A Good Kind of Explorer Problem

It’s not escaped my notice that the latest trend in GW2 has been to shuffle a little towards Explorer content once more.

Clues to solve in order to find Bloodstone Slivers; a detector object to ping five locations on a map; the discovery and feeding of hungry cats.

It goes by largely unremarked (on my part I’m up to my ears in busyness,) but I think it’s making a good amount of people happy, with less corresponding -unhappiness- from other camps (they’ll just wait for dulfy or reddit, if they care about it at all.)

Running around trying to catch Pokemon has reminded me of my roots. Which is Explorer-dom, in a mapping sense.

I’m not Silph Road spade-standard when it comes to systems – following after and reading up about IVs and making a note-to-self memo about finding some free time to sit down, cross reference trainer appraisals with a web IV calculator assistant and organize my Pokemon is about my limit…

…but I’ve been enjoying the nostalgic feeling of knowing where special hidden secrets or resources are, that other people don’t know, or haven’t found yet.

No doubt, someone out there is playing at a higher level than me and has hooked into some API or third-party cheat program that displays the location of every single Pokemon as they spawn, but at my prosaic level, I have just been delighting in going to commonly frequented locales or landmark places of interest on my teeny little urbanized island and taking note of the types of Pokemon that spawn there and what tends to keep showing up.

I’m putting together a personal map of available resources and it’s fun.

It’s like what I used to do in MUDs when wikis and third-party sites were not established yet, or more sandboxy games like a Tale in the Desert where the world is just too big for any one person to know it all.

You build your own reference of “good places to go for this or that,” maybe you share some of it with others to expand each other’s maps, maybe you keep some of it a private secret for yourself… it’s something you don’t see very much of, in this day and age of “everyone must have a chance to experience the same content” plus “someone out there has expert programming knowledge and can write a third party app to get info on demand, directly from the source.”

Watching people attempt No Man’s Sky and being reluctant to buy into it yet has also reminded me of my extreme fondness for a very old, very little-known game called Nomad or Project Nomad (depending on which continent you knew it from.)

I don’t think it’s procedurally generated per se, but the amount of lavish worldbuilding and text that went into simulating a believable sci-fi spaceship trading universe has to be experienced at least once.

(It’s available for free at Abandonia.com. It takes a bit of DOSbox wrangling, but it’s worth it to play with sound.)

It really plays to the Explorer soul.

There are a bunch of well-characterized different races, much more memorable than No Man’s Sky’s, I’m willing to wager. They’ll tell you different things about a whole bunch of trade objects, which are bartered back and forth and valued differently among the races – no common universal currency here.

Ask the right NPC about certain facts or objects or people and they’ll reveal even more intriguing secrets that were not apparent at first glance. It’s easy to go down an explorer rabbit hole of following one interesting clue after another.

There are guided quests to follow, if you so desire, but also the freedom to play it like a sandbox and just fly to a random number sector of unknown and unexplored space – where you might find more danger than you bargained for, or an uninhabited planet, which can be mined for resources with the right tools. (No getting off and walking, but then, this is a super old game from 1993. It has its limits.)

Every time I play it, I intend to map it for good, making proper notes of all its secrets. Somehow, I never quite manage.

I’ve been re-inspired to play it again, after watching so many No Man’s Sky streams and seeing Syp get a such a blast out of playing retro games like Quest For Glory…

…I managed an hour, but am still struggling for free time.

Besides the Quest For Glory series, which I’d revisit if I had more time, fondly recalling my days of intense mapping of rooms on paper, the name “Skyland’s Star” popped into my head out of the blue.

This shareware text adventure game was one of my most patiently mapped and almost-completely comprehensive. (Not entirely though. Somehow I never quite finished. Some puzzle or other must have stumped me.)

I googled it for fun and found that it actually still had a webpage reference.

I definitely want to play it again and try to recreate and better my map from the past.

(What’s even better is that it only costs $5 USD and has a Paypal link, so I can actually toss the creators a two-or-three-decades belated thank-you, and get a walkthrough to crosscheck my exploration once finished.)

Assuming I ever find the time to -get started-.

Speaking of getting started, don’t get me started on the vague desire to pull out aged handheld consoles and replay old Pokemon games, or to revisit or play for the first time Final Fantasy games on a modern day device like a smartphone or iPad (they’re available, they’re just mindblowingly costly for an app, and will probably generate enough heat while playing to cook an egg.)

That’s probably just a pipe dream though.

The Catch-Up Post

12 days later… welp, so much for the short format post experiment this last fortnight.

I knew there was a reason I didn’t dare to Blaugust this month.

Or more like, multiple reasons.

pokedex

Pokemon Go (finally) launched last week in multiple Asian countries, and one has been caught up in some of the madness.

Though I’m not crazy enough to suit up with multiple power banks and camp out at a popular hotspot from 8pm-2am with a hundred other people, the tactic of catching whatever the hell happens to cross my path is fun enough to do, and leads to a stealthily increasing motivation to leave the house and walk around for an hour or two at a local park / nature trail / public attraction (dotted with dozens of Pokestops, thanks to prior enterprising Ingress-playing citizens who snap pictures of -anything- and submit them as statues and “murals” and works of art.)

While this no doubt increases my risk of catching dengue fever from a stray mosquito, and whiffs of haze suggest that outdoor walks may have to be limited when the PSI rises too high, I have to admit that anything that motivates physical activity on my part (in hopefully good weather) is to be humored and encouraged, rather than fought.

So I’ve not been saying No to Pokemon Go.

I’ve been chilling at a very casual opportunistic-weekday semi-purposeful weekend play level 17, and finding it a fun enough mobile pastime.

Just… no longer in my university student days with tons of free time (who are probably all level 20 somethings by now and showing up at local gyms), nor one of those slimy APK downloaders or botters (which were doubtless the only ways they could have a pokemon of several thousands at level 29+ at the gym, when everybody else in the country just officially downloaded the game three days ago – as witnessed in the first days of official launch.)

pokecry

This, though. This happened last night. I cried myself to bed.

Let me count the ways it sucked.

It screwed up my perfect seen/caught Pokedex record. The circle was a deep red, so there was probably no way I was going to catch it, regardless of what I did. I tried feeding it Razz Berries and using the highest tier balls (Great Balls, at my not-so-great level) I had. *helpless*

And there’s nothing like being perfectly aware of the psychology of loss, sunk-cost fallacies, and microtransaction game design gimmicks (like stuff being harder to catch and prone to running away the higher level you are), and still being susceptible to them.

(At least I haven’t spent any real money yet, but *sob* I wanted it so bad, and it was not to be. I chanted “easy come, easy go” multiple times last night, trying to convince myself it was okay…

it’s not.

It’s the one that got away. You’ll always remember your first.)

keeptrackoflist

Moving on to more stationary pursuits, I’d have to call the Keep-Track-Of list a pretty decent success.

What was put on the list got done, more often than not.

There were a few times when I just wasn’t up to doing something (often out of sheer exhaustion and need for sleep – gotta prioritize that y’know, tired is tired), but I liked that I could visually see and renegotiate with myself (striking it out for the day.)

It also served as a reminder to try and prioritize it the next day so that it got done and didn’t continue as a habitual streak of not-doneness.

You’ll note that I started improving my color coordination as time passed. I discovered I liked looking at a nice burst of color to indicate that all these tasks were done. Makes the week look pretty as an overall visual record.

The one outlier is “One fractals rise,” which is my short form phrase for indicating the vague and optional (as signaled by italicized text) hope of incrementing my overall fractal level daily until I got to Tier 4.

I really like that it’s possible to tell that trying to complete it was a problem on multiple fronts for me, given all the strike-throughs where I just de-prioritized it for the day.

A lot of it is the vagaries of PUGs. I’m not terribly keen on pugging group content to begin with. I’m lazy to form my own group. The times I’ve tried, it takes forever to fill – not sure if there’s still lingering prejudice against a solo necro, or just lack of interest doing non-fractal dailies. So I just check LFG now and then and see if someone’s advertising a fractal I could use to bump myself up one level higher and glom on.

Nearer this week, this got more and more tricky because I was sitting at fractal level 69-70.

Most people doing Tier 3s will do it in a lower range, and people who can do Tier 4s are busy advertising in the proper 75-100 LFG tab… which I -can’t- see, because my fractal level is too low and locks me out.

The good news is that having it as an optional item on the Keep-Track-Of list keeps it on the front of my mind, so to speak.

I check LFG every now and then to see if I can get it done.

It encouraged me to stop procrastinating, take advantage of the recent patch changes, buy the necessary +1 infusions and craft +9 infusions to round out my AR from 133 to 150 so that I’m Tier 4 ready.

Then yesterday, opportunities fell into place and some guildies were advertising Tier 4 fractals in guildchat.

I’m usually too nervous to join these (gotta get some more experience pugging first, tends to be my mentality) but then they offered “free carry, don’t even need sufficient AR,” and then I thought, when opportunity knocks, let’s not refuse.

As fate would have it, I zone in to them doing Thaumanova, and while nervously following the one other late zoner and trying not to die to stray mobs, I watch the other three up top wipe in sequence to the random clusters of mobs there.

Lol.

Did wonders for my nerves, I gotta say.

(I mean that in all seriousness. Seeing other people fuck up (ie. prove to be human and err) relaxes my paranoid perfectionism, and makes me feel less inferior in comparison.)

Then the Thaumanova patroling wolves (first one pair, then the other pair ten seconds later) finally get to me and the other guy and we start a duo battle for our lives, where we throw conditions back and forth and epidemic all the things and eventually whittle them down.

One of the three dead stooges then wisecracks, “By the way, when we advertised free carry, it means -you- carry us, for free.”

Lol.

At least I didn’t look like total shit – which I usually do when I try to run swampland wisps or the damn Thaumanova heat room. (I am aware practice makes perfect and deliberate practice would help, I’ve just never found it a priority to do so because I run fractals so damn infrequently most of the time.)

It also made up for the really unfortunate PUG memory where I -tried- to do Thaumanova with someone with a smarmy elitist-sounding name, attempted to run past the first set of mobs and promptly died.

Ten seconds of bamboozled troubleshooting later revealed that my ping had shot up to 1800ms, and that network issues were apparently happening between me and the servers managing the fractals instance and login servers (nothing like seeing GW2 report 0 ping in the options and struggle to load Lion’s Arch),  but not the fractals lobby server. Go figure.

I still have no idea if my typed explanation of dc/lag went through, or if Elitist McSmarmyPants just saw me dead/offline and votekicked me off, but that was just annoying, from a “helpless to avoid being thought ‘bad'” perspective.

Oh well. That’s PUG life for you. Can’t please ’em all.

If you gotta give someone ulcers, you may as well do it to someone who thinks enough of themselves to name their character in a self-styled elitist manner, right?

Anyhow, the rest of the fractals went by fairly uneventfully, though I have no standard of comparison to know whether it was slower or faster than usual (aka if I was slowing them down in some way through noobness.)

The best piece of good news was that I jumped 3 fractals levels, from 70 to 73, and that apparently now makes me FINALLY eligible to see the Tier 4 LFG.

The world is now my fractals oyster.

Pugging up more levels should be easier again, for the time being, until we maybe cross the 90s.

One more week, and I should be able to remove Faction Provisioner from the list and replace it with something else. Probably PvP, because I’m going to need that special currency for Legendary tier stuff. Hoorah. Time to grow even more of a thick skin. It’s apparently gotten even more toxic now.

I might just spend all my PvP time looking at my combat log, rather than my chat tab.

peakexpertise

Something else that has been on my mind, and clogging up my blogging ability because the thought is still too ill-formed, is the theme of deliberate practice.

I first encountered the phrase bandied about in real life, in relation to teaching, and some googling brought me to James Clear, who offered one definition of it, but also referenced the original popularizer, Anders Ericsson, who apparently wrote about it in his book, Peak, Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.

So I followed up with that book, and with dissenting arguments to that book, and am still trying to digest it all and figure out what it means for me.

Ericsson basically offers more gradated definitions of practice.

There’s naive practice, which is just performing over and over again and unlikely to actually help improve anything.

(In raiding speak, this would be the casual raiders who just attend raids every week and do the same thing over and over again and never seem to progress, because they’re not actually identifying any mistakes, receiving feedback or choosing to practise aspects to improve on.)

There’s purposeful practice, which Ericsson defines as having well-defined specific goals, is focused and intentionally chosen, putting a bunch of baby steps together to reach a longer term goal.

It involves feedback, you have to know if you did something right or wrong, and getting out of one’s comfort zone in order to see improvement (it has to stretch you, you can’t relax and coast when you’re practising in a purposeful way, though of course, for easy fun-lovers, relaxing and coasting is also a worthwhile goal to pursue during performance…it just can’t be done at the same time as purposeful practising.)

This concept has been swirling around in my mind a lot, but not really coalescing into any real talking points per se.

On one hand, I keep seeing the failure of many so-called “training raids” to properly address raider improvement through purposeful practice.

A lot of it is hopeful naive practice. “Let’s just run this over and over again, in the hopes that everyone is intelligent and motivated enough to self-analyze and improve in between raid attempts.” Works for some people, no doubt. But not all, I don’t think.

And oftentimes, it’s easier for raid leaders to just skim from those who -do- self-learn, and label the rest as “will never improve – do not take on raids.”

But maybe what they’re missing is simply a less naive form of practice, and proper feedback.

(Which then begs the issues of a) Well, they may not be ready to take this feedback, ie. still a hopeless case, and b) Just who is expert enough a coach to give this proper feedback? And are they really that good, or just -think- themselves good?

Bad coaches and bad teachers do exist, after all. Being an expert at doing does not necessarily correlate with being an expert at communicating one’s skill and knowledge to others, nor being observant enough to pinpoint and properly address a student’s difficulties with helpful advice or improvement exercises.)

On the other hand, I keep thinking about “Well, if there so many bad coaches out there, how do you find the good ones, or is it possible to -self-coach- and -self- formulate purposeful practice exercises?”

How could I do this for things like raids? Or PvP? Or fractals?

I tried something like this the other day. I wasn’t sure about my rotation as a PS condi warrior. Did I have higher dps staying in sword/torch, or longbow as much as possible, or swapping between the two? What skills should I be pressing to put together output the most dps? Should I do Sword 5, then Sword 2 to leap for a fire aura, and then Sword 4 to set off King of Fires trait; or should I just Sword 5 and Sword 4 like I saw another warrior do on Youtube?

So I sat at the combat golem and tried various permutations and figured out which was most effective from a dps standpoint. Then I tried to execute it again and again until I remembered the pattern.

I’m still not as smooth as I could be. I keep having to look at my skills to keep track of my cooldowns. Ideally, we would want to get to the point where I’m now at on my everyday guardian main, ie. I could fire the skills blindfolded.

So… purposeful practice ideas. I could take my condi PS warrior out in the open world more and do those rotations there, just like I muscle-memoried the guardian without realizing it. I could tape something over my skills bar to force myself not to look there and see anything (or even play with UI off.)  I could just mentally remind myself to look up and away from the skill bar more often, and practice doing so while actually raiding. Unsoweiter.

There’s always something to improve. I could experiment with what combinations of food and runes would still net 25 stacks of might, while giving me as much precision or damage as possible. I could do similar things for other classes and other raid builds. I could get more familiar with raid mechanics so that I’m anticipating the next few phases or things to do, rather than reacting, or expand situational awareness to encompass more of what other players are doing.

But then, what is deliberate practice, as defined by Ericsson?

It’s quite confusing, mostly because he studies deliberate practice in fields of expertise that have a very long history and tradition of quantified techniques and coaching. Stuff like chess and various kinds of sports.

According to Ericsson, deliberate practice requires heavy consultation with / reference to experts and coaches in the field, learning specifically what they do and imitating to approach their levels of skill.

It also involves a very broad term and concept of “mental representations” – which is something like what experts do to chunk information in a way that they can easily retrieve and apply, while amateurs are trying to do similar work with less effective and efficient techniques.

In chess, these would be patterns, often with some fancy names attached to them. Experts use these patterns to leapfrog ahead, while amateurs are still sitting there analyzing each piece individually and trying to think ahead for each piece, so to speak.

In Starcraft, you have things like build orders. The experts have executed and queued up a series of tasks and are thinking ahead to rushes and counters, while amateur old me would still be working out how to get the first drone to the crystal or vespene gas node or whatever.

Thing is, it’s not often very clear just what mental representations are going on in an expert’s head. What is an expert raider thinking, for example?

On a super-basic level, I know I got a lot better at Sabetha when I registered that there was a little red flag on “north” and used that as a compass point (west is “left” of north, etc.), rather than track my head back and forth between minimap and world.

I’ve gotten more or less comfortable with patterns that arise from a relatively consistent level of dps. South, then west, then north will hit just as the first changeover happens, etc. Though I do still lose track further along into the fight if it gets too chaotic.

There are cyborg tools, of course, to help, which an expert might utilize. GW2 taco will apparently label all the directions and upcoming cannons for you. I haven’t gotten around to it yet, mixed feelings about cyborging too much (or add-on reliance, is the WoW raider term, I guess?) and questionable third-party software use. (On the other paw, you could also argue that I’m limiting myself by not giving it a try and evaluating whether it’s helpful, which is not an expert frame of mind.)

Ericsson also offers the caveat that deliberate practice can’t really apply in fields where there are no longstanding traditions of practice and existing experts, where the pathways to success are not that well-trodden or defined, and that purposeful or proto-deliberate practice is about all you can strive to do.

It strikes me that MMO raiding is one such field, perhaps.

How do you identify an expert? Some people put themselves out there as “elitist jerk” expert material. You could watch their Youtube videos and try to see if they are objectively good or not.

What are measurements of objectively good when it comes to raiding? Raid boss dies is one basic measure of success, of course. Time taken to kill said raid boss. Not dying or taking too much damage. DPS done, if measurable. Low man kills.

But there’s also other less measurable things – healing? tanking? figuring out a useful strategy or tactic in the first place? team composition formulation?

Even when you have identified said expert, how do you get into his or her head and figure out their mental representations? If you’re lucky, maybe you’re socially close enough that you can ask and they’ll reply. But maybe they don’t even know how to explain what they’re thinking in the first place.

And then it’s back to square one. Like my mind, mulling over the concept of deliberate practice.

Then there’s the need for deliberate practice. Maybe you don’t need to nor want to practice to the point of expertise.

For many things, I, especially, am very content as a jack of all trades. I’m not really a one-subject deep-diving mastery-seeker expert by nature. I am more often what Barbara Sher typifies as a Scanner or others have termed Renaissance People/Souls like Leonardo Da Vinci or multipotentialite.

The older you get, the more okay you are at being this way. Screw other people or what they think. If I want to rollerblade this month, and do pottery the next month, and play game 1 the following month and drop it for game 2 in the next, then I will.

I can afford it and I have fun doing it.

You can work towards being a badminton master in the six months I spend flitting around from thing to thing. That works for you, and what I do works for me.

But let’s say if I decide that my interest for the next month or so is learning how to apply deliberate practice, in field X or Y, then yeah, I need to think about how I would do so.

No real answers as yet. Field X or Y at this moment happens to be raiding and PvPing in GW2. But I’m mostly still in the “thinking about trial-and-erroring purposeful practice” stage, rather than out-and-out attempting anything yet.

P.S. No Man’s Sky is very tempting. But I don’t think it’s $60 tempting at a time when there’s still so many things on my To-Keep-Track-Of plate.

There are only so many hours in a day and limited numbers of things that can be kept track of and kept up with.

I’m settling for just vicariously living off Twitch streams of NMS for the time being. Maybe it’ll be 25% off for Christmas or 50% off the next summer sale.

Fault-Finding vs Solutions

faultfinding

I overheard this conversation in one of my guilds, herefore to remained unnamed.

Person A was having a moderate dramatic episode, presumably why it was being publicly broadcast over guild chat.

Now I have zero context for what actually happened.

It may very well be that Person A’s performance was indeed abysmal and was pulling down the group, be it a 10-member raid or a 5-person fractal or dungeon.

In order not to feed any drama flames further, I, like probably 10-30 other online guild members overhearing, said nothing over guild chat to aggravate the situation and it ended there without devolving into a full-blown histrionic fit.

Inside though, I was fully sympathizing with Person A.

It reminded me of my own fairly recent experience at one of the “training” raids said guild had organized.

Every now and then I try to make the effort to attend one of these scheduled events, under the vague possibly-mistaken impression that I might be able to contribute in a positive way to the success of one of these training raids and help out others.

After all, while I’m not top-of-the-line with action/reaction and the video-watching meta strategies (merely passable to decent,) I do have all three wings’ encounters experience under my belt with my static raid group and multiple geared classes to offer. There’s something to be said for practice, after all.

Not to mention, it’s also a good opportunity for -myself- to practice a class that I’m less familiar with, since the phrase “training raid” usually equates to everyone having the expectation that success is not guaranteed (and to be frank, given the experience level of some of the players that join, not at all likely) but whom are also committed to offering a low-stress non-hostile environment for everyone to get some experience with the encounter.

Unfortunately, what usually ends up unfurling before my naturally critical eyes are some forehead-to-desk examples of the blind leading the blind.

Fault and blame can be apportioned to the wrong party, in a fairly haphazard, if attempted constructive manner. (Of course, in the conversation above, Person B was anything but.)

More specifically, the difficulty Person B exhibits is pinpointing the exact issue causing the problem and telling Person A how to solve it (or conversely, telling person C or changing the situation so that the problem is minimized.)

All they can see is, Person A is dying, therefore Person A must be the problem.

But -what- is killing Person A?

Is it something that Person A is doing, and really shouldn’t be doing?

Then what should be addressed is that action: “Hey, Person A, don’t stand in front of the boss. He cleaves / does a fire breath / whatever.”

Not, “STOP GOING DOWN, YOU RETARD.”

Hell, I’d accept, “YOU MORON, STOP STANDING IN FRONT OF HIS ATTACKS.”

That’s just me though. I have fairly thick skin. If I can learn something from it, I will.

Some guy did that to me in the dredge underground fractal, “FUCK YOUR PET,” and I silently acknowledged that this was the first time I was playing a necro in that particular fractal and that I had -no idea whatsoever- that the bone fiend would sit there and stop the boss from being pulled over to the lava bucket.

Issue succinctly if rudely identified. Issue promptly addressed.

I triggered the heal skill again, killing off the pet, and made sure that I didn’t spawn the bone fiend again, consuming it when I needed a heal.

(I might not group with you again though, cos that’s not a relaxing low-energy encounter.)

Something even more helpful, if you can see the person struggling, is to point the tell for the attack. “When Slothasor stands up on two feet, he’s about to fire breath.”

And even better, describe how to avoid it in a manner the person might be able to follow. “Dodge sideways or dodge -through- him to avoid it.” Or double dodge or jump or use skill X for other mechanics.

But what if Person A -is- doing everything (or most things, cos no one’s perfect) right? And -still- dying?

I found myself in that kind of awkward situation just the other day.

Mea culpa things: I was playing a staff elementalist. I have very little experience with staff eles, I have very little ability to self-adapt skills/traits/weapons to the situation.

I tend to play higher hp classes in raids and do accidentally run facefirst into damaging things without meaning to, because my other characters can take the hit AND I’m spoiled in my static raid with a very good healer that carries all of us and tops up our health in a couple seconds.

I may have tried to take on more responsibility than I could chew, under the impression that it would help the raid succeed.

Objective fact things: Staff eles are very squishy. The training raid group had no revenant in their group composition.

Non mea culpa things: My placement in the raid team’s group composition. The task assigned to me by the raid leader. Imperfect play by other raid members.

Basically, we were doing VG, and the instructions I received were, “Since you’re playing staff elementalist, which is ranged, please run green circles with the rest in phase 3 onwards.”

Beyond internally wincing, because I’ve never seen non-heal build staff eles running green circles to go very well, and said, “Okay.”

On the very first attempt, as I’m setting up my rotations and cheerfully beginning what I came to do, which is to practice doing as much dps as possible on a staff ele, out of the corner of my eye – what do I see? One, two… three? people running to the green circle.

Yikes. So I fling myself over to the green circle, just before the distributed magic strike happens, and then decide that well, I usually run green circles anyway as condi in my static group, I might as well just be the fifth all the time SINCE the raid leader had no confidence in the first place that four people could do it past phase 3.

This ended up not that great a decision because our particular group’s druid seemed only capable of topping up our health bars every second green circle at best, and did not seem to be predicting distributed magic strikes accordingly and topping up after.

The druid, frankly, seemed more focused on trying to heal the tank and melee group, running forward after every green circle to do so.

Mind you, in GW2 raids, the strict tank/dps/heal holy trinity doesn’t quite exist.

In VG, specifically, everybody in the raid takes overall periodic pulsing damage (thus encouraging the presence of a healer, because the self-heal is insufficient) and one biggest source of unavoidable damage is the distributed magic strike that comes from standing in the green circle.

(The boss’ forward cleaving punch also hurts, but some tanks can deal with it themselves better than others; and running into a seeker also hurts, but is generally avoidable if people bring enough control.)

I started taking an alarming amount of damage, so much so that I was forced to learn what my water attunement skills were in a hurry, losing all the dps I was supposed to be providing if I could stay in fire.

And let’s face it, I have very little experience on an elementalist, I have zero idea if my half filled red hp reservoir showing 5600 out of 11,000 health is sufficient to withstand a green circle strike.

Turns out, with no revenant or druid pulsing protection and me not having a faintest clue how to give myself prot or heal up further, 5600 is not enough.

I go down as the distributed magic strike hits the green circle, and blam, the raid takes a raid wiping amount of damage.

Twice.

I get called out for this, because hey, you’re taking a heap of damage and going down A LOT. What’s happening?

I point out that I’m at half hp just before the green circle strike hits, and going down as a result.

There’s a fun little discussion where the raid leader says, well, you’re not even supposed to be in the green circles anyway before phase 3, and I’m thinking to myself, if I wasn’t, how is it that just me going down in the green circles equals raid wipe? ie. someone else wasn’t running them.

I’m also internally thinking that there’s something a little wrong with the team composition because we’re apparently in a 4/4/2 split, minus a revenant (so I can’t even remember who was with the chronotank in the 2) but we only have one primary healer – of which I, and two daredevils are in.

There is another druid, which I suspect is primarily condi, in the other group of 4, along with another tempest elementalist and a burnzerker and something else I can’t recall, probably a reaper condi.

Normally, if there is one primary healer, a 7/2/1 split is used, so that heals and buffs from the 1 druid go out equally to all.

But here we have a situation where the primary healer and condi team is running circles, and they’re not even in the same group… and yet I am in the same group as the primary healer, but somehow not catching sufficient heals?

Is it a group priority buff/heal problem? Or is the healer just not aiming their heals in the right place, or using them well at all?

But you know, you don’t want to be THAT GUY.

Especially NOT that guy who blames the healer.

It just doesn’t look at all kosher.

So I say nothing about my internal thoughts, and agree very publicly and loudly-on-purpose that I will not be running green circles any longer until phase 3.

At least, I think, I will FINALLY be able to practice the skill rotation which was the reason I attended this training raid in the first place… right up to the moment when the green circle team falls apart because something else went wrong.

I also notice, though I am not sure anyone else does, that my character has been sneakily shifted out of the primary healing druid’s party and put into the group with the other elementalist and other druid.

The burnzerker takes my place in the first party.

The next VG attempt, we hit a 6.45 phase time, much faster than the previous goes, and my health bar doesn’t shift from 90-100% at all.

Unfortunately, we hit a bit of carnage in phase 3 when seekers are knocked into the green team and that attempt was a wash.

(I am also not trying -super- hard to rush for green circles. Hey, I’m the fifth, right? If I can make it, I’ll go. If I have low health and am going to go down in the green circle anyway, I’m not going. Because someone took issue with my going down a lot. So I will NOT go down a lot.)

In the subsequent attempts, we don’t get to phase 3 about 50% of the time, because in two highly entertaining tries, I see the -druid- go down in the green circle (where previously I’d drop first) and in the other also pretty entertaining attempts, I watch as the burnzerker drops to 3/4 health and starts expressing befuddlement that they’re suddenly taking a LOT of damage.

Hmm. Odd. -I’m- not taking any damage now. Must be you, huh?

Of course, in the interests of politeness and a civil experience, I leave all the above unsaid.

Instead, I mostly sneak peeks at my combat log, having resigned myself to the fact that I’m not going to get a really good opportunity to practice staff dps rotations (I have to switch to water every now and then and throw extra heals, the chronotank has started to periodically go down too.)

I’ve replaced the hope for practising staff rotations with a vague curiosity to figure out what the hell is going on with the heals, and just how exactly our leet static group healer can do what they do.

I still don’t really understand what was going on fully, but I did notice with some bemusement that I was catching more heals from the other tempest and myself in the new group I was in, than I was catching in my combat log from the prior group.

In the next static group raid I did, I started screen capping my combat log to record the leet druid’s skills that were hitting me. It was about 6-8 more skills than the other druid, including a water blast combo. (Dayum.)

Some day, if I ever get my ranger his elite spec, and maybe start doing more PvP or PvE with him… I wanna grow up to be more like leet druid.

It does make me wonder about the effectiveness of so-called “training raids” though.

We failed on VG several more times, never getting to the second split, and the raid leader decided to call it there.

I got some mumbled, almost condescending sounding, feedback about “you can improve by not going down so much” (no, really, did you notice I -stopped- taking damage once I was shifted to the other group and ceased running green circles?) and seemingly out of left field, a “tip” that I could use Overload Earth to give myself protection.

Which I’d grant is useful, as a potential survival tactic when shit hits the fan, if a little bit non-meta in terms of actually doing dps by not swapping out of fire.

It’s okay, I learned something else inadvertently – aka my static raid group’s healer is a god that works in mysterious ways – so it was still a valuable learning experience.

The point of raids is group coverage and skill synergies. The rev or guardian or druid with stone spirit gives protection, the PS warrior gives might and banners, freeing up the elementalist and daredevil to dps. (That is, assuming your ele is built for dps. You could build it to heal or what not.)

“Training raids” become almost a raid “hard mode,” in the sense that the group coordination and skill synergies probably aren’t there at all, and the group/role coverage is imperfect at best.

Best of all, I wonder if participants can actually learn anything from them, if they don’t have a self-driven analytical mind and/or lack the experience to contrast a “training raid” with a successful one.

(Not everyone is lucky enough to have a static raid group that knows what they’re doing. My raid guild has some 8-9 statics formed and only 2 clear all three wings regularly. The knowledge is disseminating though, the guild leader announced some substantial progress, eg. killed Xera, or killed Matthias, or finally got Sab, for other groups recently.)

Especially if they aren’t getting any feedback because other people don’t want to hurt their feelings or cause drama… or because other people don’t quite know how to give the useful, constructive kind of feedback.

I mean, don’t look at me, I couldn’t teach anyone how to druid for nuts, for example. I know nuthing. Zilch about healing. Please ask my static group’s druids. That’s what I’ll do if I eventually make one.

(But I -could- probably sit and dissect with someone all the ways to generate might as a PS warrior, and figure out why Person C isn’t giving 25 might stacks to his raid group. Or suggest a more helpful heal skill to use to a warrior that’s consistently falling over with healing signet slotted, and point out tells to look out for in order to dodge attacks.

Except no one will probably ever ask me, and I’d make a terrible grumpy hermit teacher anyway.

Nor am I about to just come out and say it to randoms and PUGs where the chances of them being receptive aren’t terribly high to begin with, unless I just happen to be -there- in that situation and I think one or two sentences might help fix the issue.)

This blind leading the blind, and those-who-know being unwilling to teach is a situation which I have not yet worked out a satisfactory solution to.

I often just end up wussing out, keeping quiet and bowing gracefully out of the entire situation after some time to leave the ignorant to it.

No doubt, others have decided to leave me in the dark and just vamoosed away from my noobish ways as well.

It’s not a new problem. Some three years ago, I was in one of those semi-casual, semi-hardcore mid-range guilds that prided itself on WvW participation. This guild worked out great for me, being unwilling to be insanely hardcore committed, but also wanting a little bit more organization than totally casual guilds.

It was, you know, fairly chill – meta builds not -required- but if you wanted to, you were welcome to and it helped strengthen the guild force being fielded, so all’s well that ends well.

Various guild officers would take turns leading, if you had the interest, the guild was also very open to letting anyone command, and the members would dutifully (if more than a little suicidally) follow your orders and let you learn what works and doesn’t work when commandering a rag tag bunch of the semi-hardcore.

Except. We had -one- commander that was incapable of learning.

Without fail, he would be decked out in the hardiest set of high toughness high vitality gear on his guardian and he would cheerfully fling himself head-on into a much larger force. Over-extending doesn’t even begin to describe what he did. Over and over.

Mind you, he died too, just ten seconds later than everyone else who had already been run over, either from following him into the fray and dropping to AoEs, or by getting surrounded because he’d entirely separated his front and backline by his own orders.

This guy was constantly expressing sheer bamboozlement that his strategy wasn’t working. “Guys, please, please follow me. We can do this.” (Cue the faithful group wipe.)

“Let’s try again.” (Cue less faithful less willing followers.)

“Guys, we went down because we were separated! All together now!” (Cue mostly massive carnage, and one or two people, me included, beating feet and running far far away from the suspected, then confirmed, train wreck.)

As usual, I had the fortune of being able to contrast this guy’s commanding style with other ever-so-slightly-more tactically sound ones. The contrast helped -me- to learn what worked and what didn’t.

(Granted, I do make a pretty terrible follower, being liable to independently up and decide to do something else, if the leader’s not convincing or competent enough for my standards.)

I’m not sure that commander ever did realize why people started making excuses and politely leaving his WvW raids some 30-60 minutes into the event.


I notice most of the time we just leave things be and assume that over time, people will bang into enough practice and learning encounters to figure out, or be told outright by someone sharp and thick-skinned enough to pinpoint the real issue.

I just wonder if there are any shortcuts to this process.

Guides could be written and recorded, but people still have to have the motivation to read and watch in the first place. Those types usually have the self-motivation to learn by themselves in most situations anyway.

Hell, they could be told outright by someone, but still be unwilling to receive the message, and/or the someone could be wrong as well.

Granted, one could also -not- have to tell someone in a nice way that they suck at X in the first place. A bit of clever diplomacy and swapping of roles, and the issue might go away entirely because the player is -good- at Y and someone else can do X.

I have very little skill with this sort of diplomacy and indirect constructive solution finding. It may however be one of the better ways to resolve these types of people problems.

It’s something to think about, at any rate.