GW2: Wot I Think About Raids, Now That The First is Here

Two days later, the jury’s still out on my personal reaction to raids.

Things I Like:

  • It’s new content. It’s a puzzle to be solved. It challenges a player to get better in multiple ways.

Folks are doing a lot of thinking right now. Thinking about how to use the existing flexible and exciting GW2 combat system to solve new problems. What builds to use, what gear or traits would help X situation, and so on. It demands a fair amount of practice at reaction response time and situational awareness as well.

This learning and improving is core ‘hard fun’ gameplay, so to speak, in contrast to the multitudes of ‘easy fun’ grind already available.

  • This group learning aspect is an interesting theoretical challenge for me personally.

By nature, I am very much a loner. It has not slipped my attention that in real life, in the workplace for example, many people are much more social and prefer to work in groups as a team. That even schools and universities are starting to wise up to this and encouraging teamwork and group learning as a matter of course, to prepare students for ‘the real world.’

John Seely Brown says he’d rather hire a high level World of Warcraft player (preferably a guild master) than a Harvard MBA. Why? Because if you can herd cats to do raids and lead a guild of hundreds, you’ve probably demonstrated remarkable leadership and collaborative skills, not to mention probably have good organizational and social competencies to boot.

(I presume this assumes you’re the head of a mature and respectful kind of long-lasting guild or other organized community, rather than the many that collapse from guild drama or the internet fuckwad type.)

On a personal level, I’m more interested in the small stuff. The ways I can sneakily (okay, “diplomatically”) influence others and change their behaviour without directly putting someone on the spot. Observing how small groups function, make decisions and learn. Things that will transfer over to real life and improve my skill set, pretty much.

As a strong introvert, I’m never going to feel super-happy-bouncy energized in groups, but we have to learn how to mask and get by in some situations that demand teamwork or relating in a social manner to other people.

(As long as I can still snatch some time to be alone and have my peaceful introspective recharge breaks, I guess it’s an ok compromise.)

  • The current rewards seem reasonable. Both motivating, yet not -too- motivating to the point of feeling forced. They make sense.

I’m going by what is currently advertised on Reddit as the reward vendor. Seems like there will be RNG drops of Ascended chests for some lucky people, and less lucky individuals can still earn tokens towards said Ascended chests over time.

Given that the eventual plan is for the final boss to be defeated by everybody decked out in Ascended gear, it is only sensible to make the earlier raid bosses a way to get said Ascended gear in all the different desirable stat varieties possible.

For folks who don’t even want to go near raids, they can still craft Ascended gear at higher cost, so there’s an alternate option and it’s not forcing anybody to do something they don’t like.

At the moment, non-raiding people will miss out on (apparently) some unique skin drops and minis of the raid bosses. Which imo, makes sense and is perfectly reasonable. It is still a way for raiders to show off what they have accomplished (between their titles, skins, minis, etc.) but nothing that skews the stat or gear curve.

What really worries me is the Legendary Armor aspect. If raids are the only way to get a component of this, it’s a form of gating and forcing that we’re better off avoiding, imo.

One might argue that Legendary Weapons require things like world completion and ‘forcing’ into WvW or PvP or dungeons, and Mawdrey requires stepping into Fractals, which I’d grant you in part that the stepping in portion is unavoidable and even desirable (to persuade someone to have a taste and/or show that they’re broad enough to have experienced different aspects of the game), but my point is that earning sufficient currency for those activities is not that hard in difficulty or restrictively time-consuming. Raids, on the other hand…

Of course, if you make Legendary Armor or the required raid component non-account bound and tradeable, then all my criticisms go out the window because there’s an alternate path of spending phenomenal amounts of gold while making raiders incredibly wealthy in the process (mutual win-win), but given the recent trend, it’s like everything is getting account-bound these days.

So yeah… we’ll see. For now, the rewards feel fair.

As much as ArenaNet loves to take time to repeat over and over praise for the generally well-behaved and higher maturity level of the GW2 community (ie. what is praised is demonstrated more often), I also have to suggest the reverse side of that is a few hard-hitting public examples of what-not-to-do.

We’ve seen it with Dhuum bannings in GW1; Chris Cleary being the GW2 equivalent of sometimes overenthusiastic doom. In GM/dev comments on Reddit threads and forums where some account-banned beggar is clearly shown the door by publically displaying the egregiousness of the verbal abuse torrent they unleashed, the obnoxious racism of the name they chose, how many accounts they were using at one time or whatever else exploit they were up to when their time of judgment arrived.

Sadly, an entire community caught some serious tar-and-feathering from the ill-considered actions of probably just a few, but it’s still an object lesson in the kind of behaviour ArenaNet would prefer to promote and the kind that Anet punishes.

Let’s hope the future direction and tone is set properly this time, so that we don’t end up down the elitism “u salty, bro?” slippery slope too quickly.

(I’m not sure it actually is possible to have a non-toxic raid community… it kinda sounds like the dream of a non-toxic MOBA or PvP community… maybe the people attracted to that style of gameplay just have personalities that skew that way, but maybe, just maybe, a good part of it is cultural and can be addressed with both support from the often silent majority and the authorities.)

Things I Dislike:

  • There’s definitely more interest in trying out raids than there are willing leaders to organize.

For map metas and WvW, you can end up with a many to one ratio of followers to leaders and everyone’s happy. For ten-man raids, you end up with a bunch of excess followers standing by on the playground hoping to be picked.

(Why we went backwards to a set limit when Anet is supposedly the king of dynamically level-scaling challenges and flex raids are a thing even in WoW is beyond me.)

Exclusion can be real and let’s just say some leaders are better than others at letting people down, while others don’t give a damn and are happy to fling elitist min-max rhetoric around.

Surprisingly at the moment I am not finding this as frustrating as I might have thought – I think it is a combination of there not being any MUST-HAVE-NOW-BLATANTLY-BETTER-THAN-EVERYTHING-ELSE rewards locked behind raids (not sure how this might change once we see Legendary armor requirements), a long term mindset (I am assuming that a month later, strategies will be locked down to the point where you could probably copycat a publicized build and PUG it if sufficiently motivated, or at least organize a guild group around it) and the consolation prize that there are a shit ton of collections and things-to-do for legendary weapons that are also going to take a humongous amount of time/effort and can be done solo.

Eventually it may start to bug me, especially if raids start to be held up as the be-all and end-all of everything (something I made a point of avoiding in all my MMOs – I’m ok if raiders are seen as slightly mad pariahs, akin to those that made a regular habit of Triple Trouble, or the dungeon community, or the hardcore WvW guilds, etc. but I sure hope it’s not going to be all raids all the time next year – a 6 monthly schedule release, maybe, punctuating actual Living World/Story movement as a side seasonal activity sounds nice, 3-4 months at the soonest.)

Right now though my squirrel attention has essentially shattered trying to already balance the idea of daily fractals for a legendary backpack, legendary precursor collections and HoT-related achievements, let alone worry or sulk about being left behind raid-wise.

(I’m already behind! Everywhere! Aaaaaah! So is everybbbbody else! Time spent doing one thing is time spent not doing another thing! Panic! Breach! Broken! Falling! Screaming! Dying! *AHHHH*)

  • The perennial lack of tanks and healers

But wait, GW2 protests, we are not like other MMOs! We have made sure any class can tank or heal (aka be bunkery and survivable and hold aggro by manipulating toughness and having crowd control options, or be all supporty and healy)…

…Well, for one, many people don’t want to be in such a position of responsibility. Kinda like leadership. So there’s an inherent imbalanced ratio and shortage to begin with.

And right now, for another, it is both so tedious and costly to switch stats, traits, build and have multiple sets of armor and weapons and trinkets for different functions, without even build saving/loading. My inventory bags are bursting, ascended stuff costs money and the meta is in flux, so one would currently be gambling on experimental builds.

I’ll grant that this might alleviate after some time, when people have had time to adapt to the changes and decide if they like one particular role more than another, when progress is such that even failed raids are earning raid tokens for Ascended gear, when some tank or heal builds have been publicized, and so on. But for now, it’s still mildly annoying.

(WTB build saver/switcher like in PvP pls. I will spend money -in-game and real world – unlocking all the things for more options and flexibility. I just don’t want them in my bags anymore.)

  • Watching people do eyebrow raising things because they’re operating on a different schema as opposed to others, and being unsure which strategy is better / makes more sense

I’ve only joined two raid attempts so far (which I’d define as semi-PUG, being essentially comprised of guilded randoms just going in to give it a try in a nonserious nonhardcore way, aka no min-maxing class cherry picking or uber meta strategy in mind) and already I am 50% of the way to seriously considering if it’s worth the money/effort/time trying to find the right class and build and learn how to play a semi self-sufficient tank with heals.

Mostly because I keep resisting the urge to vomit blood every time someone who has the aggro decides to drag the boss into the group stacking on the circle because “OOOH, CIRCLE, MUST STACK TO PREVENT RAID WIPING DAMAGE” and now the group has to deal with a frontal cleave from the boss as well as the distributed damage from the attack.

I am currently geared as a viper/sinister guardian (after a mad scramble over a few days pre-raid launch to invest in an Ascended condi set for greater role flexibility – coincidentally, DnT’s Obal released a condi guide to the burn guardian while I was midway through this process . I was both gratified to see that my self-selected choices mostly matched up and rather relieved, because now I had a backup opinion to point to in case anyone laughed at the thought of a condi guardian.

By the way, it’s pretty sick damage. I paid 20 gold for Viper and Sinister amulets in PvP *grumble goldsink grumble* to prototype before the PvE investment, and I couldn’t believe I was ticking for 7-9k burn damage on multiple golems while still flailing around for decent direct damage with a greatsword.)

The thing about choosing to stat like this is that I have zero toughness or vitality and guardian hp is low to begin with. My health pool acts like a mine canary. It is super-sensitive to anything, anything going a little wrong.

I see the boss charging directly at me and I am liable to panic, because a 5k hp frontal cleaving Punch from him means I am literally half dead at 11k hp. Add on the possibility of absorbing 2-3k damage from the Distributed Magic mechanic from standing in the circle, and I end up scrambling around either praying that I catch an AoE heal from a happy druid healer or using up my own big self-heal. If a red seeker comes in, and doesn’t get pushed back, the aura damage from it means I go down. No two ways about it.

My first raid attempt had a mix of 3 people who all sorta kinda wanted to tank and had high toughness, who were spinning the boss dizzingly back and forth between them, leading to a fair amount of difficulty trying to avoid the boss for everybody else. Add on one particular tank who seemed determined to get in the circle dragging the boss behind him (because apparently “the lightning strike hurts the boss” was the schema he was operating from) and this was more than a bit of a disaster until we managed to coax him to stay out of it.

In my second attempt, I’d done a bit more thinking beforehand and decided that I could take on a bit more personal responsibility making sure that I don’t get killed in the circle, irregardless of a tank determined to pile on in there. So I gave up my greatsword and put on a shield, which provides a nice little shield bubble that knocks away seekers and can pulse a small heal. Except it has a cooldown and I can only do that every second circle or so.

So I came up with the alternate strategy of choosing to NOT get in the circle when I don’t have my shield cooldown and I’m either far away or low on health and I already see 7-8 people piling in and the boss going after them, since you only need 4 in there. No doubt, I now look like the odd moron out, missing circle cues.

(I’m thinking mace/shield for my third attempt to see if I can get a bit more pulsed healing that way. A coordinated water field with blasts would be so so nice though, or just designated slightly sturdier circle runners, but I don’t think the raids I’m getting in have quite gotten up to that level yet.)

Alternately, it is also somewhat tempting to find the right build and gear and volunteer to tank, so that I can see if it is humanly possible to execute such a basic tanky concept as “oh, face the boss away from the main group most of the time?” (I am so so broke though.)

It was somewhat gratifying that after a seemingly eternity of the boss deciding to go after the admittedly very good druid healer (who was inexplicably high toughness for some reason) and who insisted on getting into the circle (presumably to save everybody else’s squishy asses) in my second raid attempt, a revenant said he could spin up to higher toughness than the druid and volunteered to take the aggro, whereupon he did a very presentable job running the boss in a small predictable circle and all I had to do as a mostly ranged damage dealer was sit in the center of the circle and spin around to deal consistent damage.

(Possibly much to the aggravation of the melee damage dealers, because they seemed intent on trying to catch up with the boss on his merry go around, but they didn’t say anything. Maybe they appreciated the predictableness too. Who knows.)

Equally alternatively, I could possibly avoid some of the getting sidelong damaged aggravation by choosing to gear more conservatively with toughness and/or vitality, except then there is the worry about being able to meet the demands of the enrage timer later down the road.

Or I could bring another class to the raid. Which is another min-max strategy that no doubt many players will choose to use later down the road, only taking the ‘best’ and most optimal classes, rather than viable but not optimal can-dos.

So, mismatching schemas all busy hashing it out. “Fun.” *sigh*

  • The regularity of needing a set group and the time commitment required to progress within a reasonable timeframe (meaning by the time the next raid comes out) / “I have to do HOW MUCH of this to get the reward I want?”

I’m really not getting any younger. Real life has a knack of getting in the way eventually. I can probably pull off 1-3 months of being consistently hardcore (hey, some people don’t even stick with one game that long) and it’s hard to foresee things from there. It’s certainly impossible to match the free time of a college student.

And I seriously dread ArenaNet deciding to place the time yardstick too high for whatever raid requirement is needed for Legendary Armor – look at the Yakslapper title for a ridiculously calculated goal, only took 3 years to eventually change it.

(Really though, what’s functionally appealing about Legendary Armor is the flexibility of stat swapping. Though we will still have the problem of runes then. If that is recreated elsewhere by having to buy and save 12 sets of Ascended armor without taking up bank/bag space, I’d be okay with that, astronomical cost and all! Legendary armor as prestigiously shiny skin is still motivating for many people.)

The general uncertainty is a drag.

Right now I have no certain answers along this front, so my overall opinion about raids in GW2 is still relatively unformed. Too early to say “yea” or “nay.”


3 thoughts on “GW2: Wot I Think About Raids, Now That The First is Here

  1. Ravious says:

    Major applause! Good full length thought dump. I think my guild is “officially” going for Friday, but it was really kitbashed together. I, personally, am more in the I don’t think I want this stress-camp. We’ll see how I feel after I give it a go, I guess.

  2. fireflyry says:

    *note to self:Must add Guild (GW1) and Supergroup (CoH) leader to curriculum vitae*

    As previously mentioned still too busy mapping core on a Rev to take much notice of HoT or raids dropping but my guildies are struggling with the content which says a lot to me.

    When my peers (who are mostly over rank 100 mastery, have multiple fully kitted out, fully ascended characters all rocking multiple legendaries) start smashing their faces into their keyboards I do wonder if I’ll ever get to the stage where I can access such content at all. More so without being a liability to the team, and second fold being lucky enough to grind out the baseline gear stats required in the first place.

    Much like you I binge and purge when it comes to gaming and nothing makes me take a month off like gear grind.

    I live in hope they will release different modes of difficulty in the future, at least so scrubs like me with exotic gear can have a look, all be it if we are rewarded a rusty spoon for doing so. This seemed to work fine for fractals.

    A similar mechanic here could be viable, outside invoking elitest rage.

    Still, early days. I would say guides will have a HUGE role to play, I’ll certainly be studting up before I even attempt such content, if I get there at all.

  3. […] If you haven’t read Jeromai’s thoughts, they are pretty good and […]

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