rivalry year. The two or three groups who could fight elite mobs were in bitter competition with each other. Plenty of hate, lots of drama. Us vs them.

But this too would pass.

Everquest launched.

Holy hell, a MUD with GRAPHICS. Who wants to read WORDS?

A good part of the playerbase took off for the new shiny. MMOs were in. MUDs were history,

All of our Guilds, our Orders, our organizations lost members. They simply stopped logging-in, leaving more and more bereft and bitter MUD stalwarts to restlessly complain about the snail’s pace at which the MUD was changing (being run by unpaid volunteers means development time simply doesn’t match up to a commercial company.)

When they did log in, it was to sell the fun they were having over there to their friends. Further attrition.

People who logged in for their friends and social fun came in to look around, but the place wasn’t the same anymore. All the people they knew weren’t there any longer. Logged right back out again and found something else to do.

The MUD communities in-game dwindled and grew ever more insular and protective of their preferred playstyle.

I went into a jaded funk that lasted a good four years. My self-image was threatened on all sides. I was no longer a winner – all these young upstarts were trouncing me, some with better reflexes and memory, some with the cyborg help of more sophisticated MUD database knowledge and mapping programs.

There was really nothing to fight for – nearly all my friends were gone, the MUD was in a development rut and ceased to improve or change despite vocal player efforts to volunteer time and creative manpower (enmeshed in a hierarchical bureaucracy, most of the immortal administrators were glorified button-pushing name-verifiers, highly reluctant to give players access to “secrets” like how to build areas for fear that this would somehow destroy either immersion or their perceived power – even if the codebase was freely downloadable and had already been scoured by powergamers for the most advantage,)

I was trapped by inertia and the fear of loss (of all my characters and “hard-earned” loot) even as my self-esteem was crumbling day by day.

I logged in out of habit and nothing more.

Eventually, I hit upon a distancing strategy in between bitter ranting to anyone who still remained and cared to listen on the MUD (which had converted into a chatroom for me.)

I had staunchly refused to try the newfangled MMOs like Everquest and World of Warcraft (now there was an even greater playerbase hit) because I had already been burned once. Sic transit gloria mundi. It didn’t last. One couldn’t win forever. One look, and I knew it was going to be the same elitist raiding game I’d already experienced with the MUD. Been there, done that, been hurt.

But I told my Achiever self, who had been running rampant for a long time, to go sit in the corner for a while and let the poor battered-down Explorer out of the basement it had been locked in. Before social pressure made me conform to what was expected of a “good player” in the MUD, I was a wide-eyed discoverer picking up anything not nailed down and looking under everything.

I’d explored this MUD to death. But there were -other- MUDs in the wide ocean – also beginning to suffer death knells from the influx of MMOs, but still lingering on.

I began MUD-hopping. Sampling any random MUD that caught my eye, and enjoying the process of comparing various game systems to another. How this one place addressed the same problem versus another.

This was naturally a guildless time. Nomads don’t need to form many connections.

The distance helped.

In 2004, after reading one too many reviews about a superhero MMO that had no loot but lots of fun and promise, I decided it was time for me to stop being a dinosaur and take the leap into graphical MMOs. The lack of a raid endgame made me hopeful.

One month later, after experiencing CoH’s forum and in-game community, I took a final symbolic step to cut the burdensome ties to the MUD that had trapped me past enjoying the game.

I traded off my most valued and treasured piece of loot, an heirloom that had been passed down from player to player, for a whole bunch of high-level currency (equipment sets from a high-level mob).

This was promptly fed into a lottery NPC as the last thing I had wanted to do in the MUD but could never bring myself to do (treat all that loot as disposable).

With the usual irony of RNG, I won the jackpot prize.

I gave it away to the first name that caught my eye – a casual player, someone who didn’t run in my same circles, but who had been one of the initial inspirations on my hardcore journey and who had quit and come back to the game. What they did with it was their business.

I wasn’t going to be trapped by bytes any longer – the illusion that these tiny numbers in a database had some kind of value that I had to keep logging in to maintain and prevent from deletion into nothingness.

I wasn’t going to leash any of my guilded friends down with it (which might have led to some initial disappointment at not receiving any stuff, but well, I was proving a point.)

I stripped naked one character, which I kept only to maintain social connections to the Order that had given me good memories, and let the rest (hundreds of them) filled with all manner of loot and trivially hoarded items alphabetically arranged into bags labeled A-Z be autodeleted by the unyielding code of the MUD that whacked any not logged-in after a few weeks to three months.

I was free.

I moved on to MMOs.

GW2: Blood and Madness Improves Quality of Life

Happiness is a warm dip in a boiling cauldron...

Strangely enough, that’s the vibe I get from this update.

Achievements

After all the intense Monty Haul rewards-dropping-everywhere Queen’s Champion Pavilion, champion zerg trains, scarlet invasions with even-more-champions, plus ramped up Twilight Assault and ramped up Tequatl creating what seemed like two months of breakneck must-farm-everything pace. the insanity seems to have wound itself down a tad.

It feels like the new Achievement experiment this time around is to ratchet back on the number of “must-do-within-two-weeks-or-else” Living Story ones, with more seasonal stuff getting turned into two more optional dailies instead, that can contribute to the meta-achievement over time.

Personally, I’m deeply appreciative of this.

Having a huge laundry list given to me up front triggered off all kinds of OCD, mostly driven by the fear that the historical achievements tab would look ugly as hell with Swiss cheese holes in it.

With the seasonal content dailies, I get my prompts for “what kinds of activity shall I try to do today?” but if I can’t do, don’t like to do, don’t have time to do some of them, they merely vanish into the ether when the next day cycles around.

I would still be a number of AP shorter than the daily completionists, but that is as it should be. I choose to play more relaxed and treat them as optional and forgo the AP as a result.

Treating the Living Story tabs as optional is still a hang-up I cannot overcome, alas. I want to say that I was there, been there, did those, and have the completed pane as a nice souvenir when the release goes away.

A lot easier and less time-consuming than some fairly recent ones...
A lot easier and less time-consuming than some fairly recent ones…

There have been some complaints that the Bloody Prince story is gated behind the Living Story meta-achievement.

I sort of sympathize with the immersion-breaking one. It’s just a little bit weird that we’re supposed to do these achievements to complete a meta that gifts a candy corn golem miniature and voila, somehow this applies to our character in Tyria. Contrast this with the clockwork chaos one where we actually pick up three components from various portions of an invasion and assemble something in-game. It’s not a big deal breaker for me, I can just close my eyes and hand wave over it, but I can certainly understand how this takes a person out of the ‘world’ mindset and back into a ‘metagame’ mindset very quickly.

I’m a little less sympathetic to the variant of complaint that this gating makes it somehow ‘impossible’ to do. The number of achievements needed for the metaachievement is not high at all, especially when you factor in that there’s going to be two daily options that can contribute to it, and that this runs on for over a month until…what, Nov 11?

I think that pace is very very sane and reasonable indeed. (The players who have time to spare are already done with it, and I suspect most regular GW2 players will be done before one or two weeks are out. Two more weeks of backup are very nice for those who may have to skip a week or two of play for whatever reason.)

If anything, I like that most of these latest updates are stretching out to make the content available for a month or so if temporary, overlapping one update over another, and that more permanent stuff is being added in. I think it’s a sign that ArenaNet has been listening to feedback, even if the big boat takes quite a while to steer to get anywhere.

Overall, it diminishes the “must-finish-now-or-lose-out-forever” stress. (Though, for content that is reliant on groups or big numbers coming together, that need to catch the right timing will never go away.)

Fast-Cast

Another big quality of life change has been the new fast-casting option.

In the words of some guy over voice chat, it’s like the two previous options had a baby. It’s the best of both worlds.

Hold the button down and you get the normal range indicator, which is useful for precision placement and actually knowing how big your AoEs are going to be. And you can still almost instantaneously fast-cast by tapping one key just like before.

As a guardian player whose only decent range option is scepter, fast-cast was pretty much mandatory if you didn’t want to lose your marbles (or ruin your expensive gaming mouse) trying to keep smite up for additional dps. *2click2click2click2click* But I did miss being able to see range and radius of AoEs when playing alts I was less familiar with.

That’s now no longer a problem. Beautiful change.

Carving Pumpkins

No more ludicrous demand to carve 100 pumpkins now. Isn’t it awesome?

I can do 5 a day when the daily option comes up and feel like it’s easily accomplished.

Versus running around Lion’s Arch and waypointing to every lowbie zone to run a farming circuit because I cannot control myself and want to finish it all in a day or two, rather than know how to stagger it out properly. (I’m surely not alone in this malady.)

Mad King’s Clock Tower

More quality of life improvements. Five players make for a more reasonable crowd. Every other player turning into a tiny glowing dot is a lot less aggravating on everyone’s nerves. I can jump with the charr I’m used to and not have to ignore verbal abuse from players who are -still- failing their jumps without having any more excuse about fur and spikes and horns and bulk blocking their view.

It’s been nice to observe how a year has changed one’s skill level.

Last year, I was banging my head on the stupid clock tower for a good three to five hours before any visible progress or success.

This year, it only took 15 minutes to warm up, 15 minutes to re-learn the course without referring to any guides, and 15 minutes of trying to get the execution just right.

The biggest revelation for me this time around was a marked improvement and commitment to finding the most efficient path.

From second step, jump straight to next platform as demonstrated by blue ghost.
From second step, jump straight to next platform as demonstrated by blue ghost. No excess step climbing and outside platform time wastage.

It’s a timed puzzle. I might or might not have latency issues. This year, after so much Super Adventure Box practice, it just naturally clicked that the way I was going to maximize my chances of making it was to run the shortest route, just like a racing game.

No more waffling about on the outskirts, trying to avoid other people blocking me. Did my best to hug the inside path to the clocktower wherever possible. Where there were multiple jumps available, identify the minimal jumps required to cross the obstacle and be off to the next bit. Less hesitancy and more smooth jumping without pause from greater confidence about being able to eye jump distance from shortest corner to shortest corner.

Yeah, there were still the missed jumps, the head banging against a beam that one was trying to jump to (stupid quirky GW2), a bit of weird lag issues where one’s character would jitter around while trying to move or jump (maybe too many PvP minigames trying to run at the same time) and the infamous last jump where the latency-ridden would do well to make a leap of faith even before they see the lightning crack the tower window (the pattern and approximate timing of jump for one’s latency is learnable though…)

Wait for mist to swallow gear, then prepare to jump as clock face swings around....
Wait for mist to swallow gear on right, then prepare to jump as clock face swings around….

….but overall, much improved experience all around, both due to better design and better personal player skill.

Mad King’s Labyrinth

Oh noes, it’s not a Monty Haul 24/7 farming paradise.

labyrinth

Some players are complaining about this as they come off their champions loot high.

For me, I kinda view it as a sort of necessary evil. The faucet had to turn off sooner or later.

There’s some rather blatant design where only veterans are spawning from the dynamic event doors, rather than champions galore, despite the zerg scaling things up. And when the door event ends, even the veterans go poof without being so courteous to die and drop loot.

The big bads are pretty high on the health bar reservoir, though that can be because of not-yet-understood mechanics. For instance, the news that standing in the pink candy goop protects from the candy corn projectiles and increases the amount of damage you can do to the Viscount is only beginning to circulate now.

The things I do to get screenshots from unusual angles...
The things I do to get screenshots from unusual angles… (No, I did not just slip… Or maybe I did. Or maybe I just tried to walk on something that wasn’t solid at all…)

And the lich does a life drain that can feed him back a phenomenal amount of health, though no one’s yet figured out how precisely to work around it beyond stacking in melee and overwhelming it with massive DPS.

Their chests are daily only, I believe, which immediately diminishes some of the compulsion to run around the labyrinth for hours on end accumulating loot.

The drop table for these Halloween critters doesn’t seem that good either, producing many porous bones as a sorry consolation prize, and T5 bones mostly, with a rare T6 bone if you’re lucky. I’ve been running 150% magic find, so I’m not sure if it’s just due to the diminished magic find (as compared with the >300% one was running with buffs prior to this.)

Still, it doesn’t prevent many players from running around in a naturally forming choo-choo train.

I look on this herd mentality with some moderate amusement. The one thing that the labyrinth zerg is good for is farming xp, and to a lesser extent, karma, as the focus seems to be on completing as many door events as possible. (Oh, and finishing up some of the achievements, of course.)

Loot-wise, I’m convinced they’re ignoring a big source of possible loot by running past all the level 80 ‘trash’ in the maze and wasting further time by milling back up to the center hill to just stand there and sell until the next door pops up. (To say nothing of the wasted time autoattacking into large hp reservoirs.)

I seem to be having better luck and drops just peacefully farming the level 80 mobs dotted around the maze, working my way up and down to candy corn nodes, with slightly better killing rates if one or two more players decide to join me. Less competing to hit not that many mobs coming out of the doors.

I can’t help but think that if players spread out into groups of 5 and farmed and only came together for the big bads, better loot would be had all around. Still, given the rapaciousness of how a traveling zerg can clean out the corner of the labyrinth they’re in, I’m glad they’re ignoring the other three corners so that I can have some peaceful hermit time there.

Rewards and Skins and Recipes, Oh My

Uh, yeah.

I’m not that motivated by them, which mostly takes me out of the ‘affected’ pool.

The reported prices for the Gift of Souls, Gift of Spiders and what-not recipes have been bouncing around from patently absurd to merely ludicrous. Be it 100k or 10k, I really can’t see myself accumulating that many even in the span of a month, unless ArenaNet is hiding a lot more rare candy windfalls behind to-be-released-later content.

While the Crossing does look nice, even the cost of making it sans recipe costs is already show stopping for me, so why would I need a more expensive recipe regardless?

It strikes me that this is an experiment in seeing whether players are truly content “earning” or “working” for their reward as they say they want. I have a feeling that the difficulty of obtaining one of those suckers is pegged mathematically around the same as a really rare RNG drop (monocles, fer example.) RNG hides the fact that many players will keep trying and never get what they want, whereas this extreme token-buy system doesn’t shy away from showing you just how much “grind” is going to be involved.

Minis are my souvenirs, and I’m glad the latest updates are tying them to meta-achievement rewards. I think it’s a better match for the part-casual part-hardcore lot that is happy to have a collectible to remember the occasion. Happy to leave the prestige cosmetic weapons for people with lots of spare gold.

The exotic Bloody Prince mini might be a tide problematic at 20 candy corn cobs, but I tell myself that this is a thirty day affair, surely candy corn prices are bound to take a plunge as the days wear on, just like most other seasonal currencies do. It is, after all, an exotic – and exotic mini prices generally range from 60-200g, so there is some equivalency there. I will mostly be playing as normal and counting how much candy corn and gold I accumulate by the end of the month. If reachable, I’ll get one. Worse case scenario, I forgo it.

With some irony, my Black Lion Chest key farming experiment, which lasted all of three keys before I got distracted by Tequatl yielded a ticket (and a mini Caithe.) This will no doubt get me cussed out by people who spent lots of real money for the lockboxes and didn’t get anything regardless, but lockbox lotteries are what they are. Spend only what you can afford to lose.

I really don’t know if I want to pick any of the available Black Lion stuff. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they look decently nice. The Dead Stop shield is quite nifty, in a fiery demonic ghost sort of way. The Bloody Prince staff is very elegant and realistic, in that it blends well with the world and doesn’t break immersion. The Silly Scimitar, on the other hand, is anything but, but also hilariously funny and cute.

I… just don’t -need- any of it.

Fortunately, a lot of other people don’t think like me, or ArenaNet would go broke.

But I guess, for me, not being able to swap skins easily or with a wardrobe on demand really kills the urge to collect yet one more damn weapon that’s going to take up inventory room.

I am content to be busy accumulating sufficient gold for 1000 gems to buy two sets of the Halloween minis. If/when they release the costume outfits later, I might consider getting one of those for fun. I might not.

I basically need to play and pay more conservatively this month as I already spent $20 on GW2 last month, and will be spending a bomb on Reaper Kickstarter miniatures at the end of this month.

I’m glad GW2 gives the option to adjust what one wants to spend per month as fits each individual. Thank you to those funding my playtime this time around. Maybe I’ll return the favor next Wintersday.

GW2: The Krait and the Kessex Hills

There's something else in the water!

Wahey! The Halloween patch is here!

And I’m super-excited and majorly hyped!

Ironically, I haven’t even touched ANYTHING Halloween-related besides one or two random carving pumpkins and the beginning story instance (which I must happily note is apparently soloable and groupable.)

Why?

The Living Story takes another measured step!

Heading to the GW2 Reddit is always one of the initial things I do after a new patch hits, in between reading official patch notes, downloading it, scanning Dulfy’s new skin galleries and logging-in to scrutinize new changes in the Achievements tab.

The reddit threads tend to be the source of “unofficial” changes – glitches or exploits that got nerfed, inadvertent changes or screw-ups, and most interestingly to this explorer soul, the purposefully dropped but unannounced breadcrumbs left for players to discover and discuss on their own.

Someone sharp-eyed spotted a new camp with our favorite intrepid duo Marjory and Kasmeer in the Kessex Hills.

Invisible wall? Krait?

This I had got to see.

I briefly debated which waypoint to pick in Kessex Hills and eventually settled for visiting the quaggans at Moogooloo.

owmynose

And promptly ran facefirst into said invisible wall.

Piles of logs were strewn everywhere under and above the water.

newbeach

What used to be forest, was now denuded.

underwaterorcswerehere

Rising above it all, a mysterious shadowy object

shadow-base

that extended into the clouds.

shadow-top

Talking with the NPCs reveal some intriguing teasers. They suspect it’s a mesmer illusion of some kind. An asura named Mistress Kari has gone to investigate but is overdue and hasn’t returned, leaving her golem AUX-1 to wait and occupy itself by setting up the camp. Kasmeer being a mesmer has been called in as well, Marjory’s come along for whatever reason and they’re sitting around trying to figure out how to dispell the illusion and reveal what the krait are doing beneath it…

…to be continued next patch….?

In between dancing around with glee with the thought that we might be seeing more hints of Bubbles the as-yet-unexplored-in-the-lore Elder Dragon and the prospect of possibly more underwater combat sophistication and skills and new underwater zones (I’m weird, I know!)

“Self,” said I, “I have a pretty good inkling of what that shadowy structure is.”

I did, after all, engage in some elaborate reading of the wiki while speculating on the Colossus and any possible relation to the Labyrinthine Cliffs and/or Abaddon and/or the Unending Ocean and managed to make a brief sidetrek regarding krait, who also happen to all be somewhat interconnected – what with the only known instance of a Temple to Abaddon being now sunken into the Straits of Devastation as the Cathedral of Hidden Depths and infested with the reptilians.

I mentioned there was a surprising amount of lore regarding them, and was intrigued but did not cut and paste the section on their religion at the time:

Religion is at the heart of krait society, and in turn, the obelisks are at the heart of krait religion. The obelisks are rare, eerily smooth stones made from a unique material found on the ocean floor. According to the Oratuss, the priesthood of the krait, the obelisks mark the sites of the “ascension” of ancient krait prophets to some higher realm, but land-based scholars speculate that they are simply ancient krait monuments whose purpose have been long-forgotten due to the oral nature of the krait’s religious texts.

Krait doctrine fortells the return of the obelisks’ prophets, bringing with them massive armies to flood the surface of the world and destroy other species. It is to these prophets that the krait sacrifice their slaves, believing that they will serve the prophets as they expand their otherworldly armies. The krait regularly use magical and mathematical means to attempt to predict the time of the prophets’ return, but have yet to be successful.

Like their obelisks, all krait are steadfast and immobile in their beliefs. Their legends say those on land were driven out of the sea by the prophets and forbidden to return. This regarded with a degree of scepticism by other races but the krait refuse to listen such things and are happy to kill to ensure that the krait religion is not defamed. All krait are willing to die for the continuity of their species and for the cause of their prophets.

The religion of the krait is what allows the Oratuss to control the entire race. Religious “texts” followed by the krait are passed down verbally through these priests and priestesses. The vast length of the texts allows the priests, who have dedicated their lives to the texts, to make subtle changes to the wording and manipulate the interpretation of their legends to serve their purposes and support their power.

I suspected we would be seeing the krait again eventually, since a decent amount of work seems to have gone into developing their backstory and culture from the beginning of the game, but had no idea it was going to be this soon.

Which is utterly, utterly cool.

That shadowy structure, you ask?

I give you the concept art by Kekai Kotaki.

800px-Krait_obelisk_land_concept_art
(Images from GW2 wiki)
424px-Krait_obelisk_major_concept_art
(Images from GW2 wiki)

Krait obelisks.

They make me swoon. I am utterly in love.

I cannot wait.

Coincidentally, there are references to krait prophets somehow ‘ascending’ to higher realms and here we have Scarlet having touched the Eternal Alchemy and all that thematic ‘gods’ and ‘mists’ jazz.

And we already have invasion technology in place – a very popular activity at that. (Calling it here, armored scale prices will plunge when the krait invasions start, just as ancient bones are plummeting from Halloween now…)

I guess Tequatl might be dropping rare aquabreathers for a reason, after all.

Hindsight, unfortunately, while 20/20, is still hindsight.

I’m rather miffed that I did not make the link of the beach and tree silhouettes and sky in the background of the first picture with the Kessex Hills, which would have hinted at a planned creeping krait invasion as a potential Living Story development some day.

I can only make the excuse that I don’t play human characters very often and thus spend very little time in that zone.

This also unfortunately means that I don’t have any ‘before’ screenshots of Kessex Hills unless I took one or two by pure chance, and do not feel like trawling through thousands of them on the off chance that I did.

Luckily, the wisdom of crowds being what it is, -somebody- else must have and Google Image search and the GW2 wiki come to the rescue yet again.

Little did he know that the background would be more important than his new set of leather armor.
Little did he know that the background would be more important than his new set of leather armor.

Fortunately for our purposes, he left his minimap in the screenshot, and it was easy enough to figure out the spot where he stopped.

newkessexhills

Fairly drastic clear-cutting has taken place around the same area.

I miss the flowers the most.

As for the old Auld Red Wharf?

Image from GW2 wiki
Image from GW2 wiki

datpumpkin

Yeah.

As usual, I’m kinda torn again between sorrowfully missing the old stuff and kinda gleeful that things are changing.

I guess it’s easier to swallow this time around because all we’re missing for now is a couple of forests that looked all the same anyway and a ruined village that just got even more flattened.

But you know, I’d get those last looks at the view clear across the lake while you still can.

Quote of the Day on Mob Mentality

As for mob mentality… well, it’s mob mentality. Trying to enforce sanity in mobs is equivalent to stopping a train with a slingshot. Its what makes the age-old statement “If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you?” funny, as the answer in mob mentality is ‘yes’.

— Ocho, from the comments of Bio Break’s GW2: Nightmare Train post

The exact scenario went somewhat like this: Endeavoring to maneuver around another enemy zerg,

It’s a rehashed picture from half a year ago, but somehow remarkably appropriate.

Only three or four people did -not- follow the commander off the high cliff into too shallow water. They had to rez the others.

The Repetitive Nature of Games and Why Endgame is Elusive

Here we go round the mulberry bush...

Scree’s back! And the criticism this time is repetition.

Here’s the dirty little secret: games -are- repetitive.

One of the points of a game is that it lays out a set of rules and you repeat and iterate on the scenarios it presents you with till you get better at it and “beat it” or “win.” Games have a learning curve.

The nirvana that everyone is seeking is that perfect state of flow, where one’s skill level perfectly matches the level of challenge so that one is deeply engaged.

(Image from Wikipedia.)
(Image from Wikipedia)

Problem is, everyone is different.

One game’s level of challenge may match one player perfectly, while another may find the challenge too difficult and thus end up worried and anxious.

I’m not sure that graph is accurate on the lower scale, where relaxation is graphed at a higher skill level than boredom.

For some, it could be the other way around, where high skill level and low challenge leads to boredom, while a medium skill level and low challenge leads to finding the activity relaxing.

Then again, for others, it’s a lot easier to be bored than it is to really relax – one may need l33t Zen monk skills in meditation to achieve proper relaxation, while nearly anyone can be bored outta their effing mind on a regular basis.

It’s in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

It really comes down to what kind of repetition you find fun (or will put up with) in order to do something that you feel is enjoyable.

Different people reach different answers.

Scree finds that PvP produces a new situation every time it occurs. Those who prefer PvP tend to claim that they are drawn to this because the skills used can be the same, but the opponents are different, creating sufficient variety for them.

I’m especially tickled because I somehow managed to find that WvW was too repetitive and burned myself out from the game format some time ago.

You see, personality-wise, I’m very low on the competitive Killer Bartle scale. I’m just not really interested in the whole metagame of guess and second-guess your opponent in order to get one-up on them and win. So my tolerance for repetition on things PvP tend to be rather low, a couple rounds played for fun and variety… done.

Even in that eden of PvP, Eve Online, the blogosphere has been exchanging a little quote of the day highlighting a core repetitive aspect of the game.

Getting from one place to another apparently involves a lot of the same steps repeated over and over – turn off and on autopilot, manually warp to zero per jump gate. The only variety is what manner of shark awaits you at each step.

For some, that’s enough to consist of quite an adventure, and they willingly acclimatize themselves to the game’s little repetitive quirks to get the bigger experience.

I’ve been playing Don’t Starve quite a bit over the last few days. I easily get to my second winter and often get to days in the 100+ range. But then, I turtle.

homesweetbase

I turtle A LOT. I don’t play RTS games on a competitive basis because I tend to derive more pleasure spending two hours teching up to EVERYTHING and then creeping in the equivalent of siege tanks or battlecruisers to slowly demolish the computer’s bases one building at a time over outsmarting a real life person, who can turn out to be exceedingly obnoxious, win or lose.

I get that a lot of clever people have discovered they can shortcut this process and created dozens upon dozens of other strategies they can use to win against another party trying to turtle, which leads to more counter-strategies to defend against this, which leads to more counter-counter strategies to get the upper hand, unsoweiter.

I get that this is a delightfully deep metagame for some.

I admire it from afar with videos and commentators to help me understand it, but I choose not to spend a good part of my life learning one game to such a high degree of focus.

Back to Don’t Starve. I build a base. Preferably near 5-6 rabbit holes.

I expand it. I make a little tooth trap alley to the side to fend off hounds.

icallitthehoundnommer

I engage in tons and tons of repetition, including chopping wood for a day or two, gathering grass and twigs for another day, checking on my nearby spider den with pigs (aka silk farm) to make sure it won’t ever overgrow into a Spider Queen, catch and cook meals for another day or two, spend another day or two figuring out and reaching the next source of rocks and flint – just to prep for an expedition that may extend me into unexplored territory and necessitate a secondary base/firepit or an overnight stay not-at-home-base with a campfire.

When Winter comes, I run back to civilization central and my tooth traps and spend a good half my time just chopping wood and keeping the food supply going. Because I don’t want to starve, thank you. (Or freeze.)

NOT FREEZING.
NOT FREEZING. FIRE LEVEL ABOVE DESIGN PARAMETERS.

On the other hand, Azuriel would probably stab his eyes out from the repetition I engage in with the same game. He prefers forward adventuring progress.

Me, I haven’t even seen Maxwell’s door in many of my worlds, and never stepped once through it. I prefer a slow and steady stable state with some incremental creep.

My guess is that each person’s preference for how much excitement and adrenaline rush and thrill versus relaxation they want in their games is different.

(The old hard fun vs easy fun war again. There’s actually two more types if you follow the link.)

For those who find they enjoy a game that is short and linear but continually ramps up the challenge till the content is all done (like Portal and Portal 2), MMOs are going to be an inherently disappointing affair. Once they’ve mastered every challenge they care to, that’s it, done. Finite content is finite.

Time to go on to another game or another MMO, at least until the devs have enough time to produce more content to devour.

An endless endgame?

Whatever it is, it’s going to repeat -somehow-.

WoW raids are a delaying tactic. Kindly repeat the same fight but with the variation and difficulty of cat herding a lot of players with different schedules and skill levels for an RNG chance of desirable loot. Hopefully, this takes you long enough so that the devs can produce the next raid for you to do something similar till the next patch.

If you think that in Everquest Next, there won’t be players who will be searching for and making a point of repeatedly killing the most desirable mobs… I think that you’re sorely mistaken.

One hope that it has of stretching gameplay is the possibility of player-created content, which provides supplementary content to dev-created content, just like how mods can extend the lifespan of a single-player game.

Clarity of preference is important, rather than just dismissing a game as “too repetitive.”

I suspect that Scree prefers “impactful” games. A game where player actions can mean a great deal. Where player actions form the meat of the content via emergence. Where hopefully the NPCs have enough AI to form meaningful, discernable patterns that can be exploited but not TOO exploited.

Well, we’ll all be watching upcoming PvE sandbox games to see if they manage to achieve this elusive holy grail.

A lot of this stuff tends to break the moment you throw the “massively multiplayer” part of the equation in.

We’ve learned that player-created content tends to give rise to “xp farms” where players design, create and run repetitively an optimized encounter so that they can reach max level (and level alts) at the best possible speed. (Thank you, City of Heroes and Neverwinter. Possibly Everquest 2 too.)

We’ll see how fast ingenious players can map the world sufficiently to determine node spawning patterns (must farm crafting materials, y’know!) or provide trackers for mob movement or spawns to determine the most probable places to head to for xp/loot/combat action.

Case in point: observe niche game A Tale in the Desert – randomly spawning mushroom locations produced a shroomdar. This game barely attracts 1000 players at the best of times.

Do you think the combined brainpower of a popular MMO cannot crack what a single team of developers code? Or at least harness the power of massive crowds via  individual player reports? e.g. see GW2 dragon timers before the API was made available.

If you have xp in a game, players will figure out the best way to get xp fast. Even (and especially) if it means repetition.

Skills-based, not levels, you say? I point you to Darkfall and its stories of skill grind, where at least some players will macro it, or engage in the equivalent of leaving a weight on one’s keyboard a la Morrowind or other Elder Scrolls games.

If you have loot in a game, rest assured players will repeatedly do whatever it is to gather it.

Ideally, they are enjoying the activity they repeat. (Note: level of enjoyment varies based on player personality and preference.)

Whether that activity is combat (versus mobs or against other players), or gathering some form of resource (xp, gold, shiny loot for stats or looking pretty, craftables, luxury collectibles), or exploration and discovery or yes, even travel and commuting from point A to point B.

Eventually though, a player is bound to get bored of whatever repetition they were engaged in and wander off. Or burn out if they weren’t careful enough. Part of the gaming life cycle.

The real questions are:

  • Do they wander off to another activity in the same game?
  • If they wandered off to another game, do they ever come back to the one they left? (Check things out or pick up where they left off?)
  • And how frequently do they do it?
  • (Oh, and do they give the devs any money for providing such experiences in the meantime, of course. 🙂 )