GW2: The Pigeon-holing is Real

This is fast becoming a pet peeve.

I’m going to quote Reddit user isaightman:

“The stat difference isn’t so great that the raids are actually balanced around ascended, however the perception of other players and ascended-elitism will be the real barrier to entry.

As has been seen in basically every game ever, “LFM link achieve/gear” will become the norm.”

And also echo the commenter under him who mentioned that ArenaNet didn’t do the playerbase any favors by suggesting that players will need full Ascended to kill the final boss. (Naturally, this becomes, in playerspeak, “Entry requirement to the raid: full ascended pls.”)

So not only do newer players have a catch-22 gearing problem (Ascended gear can be earned in raids, but they have to be accepted in raids in the first place), it also is bankrupting veterans who are considering switching roles / builds to help raids along.

The perception of the players is the problem.

I was busy gritting my teeth when a raid leader took a look at the two guardians in the raid group and went, “Gee, I hope one of you can tank.”

There were revenants in the raid group, but nope, the leader didn’t look twice at them (I guess their new pigeonhole is passive might stacker), and even a reaper who actually volunteered to tank, and there was sooo much hesitance on the leader’s part to say, well, ok.

(For the record, the reaper did great. That’s what I’m planning to run when I eventually figure out, practice and can afford a tanky build. There is even video proof of another successful Vale Guardian kill with a reaper tank. The amount of damage he can output, coupled with his survivability makes me drool.

I’ve played zerker guardian and zerker necro, I can tell you which one is naturally tankier while still doing decent damage and it ain’t the guard. You can make an unkillable guardian for the tradeoff of him hitting like a wet sock.)

Condi somehow equates to engineer. Well… maybe necro or ranger or mesmer if someone is feeling kind. But really, they’re all second-best, that 47-skill rotation engineer is king, never mind if it’s actually humanly possible to perform the rotation consistently or no.

“We need a healer!” All eyes suddenly look at the rangers in the raid hopefully. (It’s as if the concept of blasting water fields died with WvW now in decline. And I am honor-bound to point out that just off the top of my mind, eles, guards, revs, necros can all put out healing, that engineers have a healing turret, rangers have a water field self heal and warriors have banners that can be traited to pulse regen… just sayin’.)

*sigh*

It’s just too easy to take shortcuts and label classes into roles, when really, we should be asking the players themselves what role they are comfortable playing and what build they’ve chosen. (And if there’s too much of one, then yeah, see if someone can swap.)

Our ragtag group of castoffs actually managed to get as far as bringing the Vale Guardian past 33% health, which wasn’t too shabby for what was essentially a training raid and getting people familiar with the mechanics.

(Just the third attempt for me personally, and each attempt has seen more progress, admittedly with different people. This time the strategy was sound and we had a consistent tank – which I must point out again was a REAPER *coughs*, so stop pigeonholing, sheesh.)

What tended to end up causing group wipes was that the circle running dps group hadn’t quite figured out a strategy to either consistently push the red seekers away and/or heal up the damage from the distributed magic lightning strike.

If that can get solved, then the last facet of the puzzle is improving dps to the required amounts before the enrage timer hits.

Which frankly, is a rather questionable design decision by Anet, because the need to improve dps means things like a) a call for dps meters (Syl has some great rants about them), and b) more pigeonholing of classes that can produce all the required boons and still do great dps before c) getting individual players to work on their builds and rotations, not to mention d) might be somewhat susceptible to ping.

Try as one might for class balance, players are going to find the ones that fit their perception of what is “best” and run with those. No one has ever kicked my warrior from a fractal or dungeon. I’m sure the same cannot be said for necros or rangers once upon a time.

This casual prejudice really annoys me.

That is not to say that I don’t know how to circumvent or make use of it. When in Rome do as the Romans do and all that. If some people want cookie-cutter, then it’s easy to blend in by just shrugging and going cookie-cutter.

But it’s just the dumb ignorance that makes pigeon-holing such a pet peeve.

(eg. Toughness-based aggro has been in existence since the beginning of the game. I picked up on it ever since trying out an anchor guardian build – and getting chased in circles by Lupicus during my first time in Arah, much to my guild’s amusement. I have personally manipulated it in dungeons like the Aetherblade facility. Somehow it is being heralded as a completely new thing since the expansion. It makes me boggle. It’s about time it became common knowledge, is all I have to say about that.)

I hope more people take up the challenge of proving the ignorant wrong – develop viable roles and builds for all the classes, successfully clear raids with them, maybe even clear Vale Guardian in exotics perhaps.

Prove that it’s player skill, teamwork, coordination/communication and practice that makes the difference, not one set recipe of cookie-cutter classes.

Blaugust Day 28: What I Hope Does Happen When “Raids” Hit GW2

So now that I’ve taken a cold, hard look at my worse fear – being forced to leave the game I enjoy playing, what do I hope will actually be announced in the “challenging group content” PAX announcement happening in less than 24 hours?

Now is the time I put on my optimistic hat and go with the assumption that my favorite devs aren’t stupid, aren’t stomping all over their stated philosophies when they implement “raids” into their game and like coming up with innovative spins on old systems that polish away the nasty bits while accentuating the good bits.

Now is the time I make my best guesses to see just how close or completely far off track my thinking is from the good folks who make GW2… just for the fun of it.

(Black-and-white for people prone to misreading: NONE OF THIS IS REAL. These are just my guesses. We will hear what’s actually going to happen in slightly more than 12 hours’ time.)

1. Open World “Challenging Group Content”

There will be some raid-like monsters present in the open world. Some may be similar to Vinewrath in the Silverwastes, that is, unlocked by a focused/organized whole map effort doing necessary dynamic events, and then consisting of several different fight phases. We might even see the appearance of ‘rare’ world bosses to hunt down- given a prior example of how we appear to have ‘rare’ mobs in Dry Top making an odd appearance now and then – though I’d really hope they tweak the spawn rate up if that is the case.

By placing some of these raid-like stuff in the open world, we will still have the advantage of making some of this content open to all players, that they can stumble into an organized group attempt and then consider joining said guild or community if they are interested – ie. lowered barrier of entry, as opposed to the typical vertical progression barrier scenario of “sorry, your gearscore is not high enough, you can’t do this.”

It is entirely likely that some of the world bosses in core Tyria that are now on timers will get a bit of a challenge upgrade, even if it is merely as simple as including the defiance breakbar that we know is coming. (This may lead to some bitching and complaining from those presently enjoying the mindless choo-choo, but I personally doubt that the challenge will ramp up to horrific levels, it may simply be a sort of “tutorial” mode difficulty levels for raids and make more world bosses Claw of Jormag tedious until the population adapts.)

2. Instanced “Challenging Group Content”

It will not be just fractals, though we know a fractal revamp is coming that will bring fractals to 100, but smooth the difficulty of the lower levels down so that the barrier of entry will be lowered there too.

It will not just be revamped dungeons, though if a whole bunch of dungeon bosses don’t suddenly incorporate the breakbar with a resultant small spike in challenge, and/or have some of the more egregious exploits fixed… then we will know that Anet has pretty much given up with the existing dungeons.

What I am hoping is that instanced raids are tied to being opened/activated by guilds.

Maybe this will be similar to present guild missions, opening out a spot on the map that anyone can enter (which would make it an open-world raid, see 1. above), or just trigger a teleport to an instanced map that only guild members can use, making it a closed raid.

I’m thinking that the most elegant way of producing these raids would be tying the system with the previously announced guild hall maps. It would make total sense to unlock guild hall buildings and trophies and basically a “group” reward each time the group manages to conquer a difficult and challenging boss.

Maybe the personal reward could be guild commendations and/or an odd specific currency or two – mordrem hound head, mordrem wyvern tail, whatever (as long as said guild vendors expand and offer more neat stuff like Ascended armors, unique gear designs, minis, plus guild hall decorations). We’d have our token buy reward system for raids, we’d have some individual benefit, and still channel most of the effort towards the social/group progression aspect which imo, is one of the better aspects of the whole concept of “raiding.”

The inherent exclusivity of a closed instanced raid is much easier to swallow if you tie it to something that is already “limited membership” only, and then leave the players to set their own barriers of entry. Some guilds will naturally put down some very high bars/thresholds to fulfill (eg. I hear some dungeon guilds want you to be able to solo Lupicus in order to coach/teach others, etc.), and some guilds will remain more open for anyone to join.

Some players will not join guilds, period, and those are the people that are probably not interested or cannot make the commitments (time, certain builds, need for organization) that raids/challenging group content tends to require anyway, so that’s already a first round of self-selection done, without any ‘entitlement’ histrionics.

(I’ve never really seen people throw an entitlement fit over Triple Trouble Wurm, for example. The people who aren’t interested/motivated enough simply assume that they can never do it and either give up or never bother to approach a community. Everyone else who wants something from the wurm, be it seeing done it once, just getting achievements, or running it ad nauseam, found a community that got them what they needed.)

Then all Anet needs to do is keep a weather eye out over how the ‘meta’ threshold requirements are shifting, and tweak mob difficulty accordingly so that it meets whatever the plan is.

With guilds, there’s your kicking mechanism and threat to wield to enforce appropriate behavior right there. Act like an idiot? Boot, you’re out of the guild and you can’t do X raids with us any longer.

With guilds, there’s incentive for a longer term social contract and better community behavior, rather than the merry-go-around “easy, press a button, exchange a teammate” of LFG where some people feel there’s no consequence for being obnoxious to easily-replaceable strangers. We -really- don’t need that extra encouragement for toxic behavior in GW2 raids – we’ll have enough of that hostility in the open world “challenging group content” already, given some people’s tendencies to vent their frustrations and run their mouths in mapchat.

3. The Unexpected / Invasions / Raid “Rifts” as Extra Challenging Group Content?

The last bit of speculation may be a little far out there, but given some hints from data-mining and the oft-repeated desire (not mine, personally) for GW1-like Fissure of Woe or Underworld content, where a crack team of people venture into an instance and get a whole bunch of desirable awards for performing well, and can be assembled up spontaneously from whoever’s around at the time…

… one last cherry on top to accompany 1. and 2. would be the introduction of random portals/doorways into a “raid” instance – akin to something we already see on GW2 Halloween. This would be the middle ground between completely open and completely closed, would satisfy the odd desire of something LFR-like, would have the random lottery feel – both one’s PUGmates and rewards would likely be RNG – and probably allow for bringing back some very old and desirable and $$$ cosmetic skins like jetpack, ghastly grining shield, scarlet’s kiss, whatever.

This might even be seasonally turned on or off, to bring that completely unpredictable and unexpected, high risk/high reward bonus feeling.

Between 1, 2 and 3, I think this would catch pretty much nearly all the different types of raids possible, and offer a multitude of lateral progression gameplay activities for people to choose from. They could do some, all, none as desired, and only lose out on the unique cosmetic stuff, while still (hopefully) having alternative avenues to get whatever desirable stuff they want (even if it’s just buying it from the TP as the alternative.)

Account-bound titles, plus some unique cosmetics, would let the prestige-seeking raiders still show off their things that can’t be otherwise bought, while still making a decent gold profit from the stuff they -can- sell to others who don’t like their particular raid activity.

The key is that as long there aren’t artificial barriers of entry that discourage new influx, a wealth of possible raid options catering to different styles, alternative means/options for gaining desired rewards, and no critical story content tied to said challenging group content that some people aren’t likely to want to do, raids in GW2 aren’t likely to be so bad.

Especially since we don’t have vertically progressing stats on gear AND can freely switch our traits and builds on the fly (where’s that build-saver already, dammit), as opposed to other games with more fixed roles.

How can Anet screw it up? Introducing design choices that are opposite to the stuff named above. New infusions that add on more stats. Grind such and such new stat or mastery to qualify for the next tier of raids. Only do this one raid if you want X item, only do that other raid if you want Y item. Tie raid content to Living Story progression. Set difficulty that demands such high performance that people feel obliged to measure every last number and to kick anyone who doesn’t perform in a picture-perfect robotic and macro’ed manner. Unsoweiter.

I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen.

P.S. I’m really only expecting 1. and 2. to appear in the coming announcement, but I’m ready to be surprised by 3. or 4. Something I haven’t thought of / foreseen, just in case.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Birthday, Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 28.

Blaugust Day 1: And I’m Cutting Corners Already

Back from business trip, got home at 6pm, completely bushed.

Had a bath, then collapsed into bed, not really sure if it was going to be a nap or if I was going to sleep like the dead until the next morning.

Woke at 9pm.

Just in time to catch the very last sequence of TTS guild missions for the week, albeit with some preliminary cursing and swearing as my internet has been dropping out intermittently lately.

(I need to figure out the cause eventually, possibly something to do with the Killer NIC software/drivers or ethernet adapters not playing nicely together, or router issues, or is it my ISP, but thankfully, I installed a motherboard with -two- ethernet connections, one Intel, one Killer NIC, and I’ve experienced this problem before.

Then, what solved it was yanking out the Ethernet cable from the Intel adapter and sticking it into the Killer NIC one, which suddenly and completely stabilized the connection for months.

Now that it’s doing the same damn thing again, it’s time to do the opposite, yank it out of the Killer NIC one and stick it back into the Intel one, which *touches wood* seems to have resolved the issue. Weird.)

Finished guild missions. Open Reddit and blogs to find out there’s a massive explosion of GW2 news to catch up on, and a massive explosion of blog posts to read since Blaugust is here.

Went down the GW2 news rabbit trail a while: Sweet, the first beta weekend is actually set during my country’s super-long national day holiday celebration for turning 50 years of age (SG50). First time ever that real life and game stuff has coincided so nicely, since you get used to waking up at 3-5am for special game events when you’re living on the other side of the planet as the game developers’ work day.

There’s a massively long post about fractals that I haven’t had time to fully digest yet, and a whole bunch of Reddit reactions to it.

GW2 seems to be revving up to do some kind of big announcement at Gamescom 2015 too… possibly the anticipated “challenging group content.”

(Every time I say or type the phrase, it comes with this little bit of impending dread trickling down the back of my spine.)

As for Blaugust, well, I kinda want to join it so that my faithful readers have a whole lot of nice things to read for the month of August, to make up for my dead silence of July. I kinda want to get back into the blog posting habit. I kinda want to enjoy the whole social atmosphere of bloggers getting together and cheering each other on.

I haven’t had dinner yet.

I go out to the kitchen, reheat some leftovers, scan through the whole flood of Blaugust-related posts, and kinda groan about the whole “gotta sign up for Anook” thing, the “please update your posts here and there to make everyone’s lives easier,” the “hey, do use Twitter to announce your stuff” (I HATE TWITTER) and all the attendant administrative stuff that completely rips out the joy of writing and posting a nice simple blog post about what’s on your mind and what you’ve been doing and what you want to share.

Whatever happened to the good old days of “Yo, just put me on an RSS reader and check out what I’ve been up to, when you have the time?” All these ‘push’ technologies. *twitch*

I finish dinner.

It’s 11.30pm.

I kinda want to have an official Blaugust Day 1 post up by the 1st of August (local time). WordPress is a harsh mistress. She -knows- what time you post.

So you know what? Here, I’ll steal my Reddit post about raids and the anticipation of probable raids in GW2, clean it up a tide, and post it as food for thought:

I’m against raids that are similar to how other MMOs do raids, with design choices that promote exclusion, elitism and guild drama.

That means things like:

  • a repeating gear treadmill/hamster wheel for more and more stats on your gear to improve your performance so that you can kill bigger and badder bosses;
  • an RNG loot system where either people get jealous of other people getting stuff they also want or feel they’re never progressing or worse, are backsliding because everyone else is getting more powerful;
  • where people feel encouraged to jump guilds because they got lucky with drops and the rest are ‘too slow’ for them;
  • where others feel they can or should or have no choice but to kick their own fellow guildies out from participating in raids because their performance is not up to snuff, rather than helping them learn and getting better, and so on.

I probably wouldn’t mind guild-based instances in GW2 if: 

  • you get challenging PvE content (including getting to fight really big monsters) as a guild group;
  • where you can earn individual tokens or progress on an individual reward track per raid you attend so that you’re not at the whims of RNG;
  • where the guild as a whole has a different progression track to unlock bigger and badder monsters (preferably with some nifty guild hall rewards like trophies to show how far the group has gotten);
  • where raids can flexibly scale to the number of guildies you bring, rather than force a leader to bench someone because oops, only 15 people or whatever;
  • and most importantly where the stats playing field is, more or less, level between someone who had to tend to real life for a couple of months and someone who raids fanatically daily (or however frequently the raids occur) so that the former people do not get left behind, left out and otherwise excluded from learning the raid at any time. (See existing guild missions and triple trouble as good examples, anyone can be new even now, and still join in, learn how to do it and contribute equally.)

I may elaborate on it further later on. Feel free to jump on the topic or comment as you like.

As for the Anook thing, and other administrative details, you know what… I’ll deal with it tomorrow.

(Which is in about 2 minutes’ time.)

P.S. No, I still draw the line at Twitter.

Says It All, Really

In case anyone is wondering why I dislike on principle games that heavily stress vertical progressing stats-on-gear-make-performance-better gameplay: A Rant Over At The Grumpy Elf’s – You’d Be A Good Player, If You Had Some Gear.

Of course, it is conceivable that part of the dislike stems from the excessive and almost hostile competitive-focus of that particular game too.

A game that promotes the mentality of “if this player has more stats, it helps everyone and has no detrimental effect on your personal rewards gained” can nullify the instinctive dislike a little, though it’ll still grate when one realizes another player is only doing better because they have more numbers on their gear.

Postcards from Procedurally Generated Worlds

Syp from Bio Break is asking this about procedural generation:

“If it’s a bunch of cobbled together randomness, then why do I want to explore it? None of it is connected to a special narrative, so it exists without purpose, without meaning.”

I would like to counter with a few things.

Firstly, I wonder if we’ve lost the true meaning of exploration after being taught by Wildstar and GW2 that it’s about getting to points on a map and then having an achievement ding.

Or even after being taught by WoW and Skyrim (and Wildstar and GW2) that it’s about going to someplace and having a handcrafted scripted scene or story play out for you.

That seems to me like going for a tour or a guided experience, rather than exploration per se.

(That’s not to say that it’s bad.

The linearity of The Wolf Among Us and the elegant way its aesthetics told a story with a beginning, middle and end made for a wonderfully -immersive- experience…

…but it’s a bit of a stretch to say that one was -exploring- the game, unless one really sat down to map out every last possible branch of story, or even dabbled with exploration by rewinding a chapter or two to see how the story or characters might change.)

Here’s Google’s definition of exploration:

exploration

The highlights are mine, because I think they rather succintly answer Syp’s question.

You can want to explore something because it’s unfamiliar, because it’s new, because it’s novel. Because you’re checking it out to see if you can find any purpose or meaning in a locale previously unknown to you.

(Many games, when they are new and all their systems and geography unknown, draw explorers like magnets. And once everything is laid out in guides and on third party websites, when all the novelty is lost and everything predictable, that’s where explorers start to get really bored.)

The search for resources or information or knowledge that other people don’t know about is a big deal to explorers. It’s one of the things Bartle checks you out for, before labeling you an explorer.

Many sandbox games dangle resources as the bait for the WHY someone would go out and explore what could be merely a bunch of rocks and sand. Eve Online, A Tale in the Desert, Minecraft, Terraria, Don’t Starve, a ton of other games in the survival crafting genres, need I really go on?

And sometimes you just explore because it’s -there-, because you want to be thorough and make sure you’ve seen its every nook and cranny, because the mountain was there to be climbed, and because the maze or puzzle was there to be figured out and solved.

Not every game has to be played for story and narrative.

Not every player expects a game designer to serve each person the same scripted experience.

Part of the fun in a procedurally generated game is that you yourself may not encounter the exact same thing twice. That your next playthrough can be different. That it can be unpredictable, forcing you to react in a different way.

Others have chimed in with additional points, such as:

  • Purpose and meaning being in the eye of the beholder and that it can be up to each player to create that purpose, meaning and narrative for themselves in a procedurally generated game,
  • that player interactions often form the meat and potatoes of story and narrative in such a game and the very fact that they are unique one-off events that will never quite happen again in the same way can be super-appealing for some people,
  • and that designers can actually use procedural generation in a sensible way and layer set pieces or handcrafted content over other layers that were procedurally generated so that the results look a lot better than what Daggerfall produced in 1996.

But rather than quote the entire Wikipedia article on procedural generation which highlights games like Dwarf Fortress and Left 4 Dead and plenty of other games that use it in interesting ways, I’ll just leave these here:

Minecraft - Wanderlust Reloaded modpack - seed: Bio Break
Minecraft – Wanderlust Reloaded modpack w Biomes of Plenty – seed: Bio Break
Minecraft - Wanderlust Reloaded modpack - seed: Procedural Generation
Minecraft – Wanderlust Reloaded modpack w Biomes of Plenty – seed: Procedural Generation
Minecraft - Wanderlust Reloaded modpack - seed: Bio Break
Minecraft – Running Red 2 modpack – seed: Bio Break
6-2
Minecraft – Test Pack Please Ignore modpack – seed: Bio Break
Your Loss, Syp
Minecraft – Wanderlust Reloaded modpack w Biomes of Plenty – seed: Your Loss, Syp
Minecraft - Wanderlust Reloaded modpack - seed: Bio Break
Minecraft – Wanderlust Reloaded modpack w Biomes of Plenty – seed: Why I Explore

I barely moved from the spawn location to snap these shots.

I rolled these up simply for the purposes of this post.

And I don’t know about you, but there’s at least one seed I’ll be revisiting again that just -cries- out for a story of a survivor shipwrecked onto a mostly desert island with some jungle in the distance.

What does the rest of the continent hold, pray tell?