You know, I haven’t even gone beyond the first story instance of this latest episode yet.
The moment I got access to Lake Doric, I immediately dropped following any guided signposts and went haring across the countryside recapitulating launch week exploration hijinks.
I went where I wanted, killed mobs I wanted, participated in events where I wanted (that glorious autonomy) and let the beaten-down explorer out to frolic every time I found a narrow passage / hole in the wall that led to something bigger and cooler and more awesome.
That is, in between raid times and real life times, which add up to not that much time at all. But anyway, since the team did successfully clear this week, I have the rest of it (parts of Sunday) for personal GW2 time.
I found the hidden peach tree.
That is the first thing that made me happy. (Ramp up from 0% to about 75% cheery good feelings.)
I briefly considered whether it would overtake my earlier declaration of the hidden bits of Melandru’s Refuge as the best thing ever.
It has prettiness going for it, and that sense of peace and awe from finding a place of beauty.
In fact, it feels a bit like a total rip-off of one of my favorite places in a game ever, Erana’s Peace from the Quest for Glory series. Fruit tree. Check. Glowing magical fruit. Check. Place of peace and rest. Check.
But you know what, I’LL TAKE IT. Better than not having it.
In the end, Melandru’s Refuge edged it out ever so slightly because I kinda liked the tunnels and staircase feel a little bit more, even if it wasn’t so pretty, if only because the sense of “ooh, is there anything cool up this passage, or that?” lasted just a bit longer.
But if you asked me where I (or a roleplayer) might like to camp out and just sit, this would definitely be it.
And hey, they even give you a magic peach once a day with a significant buff meant for tromping around Lake Doric, so that is probably a damn nice idea for a functional reward for exploration.
As for the second thing that made me happy, the word “happy” is an understatement.
So there I was, just exploring around, trying to figure out how to get to a vista that seemed unreachable.
Skirt the cliff one way all around, no go. Skirt the cliff the other way and stumble into a centaur encampment with veteran centaurs at the entrance.
Intrigued (and promptly half-distracted from my vista search,) I venture inside to see if maybe there was an accessible way up to the vista and mastery point from the centaur camp and mostly to just kill veteran centaurs and explore further inside.
Right in the center of the camp, I come across a sea of some 50-60 players, surging around following whole packs of charging centaurs and tagging them.
What the heck? Oooh. They must know something I don’t. Maybe something cool is going to happen. So I hang around and join the crowd, expecting some kind of event chain or world boss to show up, and tag random centaurs.
A couple minutes pass with no change. Random centaurs drop leather, supply bags and some bloodstone-leather salvagable items.
Huh. Maybe this is the leather farm the devs have alluded to, I think. The place where people are encouraged by design to group up and kill things like in the Southsun karka farm. That’s kinda cool, I think. I haven’t seen one of these natural social group forming places in a while, even if 50 of us -are- overpowering the place just a little.
I decide to hang around and attempt to farm a bit more (kinda hard to tag when not guardian staffing, y’know) and just chill in the atmosphere a bit.
Then I suddenly pay attention to the map chat where someone is asking if anyone else is still running and on the way to kill the centaur sage, leaving soon.
OH. HEY, there is a green commander tag in this sea of green. He’s the guy talking. I guess this must be the assembly point that I just stumbled onto by chance.
Oh kewl, I’m going to get some kind of achievement I haven’t even looked at just by following the crowd. Sweet. So I hang around a little longer.
When the choo-choo train finally surged up the hill, along a long channeled pathway, tagging a whole bunch of veterans, elites and champion centaurs (oh hey, champion bags, neat) I was hit with an IMMENSE feeling of utter euphoria.
You know, they talk about trying to give players some kind of emotional pay-off through raiding and what not, and I’m like, I haven’t felt ANYTHING in months and months of raids that can compare to this.
Just as a comparison benchmark, every time we successfully kill a raid boss, my happiness/euphoria level hovers around 0% to 30%. Mostly relief or “ok, it’s done; next!”
Trundling up the hill in a green sea of promised death, I shot up to about 200% heady euphoria and stayed there, especially when I looked at the minimap and saw just how much further in we had to go.
All throughout, I was thinking giddily, “OMG OMG This is the Guild Wars 2 that I haven’t felt in so long” and “this would be cool to see how far in I can get solo” and “even if I can’t, at least this would make a great opportunity for guild-run scheduled events to come up and party in a group of 10-20, and probably 2-5 dedicated souls can probably get quite far in if they stumble across the place together, and probably smaller random LFG groups may form, even when the crowd loses interest.”
Not to mention, “Oooh, a shiny!” and “Chest!” and “Champion! Tag it, tag it, AAHHH!”
I dunno, the banality of what is actually happening on a game level defies the inexplicable -experience- itself.
I lack the words to explain why I got that surge of supreme happiness as I did.
It’s just… the feeling of being swept up in a crowd, that crowd heading all in one purposeful direction, the combined unstoppable army ant power of said crowd, the all-inclusiveness not needing to turn away anybody or have things fail because some players are less skilled at this one specific game than others, that uniquely GW2 launch day zerg phenomenon that you just cannot get in any other game, nostalgia at work, and more ineffable things all-combined-into-one.
We got to the end, hit the sage, sage triggered an earth elemental event like all centaurs like to do, pounded it and the sage flat, voila achievement get, open more chests.
I have no idea if this Anet dev tagging along was responsible for making this specific event, but huzzah, jolly good show all the same.
The crowd evaporated, as all GW2 zergs do, and I continued from there by jumping off a clilff to try my luck soloing (ow ow ow all those sharpshooters, definitely need a better strategy next time), promptly died to bad positioning (aka being surrounded by red) and looked up from my dead body to notice the rest of the zerg and the commander tag two cliffs distant, presumably farming other things.
Lol, so that’s where they went. Go figure. Not to worry, no doubt one of my guilds will organize some kind of run through one of these days, all in good time. So I waypointed back and went on my merry solo adventuring way once more.
Much much merrier and in a significantly better mood.
(I did, after that, successfully find the vista and mastery point, and the correct point of access was indeed in the centaur camp compound in which I had been swept up in the happy madness of crowds.)
So the last thing is an odd thing to be happy about, but here’s what happened, and this is a rare raid story:
I got a whisper from a raid acquaintance in my guild, inviting me to fill a spot for a PUG attempt at the challenge mode for the first boss.
It was pretty late, and I suppose he’d kinda run out of options, since I myself don’t think I perform anywhere close to optimal in a raid situation.
I learn fairly slowly, and I suppose the only thing I have going for me is consistency.
The slow speed of learning is mostly prompted by thoroughness – I need to be able to recognize the animation of the attack, I need to know what the attack does, I need to know the appropriate thing for me to do in response, I need to practice the muscle memory and observation skills long enough for it all to sink in.
In the meantime, I am capable of fucking up a LOT throughout the learning process.
This is, in fact, what did happen.
I go in, I get briefed about the differences between it and normal mode, warn the raid acquaintance that it’s my first time trying it out (which he was fine with, he was kinda desperate, I suppose) and in my first ever look at the challenge mode, I’m overwhelmed with the speed and pace of the mechanics, half-forget to press the extra button I need to press every 5 seconds, focus on pressing said button and getting the hang of that, and get pinballed around by every normal mechanic there is, because I’m staring at the extra button and not actually at the screen, take massive amounts of damage, fall over downed and need to get rezzed, then promptly die again.
If anyone was running a dps meter, I was probably the bottom of the chart because I was barely pressing any attack buttons beyond auto-attacking.
In presumably the eyes of 8 out of 10 people, I must have looked like a total clown.
In a PUG raid, I assume the automatic assumption would have been that I’m a pretender and an insta-boot would have taken place.
Strangely enough, none of the above thoughts worry me, in part because I wasn’t really attached to the outcome (I didn’t -try- to get in and fear rejection; hey, I got invited, what’s the worse that can happen? I go back to my peaceful Lake Doric exploration and do challenge mode with my regular raid group) but mostly because I was too busy thinking about how to deal with the challenge of pressing the button itself.
My usual special action key uses two keypresses, an alt-modifier and a keyboard key. This was patently going to be slow and tempting extreme awkwardness for future challenge mode attempts.
I was so busy analyzing and wondering where the hell I could free up a one-button or key to rebind it, that I barely noticed when some random guy decided to put a target over my head.
This is a strange custom that I’ve never been able to figure out when it comes to raiding. It is apparently intended as some kind of singling-out or shaming gesture, that X person is failing mechanics and basically being bad. It’s a silent blame calling.
I also fail to see how a big distracting icon over one’s head can help said person perform any better.
(The same as screaming in panic down the microphone, by the way. One or two members of our raid group have frazzled other peoples’ focus this way from time to time, leading to some rather spectacular wipes.)
I daresay age has mellowed me quite a bit, plus the months of practice in a regular raid group, because I noted with pleasure that I’m getting quite good at silently ignoring provocations or frustrations and focusing on staying calm and personal performance/learning instead.
Every time I’m tempted to type something to lash out or vent emotions or that might potentially frazzle someone else, I just take a deep breath, sit back in my seat, concentrate on calmness and focus on what I can personally do better until I’m calm enough to type neutral non-blaming suggestions or joke around to diffuse tensions or not type anything at all so as not to feed drama. 99% of the time anyway.
So anyway, the next two attempts, I slip up 50% less on attempt number 2, and by attempt number 3, I am 85% of the time where I am supposed to be and at least, not dying. (Damage, what damage? Let me just focus on getting the mechanics down first.)
In attempts 2 and 3, I note with some dispassion that a slew of other people are dying left and right around me, but sorry, I’m too busy focusing on not-dying and remembering mechanics only seen once on one brute-forced normal attempt days ago and managing my two keypress button-to-spam with the mouse cursor in the right place (since somebody targeted me, so let’s keep the target where it theoretically should be) to worry about others at the moment. (Eh, PUG raid, y’know?)
Right after attempt number 3, one guy makes his excuses and leaves, the two people with microphones have switched focus to another few players who were also screwing up, one of those players decides to offer to leave, another guy decides to bow out because they didn’t think they were getting anywhere and the whole raid fragments, leaving the raid leader and me.
Heh. Typical PUG shenanigans.
“Welp, that’s that,” says the raid leader.
I offer my apologies for colossally screwing up on the first few goes; he assures me it’s fine, I just joined them. They were apparently going at it for an hour and the same people were still falling afoul of normal mode mechanic failure. He grumbles a bit and how they really oughtn’t be doing that, especially when the mechanics are very similar to VG.
I say something neutral about “well, the teleports are harder to see on this boss,” “it’s only been a few days, I don’t think half of my regular raid team is fully aware of the normal mode mechanics either,” and “challenge mode is probably best done with a regular raid group, than a PUG” (since I know very well I fucked up the normal mode mechanics here, and was only juuust grokking and not falling afoul of the normal mode mechanics on the very last and presumably thus successful attempt that my regular raid group managed.)
We break up the squad after that and head our separate ways.
(I take a couple minutes by myself to plot keybinds, and decide to give up my convenient autoloot mouse button and reposition it somewhere less convenient. It will take a while more to get used to the new keybind, but it looks like it’ll be smoother in the long run to have an option to trigger it with one keypress on the mouse.)
So, why I am pleased?
I didn’t feel a thing.
No, seriously, once upon a time I would be a nervous high strung bundle worrying about fucking up, rejection, being kicked and there goes my reputation sort of thing. Comes from being a prevention-focused thinker.
For once, it felt like I had nothing to prove. To anybody.
You take me as I am. Don’t like it? Then I guess I just won’t get another invite. Shrug.
The opinions of PUGs? Not my concern.
I think it helped that my regular raid team full cleared the normal version, in the same week that it launched. So it’s like, ok, we can do this. No doubt we will do and learn the challenge modes in good time, once we’re more familiar with the encounters. There is no rush. The PUG is unnecessary.
A small part of it was knowing that this particular raid leader was only human too. He was dead on attempt number 3 before calling for the /gg and for all I know, he might have been dead on attempt number 2, except I was way too focused on myself to notice anybody else.
Not to mention, I know very well he was responsible for -several- raid wipes on the fourth boss that my regular raid team was trying to clear (that he’d been invited to.)
Not blaming, the fourth boss is of that particular difficulty that Tobold terms difficulty C – or was it A, whatever – where basically one person making a mistake can wipe the entire raid. It’s that kind of punishing. I’ve accidentally done it twice or thrice, and so did he.
In other words, we’re all only human. Not matter how superhuman some people’s talking makes them out to be, or personal progress aspirations towards superhumanhood.
People make mistakes. Shrug.
And lastly, I think the biggest factor was personal ego distance from GW2.
The community has changed. I can no longer relate to it as -my- game, -my- MMO.
It’s -a- game I’m currently playing because I feel like it. I no longer have a compulsion to do dailies daily. Some days I do, some days I don’t. I’m certainly not paying for anything in GW2 at the moment, and not liable to until an expansion is launched, at which point I’d consider what it offers then.
I attend raids because I have a regular raid group and it’s not nice to let people down / is a source of personal progress for the time being. If anything happens to that membership, I know that I’m not going through the trouble of finding another group, and am far more liable to just quit playing GW2 and go play something else.
The prospect does not disturb me anymore. It simply merits another Shrug.
It is a curious thing to be pleased that one is detached from a game that one once loved.
Still, I suppose it is much healthier for me mentally, even if it’s less healthy for GW2’s balance sheet and quarterly sales reports.
The former is for me to worry about, the latter somebody else’s problem.