GW2: That Dang Veteran Mordrem Wolf

One ugly son of a bitch...

When the Queen’s Gauntlet was first introduced oh so long ago, I remember liking the idea of difficult solo fights that had to be puzzled out.

But I also wasn’t terribly keen on one’s (lack of) prowess being on public display for everyone to point and laugh at.

Surely, if ArenaNet wants people to learn and improve, having a practice arena that one can fail at in the privacy of one’s own solo instance would be a good complement?

After all, people learn differently.

Some thrive in the public space, as friends and strangers can watch and offer encouragement and tips, but others prefer to suss things out on their own, with the number of times they died in the process a secret known only to themselves.

Curiously enough, Season 2’s episode achievements appear to be filling this niche.

The first two episodes had achievements that seemed straightforward enough (okay, with the exception of the jumping puzzle ones that made me pull my hair out.)

Some even complained that the achievements were too easy.

Me, I suspected there was a subset of very casual players that were going to be challenged just a tiny bit even by the normal story instances – facing off two veteran inquest might challenge the more haphazard of builds, and for some players, figuring out the mechanics of the bosses at the end of each instance – even with NPC prompting – might be something new for them.

Anyhow, it was always possible and likely that they’d ramp up the difficulty of the achievements as the episodes progressed onwards.

It was with some disbelief that I browsed the GW2 forums to discover that there were players having trouble with the Foefire Cleansing instance.

herecomethetruerulersofascalon

That was an instance I enjoyed thoroughly, with a charr main who found it awesome to revisit Barradin’s Crypt with a slightly more sophisticated boss fight to echo the first time we fought the statue in the tutorial.

Of course, there are some things that I take for granted that not every player may be aware of.

(And I don’t mean the above sentence with any conceit. Everybody is new to something at some point or another. Someone who habitually plays something has unconsciously integrated a whole lot of habits that would be alien to someone who hasn’t.

For instance, I’m currently watching a ton of DOTA 2 beginner videos having my mind blown at simple concepts that more regular players take for granted – like being unseen and getting behind an enemy makes for a more likely and successful gank. Ohhh, so I -shouldn’t- just be charging up gung-ho from the front and shooting stuff! No one ever pointed out that basic principle to me before!)

hammermeetdodge

I know that in Guild Wars 2, every attack is preceded by an animation. Barradin’s Statue is especially kind because it’s so big. That makes his hammer strike super-obvious to someone who is watching the statue’s arms, and when the big orange circle flashes to indicate an attack to avoid… it’s already second nature for me to bang down on my dodge key.

Dodge key, singular, by the way.

I used to double tap WASD to dodge for a long time, rather stubbornly, before trying to dodge-jump in the Super Adventure Box made me face the fact that there was no way I was going to time dodging and jumping pressing so many damn keys at once.

(Also, one gets tired of forward rolling off narrow beams in jumping puzzles.)

It’s a lot faster to tap once than tap twice. That translates to dodge reaction time (in which some of us are already screwed over by having 200-250ms more lag time via geographic latency.)

I am aware that GW2’s dodge uses invincibility frames. Which means I don’t have to try and scramble out of the big orange circle, and end up getting knocked around while doing so, I just need to time the dodge just right to be “invulnerable” at the point of impact.

My main normally always sits in berserker gear, going with a fairly selfish build of sword/focus, scepter/torch that is built for damage and one-hand crit.

When Rytlock called out the Ascalonian Menders, all I had to do was turn around, flip to my scepter, target the mender and autoattack. Toss in a smite and an immobilize for good measure. Ghost gone in under five seconds.

menderdead

Now I do have an extra asura guardian that I use to play around with tankier builds, so I am quite keenly aware of the immense difference of speed between my charr who regularly hits 1.4-1.9k+ per crit scepter autoattack, and the asura who has achieved gloriously spectacular lows of 400-600 damage per scepter hit when he’s trying to be super-tanky and heal-y.

Needless to say, there’s a reason why I choose to roam the open world and farm stuff with the charr. (And why I mostly converted to the zerk church of power and crit.)

Still, it wasn’t until I replayed the instance for achievements that I discovered some things which other players would already have known from their taken-for-granted experience.

Going up to melee the statue allows for double damage – as one’s melee weapon cleave can hit both hitboxes, hitting it twice. This makes the statue’s health drop very quickly. (My own impulse is to stay ranged for safety on strange things I don’t trust, aka the first playthrough.)

oneswingtwonumbers

The other orange circles contained fear wards – that could be destroyed if you target them and attack. I had no clue originally since I just kept moving and avoided anything scary orange to begin with. (Contrast this with some other players’ described experiences where they were knocked about, feared everywhere, and found it extremely frustrating. I can only conclude that they stayed still and got caught in all the stuff, rather than realize they could cast and attack while moving.)

What I think this successfully counts as, is a potential learning experience.

Sure, some people who chronically refuse to learn may just give up in frustration, or admit defeat and get a group to help them or whatever. It’s good that there’s the option of the group to assist for those whose particular situation means they have understandable trouble with the encounter (injury, disability or whatever).

But for others that are able and open to adding to their pool of knowledge, figuring out how to master the encounter, and then doing it, is the challenge and the reward. The level of their play goes up. They’re better able to appreciate the complexity of combat that GW2 can offer, if only just by a smidgen more.

The Waypoint Conundrum instance, on the other hand, was something I struggled for a while to do.

Well, part of the turn-off was the thought of having to spend extra time teasing out every last ambush and trap systematically, and then dealing with the stupid running inquest assassin and closing doors encounter.

I suspected that doing it trial and error, without reading Dulfy, would mean having to repeat the instance several times over. (I was right.)

And it was annoying because defeating the mob wasn’t hard per se, but mostly a matter of hoping things didn’t break. I left Scruffy on defensive mode to take on the assassin, and the first time, the silly asura NPC just vanished without ever engaging him while I was already running off to eliminate the inquest before the door closed. I did everything else to find that the last achievement stack wouldn’t tick off and the assassin was nowhere to be found.

The second time I hung around to make sure both Scruffy and the assassin were locked in deadly yet ineffective combat before leaving, and the inquest door actually closed on me and locked me out while I was taking out the other three inquest. That was worth about ten seconds of heart attack and screaming at the door before the instance relented and somehow teleported me back inside, having concluded I was now in a part of the map that I shouldn’t be. No shit.

And there was that dang Veteran Mordrem Wolf.

dangwolf

That thing deserves to be a boss in its own right. The Champion ooze was more of a pushover than this nightmare floral canid. (Or is that canine flora?)

Part of the problem seems to be an exceptionally broad definition of flanking – which makes any sideways movement of your own risky, plus the tendency for its pounces to overshoot and whack you in the back before you can even react – or use the turn 180 degrees key (which I am unfortunately not terribly used to using, though I have it bound.)

To add salt to the wound, it coats itself in retaliation. Any damage you do to it while it has the boon on, is some damage you’ve inflicted on yourself.

I tried to range it. Got mauled.

Tried to melee it. Got mauled.

whydoyouonlyreznow

Stopped to think. Swapped gear. Swapped weapons.

Obviously this creature punished squishy thoughtless berserkers. So maybe let’s not try being so squishy.

Except I don’t really have a wide range of gear on hand and was feeling lazy to switch traits if at all avoidable. Put on cleric’s gear. Tried a cheapo hammer. Too damned slow.  Not enough damage, still died.

Tried a knight’s greatsword. Still ended up with it having a sliver of health remaining. About the same as me dodging my best in zerk, really.

Maybe try boon stripping off retaliation? Searing flames unfortunately was a little too slow to really successfully do much.

On and on. Death after death.

I even went as close to DPS meta as I could with zerker greatsword and sword/focus, trying to burn it down faster than it could tear me in half.

Which -almost- worked.

Twice it had literally no health, not even a sliver of red remained on the bar, before I got downed. Presumably if I had been a smidgen less cheap on my runes, or if I had an Ascended sword, or if I traited more appropriately, I might have been able to nuke it.

Then finally, the revelation unfolded.

I’d previously been having a nice discussion on autoattacking and its role in depth and complexity of combat in games with Talarian, via the comments, spinning off a section of his post.

Ultimately, he concludes that he sees no difference between autoattacking or spamming 1.

Conversely, I think the point of being able to turn off autoattack is that you can -choose- to spam 1 or no.

Not every game is WoW in which DPS meters must be maxed uber alles.

GW2 is a game about proper -timing- in combat. (Also proper positioning, but that’s another story.)

I got back into my standard berserker gear.

I put on my sword and focus, the main weapon types I’ve always carried with me since the beginning of the game.

I CTRL-right clicked off the autoattack on skill 1.

“Self,” I said, “When you see the retaliation buff come up on that wolf… you -STOP- freaking attacking. You just face it and do your best to survive.”

“But self,” I protested. “I’m in zerker, I only have so many heals. It moves so dang quick, the animations fly by so fast, I can’t even tell when it’s going to attack. I can’t dodge or move around very much, I’ll risk getting flanked and my buttocks ripped off for 6000 damage instead of my face bit for 1000-2000. How am I going to survive that dang wolf pouncing on me?”

“Self, you have forgotten your roots. Do you not have blocks and blinds?”

And I’ll be goshdarned, but I was right.

mordremwolf

With a new resolution to not just autoattack like a madman and to really choose one’s timing properly…

… I staggered blinds every time that dang veteran mordrem wolf twitched. Never mind if it was a bite or a pounce, I wanted it to miss. And keep missing.

When I ran out of blinds, I blocked, and let the blinds cycle back.

Every time retaliation came up, I touched -nothing- attack-y in nature, and was surprised by how little damage I was taking as compared to before.

When the buff fell off, I pressed 1 repeatedly (I did not spam, because the blinds had to go in between) and hit 3 now and then for a channeled damage boost.

That dang veteran mordrem wolf died with me only having suffered half the damage I had been taking before.

-I- had been my own worse enemy in that fight.

There are, of course, multiple solutions to the same battle.

Some have found the scenery helpful in obstructing its pounces, for instance.

(And to be honest, if you observe really carefully, you can actually see the animations correspond.

When it roars/howls, it buffs itself with retaliation. When its hindquarters twitch, it’s probably going to leap.)

Me, I’m just proud and happy I took it on guardian style and won.

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GW2: Visual Guide to the Twisted Marionette’s AoEs

aoe aieee

Hey all,

Just a quick reference guide to the AoE attack patterns that one might face in phase 2 of the Twisted Marionette Boss fight.

(Disclaimer: Diagrams are not 100% accurate, but hopefully illustrates the idea.)

They should hopefully give an idea of where the danger zones and safe spots are, and help with your situational decisions per fight.

Chain 1 – The Warden With the Big Arrow Pointing To Whoever Has Aggro

chain-1-animation

Marionette will stomp in sequence from first platform to the last, producing each orange circle in sequence.

Keep an eye out for her leg stomping on other platforms to predict when she’ll step on yours and prepare to dodge.

Suggested strategy: Dodge if/when the orange circle appears over you. Person with aggro faces mob away from the others. Others attack from the back.

In case of stubborn pets pinning the warden against the edge, check if the sides can be hit still.

Chain 2 – Mine-Laying Warden

chain 2

Marionette will attack a small rectangular strip that is almost dead center, but slightly nearer one side of the platform.

Suggested strategy: Kite warden into mines. (ie. Keep a mine between you and the warden.) Attack when it is stunned by mines and vulnerable. Stay in safe areas or dodge when the strip appears and you happen to be in it.

Chain 3 – Bomb Throwing Warden

Update: You can thank a failed overflow for this one. And my great platform who rezzed each other and finished the kill fast, plus the platform that didn’t – prolonging the fight long enough for me to document a hint of a pattern.

chain-3-animation

Marionette will start from the last platform and strike each platform one by one with an outstretched hand throwing green lightning as circular patches of AoE.

chain-3-screenshots-2

Use that like the leg in chain 1 to predict when the AoE will reach your platform. (Which is still easier said than done when there’s close-range bombs to watch for, but yeah…)

The placement of circular AoEs still seems a little different for each circuit of the arm, and since you can’t predict which platform you’ll turn up on, assume it to be random for now.

Another layout in the sample screenshot below:

chain 3 screen

See image at the top of the guide for yet one more layout.

Twisted warden produces bombs that do not have an AoE marker.

chain 3 bomb

Bombs go boom after a few seconds. Stay away from the bombs.

Suggested strategy: Ranged DPS and stay mobile. Have good reaction time on dodges. Melee only if you’re pro.

Much easier said than done, I know. Plenty of room for unlucky things to happen in this fight, including loadscreening into bombs.

Rez downed teammates wherever possible. Having a rez skill slotted might help.

Chain 4 – Cone Shriek Warden With Lots of AoEs

chain 4

Marionette will do a sweeping sword attack that arcs around all the platforms, covering a good part of each arena.

The warden has three kinds of attacks:

phase 4 shriek

It will do a cone shriek towards the player with aggro. Dodge away or receive stacks of confusion. Auto-attacking with confusion is bad. (Click away from any valid targets to detarget / turn off autoattack / holster weapon are all ways to stop attacking when confused.)

Note the shriek does not reach the edges of the platform.

phase 4 center

Warden produces a patch of circular AoEs in the center. (Diagram is approximate, I didn’t -actually- count how many AoEs there are.)

When the warning marker disappears, they leave behind a black patch that causes torment. Moving with torment causes double damage. Be able to condition clear.

phase 4 outer

Warden will produce a circular ring of AoEs on the outermost perimeter of the platform, leaving behind the same black patches that cause torment.

There is a small safe zone in between the two AoEs, approximately 3/4 of the way from the center, nearer to the edge.

Suggested strategy: Ranged dps. Keep near the edges of the platform, moving and dodging as required to avoid AoEs and the cone shriek. Melee only if you’re pro.

Have condition clears. Don’t run around wildly with torment on or attack blindly with confusion on to avoid taking extra damage.

For achievement, what worked for me was staying in the safe spot at the power generator and ranged dps’ing. The cone shriek should not be able to reach you. You avoid the center aoe and only have to worry about the outer aoe (or just eat the torment and stay still.)

Chain 5 – Multiplying Warden

chain 4

Marionette produces patches of small circular AoEs that will essentially cover the above areas of the platform, with gaps in between. The area near the power generator appears to be safe.

Suggested strategy: Stack on the power generator and DPS down the multiplying warden(s) with melee cleaves/AoEs.

A big thank you to my references:

Knigaesera’s video of the cutscenes and each of the champion phases is great for seeing an example fight in motion.

Dulfy’s guide to the Twisted Marionette is, of course, a good foundation to start with.

GenocideOPS has another comprehensive one stickied on the GW2 forums.

Shortlinks to this guide:

http://wp.me/p2sQ6r-RG

or

http://tinyurl.com/phase2aoes

GW2: Endgame Ideas and Adventures in Goal-Setting

Maybe if you squint... there's 225 of 'em... somewhere...

“225 dolyaks in the snow, 225 dolyaks,
Take one down, slap it around, 224 dolyaks to go”

– anonymous Norn drinking song

It has not escaped my notice that during the last few days of blog silence (and game playing), my most popular post getting hits has been the one about Guild Wars 2’s end game.

That one was a rambling little response mostly making the point about what GW2’s endgame is – a smorgasbord or tapas MMO of many lateral progression options once you pass a certain baseline on the vertical progression ladder.

If you’re not fundamentally comfortable with that, you need to go play another game that is more familiar to you and gives you only one linear ladder to climb so that you can feel special about your “accomplishments” which mostly seem to involve the expenditure of time and perhaps how well you can execute a certain move.

Or conversely, if you’re entirely bored of the genre, it’s time to take a break and move on to a game with a completely different feel and challenges you in different ways. At least for a little while. (Here’s my shameless recommendation of a deep, tactical experience where knowing the right move and strategy is given a lot more stress than how long you take to execute it. I’m sure you can find more games out there too.)

However, if you’re still happy with the game and you’re just here to look for ideas on ‘what to do in GW2’, here are a couple of suggestions:

Reddit is a great source of ideas, as it’s got a huge cross section of variously motivated players reading and contributing to it.

  • When in doubt, a reddit search for “goals” should bring you nearly every thread and idea that may possibly interest a person – from the bog standard ‘get Legendary and look pretty’ ones, to be a PvP or WvW master or ‘collect all the things.’
Clothes? I don't need no stinking clothes to look pretty!
Clothes? I don’t need no stinking clothes to look pretty!

If you’re just interested in hearing about the way I play, then read on.

My voluntarily chosen over-arcing goal is achievements, but not in any kind of maniacal, obliged to win a leaderboard kind of manner. I tend to just use them as ideas or suggestions for things I could be doing.

What does end up happening anyway is a decent amount of progress
What does end up happening anyway is a decent amount of progress

I’m perfectly happy to let, say, the last two jumping puzzles sit undone because I haven’t been in the mood to do them yet. Or a bunch of posters and books in Ebonhawke and mariner plaques that I’ll get to, someday, when I want to have an easy immersive experience.

But maybe the next goal that pops up on the summary is 971/1000 trolls and I go, hmm, I can kill 29 trolls today. Hmm, where are there nice and easy trolls to kill? I don’t wiki because I like to remember these things as esoteric MMO trivia. I remember seeing trolls in Bloodtide Coast, but I think, nah, too high a level, it’s gonna be a pain to kill 29 of those. I think lower, and remember seeing a champion troll in Caledon Forest. Aha, surely there must be smaller minion trolls nearby. Sure enough, there are a bunch. Ding, achievement get.

I do tend to attack the time-limited achievements first, because you know, they are time-limited. This has led to some occasional QQ when striving to reach the quantity required by an achievement ends up taking up 100% of my current available playing time, but ArenaNet has been getting a LOT better on this front and giving more moderate sized ones.

Every day when I log on, I check the daily achievements tab and pick and choose. If I tried to complete all of them, I’d go crazy in short order, but hey, some people do. I highlight on the tracker all the ones I wouldn’t mind doing, then try to knock out a bunch with one stone. Maguuma killer, veteran killer, gatherer? Ok, off to Mount Maelstrom to slaughter a bunch of things, grab some easy veterans and harvest stuff then.

Once it hits 5/5, I tend to stop there and leave the rest of the highlighted ones as extras that I might do if I have more time that day. If not, whatever.

The Living Story tab gets checked next to see if there’s anything that I want to work on or knock out. I admit to being voluntarily completist on this one. Many are content just reaching the meta-achievement. My minigame challenge is to do all the non-infinite ones if at all possible.

I’m keeping an eye on the time in the meanwhile. Once it hits one of the scheduled Teq times for TTS, I tend to meander over and attend a run. I find attending Tequatl more exciting than chasing world bosses, and you do get rares and karma out of it too. The eternal hope is, of course, that I’ll pop a mini. One day. Some day. (Yeah, right.)

Minis are my other voluntarily chosen vice. Again, I’m not completist about this. The prices of exotics are crippling. I spit on any ugly gem store ones. (Ones I find cute, I might consider $10 for if I haven’t spend my month’s budget of $10-20 already, or convert gold to gems.) But I did start by picking up all the blues and greens since they were cheap, and as time wore on, I found I could earn enough spending money to buy rare minis sporadically.

And ever since I managed the initially-viewed-as-insane goal of 225 dolyaks slapped in 7 weeks by working on it slowly 5-10 dolyaks a day, I’ve become a little more open to the idea about long to medium-term goals by chewing away at them in chunks per day.

Being able to afford an exotic mini falls under an idea like that. The thing costs 50 gold? Well, if I earned 10 gold a day, I might be able to afford it in five days. Yeah, right. The amount of dungeons I’d have to run in a day to do that would make me slit my wrists in a hurry. Not sustainable for me. But I could probably earn 5 gold a day. Aim for two CoF and two AC runs (maybe only get half of that done in reality), sell some gathered materials and rares, that would work.

Also, temporarily setting aside one goal for another. I had 100 gold sitting in the bank for icy runestones for that someday Legendary.
Also, temporarily setting aside one goal for another. I had an extra 100 gold backup sitting in the bank for icy runestones for that someday Legendary. I couldn’t resist when the price dipped on 12 Dec as people began selling off their stuff to rush Ascended armor crafting. Title get. Screw the jackalope. (At least until I have more spare money for luxuries again. New goal: restore savings.)

The other thing that has caught my current fancy is the possibility of getting the dolyak finisher before they do their drastic revamp of PvP and remove ’em.

Being that I was only rank 11 yesterday (2785/4000), I sat down to calculate the exact number of points this would take and how achievable it might possibly be. Turns out, one is aiming for 36, 715 more points. Oh god, was pretty much my reaction.

However, at an average of 160 points per match, assuming the PvP ideal of one match won and one match lost (minus some fudging for the preponderence of stacking, and plus some for the ability to nab more points by hitting top whatevers in a certain category or volunteering to autobalance), it turns out that I “only” have to attend around 230 hotjoins.

That’s like 225 dolyaks, ain’t it?!

At 5-6 matches a day, one should be done in about 46 days, or 6.5 weeks. Sort of like the timeframe of a WvW league, eh?

That should keep me occupied until the next Scarlet patch.

Who knows, if I actually improve enough, I might get brave enough to join a solo queue some day.

Or there's always Wintersday in WvW.
Or there’s always Wintersday in WvW.

If you’ve actually read this far, thanks.

I’d suggest that to get the most enjoyment out of GW2, one has to take the time to decide and narrow down a couple of goals for your playtime.

This may be something as relaxed as “have fun and go where the wind and my guildies take me” or something structured like having some short, medium and long-term goals that you’d be happy accomplishing.

Faces only mothers could love
Or something as personal and meaningful as taking your own collection of memorable screenshots or roleplaying.

Point is, you do actually have to decide on something, and let other things be. For a while, at least.

If you get bored, then switch goals to something that does interest you, nevermind whether the first was completed or not. It will still be there and you can come back to it again. (Mostly. Time-limited ones excepted.)

And if you have to, switch games. It’s okay. You’re not paying a dime while you’re not playing GW2. There’s tons of other games out there. You can come back if and when it ever interests you again.

Mob Wars LCN: Of Fake Friends and Progress Bars

It was around five years ago that I watched one of my work colleagues mess around with Mob Wars.

Being somewhat of a privacy and pseudonym advocate, I already eyed Facebook with great suspicion and wasn’t at all inclined to give “Facebook games” a fair shake at all.

“Is that it?” I asked. “You just click buttons and watch progress bars go up?”

That didn’t seem much better than Progress Quest.

Hell, Progress Quest streamlined all the unnecessary clicking for you (moar efficiency! mouse button spared!) and you just had to sit back and enjoy the concept of gaining xp and getting your next level up and becoming numerically stronger over time.

Then there was the friends spamming problem, aka How to Ensure You Have No More Friends in a Hurry.

Wanna be stronger? Click this button to invite all your friends to join you and play the game!

Ah, social networking, aka inviting spam from friends into your life.

One naturally thought ahead a few steps. a) I’m an introvert, I don’t make as many casual friends and acquaintances as an extrovert. b) It seems extremely rude and crass to spam all your real life friends with an invitation to a “game” made for low-impulse control individuals to part with their cash. c) Therefore, I’m never going to have as many allies as someone more connected will. d) Therefore, they are going to outnumber me and gank me whenever they want.

And of course, there was the disreputable pay-to-win aroma wafting off a cash shop selling virtual items for insane amounts of money with no more effort that inputting a few numbers on a spreadsheet. At least for cosmetic options in MMOs, some artist had to slave away at a 3D model and spend time making it look good.

This very quickly led down the Wargames scenario of the only way to win is not to play at all.

And boggling at people who still were ignorant enough to play anyway.

Cycle ahead five years, and strangely enough, I find myself dabbling away at one of its variants.

Concept-wise, it’s quite alluring thematically. You’re a pretend gangster building up a mob of your own, conducting a variety of virtual crimes across the globe with a click of the button, rabble-rousing and doing the equivalent of a drive-by shooting with your homies on some other unfortunate mobster.

jobsgifts

(Nevermind that that mobster has friends of their own and may just come after you in a nuclear escalation scenario where there is no winner. We won’t think ahead that far.)

What made it suddenly more acceptable to experiment with?

Choice of venue, for one thing. No Facebook.

Mob Wars: La Cosa Nostra has made it onto Kongregate. Yep, the social gaming site of 1001+ flash games.

Now your real life and your game accounts don’t have to mix.

Furthermore, having the backbone of connected Kongregate gamers with chat rooms makes it easier to get around the “friending” hurdle.

Yes, some time ago, I learned from Tobold that it is indeed possible to make a fake Facebook account for the sole purpose of playing Facebook games, find websites and forums where you can find a load of like-minded people sharing codes and add all these ‘fake friends’ to mutually help each other out.

Except that seemed like a ridiculous amount of effort to go through to play a not-very-good game to begin with, and Facebook could fry your account any time they felt like it, erasing any and all progress and time invested.

The advantage of fake friends, of course, is shared interest in only one thing. The game which you are currently playing. It’s pretty much like a casual pickup group where you don’t know at all who these people are, except that everyone is interested in getting to the end and getting loot. And that’s good enough for everybody’s purposes.

Maybe you’ll encounter some of them a few more times over time, and get to enjoy their company and become real friends, but for now, strangers with a shared purpose is okay.

Kongregate shortcuts that process by allowing you access to a network of people currently playing that very game. The chatroom fills up every so often with random alphanumeric letters that an observer on the side might think are bots speaking in tongues or unwanted spam, but the players tolerate non-repeated chatcodes because each is a potential ally for someone (perhaps even yourself. After all, the maximum limit of fake friends starts at 500 and goes up to 1000 as you gain levels.)

What this does for me is provide a certain amount of equity. Every player has access to these codes. Depending on how lazy or obsessive they are, they can cut and paste every code they encounter to accumulate their game allies or not.

The other thing they seem to have improved with the La Cosa Nostra variant is the pacing. According to the Wikipedia article, the rate of xp gain is sped up. It’s quite normal to gain at least one level a day, and most likely, more. This gives Achievement seekers the kick they are looking for when they play with incrementing progress bars.

As mentioned, I don’t have much Killer or Socializer interest in me, so how long I stay engaged with the thing is debatable – the “whole prey on people weaker than you, get arse kicked by people stronger than you, group up for safety and to gang up on others” concept doesn’t hold long term appeal for me.

But the Explorer in me is actually surprised to find a certain amount of depth where I initially assumed was none to minimal.

Where there are numbers, there are efficiency calculations.

And boy, are there a lot of numbers.

Is it better to pick this job for the energy spent and the return, or that other job over there?

You buy property for an initial cost, that gives you a return over time. Which one do you buy? How many?

Your total combat strength is made up of both your avatar carrying a loadout of weapons, armor and a vehicle and your fake mobsters using a stockpile of weapons, armor and vehicles that you have accumulated. And all that stuff is collected via a variety of different means, from crafting to loot drops to buying it off the store (via fake money or real money.) Certain items obtained quite easily have an upkeep cost that eats away at your in-game wealth over time, making it tricky to afford good combat stats.

Each individual players’ failure to master various aspects of these numerical calculations lead to holes one can take advantage of when attacking them.

Oh no, does this mean the game is doomed from an eventual attrition of sheep getting tired of being mauled by wolves?

I don’t know. Perhaps. But there are some pretty elegant mechanics in play. Tired of getting attacked constantly by someone stronger than you?

For a cost, you can set up ambushes to dissuade the other party. When they attack you, you get a 100% defence boost, which tends to really help you out. Except that cost is calculated based on how much property your opponent has bought, so some people can be much more expensive to ambush than others.

To add on to those fun nuclear escalation scenarios, there is also the hitlist. The other guy not getting the point? Well, place a bounty on his head. There’s bound to be -someone- else out there that’s stronger than him. Hitlists appear and vanish in seconds as they’re snatched up by people looking to increment achievements. Nothing like getting ganked to stop a wannabe ganker in their tracks.

What? Is the other guy hitlisting you now? Rig his ignition to stop his hitlisting of you, in what appears to be an equivalent of Ambush to counter the basic Attack.

What seems to end up happening most of the time is a mutual avoidance of this nuclear escalation, which is an interesting study in micro-politics.

When you run out of health, you drop into the hospital and are hidden from all attacks besides a very weak punch. Few people tend to bother you there unless they really have a hard-on for killing you dead. Most people tend to back down away from fights in this manner.

Everyone understands that a bunch of attacks will happen because people are trying to level up and fights give points for what are essentially guild dailies – fill a certain progress bar each day to contribute to your guild aka syndicate. You deal with it and/or work to be less of an easy target.

You get the most xp when fighting people that are very close to you in combat strength, which subtly steers most people away from ganking very weak targets unless there’s nothing else left to hit.

I understand that some people even form leveling buddy pacts where they mutually agree to keep hitting each other and healing up so that each can gain xp. One such wordless exchange got me an inroad into a guild I was trying to join. Happened one of the officers was in a position to keep bashing on me. I -could- have ambushed him to get him to stop, but what the hell, that’s not going to make him like me very much, is it?

So I healed up, let him keep whacking on me for xp, and whacked back a few times to get -my- xp in because he didn’t have sufficient defence to counter my attack either. All in all, over a day or two, he got some 150 attacks on me, and I got 50-75 attacks on him. This in a period where most people hit 5-9 times and stop because the other guy has vanished into the hospital. After that, I got an invitation to join him as an ally, and an invitation to his guild because he was impressed that I didn’t back down.

Uh, okay, whatever works. I was kinda letting you hit me for xp while I got some xp off you, but I got the guild invite that I wanted, so that’s cool.

The other thing that tickles me immensely are the limited phrases you can choose when sending a message to someone that is not your ally. If they are in your mob, you can type whatever you like to them. If they aren’t, you get to select three phrases from an interesting range:

nonmobmessages
A small selection thereof

There does seem to be leeway to construct quite a variety of messages to get a basic point across, but minimizes spam and abusive trashtalking while still allowing for -some- trashtalk if you are so inclined to pick a fight. And you can also ask them to join you as a Mob member so that you can better communicate with them and so on.

New players get 30 days of protection where only people within a certain level range can attack you and vice versa. I’ve yet to see what the atmosphere will be like with this protection off. Should be interesting.

At least for a while more.

Amazing what even something so basic and not really ‘game’ can offer for interesting ideas. Some of the solutions and interactions they’ve hit upon may have some relevancy to how people might interact in PvP sandboxes that aren’t just FFA all the time.

Anyway, it’s something to do while waiting for Tequatl for 45 minutes.

GW2: Perhaps Those WvW Season Achievements Are On To Something… (Or Maybe Not.)

I love yak backside... Not in THAT way though.

As I respawn for the fifth time last night, resolving to myself THIS time that I should be running the fuck away after successfully taking out dolyaks, rather than try to push my luck and be greedy for a 1 on 1 test of my 250ms ping and inability to see anybody’s animations at lowest model zerg-defensive crash avoidant settings, on a bloody thief at that (landing cloak and dagger on anything smaller and more mobile than a dolyak’s backside is not easy, let’s not even talk about being able to predict and evade anybody’s attacks)…

… it occurs to me that maybe the WvW achievements are working as intended.

(If somewhat clumsily and overshooting at times.)

You see, I wouldn’t keep coming back to be a victim if I didn’t have the little 135/150 number that I had decided to increment.

I’m a Bartle Explorer-Achiever. In lieu of anything new to explore, I amuse myself by selecting a goal at random and seeing if I can achieve it. At the moment, that means chipping away at the remaining six achievements of the WvW season 1 stuff, two of which are the minimum I need/want for the mini dolyak.

I have a ridiculously low Killer percentage – I don’t really get the whole dominate or be dominated thing.

I found a nice post on the SWTOR forums that gives a nice overview of the Bartle types, and then takes it a step further by positing that there are positive and negative variants of each type. The poster uses it to explain the predictability of Ilum Rage on his Ebon Hawk server, but we can also apply the model to GW2’s WvW.

As one might expect, WvW attracts a high percentage of Killers. Some of these are Black Hats, people who want to lay waste to others and aren’t too concerned if they massively outnumber their opponents, as long as they get to win. Others are White Hats (or at least portray themselves to be on forums), people out looking for a challenge and ‘fair fights’ to test their prowess and “skill.”

If you ask the Killers, nothing makes them happier than a whole MMO or server or world (or map) filled with other Killers, living the PvP dream, in ‘good fights’ paradise.

But the problem is, a world full of Killers isn’t self-sustaining.

As the SWTOR post mentions:

In the 1996 article, Bartle talks about the only 4 possible player populations that can assure stability/sustainability absent outside factors, one of which is the “null” scenario where no one plays. The other three populations are:

1. A balance of Achievers & Killers — the meat of a PVP server
2. A four-type equilibrium, where a heavy population of Explorers — the meat of a PVE server
3. A Socializer-dominated population — the meat of an RP server (this, in practice, has a secondary type that keeps it a “game” and not a “chat room”, requiring either a type 1 or type 2 population underneath the Socializers; hence having “RP-PVE” and “RP-PVP” servers)

Kenneth Hong also summarizes the same thing, pretty much, in another nice article about Bartle Types:

Bartle determined that only the following three configurations of player types were stable.

1. Action-oriented MUDs dominated by Killers and Achievers.
2. Games dominated by Socializers
3. Games with a balances of all four types

We can see this decline in effect with FFA PvP sandboxes like Darkfall where population numbers keep dropping while the game was niche to begin with. I was never there, but I hear Ultima Online crashed hard post-Trammel once all the PvE-inclined players promptly moved on to greener pastures.

Eve Online survives (and thrives, by some definitions anyway.) Why?

I posit that Eve is either a world of Killers and Achievers, or a world of four-type balance, or moving between the two in unsteady equilibrium. Earning isk is an incrementing of numbers. Crafting is an incrementing of progress bars. They’re drawing in enough Achievers willing to put up with and play with the Killers.

Explorers get a number of different systems to explore. Be it actual crunchy mechanics types of systems, or galaxy type of systems. Socializers get their corporation politics. But there’s always that fundamental foundation of Killer/Achiever balance to begin with.

How about in GW2 WvW?

When the game type began, there probably was a mix of all four types trying to see if they could find a niche.

But as time wore on, Explorers figured out everything they wanted to know about WvW and got bored and may have decided to move on. (Ie. lack of new maps, stagnancy, lack of change.) Socializers either found their guilds and stayed, or found an increasingly veteran-elitist mapchat too abhorrent and left. Achievers kept seeing the Living Story achievement shinies and ran like skritt after the next checklist every two weeks.

Leaving the Killers squabbling among themselves, consolidating every now and then by server transferring up and down to try and get the best population balance for fights amongst themselves, while fretting that WvW is dying because there’s less and less people participating in it and no changes and attention seem to be given to it.

Enter the WvW league and a whole bevy of achievements.

Suddenly the Achiever floodgates open.

Killers scream in fury because the balance has swung far too fast in the opposite direction. They’re completely outnumbered by these dirty PvE achievers who have no real clue of what to do in WvW.  They’re constantly dying and weakening their team and doing all manner of horrible non-kosher WvW things in the name of achievements. The queues are terrible! The fights are ridiculous!

As time wears on though, I wonder if we aren’t starting to approach back to something that more resembles a balance point.

The really hardcore achievers are probably done with their checklists and have likely turned their attention to their next 1000g or next Legendary goal and moved on. The easy path achievers have probably fairweathered out by now, having done their part contributing bodies and loot bags to the cause.

Leaving only the middle of the road average achievers still willing to work slow and steady on their individual goals, while dying to much better built and specialized characters of the Killer players, and possibly with the potential to get better while tracing the same road of progress that a youngling Killer takes. (Die, try again, improve eventually or keep dying.)

In the meantime, they’re bolstering the population and providing easy kills and wins to keep the Black Hat Killers of the opposition happy, while the White Hat Killers are kept busy either training their new militia or zergbusting larger more-disorganized numbers or running into their opposing number.

Of course, it’s easy for the equilibria to slip in a hurry.

If the White Hat Killers give up and get fed up with the admittedly sizeable onrush of Achievers (blame the PvE Living Story training of the past year!) and close ranks or disappear, leadership dissipates, the Black Hat Killers of the other side run rampant for a while, chasing away most everyone on one world, then throw up their hands and whine that they’ve run out of toys to play with.

The Achievers too, may leave after their checklist is done, looking for the next shiny and shift the population once again.

It makes me wonder about the new Edge of the Mists map now and then, and the GvG arena they’re putting up in the Obsidian Sanctum.

If the White Hat Killers are drawn to those places as a competitive format instead, I wonder what fate the older WvW maps will face.

Will there be any chance they reach a point of 1, 2, or 3 balance?

Or will they face the fourth option – the “null” scenario state where no one plays…

Whatever.

150 yaks done. 75 more to go.

Fights lost: A few. (Killers happy.)

Fights run away from: Lots.  (Killers QQ.)

Fights won: Um…

Every dead yak is PPT, right?!