GW2: Don’t Be A Stranger – The Voice Debate in WvW

The faceless masses of low graphic settings... all these people I don't know...

Tobold asks the question of whether we have grown bored talking with strangers in our MMO and posits that it’s the reason behind the difficulty in getting back that “oldschool” community feeling more present in older games, where a certain forced reliance on others was more the norm.

At the same time, cakeboxfox launches into a lengthy diatribe against her server’s hardcore WvW community, which appears to have grown increasingly closeminded and elitist (or just super paranoid of spies) as competition pressures from the WvW league are coupled with the stress of dealing with PvE achievement hunters coming in completely new to WvW and possibly not interested in learning more about the game type.

One thing that catches the brunt of her anger at how insular and “srs bsns” the WvW guys on her server have become is the forceful pushing of Teamspeak (or other voice program) onto everyone in the map and the silence and non-communication over mapchat that follows.

One thing that does raise my eyebrow though, are the following interesting lines:

My parents taught me never to talk to strangers.

I don’t need to talk to anyone else on the online game as I’m talking to flatmate. I don’t play online in any other games, because I’ve realised, just like at Xmas, many people can only see their own goals, and you’re just a blur of pixels as they fly past looking for the next set of achievement points.

Team spirit seems to have died a little, despite having things like Teamspeak.

Now let me make something very clear.

I’m not a fan of voice chat.

Never have been.

In those tests of visual, audio, kinesthetic intelligence, I am a primarily visual person, followed by doing stuff to learn it, and if you tell me shit using your voice, I have apparently been trained over the decades by incessantly boring lecturers and a mother who never stops talking the moment I get into her vicinity to automatically fall asleep.

Failing which, I tune out. I’m physically, but not mentally there after fifteen minutes or so.

I’ve heard that the average attention span for lectures is only around 45 minutes anyway. (For me, it takes fairly herculean effort to get to that point if the speaker isn’t phenomenally talented.)

I don’t use a microphone.

I live in a household and a country whose culture tends to look cross-wise at people wearing headsets speaking to machines, eyes glued to a tv screen, “playing games” when one should be concerning themselves with “serious” and “mature” things becoming to one’s age like work, food, small talk, complaining about everything under the sun, playing the “I have a bigger car or house than you” Jones game and discussing the latest tv show or soap opera because that’s what everybody else does and one wants to blend in and fit with the crowd, no?

Suffice to say, no mic. It’s just not worth the long family debates it’ll raise over and over, and how little opportunity I’ll get to use a headset, when I could spend the same amount of money on a gaming mouse and get the full benefit from one.

The Tarnished Coast community gets into the Mumble or no Mumble debate every couple of months on the forum boards.

As is usual with our diverse and quirky and occasionally dysfunctional but generally civil and tolerant community, folks from all sides weigh in with their opinions. There’s always a couple extremists on either end who would love nothing better to force everyone to their way of thinking. There’s moderates who recognize the value of both options, text and voice, and try to mediate the potentially tense exchanges. There’s lurkers who simply roll their eyes and go “this again?” at the dead horse being beaten to the point that one can make a shepherd’s pie out of the mince that remains.

Someone will try to point that there’s very little point bringing all of it up again because everyone’s going to play their own way and that the best consensus that has only sorta kinda been reached is to reach out both ways. Folks listening in on Mumble to transcribe what the commander says in text, to help those who can’t get onto voice. Folks sitting on the fence about voice programs to be encouraged into Mumble by advertisements, that may anger those staunchly against the program, but that can’t be helped.

And then someone else will jump onto it and argue that no, it’s worth rehashing all this again because sweeping issues under the rug and pretending they don’t exist is not the way to resolve problems.

Yeah, well. That’s our erudite TC community for you. 🙂

The thread dies a natural or unnatural death (euthanasia by moderators may take place) after a while, and life in WvW goes on.

But here’s what I don’t get.

Maybe some of you can help me understand.

How do you complain about the quality of a community, in the same breath as saying that all these evil, selfish people are strangers to you and that you don’t want to talk to them, ever?

You’ve not even tried to participate in the community. You’ve just tarred and feathered them all with the same brush of imagined prejudice.

(Now if you have, and you’ve decided that the people in it have a culture that doesn’t match your preferences and that you want out, that’s different.)

We are all strangers to each other until someone extends a hand and says, “Hi.”

Maybe I’m just really lucky on the Tarnished Coast. Our community, by and large, is an amazing place.

Yes, there have been certain weeks and months that a guild has decided to be morons about Mumble.

There was a point in the past where my own guild was being fairly retarded about it – advertising like a drug pusher, failing to read map chat (AND GUILD CHAT, much to my disgust as I got run over by an opposing zerg while trying to scream for help and solo defend a tower when five other guildies were conducting a nonessential conversation about WvW builds in my ear and the zerg was off milling over there when we could have really used the help here) and then being tactically unsound and running us all into a meat grinder, pretty much destroying trust and morale in their commander tag and our guild rep to boot.

But you know, those are individual people.

Their attention span for text is plainly the same kind of attention span I have for audiobooks. Those situations are one-off and thankfully, not too habitually common. (Worse case scenario: I take off and go solo thieving by myself in a silent vote of no-confidence.)

I’ve met plenty of other people who are awesome at marrying voice and text. I listen, they talk. I type, they read. We manage a conversation fairly well, both making allowances for each other.

I run dungeons with the same guild that way, and did fine with TTS on their Teamspeak too.

There are commanders on the Tarnished Coast who do utterly stellar with keeping track of text reports from a variety of sources, while responding and commanding on Mumble. And some really crazy good-at-multitasking individuals manage to echo themselves with text at the same time.

Here’s my point.

How would I meet them if I didn’t just extend a hand across the gap as well, and download and install a quick program to give it a shot?

They’ve extended a hand. “You don’t need a mic,” they say.

Which suits me just fine. I can’t ever join those super-picky hardcore guilds where everyone must have a mic, 100% everything required…

Hell, I probably don’t even have the time to spare for those. They play the game their way, keeping away the hoi polloi, and I leave ’em to it, closed communities eventually die off or move on to the next game rather quickly.

If you want -some- kind of community though, why not take just a little bit of effort and try to join it?

Especially when following zerg commanders.

Here’s my line of thinking. You’ve chosen to follow them. You’ve given them a certain amount of trust and responsibility to lead you right. In the interests of playing well, and helping your team play well and not die horribly, why not plug in some earphones and get on whatever voice program they are using so as to hear where the zerg is moving next and survive better?

Maybe it’s hard for me to understand because I’m a bit of a compulsive problem-solver and optimizer.

The first time I joined zergs in WvW, I did it with a PvE built guardian in a shabby mix of PVT and other gear with no coherent build worth speaking of. I observed that I would regularly go splat the instant I was asked to charge forward and through an opposing zerg.

No matter what I did. Double dodge? Yeah, tried that. Go around the side? Worked silghtly better, but not great. Conditions would coat me, and then I would die. Over and over.

When this happens, I take it as a sign that SOMETHING IS WRONG. Especially when I see other people managed to make it through just fine.

My next step is always to ask myself, HOW CAN -I- FIX THIS.

Note the locus of control. I find blaming others rarely helps anything.

I try to improve myself and my understanding of what’s going on, up to the point where I personally can’t take what’s happening in the situation around me, and scarper off somewhere else where I do have a better locus of control (ie, soloing dolyaks. Choice of where to go, and when to engage and when to run screaming like the hounds of hell are after my hiney is all down to me.)

Whatever gives me an advantage, I take.

I fix my build. I go research what other people have done with WvW builds, try them out wholesale to see if they fit me, and tinker a bit for understanding and customisation.

I read WvW guides on what I’m supposed to be doing. In a zerg, target the commander and key in on the red target sight like it’s your lifeline, always keeping it in the center of your screen.

I practice. I try again, searching for what worked better this time around, and what still didn’t work as well.

I get on Mumble. I hear the comm’s commands, run in a tight ball with the core, and live where others die.

For entirely self-interested reasons, it makes sense to me to at least give the voice program a shot.

I join the TTS Teamspeak when I do Tequatl runs. Strictly speaking, it’s still very possible to run Teq without it at all. But for the purposes of the actual fight, where one can get a bigger picture and a bigger sense of which portions are in trouble and may need people to come by and help out, I find it useful to be listening in on voice.

And yes, there are certain people who can never seem to shut up while waiting for Tequatl. It’s not their fault. They’re built that way. It’s also not my fault that I find this exceedingly annoying and irritating. I’m built that way.

So what? Do I swear off using voice chat because there are some people I can’t stand also using the program?

Well, there are always volume controls and the ye olde stand by of yanking out the earphones. (If one wanted to be very rude, one could also visibly mute certain people or deafen oneself in the voice program when necessary.)

While waiting, I tend to just not be listening to the Teamspeak at all.  I’ve already heard the briefing several times over. Only Merforga’s airline briefing is still amusing now and then. I let the chatters chat amongst themselves. I play my own music if I want to.

When it’s time for the actual fight, I listen in.

The same goes for WvW, I should think.

If I’m running with a zerg commander that uses voice, I should be getting on voice.

If I don’t like it, then fer heaven’s sake, why am I running with that commander?

Give him a vote of no-confidence for his commanding style and scarper off and go do your own thing.

Some commanders curse a lot. I happen to have a fairly thick skin and don’t mind vulgarity, but I perfectly understand if others do not like that commanding style and don’t want to follow them. Some commanders are tactical amateurs, and as much as I might like to support them to the point where they can learn and improve, some days I just don’t feel like dying repeatedly to bad calls and will simply not follow those doritos.

I’ve met one commander who was intensely abrasive and a little bit racist with not much redeeming features (as opposed to another who just cursed a lot but was hilarious and funny and knew how to spin a situation around to keep his followers engaged with high morale)  and after fifteen minutes, simply decided to break away from that little group. Not my thing. They were still contributing in their own way, so I went off to contribute in my own way somewhere else.

When I want to be alone and not listening to anybody and playing my own music, I log on an alt for WvW roaming and I run around on my own, only keeping track of and supplying reports via text chat.

But when I choose to play with a group, to me, it makes sense to help that group be the best it can be.

Even if it means downloading an evil voice program and having to meet and talk to strangers.

Who knows, maybe after some time of getting to know them, they won’t be strangers any longer.

Grouping and Soloing in Terraria Hardmode

Cowabunga!

Over on the Terraria end, hard-mode has been my drug of choice.

I find that I enjoy the challenge of facing something difficult and initially pwns your face off, but then steadily working out how to defeat it via better and creative tactics (and possibly incrementally better gear.)

The big BUT is that I can accept this quite easily in a singleplayer or small multiplayer game, but somehow the flow seeking for optimal challenge seems to break down in a big MMO.

One major difference that I can think of is that Terraria allows creativity of block placement and the ability to alter your scenery. You get to dig trap pits, walls and barriers to shield yourself, plot and plan and set up regeneration stations (<3 my honey pits) and the eventual reward of this industry is the capacity for “easy fun” when the mob progresses to the “on farm” phase, where you stand around, hold down a mouse button and cackle as things die and loot drops.

In a big MMO, progress is more measured by how good your gear gets, and how well your group/raid members play.

In Terraria, there is incrementally better gear as well, but progress on that front is generally a lot faster.

RNG chances of 0.5% – 1% are a LOT more palatable when you can go through one mob in under a few seconds and can generate hundreds of them in under an hour.

Contrast this with an MMO raid where you only get to test the favor of the RNG gods once a night for maybe twice a week at best and things start to get annoying very quickly.

Mobs in Terraria can be soloed. I’m not at the mercy of waiting for others to match my timings and praying they or their gear is up to the fight.

They’re also easier in a group, so there is still incentive to come together when everyone is online.

And of course, the most fun in Terraria arises from the creative collaboration. Taking the ideas of one person and then running with it, being inspired by and improving on it.

arena

The old new arena, you may recall, was a clean glitzy place marred only by the record of our untimely demise at the hands of Skeletron when we summoned him on a whim a little -too- close to the dawn.

Post-hardmode, one thing has pretty much led to another.

Our group ‘boss’ project has been the Pumpkin Moon event, a series of 15 waves to be fought during the space of night. Logically and rightfully, it’s a lot easier to push the waves when there’s more of us around than attempting to solo. (But you could always summon it solo and still try it out, so there’s no nasty restriction there.)

Eri and I once attempted the event as a duo, and got to something like Wave… 4? Memory fails. From there, we noticed the tendency of mobs to start falling into certain locations, like a lake bed, and the idea was born to start playing mechanic and wiring up traps to defeat the smaller mobs more easily. (Also conveniently getting all of us familiar with the new stuff to boot.)

Each person has built upon the ideas of the other, and our new arena is pretty danged lethal. (Note: Keep hands and feet and body away from machinery when spiky balls are in operation!)

newnewarena

The assorted junk at the center of the arena was also a collaborative effort. I stuck a honey pit and campfire (and later a heart crystal) there cos I loves me some stacked regen. I put a clock there too cos I hate shuffling around my accessories trying to check when night was coming via a GPS.

Eri set up teleporters for kiting bosses, and a bed spawn point, and a chest and other conveniences have popped on in.

I wanted to play with asphalt.

I had 999 pieces of gel to use up, and the thought of running places at double the speed was very appealing to my lazy soul. Especially for getting to the dungeon quickly to farm all the goodies inside.

What better to use it on than Eri’s already set-up highway?

Followin' the black brick road...
Followin’ the black brick road…

Of course, sometimes collaboration has a cost. It involves compromises.

The new and improved lethal trap corridor below our arena necessitated the removal of a scenic lake. Someone’s *cough* lazy draining methods have turned it into a somewhat boring rectangular underwater reservoir.

reservoirdeath
I see it also claimed the life of its builder. Hooray for turtles and their were-merfolk ability!

Of course, all this means is the ability to re-collaborate and re-improve on the design.

I’m still pondering what to do with the stored water. I recently worked out how to pump liquids with pumps and wires and am somewhat eager to play with it. Just need a good idea.

I installed a bit better lighting because turtles are still blind as a bat (need to farm my nice white light off dungeon mobs at some point), took the opportunity to redecorate my tunnel in the gaudy fashion of someone who really likes those crystal shards but has no real sense of what’s appropriate, and stuck in a new door for one more minor mob speedbump before they pop in to plague me in the midst of crafting stuff.

Oh, and I also repaved the new way up (the one that doesn’t involve flying head on into a hundred spiky balls) with asphalt, just because.

It makes a hilarious fun slide into the other pond on returning from the castle.

And the cost of the speedy new west highway?

pumpkintunnel

Someone’s pumpkin has a hole in it. A very straight worm drilled through it. That’s what a little bird told me. Yes.

Halloween’s over. Pumpkins rot, y’know?! (At least, partially.)

My creations tend to be more on the ugly but functional side of things. Especially for speeding up farming of items I want, but am too impatient to spend hours waiting for.

Terraria has been kind enough to allow increasing mob spawn rates by standing by a water candle and drinking a battle potion, so farming seems to be very much a part of the game.

I want the ability to summon Pirate Invasions, because they’re fun, and that requires a pirate map consumable that is used up per summon. You get a pirate map off a rare chance killing mobs in the Ocean biome. That involves walking to the edge of the map and lots of swimming, and I’ve already killed so many sharks in a prior search for a diving helmet that I could make shark’s fin soup if such an item existed in Terraria.

Solution? Enter the meteor farm. Placing 50 pieces of meteorite anywhere turns it into an artificial meteor biome, and in near end-game armor, a helpful leaf crystal acts like an autoturret that can one-shot the meteor heads that spawn to accompany the biome.

sunsandandmeteors

Ugly, but functional. And the wooden platform below catches most of the drops.

It also allows for more active participation when desired, because I can only AFK so long before getting trigger happy.

The other thing that I regularly amuse myself with is the artificial biome project.

I guess I just enjoy taming the wilderness by encasing it in easily accessible little bubbles that preserve its habitat for posterity. I don’t even mind the mobs that keep spawning from them, they make life fairly entertaining (though I do have a certain hatred for a giant fungi bulb that insists on throwing nasty spores in the air that whack an unaware person for 56 damage per spore.)

Home sweet artificial biomes. All trees finally growing.
Home sweet artificial biomes. All trees finally growing.

All attempts at preserving natural antlion populations are failing miserably. I think I need a longer desert.

All attempts at preserving the natural antlion populations are failing miserably. I think I need a longer desert.
Work has begun on an underground jungle, though so far, it's more of an underground fish farm.
Work has begun on an underground jungle, though so far, it’s more of an underground fish farm.

What Passes For a Short Vacation from GW2

So ugly, so dismal, so much waiting...

The problem with playing two games is that one runs out of time for blogging about either.

Not that there’s much to blog about on the GW2 front.

The novelty of Terraria Time has eaten into the decidedly un-novel achievement checklist of the Tower of Nightmares – which was thankfully set at a more sane level for casuals, so I felt more comfortable stretching that out over the first week, instead of racing desperately to finish it.

There’s nothing new I can say about visiting Toxic Offshoot dynamic events and either siege goleming, mortaring or keg bombing them into extinction, and then harvesting pristine toxic spores. If you play the game, you’ve done it, same as everyone. I can’t exactly tell an entertaining story around that.

My graphics level has also been set at permanently ugly, ever since crashing out of Kessex Hills after the zergs came visiting, so there’s nothing to show off on that front either. Not that toxic corruption is very photogenic either way. Everything is a depressing dull green reminiscent of the soulsucking paint that is said to decorate the walls of ancient hospitals or asylums.

The only thing I can grumble about is the seeming impossibility of grinding out 250 spores for a recipe from Marjory. (I got to around 178 by the time I finished the achievements.)

I find myself having little patience for visiting an endless amount of DEs (though no doubt, they may be a pretty good source of xp for those looking to level a character.)

The best way to obtain gold seems to be dungeons. Which admittedly is an interesting concept, if it’s most profitable to run group content for $$$, you’ve suddenly made participating in group content pretty attractive and also made it harder for gold sellers to bot (rumors of bots able to run CM not withstanding.)

Which is all very well for those with a static group able to run 8 dungeons in 2 hours, but I neither have that kind of group nor to be frank, do I have the mentality to be able to log in like clockwork every day at a certain hour to run with that kind of group before developing an intense loathing for that activity.

(It’s the feeling of letting people down if I’m not able to make it on a certain day that I dislike. I try to make Teq runs like clockwork on days I can make it, but for example, if I skip three days in a row like I just did recently, I know I’m not going to be missed because there’s always someone else that would be keen to get into that overflow and make up the spot.)

So it is a lot more realistic for me using the LFG tool to aim for 2-4 dungeons a day at best.

I recently expanded my comfort zone back to including Ascalonian Catacombs – path 1 and 3 at least, no one seems to like running the ‘improved’ Ghost Eater these days so I haven’t an inkling just how intensely that fight has been ‘improved.’

TTS has been running dungeon nights every week and I managed to make two of those and got my feet wet with the last two Crucible of Eternity paths I was still missing. Surprisingly not that bad, though there are some bits that do require a bit of coordination, and I still harbor an intense loathing for those lasers – I’m convinced latency is an issue as one would have a time delay between seeing when the laser is off, starting the jump and landing, and taking off again before the server says, “nope, the laser is really -here- and you’re dead.”

Bright side, apparently only two need to make it across. And I did manage -one- attempt after having stripped down to a loincloth and dying some five times or more, in a group where three other people were having even more trouble than me.

Then with one Honor of the Waves path 2 left, I just kept an eye out for any PUG running it and hopped in.

There was also a brief story mode side trek. That art still looking good.
There was also an opportunistic story mode side trek to unlock the dungeon for my warrior. That cinematic/concept art, still looking good.

Hooray, one more title that means absolutely nothing. I feel more like a Dungeon Tourist rather than a Dungeon Master, since a good half of the contributing dungeons were only visited once ever. It’s certainly not something I feel comfy displaying, but it’s nice to have that box shaded in and future gold runs now count toward the endlessly looping repeatable.

Anyhow, my dungeon earning intake is more on the modest scale of 2-5 gold a day, depending on how many I decide to run, mostly prompted by whim and feeling very carefully for the boredom/sick of it point.

Reddit was suggesting the Frostgorge Champion loop earns up to 7 gold an hour, which seems a little improbable, but I suspect they’re offloading everything and including TP profits.

Which I usually don’t, I prefer to pull direct from the source of where the virtual currency is being generated, wherever possible.

Harnessing the TP is merely transfer of money from player to player, which is good when you’re poor and others are rich, and evens out the disparity that way, but one almost always loses out something in the exchange, via taxes or flippers. I like it as a supplementary source of income, a decent alternative when doing the primary activity bores you to tears.

Anyhow, I can only stand a champion train in short doses. Half an hour before I get antsy. So it’s less a source of income for me and more a source of blues and greens for luck conversion and an amusing lottery ticket excursion to open some bags and see what pops out.

Seeing as I don’t have the patience right now to exchange time for in-game money on any large scale, yet still dearly want the new recipes to complete my collection and soothe my OCD, the last alternative is pretty clear. Joining the ranks of those helping to push the gold to gem exchange rate in the other direction, downward.

100 gems exchanges for about 4.9 gold, which is also roughly the price of a stack of pristine toxic spores on buy order. That’s a dollar twenty five per recipe, and I only need six of them to unlock crafting access.

Those spores trade at pretty phenomenal rates. While hanging out at Teq for two hours and making use of the two tabs, I’ve bought myself  five stacks. I suppose the other can wait till I run a few more dungeons.

I can only presume that this implies a thriving market with both buyers and sellers.

There must be enough impatient hardcore minded people willing to drop real money to take a few shortcuts, plus a good base of either casuals or gold-selling bots spending time to gather up the resources for them and trading it off in exchange for in-game gold.

Will I regret it later?

I doubt it.

There’s talk that the whole Tower of Nightmares / krait affair will likely last longer than these two weeks as there’s probably still a couple of Scarlet-related updates to go. It -may- still be possible to keep earning those pristine toxic spores then, at -possibly- increased rates. After all, the recipes also use the spores as ingredients. Maybe. Assuming Marjory is still selling them and hasn’t decided to move off elsewhere in the next update.

The price may very well crash in the next month, making the recipes more affordable.

But that’s… a lot of ifs.

It may be that I just end up able to enjoy them sooner, and have more peace of mind now, rather than later. Still worth the premium price tag for me in my current situation.

The uncertainty is just not something I want to deal with right now. I already have one long term earning/buying project – the Bloody Prince mini – in the works and that’s likely to take up the remaining Halloween time and then some. I might miss that, but it’s only a mini if I do.

I suppose it is akin to buying new PC games. If you want to play it -now- just as the launch craze happens and everyone is talking about it and enjoying it, you pay the premium of 60 bucks and get to enjoy it sooner. If you’re willing to wait and risk the possibility that no one will be bothered with the game six months to a year later, you can get it for half price or even cheaper if you wait longer. (Except in the case of collectible editions that may no longer be in print and force you to buy ’em at a mind-blowing price from eBay later if you suddenly develop a craving for something ridiculously rare.)

Whatever.

WvW time has been shoved aside for the past two weeks to make room.  I’m about halfway to three quarters done, so I figured there would still be a bit of time to pick it up again later.

Mostly I’ve just been having quite a bit more fun in Terraria, which I shall get to in the next upcoming post.