GW2: The Final Word on Raids, As Far As I’m Concerned

I spent my vacation week doing my best to sample as broad a range of raid groups as possible, exhausting my entire three-guild network (and taking steps to broaden out to a fourth, after cleaning up a guild bank and leaving it in the hands of my second account), not to mention clogging up the LFG tool in the hopes of being used as filler for other guilds’ raid attempts.

As you might expect in a random sample, there were good groups and well, not-so-great or seriously struggling ones.

I do think a majority of the small guild raid attempts I joined will get it over time, especially the ones with a static core group with the odd guildie or PUG filler, given sufficient practice on members’ parts and/or time to adjust builds and buy the necessary gear.

Quite a long time for some though. I had to bite my tongue to remain a polite PUG filler while eavesdropping on certain TS conversations.

“Is 200 condi damage a tick ok? That’s enough, right?”

Long pause, before another person answered, “Errr…probably not. Just as a standard of comparison, my engineer does 6-9k/tick condi burns.”

And that’s before we even look at the poison and bleed the engi is also reputedly able to output.

In another raid attempt, a warrior did his best to persuade me that I should be using a sword for extra bleeds, instead of a greatsword, even after I told him I’m in full zerker and have zero condition damage.

I dunno, I’m already dying here trying to maintain 25 might stacks with Sigil of Strength and still eke out 36-40k hundred blades damage while remembering and often failing to use Whirlwind Attack – preferably as an evade rather than use up a dodge – Bladetrail and Rush in perfect flow sequence to get another 8-11k per hit in.

Oh, and keep dodge rolling to keep endurance bar half-drained so that Stick and Move’s 10% damage can come into play, but leave enough endurance so that you can actually dodge a teleport AoE in case Whirlwind Attack is on cooldown.

Plus I respec’ed to the Berserker elite a day ago because another person in another raid group pointed out that PS Berserkers are capable of doing more damage than PS warriors – which on looking at the traits, seemed very much more objectively true.

(Note: When you’re -trying- to rush out the last few hero points for an elite spec ASAP, the Heart of Thorns zones are an infuriating place of can’t-solo-this-point-or-that and nope, not letting you run past these mobs without getting pwned.)

There are quite a few more skills Berserkers need to use, including the F2 going berserk that ups attack speed, their burst skills – that trigger the Berserker’s Power trait for even more percent damage, the elite Headbutt to recharge adrenaline for yet another burst and so on. All with cooldowns that I’m still not used to and don’t have the timing quite right.

It all ends up as a garbled mess of button pressing and leaves me still feeling very much inadequate compared to the successful kill videos, where some of those hundred blades go up to 56k. Not sure how they’re hitting those numbers really, maybe they’re getting more buffs from their group composition.

Yep, I’m sure you’re right and that putting on my exotic sword for a couple extra 50-200/tick bleeds on the Vale Guardian, instead of my Ascended Axe with the Sigil of Strength on it would really help your group right now!

P.S. I have a condi burn guardian if you really need condi for red. Pls love him. He can go up to 9-11k burning (I saw a 14k once that I’m still working on trying to achieve again. Not sure how the stars aligned for that though.) Reality check: I’m still getting the hang of him and only hit 5.5k averages, and he’s squishy as fuck and really hard to play in comparison.

P.P.S. Yes, I’m sure a properly specced berserker elite spec warrior with viper/sin gear can do very -nice- condi damage with sword bleeds and whatever else gives burning. Probably torch and longbow. I haven’t looked at those traits in detail yet, and that warrior certainly wasn’t telling me to do this. It was more like, “Yo, use a sword with your mace. It’ll give extra bleed damage! It’s better than axe! I’m telling you, it’ll be the meta any day now!”

“….”

I did get into other raid groups which I was pretty envious of, they looked organized, competent, fairly coordinated but still working on mechanics, and were pushing past to phase 3 or 4, before the break bar AoE shower coupled with green circles would cause a group wipe. (I wish I’d taken note of some of their names, but I was PUGing in irregular hours that I can’t manage consistently, so it seemed like a moot point.)

So it’s not all tragic, I just tell the out there stories because well, they’re way out there.

Tomorrow, I go back to work.

With the impending onset of reality, I find myself doing some serious personal soul-searching.

I am forced to admit that my last week’s gameplay style was unsustainable. (For me, personally. YMMV.)

I can’t sit around in LFG for hours on end, hoping to get picked up, and hang out in Teamspeak channels waiting for some group organizer to come in and say they need one more X, and pray that X is a character you can bring and that they want you.

I’ve signed up for progression raids in at least two places, but it’s obvious to me that a) you’re at the raid organizer’s mercy, they can pick you or not, depending on their preferences, and b) even if you do get the spot, there’s nine other people that may or may not play well, and -their- progress is not exactly something you can control reliably. (Same goes for yourself, -they- may be impeded by your lack of progress.)

In other words, it’s like a lottery. Maybe you’re lucky, maybe you’re not.

Feels almost like flushing stuff down the Mystic Toilet for precursors. (You have to put in no small amount of effort in the beginning to get enough things to flush. The flushing is completely out of your control. And the more times you flush, your chances of getting a precursor back is higher.)

It doesn’t mean you don’t try, of course, but I keep having to remind myself not to obsess over things that are out of my hands. I’m trying to learn patience for these longer term endeavors, and it seems I have as much of a way to go on the Serenity Prayer as I do on getting better game-wise.

Trying to raid 7 days a week in the hopes of getting lucky and managing to PUG a boss kill is not something I should be, or would enjoy doing.

Sustainable would be something more like once or twice a week. In a static group, assuming one has the fortune to get into one. (Remember: out of my hands, out of my control. *twitch* If not, the alternative would be to designate those one or two days I was going to give to a static raid as an advertise as PUG filler time too.)

Thing is, I’m more of a generalist than a specialist. I can’t go all hardcore WvWer, PvPer, fractaler, raider, whatever and only spend time in one game mode playing it repeatedly to death. So I have to come to terms with not being able to progress as far or as fast – somehow I accept the first three a lot easier than the last, not sure why.

In exchange, I get to play a greater variety of things every night. I’ll have time to do some map meta events, I can run around solo and harvest all the things or work on my collections and stuff.

Not to mention, I want a life that not only includes other GW2 activities, but other games, and *shock, horror* other non-computer-related real life activities, in the tiny spaces that are not working salaried hours.

This is not an easy decision, from an emotional point of view. There is just something in me that says, “Well, -they- did it, why can’t I, if I put in the same amount of herculean effort?” Maybe I’m just too conditioned to chase carrots-on-sticks and I’m bulldog persistent to the point of self-detriment. I find it a lot harder to make myself let go and accept openness and up-in-the-airness, rather than keep banging my head against the wall until it finally cracks and I get a sense of relief and closure.

There’s a treadmill there. I don’t have to stand on it. Or I can run on it a little and get off whenever I want to. It’s like “Wat. I don’t even… does not compute.” The concept is harder to master than a DPS skill rotation.

Especially when it’s a treadmill that doesn’t quite fit or work right, and may not be comfortable to run on.

Part of what helped me approach this decision was a conversation I had with a seasoned guildie. This guy knows his stuff (I think he’s in Attuned), when he tells me that Lupicus goes after least toughness in phase 2 and highest toughness in phase 3 or something similar, I’ll take his word for it – I presume he’s tested it or has heard from -his- contacts about such things.

He’s at the second boss, Gorseval, and -he- says it’s crazy.

And over-tuned. Way too tightly tuned.

I told him, no shit, this is what happens when you use DnT as your benchmark.

I think what puzzles both of us, in our own separate ways, is “Where is the room for progression, if the first and second bosses are like this?”

He wonders what the later bosses and subsequent raid wings are going to be like. Are they going to be even more insane?

What room does Anet have to maneuver, beyond increasing stats on gear, if they start from such a high baseline and have to keep ramping up?

I wonder about the encouragement for beginning raiders if they bog down right on the first boss from the get go. It’s not exactly the sort of thing that helps permeability into a raiding culture, I should think. More the divisive “can, can-not” divide right from the start.

Who loses in the end? The isolated subgroups. I think the hardcore WvWers can tell you how that feels like, when the whole place is empty save for them.

In our conversation, I mention the potential effect over-tuned encounters can have on latency-ridden Oceanic players. Not so obvious an effect in combat, but more noticeable in things like gliding or picking up item bundles.

Plenty of gliding at Gorseval, he says. Effed.

I’m like, I know. (And not terribly looking forward to it, to be honest.)

Then he tells me that class balance is way outta whack. The revenant autoattacks for super-high damage as compared to every other class, apparently.

Suddenly it makes a great deal of sense to me why plenty of successful group comps on Reddit use 2-3 zerker revenants/heralds.

If it’s less easy to screw up on a revenant and still do great damage, then duh, why not take the rev? Screw the other classes for now, until the impending revenant nerf. Which will no doubt arrive eventually.

There are cheese strategies making their rounds among the higher-level groups, supposedly.

(Not an accusation, it’s quite typical for certain Bartle explorer / spade types to poke holes in systems till they bleed. It’s what they do.)

I think some hints of that have spread onto the GW2 Reddit, with plenty of controversial disagreement over whether the Vale Guardian’s break bar should be broken or left alone, or whether certain races’ racial skills are a little OP for the Gorseval fight especially in conjunction with elite specs.

Most of all this I find rather inevitable, but what is more concerning are the implications.

Are we going to end up not just pigeonholing by gear and class and spec, but RACE now? LF Sylvari Chronomancer only.

The whole thing reeks of extremely schizophrenic design decisions. GW2 was meant to be inclusive and cooperative, and we’re fast swinging in the other direction of exclusive and competitive. As Bhagpuss likes to say, swerving headlong into WoW, while WoW seems to be doing its best to rip off (*ahem* copy and polish till it glitters) GW2’s cooperative aspects.

If you’re going to implement enrage timers, then you’re going to end up with players calling for ways they can analyze DPS.

And the only thing many players know are DPS meters.

With which some (or many) people are against being used as bludgeons to make other players feel bad, except that can already happen in other ways, proponents say, so give us our ways to objectively measure the criteria you’re punishing us for not reaching.

Except that many of the original design decisions of GW2 was to make those bludgeons unavailable so that it’s less easy for players to attack others as a matter of course.

Hell, I’d personally like a way to just copy the combat log and run it through a parser.

But if you can count it, people will start asking their raids to make public their “personal” DPS measured, I’m sure. But why shouldn’t they? There’s an enrage timer, so of course you need to have an idea that the overall raid has what it takes to succeed.

Schizophrenic.

And just generally lacking useful tools for people who might actually -want- to raid seriously.

LFG tool is a mess. Reddit bitches about it every so often.

I’d mention build saving and swapping, since roles are now important in raids, but that’s like kicking a dead horse. So I won’t.

So beyond the glass half-full perspective that introducing raids successfully encourage more players to learn and improve and up their level of play (though you’d think a learning -curve- might be more approachable than a learning -cliff- then), what has raids in GW2 successfully achieved?

If somewhere, someone, perhaps in management, put their foot down and said, “We want to increase our Twitch viewership” or folks watching GW2 videos on Youtube or something along those lines, then yeah, creating something that few people can do would encourage them to watch other people play.

If they wanted to give small groups of people (ie. ten, no more, nor less, it is the new number of counting) a reason to meet up, socialize and bond through adversity, maybe for social stickiness purposes so that more people stay hooked to the game, then… yeah, I’ll say that raids may help.

(Though schizophrenically again, guild hall upgrades assume much more than ten people in your guild; bugged guild missions that still haven’t been fixed end up excluding people to the tune of 15; PvP teams means dividing by 5 and compete among yourselves or stagger yourselves out; the only thing that feels inclusive and lets a guild play together as a community is WvW guild missions. Lord help you if you are a megaserver guild, I guess.)

Oh, and the gold to gem exchange has taken quite a bit of a dip.

It’s been hovering fairly constant at 80 gold => 400 gems for a while, beyond a short spike during anniversary sales and Halloween, but I raised my eyebrows a little today when I saw it has now dropped to 72 gold => 400 gems.

Between nipping gold sources (*cough dungeons cough*) in the bud, raising Ascended crafting costs and then creating social pressure to be in Ascended gear for raids, it seems like ArenaNet might be raking in a whole lot of moola from the someones willing to pay to have it now.

It’s a bit of a concern, if only because you’d expect a company to listen more to its paying customers, so we might end up heading in the WoWward direction after all.

Anyhow, I think it boils down to me just working towards finding a sustainable way to play and enjoy all the game activities as an “everything” generalist that likes an inclusive cooperative in-game community.

Should that fail to be possible in the next year or so, for whatever reasons, that may or may not be in my control, well, that might confirm my four-year MMO burnout cycle theory, and there’s always the Steam backlog as a backup plan.

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11 thoughts on “GW2: The Final Word on Raids, As Far As I’m Concerned

  1. Swoo says:

    With Anet games if something isn’t working out for you, the average user, wait. Maybe raise some noise.

    Sooner or later it will be moved towards the average user.

    • Swoo says:

      I didn’t read all your post line by line yet, but I believe the lack of DPS meter is actually worse than having one.

      The paper DPS is way out of tune with GW2 reality. A boss send a one shot in your way and your DPS goes to crap.

  2. Aywren says:

    I don’t know if I’m in the minority, but none of this sounds fun or appealing at all. In fact, it’s exactly what I was afraid would happen when I heard GW2 was doing raids. This is the total opposite of the GW2 I bought at launch. I suppose that’s why I didn’t buy HoT, and the more I hear about it, the less inclined I am to pick it up.

    That being said, if you are enjoying this, I hope you continue to. No sarcasm meant – it’s just not my thing, though others may like it.

  3. bhagpuss says:

    Great analysis. The real key point is the starting difficulty we’re seeing. A raid progression endgame has to progress. Every single new raid has to be harder than the current hardest one or that can’t happen. I don’t raid but I’ve played enough MMOs with a raiding endgame to know that the real complaints come when a new raid is too easy, not too hard.

    That’s why MMOs using that structure expect around 10% of their players to attempt raids and far fewer than that to complete them. That’s why it sometimes takes months for the top-end world first to come after a new set of raid progression dungeons are added.

    The thing to remember is that this is one of the reasons level caps are increased at expansions and gear tiers are added – it allows players below the bleeding edge elite to catch up with the content they missed and at least see the zones and the fights. Similarly that’s why things like LFR and flex raiding get added – to allow the average player to have a go.

    Starting close to the limit of what even above-average players can reasonably handle and with a stated policy of never increasing the level cap and never adding another tier of gear GW2 has left itself with limited options for the future development of the raid scene. They are going to have to be extremely conservative about adding difficulty, which will seriously piss off the genuinely top-end players and guilds. They might even have to go backwards, which would be even worse. Or they could increase player power, which would wreck the rest of the game unless it was redistricted to raid instances alone, in which case it would just be a mirror nerf to raids.

    It’s going to be interesting to see where this goes but it looks like they have painted themselves into something of a corner. Whatever they decide to do I can’t see that it will end well. I’m just hoping the damage stays contained within the raid community itself rather than seeping out to poison the entire game.

  4. Ravious says:

    Overtuned is a good word.

  5. BobTurkey says:

    Or they have future raids as hard as this one. Not like they need to make it much harder.

    Vale requires pretty good coordination which hasn’t really happened in GW2 before. It’s new, a bit scary, but going to ruin GW2? I don’t think so.

    Also unlike other games there is a lot to do without raids.

    Anyway i’m a diehard GW2 fan (and GW1 for that matter), but I am keeping an eye on Camelot Unchained as a possible next MMO.

    Keep up the good posts. I read them all.

    Gobble gobble.

  6. j3w3l says:

    I still think Anet is learning how to actually develop raids – it has never been their strong point so it’s more learn as they go. They’ve also put in a whole heap of new, and relatively untested (by min max standards) specs which will take a while to balance out as well.

  7. […] Why I game has had quite a few incredible posts reflecting on, and being critical of the raids within gw2 […]

  8. fireflyry says:

    Seems highly likely they will progressively nerf the difficulty of raids as they add more content to them, I’d be highly surprised if they don’t (or at the least implement some sort of difficulty selection option aka Fractals or GW1 “Hard mode” once the complete raid content is actually out there and the casual majority have caught up and want to have a go).

    I mean the whole expac was pretty clearly rushed out but as previously mentioned the worst thing Anet could have done was market it as they did, “hey everyone look we have raids too!!”, release without them as they did, to then top it all off by having players complete what raid content they eventually released in a few days and stand around complaining about “boredom” and “casual friendly” content.

    The whole thing reeks of sneakily getting players to pay for the priviledge to beta test this “over-tuned” snippet of raid content in order to steer the course and default difficulty of future content yet to be released and as such it makes sense to set the bar too high and slowly scale it back rather than the other way around.

    It’s also seemingly keeping the majority happy.Casuals are busy in the open world PvE or checking out fractals for the first time given the changes there while the more commited 24/7 players who burnt through that and farmed out their masteries are now occupied with theory crafting and trialing the current raid content for the devs.

    Given the way the expac content has had to be segmentally released this is actually quite smart thinking by Anet, or at the least making the best of a bad situation.

    It’s a great distraction.

    Personally I’m certainly not dropping gold on new gear or reading to much on my current take or experience of raiding. The meta is in too much flux to make such sweeping generalizations or judgements imho.

    More so given Anets history of dramatic and sweeping changes with this type of thing.

    It’s just way to early and I assume there will be a lot of changes to this content in the next few months as the devs observe, take notes, and adjust it appropriately while having more new raid content to release at the “face meet keyboard” difficulty many are after at a later date, maybe as a potential blow softener to the hardcore for lessening difficulty of earlier raid content?

    As such I’m more than happy to keep myself occupied with other things for the next few months until it all plays out and we actually know what “raiding” in GW2 will represent.

  9. […] you’ve read the existing blogging literature on Heart of Thorns by the Holy Trinity (Bhagpuss, Jeromai, Ravious). This storyteller has no stories to add. Maybe later. In the meantime, I have randoms to […]

  10. Kiw says:

    Thank you for writing this,
    I’ve spend a lot of time and gold to have multiple classes “Raid” ready and no matter how many hours I try to find a group through LFG, ha, no luck or I end up in groups where they quit because of wiping too many times.
    I paid for HoT and there’s nothing more upsetting then areas I can’t get in
    My game style is always to be the best possible in my role, and learn what is necessary to excel, however, Raids make it impossible for a vast majority of players to do them
    Now the latest update has released yet another Raid.
    It’s time, and I’m a fairly new player to GW2, sadly it’s time I start looking for another game, as this discrimination is really bothering me.
    On another note, for players to NEED to be on Teamspeak, OMG, I’m deaf, I’m sure not the only Deaf person, we can’t use those things, so this really leaves Me, other deaf people out of Raids it seems
    I hate to feel this way, as GW2 could be awesome, but it seems they are choosing a path I care not to be part of.
    Again, thank you for this well thought out and humorous even post
    Cheers

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