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 27: The Worst That Could Happen When “Raids” Hit GW2

Yesterday, as all the leaked news spread across Reddit increasing the hype level, I scribbled down a blog post draft at work, reacting to the cheap trigger word of “raids” and explaining why I have an almost illogical and irrational emotional response to the term.

(Bottom line: Old memories of a time when I was definitely less mellow, more prone to acting on obsessive/hardcore behavior that did not prioritize anything but “winning” and concerned with looking good in the eyes of others.

In other words, if you give me a typical raid setup, I’m liable to do my best to climb the ladder all the way to the top, to hell with rl priorities like work, sleep, eating, hygiene, whatever.)

Then I promptly forgot to bring said scribbled notes home to expand into a post.

One TV show, one good meal, one warm shower, one series of guild missions and a nice long streak of Trove-playing plus old TV show watching, revisiting Steam game Recettear on a whim and 8 hours of sleep later, I have mellowed down to the point of almost treating the whole thing like a non-issue.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am still deadly serious on one thing.

If the raids in GW2 are done badly, if they are designed in such a way that they promote increased player toxicity, a worsening community, and a personal impulse to act obsessively at the expense of my other real life priorities, I -will- be quitting the game that I no longer recognize.

But that statement is not meant to be read as any kind of histrionic threat (not that Anet would care, they’re not even a sub game, y’know?) but more as a statement of fact that it would be in my best interests to do so.

It’s just like if, for example, I knew I had a gambling problem – if I was addicted to lockboxes and due to however my brain was wired, unable to control myself from exceeding a reasonable budget at the expense of my real life, then it would be in my best interests to not even come near a game that offered that sort of thing as a design choice.

I did it once before with City of Heroes and Incarnate raids, after all. I just didn’t enjoy the gameplay. I didn’t appreciate that group content gave exclusive rewards that soloers couldn’t strive for, essentially “forcing” players into one style of play. The community had taken a u-turn since the implementation of loot systems and tiered raids were the culmination of that. Ultimately, I just threw up my hands and quit, rather than make myself and others upset by ranting and raving and writing walls of text on why the devs shouldn’t do X or Y.

Part of the fear and gut reaction to the prospect of quitting is this holdover idea that one needs to be “faithful” to a particular MMO, that an MMO is for life, that one has invested -so- much into playing a particular game that it’s hard to let go.

Last night rather nailed it in that there are so many other games that I could be playing and occupying my time and attention with, that I shouldn’t have to even worry at all if I find one game no longer suits me.

So this Saturday morning, as I scramble to catch up with all the belated Blaugust posts that I consciously chose to put aside to prioritize work + games on weekdays, in the more logical light of day, I am finding it all a relative non-issue.

Yes, I would still feel a little sad if the game I loved took a turn for something that I no longer enjoy or recognize. I would be saddened to break social bonds that had formed as a result of the game and leave those communities for other horizons.

But you know, it’s not like it is something that anyone is immune to. Even the big kahuna World of Warcraft has had periods of big sweeping change, and I’m confident to hazard a guess that each time, it knocked loose some people who could no longer enjoy the game it had become.

So, even while I’m hopeful that things won’t be as bad as my irrational emotional fears are making things out to be, an honest, pragmatic look at the worse case scenario that -could- happen reveals that even that situation isn’t the end of the world. Just the end of me playing one game.

(Which does sound scary and final, similar to how the phrase “losing your job” might stir uncomfortable emotional feelings in the pit of one’s stomach. Realistically though, it’s not like that one job was IT, there are many other jobs out there that one could also be doing – and after an initial period of pain aka limited funds, the goddamn job hunt and interviews, etc. – one might find that the next job turns out better than the last.)

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Birthday, Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 27.

Blaugust Day 26: A Birthday to Dye For (GW2)

A couple days before the “challenging group content” (unofficially now shortened by Reddit to “CGC”) announcement that I’m anticipating with equal parts excitement and dread, our first-born head start characters in Guild Wars 2 officially turn three years of age.

And receive something special.

And receive a little something from the GW2 Team.

ArenaNet have definitely trumped themselves on this one.

The first birthday gift yielded our first encounters with an experience scroll to level 20, a celebratory birthday booster that gave a character all sorts of bonuses for 24 online hours, and a nifty little Queen Jennah mini.

The birthday booster was always welcome.

The experience scroll was relatively convenient and useful to those who didn’t like the slow leveing start. Though speaking as someone who actually enjoys the leveling process, I mostly sat on the scrolls and banked them… until I realized I was accumulating so many that it was in my best interests to just use up some of them for my bank mules anyway.

The mini Queen Jennah was nice the first time, but shortly overstayed her welcome as more and more characters turned one year of age and one accumulated an uncountable number of mini human female mesmer clones. Especially when account-bound minis became a thing.

Why, yes, I am still taking advantage of the materials storage slots to hold extra minis.

Why, yes, I am still taking advantage of the old materials storage slots to hold extra minis, by not ever bothering to remove them. NINE JENNAHS, not inclusive of the one I used to account-bind the mini, plus any extra alt’s Jennahs that will no longer fit neatly into this and get tossed away.

The second birthday gift gave us mostly more of the same – celebratory birthday booster, experience scroll to 20 (that didn’t stack, prompting an “Uh oh, I think I should start using those” reaction), a skill point scroll awarding 5 SP (now retconned into a bag of 5 spirit shards), plus the Birthday Blaster (aka the cake gun.)

cakegun

That was a fairly entertaining toy that each character could use, providing short term buffs to self and others, and was something distinctive to show off that your account was at least two years old. (Also a great way to see the Scarlet’s Kiss skin, because very few people are ever going to lay their hands/eyes on the actual thing.)

This time around, we get -2- birthday boosters, an experience scroll that goes up to level 30, five teleport-to-friend items, a permanent birthday finisher and a celebratory dye pack.

birthdaystuff

Definitely outdoing themselves here, making each item better than the previous gifts.

(The teleport-to-friend is somewhat questionable, but possibly may see some use once Heart of Thorns hits and one needs a port to some Mastery-locked area, and/or be handy for really infuriating jumping puzzles. I would bank that, personally.)

The boosters are always welcome.

I’m really tempted to use the experience scroll on the asura elementalist who is still level 5, and start leveling from there.

I LOVE the birthday finisher. It’s supremely gorgeous, elegant and showy, and even includes the signature red dragon motif of ArenaNet. Someone (or someones) did a lovely job on its animation.

The majority of players though are absolutely head over heels with the celebratory dye pack, which offers a free (but account-bound) choice of around 60 rare and mind-blowingly expensive dye colors.

I have to say, ArenaNet really hit a bulls-eye with this one with regards to the majority of their target audience. Choice, not RNG. Cosmetic customisation, allowing for vanity and prestige factor and to show off something previously thought unaffordable or too spendthrift to save up for.

You might note I’m speaking in a general sense, and yeah, I guess I personally fall into the minority that is slightly… bemused over the reaction.

Not that I don’t welcome the concept. It’s great. I get a free expensive dye. I get an extra color. Dye prices plunge, making traders groan, while buyers benefit from the lowered prices.

It’s just that for whatever reason (and it’s something I’m very thankful about, because it saves me a fortune) I just don’t feel personally compelled to go ga-ga about completing a dye collection or -needing- to have a color that is just fractionally slightly different from another cheaper color.

A while ago, I bought up all the cheap common dyes and got about halfway through the uncommon ones, before wondering if I really needed any more, given the already spectacular array of colors I had to choose from.

Part of the fun, I felt, was finding a color scheme that worked and looked fantastic with the so-called “cheap” colors I had available, instead of desperately hoping for a color just a shade lighter or darker and sifting through a hundred dyes on the TP to realize that they hadn’t quite gotten around to including it as a dye color option yet.

Still, given the number of people who buy the seasonal dye packs, open and trade its contents, there’s a market out there ready to go as crazy over colors as I personally do over minis.

So, hurrah, glad that there’s a bonus alternative way for folks to get their hands on colors they really really like.

I’ll definitely be picking up mine as well… just not really looking forward to figuring out which one to pick, given the lavish spread of options and no actual character or gear that presently needs a recoloring to drive my decision.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Birthday, Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 26.