Listmas 2014: What I Like About The New GW2 Dailies

Yeah, I know I’ve gone silent for a while.

Between a seasonal cold, RL festivities preparation, lots to do in GW2, a renewal of interest in Minecraft, dabbling with the Don’t Starve Together beta, and Steam sales calling attention back to my massive backlog, -something- had to give.

Lists, though. That sounds almost doable to get back into writing shape.

I’m pretty late to the response party about the new GW2 dailies, Bhagpuss and Kill Ten Rats having gotten there first, but my main excuse is that I was busy -doing- them, rather than commenting about them.

Overall, I like ‘em.

I don’t love ‘em, nor do I hate them. They don’t really bother me either way.

The one thing I do miss is the unrestricted chance feeling of just having completed a daily by accident, while doing stuff one was doing anyway, but to be honest, most days I was using them in a directed fashion, adjusting my activities to get them knocked out first.

Stuff I do like:

  • Log-in rewards don’t penalize missing a day with an entire reset of rewards – thanks for recognizing people have lives, unlike *cough* Neverwinter
  • Log-in rewards offer a choice at the end of the month, to customize your reward towards what you need more of
  • New dailies offer a more directed, Guild Wars 1-esque, Zaishen-like experience
  • New dailies reward knowledge of lowbie zones as a result – knowing where lumber nodes are closely clustered in Ascalon, or forage nodes in Kryta saves you time running around in circles
  • New dailies encourage but not “force” participation in PvP or WvW (for lvl 80s anyway) – strictly speaking, you can do 3 out of 4 PvE dailies and still complete, but if you’re lazy and open to venturing elsewhere, the low hanging fruit in either game mode may be more convenient to hit than a more tedious or schedule-reliant task in PvE
  • New dailies give additional activity-specific rewards – it makes logical sense to get more dragonite ore hunting a world boss, more karma doing events or faster PvP track progression doing PvP. It also makes it still very tempting to complete everything on offer if one has time that day.
  • Bottom line: New system gives more rewards for doing less stuff – I used to only get 5-8 old dailies done for 5-8 AP daily and the old rewards. Now I do 3 at a minimum and get 10 AP. I get the old rewards just for logging in (something I already do daily) and I get new additional rewards for continuing my semi-completionist achievement-hunting ways.

Works fine for me.

 

Just Plain (or Playin’) Mercenary Now

gw2-mercenary

It figures. I go all gung-ho and farm Mordrem body parts for two days, because my compulsion to complete was reaching OCD standards… I bang my head against the Dodgy Crowd and Wicked Rodeo achievements more than a dozen times solo, before finally surrendering and looking for extra help in a group…

…and the big plan was to then title the next blog post “Mercenaries of the Silverwastes” and write some commentary on that.

Then Anet pulls the rug out from all of us with the announcement that Living Story will pause for Wintersday break and only resume on Jan 13.

Oh.

Hrm.

That feels like a bit of a letdown. Kinda deflated, really.

I think the biggest problem I have is that the story continuity kinda goes nowhere with this sort of pacing. One needs to have a sort of mini-arc come to a more-or-less satisfactory conclusion, before declaring a break.

One doesn’t just ramp up and build up mystery and suspense, plonk a big cliffhanger of a door in the way and say, well, wait 2, no, it’s 5 weeks now to find out what’s next!

Especially not if you’ve built up the expectation that the story will be explained in two weeks, and then suddenly extend it to five.

Did one really have to wait a week to announce that kind of thing, especially if it’s already scheduled? Just putting the Jan 13 date out there the moment Seeds of Truth launched, to say that it would continue then, would probably have mitigated expectations a little better.

Also, people wouldn’t have looked at the ridiculous amount of artificial Mordrem bodypart grind (two bladder pieces, wtf?) and freaked out.

Honestly, beyond getting strung along with a story that goes nowhere, I don’t have a big issue with the concept of a break for Wintersday.

It’s Christmas season, many people get busy irl, work takes a holiday in many companies, and personally I could use SNOW AND ICE for a while, instead of SAND AND ROCK.

It’s been…what, six weeks of the Silverwastes? There’s a limit to how novel the zone can feel, and as much as I’d really like to see what’s behind the west wall of vines that are ever extending outward (especially with the Shadow of the Dragon-sounding roar that echoes every now and then when you hang out between the Amber and Blue forts), it might do us all some good to have a break from the zone and go elsewhere for a change, before coming back refreshed.

(One will,  however, be a bit pissed story-wise, if we come back to find Camp Resolve strangled by vines. No, seriously, there’s this big giant vine creeping up on the camp here. For weeks. Cos plants grow slow, I guess.

If we can light signal fires to artillery barrage the forts, I humbly suggest that we turn the front part of this vine into a bonfire to signal the big guns to light it up further…)

Oh well.

If anything, it mostly comes as a bit of a relief.

Steam was offering Van Helsing II at 66% off the other day, and while I didn’t pick it up yet (I figure 66% ought to happen again during the Christmas sale, and I’m always hoping for 75%), it did remind me that I’ve always been intending to try out Van Helsing I, which has been sitting in my “to-be-played” list for an eternity now.

So I cranked it up and discovered that action RPGs seem to be a rather good accompaniment to an MMO habit. Quick to start, lots of mobs to fight, interesting skills and build pondering, plenty of loot drops/reward factor, and the ability to just log out and pause everything/put all progress on hold until the next time you feel like playing it.

(Between Path of Exile, Marvel Heroes and now Van Helsing, I’m racking up quite the collection, here.)

Van Helsing is entertaining in the sense that it feels a bit like a cross between a regular RPG and an action RPG. There’s a bit more of a story going on, with quests you pick up from NPCs, and sidequests. Stuff is supernatural-themed and you seem to be a bit of a mercenary hunter with one main plot you’re investigating, but along the way, you do a lot of other things and help various people – standard RPG schtick, really.

You have a nice interaction/banter occuring with your ghost “companion”, which sort of acts like a more elaborate Torchlight pet (she’ll be deadly insulted if you call her a pet, though), that will pick up items and gold for you, and go to the shops to sell stuff, plus a whole lot more besides.

There’s a bit more of a stop-and-start feel to the skills than something like Path of Exile or Diablo (the older versions anyway, I -assume- 3 is similar),  but not as awkward feeling as Marvel Heroes.

The challenge factor is a lot more appealing than Marvel Heroes, in the sense that one actually feels threatened by the mobs and can die to them, unless you do a lot of fancy footwork to kite stuff, or use healing potions and prep accordingly.

So at least I’ll have more time to play that in the 5 weeks that Living Story is more or less on hold.

Wintersday this year is in Divinity’s Reach, so I guess that’s something new and novel, to see the grand city dressed up in Winter finery.

I finally got Wynne’s Locket:

Picked up the Do Not Tread achievement after a lot of practice with Caithe and her skills and finally avoiding getting trampled or charged by acting like a total wuss and single-pulling centaurs out to the edges of the battle to murder, while letting Faolain tank the rest of them. (Stealthing in to rez her again if/when she goes down. Gotta match her for being a manipulative bastard, y’know?)

Was brought near to the point of tears and surrender with the other two achievements, and finally decided to join a group for the Wicked Rodeo achievement, if only to see how different it was when other people got to have their own skills.

It wasn’t a bad time, actually, though we wiped twice. Each go at it sort of showed us a bit more strategy on how we might actually progress with it.

Eventually, we settled on killing the elementals near the sides of the walls, leaving the nasty sand pools there, while avoiding most of the wind walls around the arena.

At the same time, I was playing Caithe, and decided to switch my gear around to 4 parts of Soldiers and 2 parts of Clerics, which made me a lot tankier than my usual Zerker stuff. (Died the first time to too many windwalls, died the second time to stumbling backward into two sandpools and getting conditioned to death with all my movement abilities on cooldown – which was stupid, but look, was avoiding windwalls, okay?)

I could pretty much just sit there and take one of Togron’s normal rock shard attacks without flinching, fer instance.

This also had the added bonus of turning me into a magnet for the elementals, so I could just tap them and bring them to the rest of the party gathering by the walls. They quickly made short work of them while I just spammed 1, afraid to do anything else and then move out of position with the rest of Caithe’s very movement-oriented skills.

The rest of the group was also more mobile and long-ranged, so they then pounded on Togron to bring his hp down while I just sat around at far range attracting his rock shards again, and preventing him from his close-range attack of creating sand pools.

That went really super smoothly, to the point one of the other party members asked if that felt like there were less waves that round. No, we just killed the elementals and worked his hp down really fast. -Really- fast. Cos no one died.

That experience gave me enough encouragement to try for Dodgy Crowd again, on normal, solo. Being really careful with Caithe and putting the eles near the walls before killing them, so as not to make nasty sand pool obstacles for myself.

After a few more times banging away at it, I got it, which makes me happy to feel like I accomplished something.

With that strategy, I might just give Wicked Rodeo a go again solo. Some other time, though.

I did get curious enough to join another group for Wicked Rodeo, this time playing myself, not Caithe. And yes, you can indeed reflect or absorb the windwalls. I got tons of mileage out of Shield of Absorption, and a lesser amount out of Wall of Reflection (problem with reflection is the windwalls will bounce away, so you better be standing in the right place.)

That group was a little less coordinated or organized. I kept mum on the strategy my original group had pulled off, cos I wanted to see what this one would come up with first. It ended up with most of us dead and one person finally managing to stretch it out and solo the last part of it, after repeated tries wiping. Still a viable enough solution, as far as it goes.

And I’m really just quite relieved that I’m done with the stupid Mordrem bodypart grind for now.

I ended up being one of those self-focused leechers for a bit, getting some hits in on a mob and then booking it to another. That’s just how the system is set up, right? It doesn’t actually matter if the bosses die or not, you still get the body parts. I don’t -want- the greater nightmare key reward, it gives glove boxes, which I don’t need right now. I just want -more- body part bags to open so that I might actually get a damned spleen or the second half of a bladder.

So one stops playing the Silverwastes properly, instead taxi’ing like mercenaries for hire into the next Silverwastes instance above 50% completion. One taps the events, does the bare minimum of defence, and runs around looking for lost bandit chests instead.

(Look, RNG and me don’t get along, all right? I’ve opened about 300 of them so far – 159 of them on a dedicated chest farm run – and only got one boots box out of it. On the 300th or so box.

The only good thing I can say is that I’m making quite a decent killing on materials that come out of the champion bags.)

Once the breach happens, hop into the first most-likely-to-die boss that you need (that’s usually Troll or Thrasher), tap it, bail when it feels like you’ve got enough damage in, and run, do-not-pass-Go, to the next boss you need (Husk or Terragriffs) and stay around to kill that (readying up an extractor to click the moment the first one dies.)

That’s at least two parts, and maybe even three, if you get the timings just right.

They might fix it eventually, but hey, not for 5 weeks, apparently. *coughs*

The good news is, I don’t need to do that anymore. I can now stay around like a good person and focus on killing one mob, so that other people who still need the parts can run from place to place.

The bad news is, I’m probably still going to pick an easy mob to kill first and go to the harder ones later.

That, and the fact I’ll beeline for any chest first over actually doing a Silverwastes event now.

GW2: There May Be No Spoon, But One Sure Will Try Collecting Them All Anyway

Going down the rabbit hole here...

I wonder if the disconnect comes from semantics, or merely wishful thinking.

When your average player hears the word “feature,” they think of content. They want their new dungeon, their new zone, their new shiny reward that usually comes in the form of better stats or better looks. They want what’s labeled on the box as “features” – new class, new race, new skills!

They don’t give much thought on just how much this new stuff might imbalance or invalidate the old  stuff. They don’t care, the designers better have figured it all out beforehand, because players will be players and will optimize towards the most efficient path, and WoW has already shown that the way ahead is to just say ‘fuck the old stuff’ and pile on the new shiny on the next rung of the ladder to keep climbing forward. New players? I guess we better just fast-forward them past all the old bad stuff so they can catch up. Instant level 90, here we come.

Urgh.

Me, I play GW2 precisely because it isn’t WoW.

When I hear the words “feature patch,” and I’m probably in a minority of players to do so, I think of it in the way the Anet devs are using it – to reference things that aren’t content. Systems. Tweaks and improvements and little balance nudges.

Things that probably take a heck of a lot of coding work and behind-the-scenes stuff to make it more invisibly smooth-flowing on the front end.

The irony of it is, if the work is done well, no one will notice when the UI just got that much less clunky or when new players move on from level to level without a hitch and without quitting in disgust. (It’s only when it bugs or creates some kind of stopping or frustration point, that the bulk of the bitching starts.)

And there’s actually some good stuff coming down the line this 9th of September, despite the never-satisfied cries of increasingly bored players looking for new content (not new systems, per se) and new stuff to do, and despite the meat of it being spread so thinly across three weeks in some sort of weird marketing attempt to keep interest/hype going for the length of time it’ll take to deploy the patch.

The Collection Achievements system is one of those things.

You see, there’s this perennial complaint from players that such-and-such piece of content isn’t ‘rewarding’ enough. That there’s no reason or motivation to do this slightly more difficult thing over another, the devs better give us some external reward to get us to do it…or else.

Never mind the deplorable fact that many players won’t do anything without an external carrot.

(I dunno, I sometimes do content just because it’s there. I give up 2-3 hours of my time to PUG a TA Aetherpath when I get the sudden whim to, because I think it’ll be interesting and somewhat entertaining and internally rewarding to gently coax a group of players who don’t really know what they’re in for, but are desperate to get it done for their Dungeon Master achievement, through it.

The last few days, while on my platinum ore harvesting rounds, I’ve been throwing myself at the Champion Risen Spider near Flamefrog Waypoint in Sparkfly Fen, trying to figure out how to solo it – and mostly repeatedly dying. It’s turned into an almost Liadri-like compulsion by now. Eventually 2-3 other players turn up and we kill it, but dammit, I’ll get it one day. My best efforts have only reduced it to half hp so far.

It’s really infuriating because it immobilizes so much, and has an annoying egg spit attack that spawns additional spider mobs if not dodged/blocked/gotten out of the way of. That spawning can get runaway uncontrollable very quickly, so my best guess is that it -must- be -always- dodged/avoided/prevented from spawning. This is much much easier said than done, because you can’t dodge when immobilized, and I still end up confusing its egg spit attack animation with its other attacks, all of which involve twitching and lifting of its abdomen.

Reward? None but eventually satisfaction, I suppose. And a screenshot of me over its dead body… ONE DAY. SOME DAY.)

Thing is, what kinds of rewards can be given?

There’s a limit to vertically progressing rewards, since GW2 is not that kind of game. And if it tried, I’d be the first one to quit in disgust. I don’t want to be “forced” or “motivated” aka “pushed” into doing a particular dungeon simply because it gives +5 more Power stat on its gear than any other dungeons so far… and then the next new dungeon will have +10 Power to chase. *FAUGH* *spits*

Shiny new skins may have a certain temptation, but there’s always going to be a manpower limit on how many the artists can crank out at any one time, without eliciting howls of distress over lack of hair, lack of tails and oh god, that clipping. And what if the player doesn’t like the skin on offer? Then it’s back to the forums and more whining on how this and that skin is ugly as sin and not “rewarding” enough to make him suffer through that new dungeon or piece of content, I guess.

Increasing the amount of gold reward is just going to end up a tail-chasing fly-swatting game of players gravitating to the ‘best’ gold-giving dungeon for the time spent, and all the other dungeons ignored…until the next patch which increases gold rewards of some other dungeon. Not to mention, making inflation worse with every ‘fix.’

So enter a Hall of Monuments variant.

A structured system of multiple lateral options for -personal- progression, all of which will count towards accruing some points total at the end, and presumably offer direction and signposting for grabbing lower-hanging fruit before working one’s way up to harder and longer to obtain stuff.

That’s the potential I’m seeing in this new Collection Achievements system.

Players will have an external ‘reason’ to do X new content over Y old content because it will have its own ‘reward track’ where doing X related stuff will yield X-based rewards. And when content Z pops up, Z will have its own reward track too. It’ll be like trying to go for the Dungeon Master achievement, you’ve got to visit every dungeon if you want it.

(If you don’t care about it, then proceed on your merry way, of course. Like how life in GW2 has always been. All these systems are just for the Achievers who need things spelled out for them, or they quit. There’s just -so- many Achievers, though, so it’s worth creating systems for them.)

On a personal level, the collector and pack rat in me is super-thrilled.

These things have always been in GW2, but never really celebrated or made very clear.

I’ve never finished collecting all the cultural armor available… mostly because I can’t figure out which pieces I have left, and it would be a pain to have to log every single character and check what they’re wearing. (The only good news is I don’t throw away anything… Oh hey, I guess I could also use the wardrobe function now that I think about it. But that would still be a little annoying to sift through.)

I just visited a slew of Heart vendors in Fireheart Rise the other day and picked up the light, medium and heavy armor cosmetic sets that were being sold there. I never got around to it for a long time because I never needed it. Until I decided that my sylvari necro could use one piece of that look (via the Wardrobe) and so may as well since one is going there, pick up all the other sets and complete those too.

If there was some ArenaNet Points and a final shiny reward at the end for doing that, that would certainly be a little more of a motivating push in the butt to go do that kind of thing. It’s really easy low hanging fruit at that. I was sitting on 5 million karma and just never got around to using any of it on karma armor.

It’s quite a kick in the butt for the economy too, as I suspect this is going to add some new value for previously ignored shiny skins that more people will be motivated to collect.

And of course, *sinister chuckle* there’s nothing like creating account-bound stuff (like binding skins for personal use in the wardrobe) to reduce supply or “dedicated” miniatures to take these things out of circulation and sink them, so there’s always going to be demand, rather than a round-robin exchange of swap-the-same-minis so that everybody gets AP.

I can see some people thinking they’d cheated the system being a little upset by that.

To which, I can only indulge in a little Dark Side collector laugh. Seriously, did you think that you could spend hundreds of gold buying minis, get that little AP ‘ding’ and then sell them all away again to recoup most of your gold… would be valued as equivalent to someone who spent those same hundreds of gold to KEEP every last collectible shiny?

mini1

mini2

mini3

True collectors hoard shit and take them out of circulation.

It’s going to be slightly painful when it comes time to take them all out of these collections and account-bind them. That’s a LOT of gold I’m going to be throwing away. (Or spending on myself, rather.)

I’m half-considering just leaving them in the collections tab to sit for a while, but I have a feeling all it’ll take is seeing the new achievements and AP and titles for me to cave.

And it’ll be nice to be able to swap between a whole bunch of them without having to juggle stuff in my inventory. That’s at least 2-4 bag slots freed for all my characters.

To reiterate, coming down the line for the feature patch:

  • WvW – new month-long Fall Tournament with weekly match-up rewards and supposedly more unique worlds matched up with each other (I’ll believe it when I see it, BG and JQ and TC have been seeing each other since the last league), Siege Golem mastery, new Siege Disabler trick.
  • Commander tags – will now be account-bound, cost 300 gold, and have 4 shiny colors to choose from.
  • PvP – some new world tournament thing with shiny rewards for pro-PvPers, standard enemy models for Team Arenas, new PvP armor cosmetic reward (one presumably super-shiny variant for the top-tier, and one less shiny variant for the hoi polloi to earn via PvP reward track)
  • Balance changes – Elementalists weep as FGS and Tornado-Meteor combo get nerfed, mesmer scepter gets torment added, necromancer dagger gets a two-target cleave, warrior adrenaline gets played around with, and a whole bunch of less used and less popular skills and traits from all classes get some kind of adjusted boosts to try and make ‘em more attractive (guess we’ll see how the new meta shakes out)
  • Guilds – will now be global, and all those leftover influence and upgrades and other things abandoned on server transfer will now come back home to roost. Guild mission experiences on the megaserver system -may- be further improved, by letting the first guildie joining a map to do a (presumably-active) guild mission reserve spots on the map for other guildies zoning in, so that half the guild isn’t spread out across several maps. May. Caveats for guilds of a very large size, which will probably still get smeared across various map instances and have to taxi in on each other. To be improved further (TM).
  • Megaserver – still getting plenty of tweaks to increase good experiences over bad ones, will attempt to sort EU players by language a little better, language chat filter back to being disabled by default so that EU players aren’t mysteriously plagued by a horde of seemingly deaf individuals in maps that keep requiring communication and coordination, fingers are crossed as to how much toxicity and harassment will result versus community-forming and a reminder to frickin’ use the report function on the worse of the toxic xenophobic lot so that the mapchat can improve.

Also, when megaserver maps drop below a certain number and need to be emptied out and closed, leftovers will be asked to volunteer to move maps back to more crowded ones and get a little bonus buff for doing so. What this will imply for organized groups trying to move to and fill new Teq and Wurm maps with people that actually care to listen to instructions and cooperate remains to seen.

  • Dungeons – will now have no instance owner. As long as someone stays in the instance, it stays open, so gone are the days of getting booted out when the opener leaves. What this might end up enabling remains to be seen: there are a few unscrupulous toxic people frequenting dungeons who might get extra-kick happy and may get some jollies out of kicking PUGs and inviting guildmates (though why they wouldn’t just run with the guildies, I dunno) or selling the path after using PUGs to do their dirty work (which I suspect is far more likely, and will no doubt keep Anet’s GMs occupied for some time.) Three-person kick is apparently in the works, but will not be in time for the feature patch.
  • Performance tweaks – More improvements to back-end stuff that will -hopefully- improve performance and frame rates at crowded events like world bosses and WvW.
  • Crafting – Crafting UI will allow for opening and viewing recipes to subcomponents at the same time as the main recipe. New cosmetic crafting backpack skins as a little mini-reward as you go up in crafting tiers. New recipes for leveling items (aka twink items) that will go up to an exotic-equivalent for low levels.
  • Profession loot – will make it more likely to get drops that are usable for one’s class. Makes it more exciting and logical for low levels to get drops that they can actually use, may sneakily tweak supply and demand of materials based on the population of classes actually being played on a regular basis.
  • Fresh Start – New player experience will be given more clear direction and guidance as to where to go. Experienced players can ignore this and turn it off, and wander Tyria as before. Leveling up will be made more shiny and WHEEEEEE, YOU LEVELED to make it feel more rewarding per level. Various existing GW2 systems will be drip-feed introduced to newbies using this guiding/unlock system, such as downed state at level 5, “hey, WvW exists, come try it out” at lvl 18, “you can PvP too, it’s not just all hearts” at lvl 22, etc. (Experienced folks who don’t need this will still be able to access WvW and PvP at lvl 2 on alts by jumping into a portal or using a hotkey, once unlocked on one character, all future characters will have the button unlocked.) More shiny item rewards for leveling up. Personal story will come in chunks using this system as well, so they can be played through at one go, instead of getting spaced out by really weird level gaps. Stats may come in chunks to also make it feel like one is getting stronger – everything will end up the same by level 80.
  • Collections - Miniatures and finishers will now end up in the account wardrobe. Both minis and finishers will be previewable in the wardrobe, minis will also be previewable via TP and chat links. Wardrobe has had some UI tweaks to make searching through it easier. Minis can be turned into an account unlock, available to all your characters to equip, simultaneously if desired, and will follow you from zone to zone with no more work needed to display them. Doing so essentially “dedicates” the mini, making it no longer sellable/tradeable as the mini item will vanish and exist as an “account skin” instead.

An entire Item Collections systems will be introduced via Achievements to reward the whole compulsion to collect everything under the sun. Shiny weapons or armor skins, food consumed, loot bags opened, spoons, you name it, it goes in it. There will be rewards attached to collecting various um, collections – equipment, functional unlocks, recipes, AP, stuff like that. Naturally, if you collect it, you can’t sell it and profit from it. More sinks, more demand, more money-making or money-sinking opportunities, gems-to-gold and gold-to-gems, more motivation to do one or the other, TP tax and economy churnchurnchurn, here we come!

The last announcement, due tomorrow, is titled Trading 2.0.

If it doesn’t contain Trading Post improvements, like *cough* certain filters that have been missing since the beginning of time, I’ll be very very surprised.

All in all, I think this feature patch definitely offers some very promising foundations for proceeding forward on. It’s good to have some rock solid bases to build that ‘new content’ on, after all.