What Do I Have to Gain, And What Do I Stand to Lose?

With so many goals on my mind lately, it probably comes as no surprise that one of the books I’ve recently been reading is a pop psychology one by Heidi Grant Halvorson, pithily entitled “Succeed – How We Can Reach Our Goals.”

What I do like about it is that it’s an easy reading, almost-conversational-blog sprinkled-with-humor style summary of what appear to be fairly crunchy concepts in research, just distilled without having to wade through pages of jargon down to a level where a layperson can grasp the surface and make use of.

One of the more interesting summarized concepts was that a person can have a promotion or a prevention focus when it comes down to chasing goals.

Promotion-focused goals are thought about in terms of achievement and accomplishment. They are about doing something you would ideally like to do. In the language of economics, they are about maximizing gains (and avoiding missed opportunities).

Prevention-focused goals are thought about in terms of safety and danger. They are about fulfilling responsibilities, doing the things you feel you ought to do. In economic terms, they are about minimizing losses, trying to hang on to what you’ve got.

This goes a long way towards explaining my puzzlement at the odd sense of relief I get when successfully completing a raid boss, as contrasted by the elation I see other people experience.

When you set a goal for yourself and reach it, you feel good. That much is obvious. But what does “good” feel like?

When your goal is an achievement, a gain, you feel happy—joyful, cheerful, excited, or, in the vernacular of a typical teenager, totally stoked. It’s a high-energy kind of good feeling to reach a promotion goal.

It’s a very different kind of good to reach a prevention goal. When you are trying to be safe and secure, to avoid losing something, and you succeed, you feel relaxed—calm, at ease, peaceful. You breathe the sweet sigh of relief. This is a much more low-energy kind of good feeling, but not any less rewarding.

When I read the above paragraphs, I was amazed at just how right on the money it sounded.

Some of this subconscious choice of focus might be due to personality, or culture, or upbringing, but evidently I skew a lot more towards prevention where this is concerned.

(East Asians are enmeshed in a culture that revolves around saving face, it rubs off, even if you’d like to be optimistic and gain-focused. Singaporeans have the terms “kiasu” and “kiasi” – the Hokkien root word “kia” literally means “fear” or “afraid.”)

We could share the same goal of wanting to down the raid boss, but where someone else might be focused on the -gain-, on the prize and rewards and prestige and glory and satisfaction of a successful kill, my focus tends to end up on:

  • “I hope I’m not screwing up too badly, to the point that they kick me, cos that will mean more difficulty and obstacles in the path of Legendary armor collection” or;
  • “This group is not doing so well, we’re missing something, what are we missing, where is the flaw in the team that stands in our path of success, how can this flaw be fixed, either by the person responsible -is it possible to communicate this flaw without a drama blowout- or by me covering what’s missing.”
  • “What else can I be doing to ensure success? Am I making mistakes that I need to avoid or not do so much of? Am I fulfilling my roles and responsibilities in a raid without slipping up?”

Little wonder by the time a group I’m in first successfully downs a boss, I’m exhausted and relieved.

As for the opposite feeling, Halvorson had this to say:

The focus of your goal also determines the particular kind of bad you feel when things go wrong. In fact, Higgins first discovered the difference between promotion and prevention when he was trying to explain why some people reacted to their failures with anxiety, while others reacted by sinking into depression.

When you are going for gain, trying to accomplish something important to you, and you fail, you tend to feel sadness—dejected, depressed, despondent. As a teen might put it, totally bummed. It’s the low-energy kind of bad feeling—the kind that makes you want to lay on the couch all day with a bag of chips.

But failing to reach a prevention goal means danger, so in response you feel the high-energy kinds of bad feeling—anxiety, panic, nervousness, and fear. You freak out. Both kinds of feelings are awful, but very differently so.

Suddenly I understand why I ended up keyed up in a ball of nervous thwarted frustration in the early days, without the safety of a static group to fall back on.

I needed that safety, that ego defence of:

a) you have successfully killed all the bosses, ergo you do not suck,

b) you have a static group that can successfully kill all the bosses weekly, ergo your achievement plans are not threatened,

c) you have a respectable amount of face-saving legendary insights, sufficient to make Legendary Armor even if your raid group crumbles overnight (notice the urge to catastrophize)

From afar, it’s a little bit sad that my initial motivation seemed to stem more from a place of fear, of danger avoidance, rather than “fun” or gain-seeking.

It does help to explain why other people seem to get a lot more positive kicks out of raiding than me, though.

(That’s not to say I’m incapable of promotion-focused goals. I find I’m more able to focus on that kind of stuff -now-, after the “safety”/”avoid danger” bits are already resolved.

I’m more able to relax and look for gains and “fun” now that a lot less is “at stake” – even if the stakes only really existed in my head.)

The silver lining to this ever-so-slightly neurotic cloud is that prevention-minded pessimists like me are apparently very good at self-monitoring and future improvement. We can’t help but keep thinking of “what can be done better next time” and picking apart our mistakes like it’s the end of the world to commit one.

Optimists, on the other hand, are more liable to say, “well, it could have been worse if I had done this, or if that happened…” in order to make themselves feel better, which according to Halvorson, means they tend to blind themselves more to their own faults to protect their ego, and thus improve at a slower pace than worry-wart pessimists, if at all.

True, all the above is a simplification and a generalization. Optimists vs Pessismists or Promotion vs Prevention dichotomies don’t exist only in black or white terms.

In reality, a person can vary between being pessimistic and optimistic from one moment to another, or choose to be promotion-focused for goal A and prevention-focused for goal B, and it’s probably useful to be aware and consciously decide to do so.

But as a high-level concept, I thought it was fairly interesting to be able to categorize our tendencies to think along two major paths that way.

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GW2: I Get It, I Suddenly Get Why Raids Leave Me Cold…

And the epiphanies come hard and fast all of a sudden.

Apologies for the clickbait-y title once more, but I got hit with a sudden revelation on reading the raiding retrospective on the GW2 website, posted by what seem to be the six primary members of the dev team responsible for creating ten-man challenging encounters.

(Of course, what they don’t mention is how many artists were utilized to make the concept art, scenery, boss designs, animations, textures, item icons, etc., programmers or engineers for whatever it is they do behind the scenes to make sure things work as expected, testers to debug and work out the kinks, etc. But I digress.)

The first post by Byron Miller is really personally eye-opening.

The language used is all about emotions. Creating some kind of emotionally thrilling experience, complete with really high highs and awful lows, so that people who enjoy going on an emotional roller coaster ride get the experience they’re looking for.

The trend continues in the later posts, briefly mentioned as an aside here and there, but the heart of it is in the first bit.

I look back on nearly eight months? of raiding and besides the really awful stressful emotional rollercoaster of the first two months or so, where I was extremely frustrated and fearful that I wouldn’t find and get into a competent enough regular team to even stand a chance at completion, I cannot say that the rest of my raiding time has been that emotion-based.

A fact of which, I have to add, that I am extremely thankful about.

No doubt, you can tell by my subjective choice to use the words “awful” and “stressful” to describe frustration – which, laughably, existed more in the LFG part of the equation rather than the actual raid encounter itself.

(And I really don’t want to experience it again, to be honest. I would be deeply tempted to quit than to jump through that hoop again. My commiserations to all those new to raids who -want- to get into raids and are struggling to find a regular reliable raid team. I can’t help you. I’m not sure I dare to wade out into that shark pool again myself.)

I think back and I really struggle to feel this crazy fiero that people keep talking about when they beat a raid boss encounter. I only get a sense of mild relief. A little high, a small peak on the emotion meter that is usually on even keel.

Low lows are when/if the raid group disintegrates into a ball of toxicity and blaming. I don’t like that one bit.

A minor low (more of a internal sigh of resignation) is when the team must show some manner of elitism, in order to actually be successful at a raid encounter.

Team wipes, mistakes made by random parties, don’t even register most of the time.

A minor low if I’m the one that made the mistake – just resolve not to try and do the same thing next time.

Pick self up and continue on. Rinse and repeat. Analyze a little more if my understanding is still not complete. Wait if it’s not my understanding at fault but someone else’s. Patience gets it eventually.

But I don’t get those big emotional swings, and honestly, I don’t -want- to experience those. So all that experiential design? I’m not the target audience. Thanks but no thanks.

I’m motivated by being able to see and successfully clear new content and by a sense of personal competency. The showing off part? Not really necessary to me. As long as I’m internally satisfied, aka I got the thing, I cleared the thing,  I’m good.

(If the team cleared the thing for me, but I don’t know what’s going on, I’m less good, but I’ll take it. Expediency, you know. I will figure out what’s going on eventually.)

I want to pull out MBTI shorthand again to roughly describe what I think is going on.

My personality type falls into the somewhat rare INTP category. I am primarily a Thinker, I make decisions based on logical thought, rather than be influenced by the emotions of the moment. I am very much an analyzer.

The raid encounter is a puzzle to be solved. It is to be broken down into its constituent parts – what does this boss animation mean and what does it herald? What mechanic is in effect now => what must I do in response? what is the most optimal thing that I should be doing? => trial and error at the early stages to experiment and/or follow the meta guide when the group just wants to clear.

What triggers does the boss have, eg. at 75% health, what happens? Are those increments 75%, 66%, etc.? Of all the possibilities GW2 possesses, what does the boss aggro to? What does this mean for control options and ultimately, strategies?

Unsoweiter.

As such, any raid encounter is most enjoyable for me personally when I can find a safe enough space to contently break it down until I fully grok it all, after which, it is just about performing and trying to execute what I now know and understand in theory.

“Safe space” in this case, mostly (75%) translates into, “won’t get immediately kicked.”

The other 25% of “safe space” means (to me) people not talking nonstop in a distracting fashion, not displaying rampant toxicity like pointing the blame finger, bullying tactics, or otherwise suffering from going on an emotional see-saw and causing drama, temper tantrums, argumentation and so on.

All of which I’ve witnessed while PUGing and on regular guild teams.

(The latter tends to be a more ignorable one or two random emotional events – which when you put ten people in a room with each other, is understandable that emotional fuses do get lit from time to time.)

I get it now, I suddenly get why these emotional events volcano up.

They’re being intentionally designed into the raid encounter.

It’s somewhat eyebrow raising from my quirky point of view, that the most disruptive things that could happen to raiding (feelings of divisiveness, of superiority and inferiority within a team that must successfully work together, etc.) are being triggered by the intent to create some kind of emotionally rewarding final payoff to those that crave such a thing.

Maybe the above isn’t quite phrasing it properly, I don’t know. The concept is not very clear in my head yet.

But I’m struggling toward articulating that it’s the emotion-based Feeling (in the MBTI sense) people who need that high high and low low to feel that “challenging content” reward triumphant payout…

…that probably also tend to be the most susceptible to becoming toxic… (due to emotions flaring up)

…or suffer most from becoming the brunt of toxic behavior (due to taking the feelings of other people seriously or being sensitive to the emotional mood of a group.)

A vicious cycle, in other words, that those who might be most drawn to raiding based on an emotional experience, might very well be the ones most prone to making it NOT an enjoyable experience for the very people they also need in order to clear an encounter successfully.

Kinda funny, and ironic, from a Thinker perspective.

GW2: Why I Haven’t Quit GW2 Raids Yet

Despite being rather sympathetic and in agreement with the general tenor that Heart of Thorns added a bunch of content that was pitched a little out there towards the hardcore (and frustrating those less so, encouraging thoughts of quitting,) I thought I’d try a smidgen of positivity today.

I’d like to point out what GW2 raids did -right.-

Or at least, right enough that I haven’t (yet) thrown up my hands in exasperation and hurled GW2 on the trash pile with the carcasses of pretty much all the other MMOs I’ve played, especially those that introduced raids late in the process.

Just as Bhagpuss finds that the phrase “the trinity” conjures up associated ideas that aren’t, strictly speaking, contigent upon having a trinity of combat roles, I tend to use the phrase “holy trinity MMO” as a shorthand for a bunch of inconveniences that I’ve decided aren’t worth putting up with in the games I’ve chosen to play.

Beyond the lack of pure, restrictive dependencies-on-others for specialized roles (which we’ve touched on in other rants):

  • No raid boss loot-based vertical progression

I just don’t do the hamster wheel gear grind. It doesn’t make sense to me that a player is defined as “good” or “bad” by the virtue of the stats he or she happens to have, as defined by their avatar being a coatrack for greatness.

It’s also very linearly simplistic and boring. Do X easier bosses first, to do Y middling boss next, and then when you’ve earned enough gear, then you get to do Z. Ugh. Can anyone say, artificial gating?

The ever-increasing gear stats also create a moving baseline that makes it difficult for newer entrants to get past the entry barrier. (Any game or game mode that discourages newbies is a soon-to-be “ded gam.”)

With the introduction of Ascended tier quality, GW2 isn’t perfect right now either, but at least it has (hopefully) reached the peak of what it can do, beyond some sneaky increases in stat numbers on four-stat gear like what we’ve seen in HoT.

A new tier would incite a riot, so thankfully, an exponential increase in power is highly unlikely to happen. (Unless the designers fuck up the next round of elite specializations to make them the only desirable ones.)

What this does mean is that raid difficulty can be held at a constant level of challenge without ever being diminished or invalidated by players growing exponential stronger stat-wise. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that ‘if a raid is conquered, it means something,” as has been used by a marketing spiel at some point, but I would say it shows that the players have gained in specific encounter / build knowledge in order to defeat that raid boss.

At least the baseline isn’t going to move exponentially stat-wise.

(Alas, players being players, they are still going to create their own fairly absurd entry requirements to pose a barrier to newbies.

The latest one I’ve heard about is to ping a certain number of Legendary Insights, which no doubt will turn into a catch-22 problem for newbies down the road, along the lines of “if I can’t get into any raid groups, how do I earn Legendary Insights in the first place?”)

  • The partial option to “selectively” choose a raid boss, and fight them in nonlinear fashion

Linearity is boring. If you always -had- to kill the very first boss of the raid wing in order to progress on to learning the rest, and if your group was unlucky enough to screw that up for a day or two, I can foresee some raid drama coming on in short order, as people get tired of being stuck at particular boss X.

It isn’t a full and complete option to select any boss in GW2 (yet), but there is at least some possibility for variation by joining a raid instance that has been opened to a specific boss (by said instance holder having killed the other bosses prior, within the week.)

Last week, our group actually did Spirit Vale backwards, as most of the group just had Sabetha to go. Once she’d died, then the group did Gorseval and Vale Guardian for the one or two members that hadn’t killed them that week yet, which was a somewhat welcome change from -always- doing the Vale Guardian fight.

  • No strict instance or boss-based raid lockouts. Only a loot-based lockout with a time period of a week.

The problem with the former kinds of lockouts is that they limit a player to -one- set specific raid group.

If one only gets one opportunity to fight said boss per week, the natural optimizer in many players will seek out the most competent group they can find, and to hell with the rest.

It’s that “to hell with the rest” that fosters even more divisiveness and toxicity and drama.

In GW2, if you’re willing to just fight the boss without receiving any further loot reward, you are not prevented by the game from doing so. This allows for players to help others run the same boss within the week, and/or fight the boss for the fun of it.

Much like the whole idea of node-sharing, this is a concept that screams, “Why not? It doesn’t hurt and only helps.”

  • Little consolation prizes for failure or repeat-killing of the same boss (up to a weekly cap)

You get a random number of 0-5 magnetite shards for nearly but not quite killing the raid boss, or bringing it to a certain phase, following some kind of completely opaque logic for discouraging purposefully fail-farming a raid boss, but encouraging people to make the attempt or help others succeed at killing said boss.

This caps at about 100 a week, not a huge amount, considering that most things cost at least 300-400 magnetite shards plus gold, but at least a small acknowledgement.

vendor

  • A token buy system, for the times RNG screws you over

Yep, on a personal level, I really need this one.

I’ve seen other people get a ghostly infusion pop worth hundreds of gold. The guild has been chattering about some other guy whose “selling” run popped -three- ghostly infusions, two for the members selling the raid and one for the extremely lucky buyer (who presumably recouped the fee with that pop, and then some.)

I’ve heard a guy complaining that he’s got three mini Gorsevals already, and here I am, looking at my still incomplete collection of mini Vale Guardians and just wanting -one- mini Gorseval some day.

All I pop are randomly named exotics of the extremely boring Prefix Affix variety (Weird-Stat Shortbow of the Blah Blah) and now and then, one with a unique name and skin that I probably don’t have in my collection yet (but could have bought on the TP for less than 2 gold, eg. Firelighter, Jora’s Defender, etc.)

For the moment, I’m still saving up the shards, since I have no idea how much, if any, Legendary Armor is going to need. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I eventually buy myself something pretty I want, when I’ve gotten tired of getting shafted by RNG drops.

  • No Need/Greed or Leader-controlled mob-drops-limited-loot systems, everyone gets personal loot.

This is a biggy.

This is, in fact, I think the biggest biggy as to why I tend to drop all other MMOs with raids and group-based content.

I have never played a single PUG dungeon in which someone (that wasn’t me) didn’t ninja all the loot with a Need roll.

Even after you give up and join all the rest in the perversion of rolling Need on everything, my perennial streak of no-luck means I get low rolls on everything and walk away from an hours-long dungeon with nothing. Zilch. No stat improvement. Nada. Waste of time.

All of the former kinds of loot systems end up with emotional drama from bringing humans into the equation, along with the fact that they’re competing for limited resources.

All of this is completely unnecessary competition. Cue the whole resource-node sharing, eradication of mob-tapping as a concept again.

Personal loot is where it’s at.

The computer knows that ten people participated in the fight. The computer says, ok, ALL ten of you get a reward. Now some of your rewards may be better than others, but I will roll it up for you and you WILL get it, and no one else can see what you got, unless you choose to tell them (which is your business.)

There is no human to blame in this equation. It’s just whether the computer RNG screwed you over or no, in terms of the jackpot or bonus prize you were hoping for.

But it also gave you something and didn’t let you leave home empty-handed.

  • No repair bill. No penalty for death besides failure to defeat the encounter and time spent.

This reduces player hostility towards others a ton, in my opinion.

This makes wipes and failures caused by other people or things beyond anybody’s control tolerable, without the sting of additional negative progress in some fashion.

It encourages players to be more open to experimentation, to be okay with trying things out for fun and not expecting immediate success every single go. It reduces the need for super min-max cookie cutter strategies, in order not to be penalized by failing.

  • Trash mobs scaffold and teach mechanics that will be necessary for the upcoming boss.

Unnecessary mobs in the way of the raid boss are just a waste of everybody’s time.

What mobs are present in Spirit Vale tend to have a purpose of introducing individual mechanics separately, before combining them all up in the next boss encounter.

There’s a certain admirable elegance to that sort of level design.

guildhalldeco
Don’t ask. Someone must have gotten especially creative with guild decoration limits to come up with this monstrosity made out of boss trophies.

What’s less admirable: I’m not really in favor of any story being gated behind these raid bosses.

And the jury’s still out on whether raiding is viewed as the be-all and end-all of the PvE world yet.

But we’ll save those criticisms for another day.

GW2: Vale Guardian and the Trinity

If Gorseval is sorta kinda fun, and Sabetha is scary, Vale Guardian is the one I have the most mixed feelings about.

On the one hand, it’s the first boss of the first raid wing, probably the most numbers of people have learnt/encountered/experienced the fight mechanics, folks have managed to down it fairly fast with an assortment of fairly flexible raid compositions, certain pro groups are selling it for a mere 80g (meaning they feel they can carry at least 1-2 complete deadweights on their team through VG)…

…thus it’s logically probably the easiest thing to PUG and objectively the best chance I have of a consistent flow of a mere ONE Legendary Insight a week, in lieu of any other better alternatives (like a solo one? *coughs*)

If only for that reason, I have to feel somewhat positive about its existence.

In the last two weeks, the raid group I’ve been running with has, more or less, started to gel and down VG in the very first try (or a couple tries at most.)

On a personal level, I’ve been somewhat pleased to note that I’m still asked to bring my burnzerker to the party (even post-nerf), possibly because VG’s timer is slightly more generous, it still produces an acceptable level of condi, and evidently there is a preference for a sturdier consistent coverage of green circles by players who rarely miss them (hoorah for situational awareness and sword 2 leap mobility) or go down in them (hoorah for warrior sturdiness and crowd control options) over top meta dps of the month. (Tough choice maybe, but if your raid member doesn’t have that class raid ready, what can you do, right?)

That special snowflake feeling? Where you feel what you did in a specific role, or as a player had a significant effect? That holy trinity tanks or healers seem to like so much?

Yep, I feel it here. And I didn’t even have to tank or heal.

(It is, however, an interesting point to note that the moment the raid leader decided our team was competent enough to offer a ‘free carry’ to one or two other less experienced guild members, all-out carnage descended upon our VG attempts and we were back to square one – mistake, wipe, restart, try again, for hours.

Did said less experienced members distract the others somehow? Was it simply insufficient dps or those members  not carrying unspoken skills and traits that were actually critical and brought along/covered by more experienced players? Who knows.)

Which brings me to the other hand of Vale Guardian:

VG2Likely the only way my guardian main is seeing the inside of Spirit Vale without a tank or hammer dps build. Walking into a cleared instance on my own.

To me, it feels like VG is where idealist dreams die.

Every time I set foot on those stones, I cannot help but remember the immense cockblocked frustration of two to three solid months of watching OTHER people manage to do VG, while I sat around not exactly challenged per se by the fight mechanics, but by the corresponding social requirements of finding a reliable and competent raid group of nine other people whose schedules managed to coincide with mine.

To me, Heart of Thorns zone timers don’t even rank on the frustration scale in comparison.

(This has still not been settled to 100% satisfaction. It probably never will be. For now, it’s looking good, but who knows how long it’ll last?

Cos I’m old enough to remember that everything has an end, that even my first and best social organization of MUD/MMO life where we ran around like kings in the best raid loot possible, eventually died from attrition and disinterest as players got distracted by newer, shinier games.

Even while I’m thanking my lucky stars that the planets have managed to align for a little while and gotten me into a raid group competent enough to clear three bosses and not get super-uptight about mistakes, I’m thinking ahead to “what’s going to happen to me if/when it ends?” Back to being frustrated and grumpy again, most likely.)

I can’t help but remember the failed attempts of other groups and assorted collections of people who have given it a go.

Oceanic TTS appears to have canceled their weekly training raids for the time being.

I’m not sure if their progression raids have had any success (having never gotten into one, thanks, left-out-on-the-playground feeling) but either they’ve gotten their kills and gotten it on farm, only spending a short amount of time running it weekly, and decided they don’t need to recruit further slot fillers…

…or the leaders have lost interest in organizing further attempts for the moment and decided to go back to a more open ‘classic raids’ style where a whole load of people can join in to do Teq and Triple Trouble. Because duh, huge open world raids are where GW2 stands out. (And I have had to miss attending many these past few months, just for Spirit Vale. Thanks, no-alternative loot.)

Since the Oceanic timezone is not exactly as populous as NA, and I can see the same 100-200+ names appearing in various guilds and turning up for Teq/TT, I also sorta kinda remember those that have shown up once or twice for attempts at VG…

…died a bit, made some mistakes, generally looked less experienced, fell off the raid wagon…

…and then failed to ever get up again.

They said nothing. The raid (beyond one memorable loudmouthed boor in a random group) said nothing.

They just silently stopped coming.

Not blaming or saying that it’s bad, mind you. They could have decided, after giving it a try, that they had many other things in life more worth prioritizing than the effort required to meet other peoples’ schedules and learn/work towards all the little ‘required’ nuances for a successful kill.

Or they could have felt bad and had their self-esteem damaged somewhat and decided to quit (the raid or the game, who knows) because they didn’t feel they were up to the challenge (and never wanted so much damn challenge in the game that attracted them originally, thank you.)

And this state of affairs makes me feel sad.

It’s the sheer divisiveness of raids.

Some people relish the challenge and thrive in it.

Some, like me, grit their teeth, buckle down and stubbornly endure the pain because reasons.

Both of us cross the line and end up over there.

Still others (and I think there are very many, and the majority tends to win) choose not to even bother making the attempt, because reasons.

They wind up over here.

Both sides look at each other across a chasm of not-really-understanding each other, not-willing-to-play-with each other.

To have this happen in -GW2-, the previous home of the ‘everyone is welcome and an extra helping hand’ community, makes me really really sad.

So.

Vale Guardian.

It’s mostly holy-trinity-esque, with a heavy helping of control and buffs, a sprinkling of GW2-specific mechanics, and the extra requirement that a few more people than the tank and healer know what the hell they’re doing.

You need a tank that knows the ideal mob positioning pattern for Vale Guardian.

As mentioned previously, the ‘tank’ shorthand in GW2 simply means someone with higher toughness than the others. Not necessarily ludicrously higher toughness. No silly taunting needed. It’s mostly about control of mob positioning using your body, doing damage, and oh, not dying, of course.

You need a healer that can actually heal. As in, knows how to time their skills to best effect when people are going to take large amounts of damage, not just spam 1 and hope the trickle heals suffice.

Preferably a healer that also knows about control, as they are often assigned to a position where having knockbacks come in handy.

(One of the best healers I’ve seen though managed to upkeep a regeneration boon, rather than just stick to reactive healing. It’s often overlooked, but I suspect that buff is stronger than it first appears. Having the protection boon, of course, also helps to reduce the amount of reactive healing required.

I’m sure there are many nuances of healing I’m failing to appreciate, since I don’t really care for that function, but given the varied performances observed from different healers, presumably with different builds and know-how, I’m sure it’s there.)

From firsthand experience, I can definitely attest to the carnage that happens when a healer isn’t even averagely competent.

I took a most unusual, shocking amount of damage on one of the sturdiest classes. It was most noticeable. It also tended to cause the raid to wipe as people went down, failing a raid mechanic.

That failed healer also attracted the attention of said loudmouthed boor, who spent a decent amount of time calling the person out.

I have to admit that after some ten repeated tries of dying myself and watching others die, because I’d run out of controls and knew very well that another healer could have supplemented the  extra control needed, I too felt the need to speak out and suggest the most diplomatic solution that I could think of – which was to do a roles swap with another player, shifting the poorer player into the position that could be covered by others, and gain a competent healer.

Just like that, the raid stopped dying and the boss died on the next go.

I haven’t seen that player back for raids since.

*sigh*

I feel bad, but what can you do when the format of raids insists on a certain baseline of competence?

(Especially since they decided to balance it using expert theorycrafting guilds, and provide no variable difficulty level options.)

The common line of thinking then is that everybody else can be focused on damage.

Except if you do just that, the raid mysteriously tends to fail for one indiscernible reason or another. Someone takes too much damage and dies. VG hits the enrage timer and folks can’t keep upright any longer under the increased damage onslaught. Something. It just goes wrong.

What I suspect these groups are missing, is sufficient attention to  raid composition and making sure enough dps players are armed with a side helping of control (in lieu of maximum dps uber alles selfish builds.)

Ideally, a side helping of dps-buffer-types that provide sufficient (read: maximum) offensive buffs to the damage dealing group is taken along too.

VG3

The fight starts by the tank walking in, auto-aggroing the Vale Guardian via proximity and letting it approach (since it only has melee attacks, it will close in) a pillar.

No one is supposed to start attacking yet, as that saves a couple of extra seconds for groups that struggle with sufficient dps to get past the enrage timer.

The tank usually then holds the mob stationary, so that everybody can use more of their higher-damage channels or skills that hit a certain location.

Since VG periodically produces blue circles in melee range that teleport anyone standing in them, the tank must also master the timing of using invulnerabity frames (usually from dodges) to hold in place. This is both skill and latency dependent – I suspect given the same level of skill, OCE raid tanks see more accidental teleports than NA ones.

After enough tries at VG to learn its patterns, one will also note that VG swerves in direction (the arrow indicating facing swings 180 degrees away from the tank) just before it spawns the blue circles. That’s a good cue for all of us poor 250-300ms ping folks to use.

VG4Random PUG raid. Only screenshot of green circles I can find right now.

The Vale Guardian will also produces green circles on a timer (usually alternating with blue ones.) This requires a minimum of 4 people to be inside them, to take some damage once the lightning flash hits (as indicated when the inner green circle shrinks to nothingness.)

Else the whole raid eats a Distributed Magic attack for heaps and heaps of damage, creating what amounts to a raid wipe – either too many people go down, or a whole bunch of people die.

I have gone through an uncountable number of raid attempts that fail this mechanic.

It’s the first thing I check in the combat log when I suddenly and inexplicably die, and usually there’s been a Distributed Magic strike.

Either people miss seeing the green circle, or just aren’t expecting it and thus run to it too late, or, and this is a biggy, they’re too squishy and they go down just before the lightning strike hits. (Downed people don’t count.)

Bad memories tend to cause me to wince every time I see elementalists, thieves or mesmers assigned to the circle running group. (I’m sure there are good players of those classes that can manage the circles and know what they’re doing, but eh, on average… *wince*)

Complicating the affair is the tendency of Red Seeker orbs to like to approach either the group attacking the Vale Guardian (thus pressuring the tank’s ability to survive) or the green circle group.

These things pulse a fairly enormous amount of damage if in melee range of them (as indicated by the red circle around them.) They’re considerably resistant to damage and effectively cannot be killed to clear them, thus forcing crowd control back to the forefront.

The ranged green circle team -needs- knockbacks, or in a pinch, knockdowns or immobilizes. (The latter two are more proactive controls, requiring a little more anticipatory skill, used on seekers that aren’t already in the danger zone but will be.)

Usually at least two people have to have some control equipped, as most effective knockbacks are on a ~40 second cooldown and you can see green circles come up twice within that time.

The more the merrier, if there’s less communication/coordination and people blow their controls on the same seeker, or if more seekers converge, necessitating emergency cc.

A stunning amount of ordinary players never figure this out, even as they helplessly stand in the green circles and soak all the damage of an enroaching red seeker orb. They just never realize that they can swap some utility skills around or have a control weapon on swap or -something-.

I have no idea what’s going through their minds. They’re taking damage, it must be the healer’s fault for not keeping them upright? Or they’re just overwhelmed and panicking, who knows.

Google “[class] skills GW2” and do a search on the wiki for “knock” and “immobilize.” I’m sure most classes have -something-.

Once the green circle group gets the hang of it, that’s about half the battle won.

Groups use the time taken to force Vale Guardian into a split to evaluate if there’s sufficient dps for a successful run.

Hitting the 6.00 min mark is probably the baseline, 6.30 is good, 6.45 or  higher is great; 5.30-5.45 is worrying and probably won’t make it, any less and you may as well not waste your time and go figure out what’s wrong with everybody’s builds.

Once brought down to said magic health number, Vale Guardian runs off into the center of the arena and three smaller guardians spawn, one at each pillar, red, green and blue.

Red guardian requires condition damage in order to take down, so most raid groups will usually have three condi builds for this specific role. Two may work in a pinch but it’s a slight time delay.

Blue guardian produces the green circle (which now require a minimum of three people to stand in it, or the whole raid takes Distributed Magic yet again) and also has a boon that makes it invulnerable to damage.

Boon stripping, that rarely seen mechanic in GW2, comes into play here. Mesmers are usually used for this purpose, as their sword autoattack does it automatically. There are, of course, other classes that have this ability (even if the player doesn’t realize it) and I personally stick a Sigil of Nullification onto my PS warrior’s weapon swap mace for emergencies (say, the mesmer dies.)

Green guardian is the most ordinary, taking normal damage and merely producing the blue teleport circles to be avoided.

The intended method appears to be a normal split of 3 people per guardian, with one extra backup wherever, as each player is marked with a colored icon over their heads at the beginning of the split phase, depending on which sector they are standing in. Each colored guardian produces an aura which damages anyone with the wrong color.

VG5

In the usual fashion of players, to see how many intended mechanics they can overcome with clever synergy (aka no updraft Gorsevals), some raid groups will also pull green guardian over to the blue one. This requires a really strong healer to keep everyone upright through the overlapping damage auras.

It’s ostensibly time saved as both mobs can be cleaved at once, and presumably confuses new people less as they don’t have to locate the correct directions to anywhere specific, but imo, either way works fine.

Once their health bar is reduced to 0, each guardian also has a break bar to be broken before they die. Again, it’s a sneaky way to encourage all players to bring sufficient cc.

The Vale Guardian then reforms for round 2.

This time, one sector of the three-part arena will light up and cause damage to anyone standing within it. This makes getting teleported by blue circles potentially dangerous, not to mention a dps loss.

Afterwards, there is another identical split, and round 3 involves two parts of the arena lighting up, with only one safe sector.

This right here is another quarter of the battle, a competent tank that knows how to use their body to mob position and kite appropriately. Keeping the Vale Guardian moving tends to mean a drop in dps as everybody chases, so there’s a balance between shifting the guardian away from oncoming Seekers and into the next sector, as well as keeping him stationary as much as possible.

It’s mostly boiled down to a particular pattern I find it hard to describe offhand, having zero tanking experience at VG and only watching it, but in the words of someone I screenshotted, “circle breakbar circle move – circle circle move – circle breakbar circle move -”

The idea, I believe, is to shift VG as much as possible into the new sector as it clears up (sometimes the tank will run into a still lit up section ahead to position the boss over the sector line, while still allowing melee dps to hit in safety from the presently clear sector.)

This is because VG produces green circles in the sector it currently is in. If the boss doesn’t cross over fast enough, a green circle spawns in a lit up section, which can be fairly challenging for a green circle group to cover. (In this case, they should delay walking in as long as possible and only be there for the lightning strike, and pray that they’re innately sturdy, have good self-heals and healer is on the ball. Which may or may not happen.)

Hence there is a sort of interlinked dependence between a good tank and the green circle group (the healer, often positioned in the green circle team, may also have to top off the tank every now and then.)

Cluttering up the issue and making sure the melee dps group can’t get away scot-free with no responsibility, is the Vale Guardian’s break bar.

The Vale Guardian has a breakbar attack where it stops in its tracks (ignoring the tank’s efforts to move it), raises its arm and produces an AoE shower of red circles that deal damage.

Left unchecked, this is often fatal to the green circle group, which have to be in a limited area and still avoid the red circles, whereupon someone may accidentally step in one and go down, or conversely panic and dodge away and out of both red circle and green circle… which then subsequently causes a raid wipe through Distributed Magic.

Should everyone somehow miraculously survive this chaos, the very fact that the guardian is no longer moving means the tank can’t position it to the next sector in time, the floor lights up doing damage to everyone in it, the AoE shower is still damaging all and sundry, and the green circle will appear in a lit sector, which should seal the deal.

It stops this attack when its break bar is broken.

In other words, the second ‘health’ bar has to go down super duper uber quickly spike damage fast.

The ranged team is usually focused on green circles, which may randomly turn up further away, and may not be able to manage the break bar simultaneously. Especially if they’re already using their knockbacks to control the seekers.

It’s the melee team, that are already on VG, that has to primarily cover the controls here. You’d be surprised how many try to sneak in as a low-responsibility melee dps and fail to manage this little extra expanding of their role/function.

I’ve seen Vale Guardian attempts go from failure to success the instant a PS warrior is told point blank that they should have Headbutt, a mace or two ready on weapon swap, Wild Blow if necessary, and/or revenants told they should put a staff on weapon swap and use staff 5 to take out the break bar.

All that was missing was a little extra focus on control to help to the group, at the expense of a little bit of personal dps.

It is amazing how many damage-dealers walk in and fight VG umpteen times, wiping constantly, without realizing this. “Someone else died. It’s not me. I’m okay. My job is damage. I don’t have to change anything.”

I put full blame on the holy trinity.

It’s hard to think outside the box when your box is a narrow worldview of tank/dps/heals.

On being ___-Poor, and Failblogging GW2 Raids

Found an interesting quote from Belghast musing about Pay-2-Win that I want to spin off a discussion on:

“The cycle of what makes an MMO has been right or wrong built on this illusion of a meritocracy.  The general idea being, that if you work hard and get really good… you can have the best items in the game for your efforts.  The problem with this is that it in itself has always been a lie.”

Of course it’s a lie. It’s a lie in the real world too.

Of course it’s not an outright falsehood either. In general, meritocracy principles can hold true for a decent amount of cases, assuming a relatively even or flat social/environmental context (same workplace, same game/guild, whatever.)

But then you have cases where the starting point is completely different (say someone living in poverty as opposed to a rich man’s son, or someone still struggling with the game’s control scheme as opposed to someone who has played that genre of game for twenty years)…

Plus a hefty helping of RNG and social opportunity (which can also be greased with the addition of $$$, which is, after all, a medium of exchange, a symbolic promising of favors or services owed.)

Maybe you win the lottery or you get a phenomenally lucky drop that has everyone else curse your ancestors because of how unthinkably small that 0.01% chance was.

Maybe you’ve cultivated a vast social network to call on to help you out or the number of people willing to help you out are only three folks: “me, myself and I.”

Maybe you earn enough every month that $500 is disposable income to you and can be dropped on a game or even thrown away or gambled with for fun, or $500 is what your entire family has to live on for that month.

I guess what really puzzles me are the people who believe the meritocracy thing wholesale.

Wake up and smell the roses, thorns and all. Even in the days of subscription games, it was more about extending the length of time someone played said game, so that they would continue subscribing.

It would be far less upsetting to acknowledge that some games are built to give advantages who are more rich in a certain category (be it in skill, time, money, or just plain good fortune – or at least, not a really truly “cursed” account) and then to choose to play or not play said game according to what one prefers.

If one is time-poor, it would be a very silly state of affairs to go play hardcore subscription games that are set up under the assumption that players are going to keep playing for 3-5+ years (*cough* Eve Online *cough* A Tale in the Desert *cough* etc.) where progress is measured over the course of months. Go look for games that offer instant payoffs like super-fast leveling, or loot shower pinatas, and so on.

If one is money-poor, or at least not willing to spend significant amounts of money to be equivalent to or have a leg up on other players, then avoiding games that reward that kind of thing is probably best.

(Or at least, if one chooses to play it for a while, to remember that one will usually be a second-class citizen and do a bit of research on the status of said second-class citizens to see if one is ok playing a game like that. Some games are better at this than others, eg. I hated SWTOR’s treatment of free players, while I found Trove to be perfectly playable on a free basis as long as one was a bit patient about progress.)

If one is skill-poor, then a truly meritocratic game pitched at the level of a hardcore player is probably going to be a frustrating nightmare. (I can’t help but think of stuff like a new player stumbling into GW2’s PvP game mode and getting their butt kicked, or Dark Souls type games, for example.) Games with adjustable difficulty levels or RNG chances to win stuff that improves one’s stats will probably be more one’s cup of tea.

Such is life.

If one is willing to put a little bit of effort into improving any of these ___-poor situations (at the tradeoff of not having the time for something else), then hey, one might see progress, even if it’s slower than one hopes.

Take me as an example. I am pretty much a “social network-poor” player.

I’m liable to get really grumpy about games that presume endgame progress should rely on a bevy of other people, all linked in various social networks. It’s probably one of the many reasons why I naturally loathe raids.

Someone like Belghast, on the other hand, probably has no goddamn problem getting invited to a bevy of raids, whenever the want strikes his fancy.

I draw the line at Twitter. I draw the line at using a microphone. This knocks me out of a considerable number of socializer networks. I’d be at serious odds with myself if I went against my core and put on a socializing mask though, so it is how it is.

I’m never going to find running GW2 dungeons and fractals in a group FUN in capital letters – I’m just not wired that way. I grin and bear it when I want to see new content or the reward at the end, is about it.

Over a long period of exposure time, I can just about get -comfortable- with a set of names and voices that the group experience is no longer unpleasant, and even maybe, somewhat nice. Mind you, that time period is measured in the months and years.

But I do have to acknowledge that even though I’m naturally not good at this kind of social network formation, a patient investment of time and effort over three years has led to me having a mediocre amount of connections, possibly even a little more than your average newbie player who just joined the game.

 

Such is life. Not entirely meritocratic, not entirely RNG.

Sometimes it’s who-you-know, sometimes it’s what-you-know, or how-much-you-have, and sometimes, despite having ample amounts of all the above, life takes a dump on you anyway, or vice versa, you catch a fortunate lucky break.

Sonja over at Soultamer Gaming has been musing about the concept of “failblogging” or “failgaming,” that is, documenting the trials and tribulations of those who feel they just aren’t good at the games in question.

I think there are a couple of interesting branches of thinking in that concept that are worth mulling over.

To do that, let me tell a little story about how I’ve been busy failing at GW2 raids.

(Why yes, I’m kinda on-break from GW2 and still doing dailies and attending raid sessions a minimum of twice a week. I think many other people would call this level of activity “actively playing a game.” *sheepishly guilty look*)

One session is a weekly training raid with TTS.

It’s a really silly scramble to get home from work on time, being three hours transposed, but I like attending because in the OCE timeslot, it’s become a pool of generally the same 20-30 individuals that get distributed out to two or three raid groups.

The names are familiar, there’s a general baseline level of semi-competency, and it still has a bit of that random spice element because it’s not the same fixed group of ten people all the frickin’ time.

It’s a training raid, so there’s a relaxed understanding that successful kills may not happen, people are still learning (possibly on different classes or trying different builds or just plain new to the specific raid boss) and since it’s TTS, whoever’s leading is usually quite okay with explaining in excruciating detail any mechanics for new people – which I usually appreciate, even if I’m not new, because my learning style happens to be pretty slow and require excruciating details, each step mastered sequentially before I can perform adequately.

Because it’s a training raid, one pretty much is not likely to get a successful kill. Someone might slack on the proper foods, or be using non-min-maxed gear, or just be nervous and inexperienced and screw things up continually, whatever.

The other session is a scheduled ‘normal’ guild raid with a fixed, preset raid team.

I had to join a new up-and-coming recruiting guild for this, and well, it’s been essentially the guild leader throwing interested-in-raiding guild members with similar timezone schedules and the appropriate classes into a group of ten and giving a non-gentle shove now and then to prod people and hope/pray that the group gels from stranger PUG status to regular team.

Bit of a lottery, in other words, with some roster edits over time to fix the more egregious problems, like someone persistently never showing up.

So despite raiding many many hours, there was a long time where I couldn’t score a single Vale Guardian kill.

Utter fucking failure.

And to add salt to the wound, every now and then on Reddit, some super tight-knit uberguild would post videos of less-than-10-man kills or funky class build kills.

So… the big question is… does this mean that I suck? That I have no skill? That I’m “bad” at the game and should crawl under a rock to die of shame somewhere?

(Reread the Belghast discussion at the top of this post.)

It’s never just one thing to blame. And here I’ll quote an ancient Greek:

“An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.” -Epictetus

Truth is, I do think I needed some of the initial failed raids as learning practice.

Every raid I did, I absorbed a little bit more about the fight. You get used to the patterns and timing just a little more. You figure out that when the Vale Guardian swerves suddenly, the blue circles that teleport are about to come up and so you’ve already begun moving away in preparation.

It stops being one giant blur of light and color and chaotic explosions wherein you’re panicking because THINGS are happening and your health is dropping and what phase is this and what am I supposed to DO here again?!

And when I started chafing at the slow pace of progress because I’d internalized most of the VG fight, I decided I was competent at VG enough to offer myself up as a LFG PUG, and just like freaking that, at the very start of the week, I filled for a largely competent and organized guild group, didn’t make a complete utter fool of myself, and VG died.

Just like that.

Lucky break? Maybe. But I did have to open myself up to the opportunity (ie. feel brave enough to post a LFR, make the time for it) and be not-horrible enough to be passable.

And then it was back to a lot more weeks of failing VG while watching one’s groups struggle and wondering if there was anything more to be done on one’s part.

The regular guild team got reshuffled around a little, removing those that never showed their faces, and adding a few newer members of varying skill levels, including a very handy leader with social connections to a second large guild so that he could fill from that one as well.

(Our raid team is currently half-first guild and half-second guild, one third TTS, more or less. Kinda funny, but effective. I think a number of us all belong to multiple guilds anyway.)

One or two more VG kills happened, after an uncountable number of failed attempts, one with the TTS training raid, one with new reshuffled guild team.

This month, thankfully, people have been sort of moving on to Gorseval.

Last week, I fought him for the very first time. I was busy trying to warn my guild team of this, and they kinda just oh, handwaved it away with a super-brief explanation, which led to me trying to read Gorseval guides in one screen while trying to figure out what to do on the actual client itself.

This resulted in some really spectacular screwups of the “you are the weakest link” kind.

Plus side, I didn’t fall off an updraft. (THANK YOU, NEW GLIDER LATENCY FIX.)

Plus side plus two, I didn’t screw up a cardinal direction and went consistently to the correct mob I was supposed to be at.

The spectacular fail was not knowing what the hell to actually do with said mob.

I got the idea of slowing it down and preventing it from reaching the main boss mob. So I dutifully applied my sword cripples and kept boggling over why it was moving faster than everyone else’s.

No microphone, so I can’t really communicate while failing at doing this (which is probably grounds for insta-boot from the really hardcore raid guilds.)

Which led to panicked shouting from the other guys going “yo help Jerom’s mob! It’s going in!” “F1!” “F1!” “Don’t zerk!” (huh?) and other assorted chaos.

Oh, and one raid wipe when said mob did manage to go in.

The itty bitty communication problem: to which I finally made the connection when the mob was several millimeters away from entering the raid boss, ie. too late to do anything about it…

Previously, I’d half-heard a garbled hasty one sentence explanation to spam sword and F1. (Thanks, microphone speakers who mumble. If you ever wonder why people might be screwing up, consider that as one possibility.)

My mind heard F1, equated it to the F1 help key, failed to find any context with raiding, and hereby dismissed it while trying to remember the broad strokes of all the Gorseval phases.

One second away from raid wipe, I finally remembered that the default setting for a warrior burst skill was F1 (I have it bound to other keys.)

What they really wanted, and what I really -should- be doing, was spamming immobilizes (not “slows”, thanks, garbled explanation) on the mob, using the sword burst skill Flurry, which is overwritten by another skill if one triggers berserk mode, so don’t trigger berserk mode.

(Which, by the way, is second nature muscle memory when one is trying to squeeze out as much dps as possible out of a burnzerker build.)

There was one more close shave when my fingers just banged that without intending to, but by and large, after one actually understands the principles of what one should really be doing, everything else is just practice at executing correctly.

Holding the soul appropriately got noticeably better in subsequent attempts.

Itty bitty secret: DPS didn’t get better at all, because as a first-timer, I was so unsure about the Gorseval phases and barely able to read animations. that I started to hang onto berserk mode and NOT trigger it about 30 seconds before the souls phase, so that Flurry would be guaranteed up during the time I was visibly performing alone.

We ended that raid with the most successful attempt being about 2% of Gorseval’s health left. (No doubt, some of which I could have contributed more, had I been more comfortable with the fight.)

Further less noticeable to others, but still noticeable to me fails:

I had no idea when to expect Gorseval to do his knockback, even though in theory I knew it was when he raised his left hand and to dodge then. So I kept getting smashed back 80% of the time. (Fortunately, I noted a good half of the raid not being great at this either.)

I had very little idea where appropriate standing positions were, so caught quite a number of huge hits, once or twice which laid me out on the ground and downed (despite having the most forgiving of health pools, aka warrior hp) at a time when others couldn’t rescue me and had to watch from the floor of shame (“what, he’s dead again?”) while the others tried to continue while short on numbers.

And oh, I kept getting egged. Every time we moved Gorseval to the last phase, it was still a bit of a surprise to me and unexpected. Being quite unfamiliar with the last phase patterns, by the time I figured out I should be moving, it was a little too late to do so.

Luckily (or not, if you believe in making your own luck), that same week, the TTS training raid I attended expressed an interest in trying out Gorseval. We found sufficient people interested in that to put together a group, and I heard a MUCH CLEARER, STEPWISE explanation of the fight, positioning and all.

There were a lot more wipes during our attempts, as others were in the same spot I had been in, first time learning the fight, but I found myself getting more accustomed to his phases and kept challenging myself to watch and learn how to dodge his knockdown while left alone in peace and able to focus, so to speak.

We didn’t get tremendous far with that raid. I noticed I wasn’t outputting as much damage on a PS warrior as with a burnzerker, and actually swapped characters midway. Just like that, we managed to push past the dps check that had been previously stymying the group (moral of the story, I evidently still has a ways to go on PS warrior and/or burnzerker OP)

But with only me as burnzerker, Gorseval was still at about 15% health during the last egg phase at best.

This weekend, the guild raid group brought FOUR burnzerkers, one of whom tanked.

You’d think this would immediately result in a kill, but nope, plenty of fails before the successful one.

The first obvious screwup was the person assigned to break bar duty just couldn’t output enough break bar damage as when the raid leader did it.

Same class, presumably same build, some guidance and training from the leader beforehand –  wherein the whole raid gamely sacrificed their bodies and damaged their gear for the person to get some practice (you die if you’re standing outside the raid area when the raid starts, luckily, repairs are free in GW2 now…)

…somehow, when push came to shove and actual performance in the raid, the output just wasn’t there.

Not blaming, mind you. Considering I don’t even know how to play the class at all, I’m not calling any pot nor kettle black. Just pointing out the facts of what happened.

Raid leader ended up swapping to that role, the other person apologized and said they’d try to practice it out of the raid for future attempts, done. No muss, no fuss.

Second screwup, one of the burnzerkers kept regularly dying during the updraft phase. Said character was being run by a player who has had noticeably poor performances while raiding, whichever class is being played, the damage or healing output generally isn’t quite up to snuff.

Again, not blaming, just pointing out factual observations. In fact, I kinda feel a lot for this player because I feel that they are trying, and trying very hard, but somehow just not making the “aha” connections.

The group offered one or two verbal suggestions for trying to handle the updraft, but didn’t really make a big fuss about it either way. About 45 mins in, said player said they had to leave and left the raid.

I kinda feel a little bad, on an emphatic level, because I can’t help but suspect that their self-esteem might have taken a bit of a beating, or that they got a bit too sensitive about their comparatively poorer performance.

And this is where I kinda want to send a message out to everyone who thinks they are failures because they are screwing up in some fashion and beating themselves up overmuch about it.

Guys, EVERYONE screws up. ESPECIALLY when you are new to doing something or learning something for the first time.

EVENTUALLY it gets better, even if you’re an excruciatingly slow learner, but you gotta have enough thick-skin to not let it get you down overmuch.

What does speed up this nasty process of failing badly, is to self-analyze the reasons for why the screwup is happening, thinking up ways to get around the problem and then testing them out and practicing until -something- sticks.

When said burnzerker left, the raid leader brought in a replacement burnzerker, and my first Gorseval kill was had.

Then it was on to Sabetha.

Geez, really? I hadn’t watched a single video or read a single guide.

Fortunately, there were about three others in the same boat as I, so I wasn’t the only one busy forewarning the others that massive screwups were about to take place.

We had a 15 minute break, during which there was a mad scramble on my part to at least stare at the Dulfy guide and watch a video about 1/5 of the way through (it was so slow I couldn’t last through it.)

Then it was on to actually experiencing the complication of all the phases for realz.

Ok. Fact. When you’re new. It’s super-obvious. The newbies, myself included, were busy hesitating and screwing up bomb throwing phases.

Hell, I’m new and -I- noticed the hesitation on both my and others’ parts.

I’d like to discuss all the different raid bosses’ various phases in more detail in later posts, but suffice to say that Sabetha has an interesting mechanic which requires coordination in teamwork.

One player must stand on a launch pad.

Another player, chosen more or less at random (but I suspect is quasi-controllable via proximity aggro to an add,) is given a bomb.

This second player must a) identify that they have the bomb, b) walk in the correct cardinal direction and c) throw the bomb onto the launch pad that the first player is standing on, using a newly introduced special key… all in about five seconds flat.

Oh, and the first player must a) realize that their designated role/time has arrived, b) walk in the correct cardinal direction and c) have run to and be standing on the launch pad by the time the second player flings the bomb.

d) The first player cannot camp the launch pad for too long because they’ll get fried by AoE attacks.

e) If the pair is unlucky enough to be mid-throw when the rest of the raid group knocks Sabetha down to a health level that triggers an insta-kill wall of flame, and said insta-kill wall of flame happens to randomly choose either of the pair to target, chances of WTF death are quite high.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong.

I am 100% certain I have now developed a reputation for being cardinally challenged, or just slow on the uptake, given the rather desperate yelling from various people for my lil asura to toss it in THIS direction PLEASE.

Truth is, there were quite a few compounding problems that kept adding up to a delay that caused the bomb timer to expire and the phase to be missed.

First problem: Keybinds.

Jeez, after three fucking years, you go and introduce a NEW action key? I’ve already used up all the convenient key locations and burned in muscle memory just so. Not everyone has a Naga mouse with tons of mouse buttons.

There was a lot of experimental shifting of this key position throughout the raid. I’d originally put it on L, which is ok when you’re stuck in a Gorseval egg, but NOT ok when you’re trying to move and throw a bomb in the span of 5 seconds.

N was at least reachable with my thumb, but in practice, fairly awkward.

Fortunately, the raid took a break for an hour, and that was sufficient time for me to play with the pre-raid boss trash NPCs which teach you the mechanics and settle on a slightly more comfortable alt+Q position.

It’s still not ideal, I’m still feeling a split second of awkwardness – one keypress would be better, but I’m really sans key locations here.

Also, I don’t play an engineer or an elementalist and my AoE targeting skills are not exactly the most honed… Awkward? Yes. Do I know what 800 range is, and how far I need to run before I can throw it? No.

The solution, unfortunately, takes time. Work out proper keybinds and practice throwing grenades or the like to a certain spot until it’s burned into muscle memory.

Second problem: Yes, cardinal directions are an issue.

The devious evil of this fight is that it forces you to spin around the boss in an anti-clockwise fashion every so often. This is a pretty good recipe for becoming completely disoriented as to which way is which.

Checking the minimap is seconds you’re not actually looking at the fight, which means a painful AoE of some kind might land on you, and if you’re not checking the minimap, you’re probably not running in the correct direction.

I was half formulating a theory of trying to identify the correct locations visually. North has a red banner and a pact soldier in a cage. South has a leyline rift up in the branches. West faces towards some leafy trees (but so does North) and East has some ship-like nets/rigging.

Actually learning it and being able to react appropriately though, is going to take quite a few more playthroughs.

Especially since the pattern for the launchpads is specific, but a little weird (S, W, N, E – so clockwise, and then S, N, W, E, according to dulfy, which ain’t clockwise) and before you know it, I’ve lost track of exactly which phase we’re in right now.

Third problem: There’s a shit ton of other things to be focusing on, at the exact same time.

Just before we called the raid, I grandiosely screwed up two bombs in a row because I’d dropped into a dps-y zen state of maximizing skill rotations.

Our particular chronomancer was rather noticeably excellent, and I found myself realizing that I was catching nigh perma-quickness and immense amounts of alacrity, which does ridiculous things to how fast a burnzerker can fire off fire fields from the bow.

I’d taken to focusing on trying to hug this precious mesmer as closely as possible, so that I could keep feeding myself this alacrity drug… actually receiving the bomb was the furthest thing on my mind, and a rather unwelcome interruption to my dps happy place.

So yeah, 1.5-2 seconds to realize one has the bomb, 2 seconds to run there, less than one second to target and toss to the correct location… nope, ain’t happening. Esppecially not with extra OCE/SEA latency delaying both the voice chat and visuals.

One has to expect and predict and be ready to move with OCE/SEA latency, and that kind of prediction is just lacking when you’re not familiar with the patterns.

Oh, and each 25% of her hp, Sabetha summons a slightly different mini-boss to deal with, all with different mechanics, and if you can’t kill ’em fast enough, you get to contend with the mini-boss nearly dead but still spewing their deadly stuff, while Sabetha comes back and does her crazy flame-wall thing so that you have to keep running in a circle while focusing on doing all mechanics correctly (and oh, actually kill the mini-boss.)

The 4th mini-boss can be kinda nuts. Among other things, he dumps turrets that shoot little firebolts in all sorts of directions.

sabbullethell

One member of our group was super-hyped seeing this.

I kinda envy people like that. I don’t know how to find this sort of thing “fun” or thrilling or exhilarating.

When I get to a stage like this, I’m in straight up focused reaction mode, not feeling a thing, just moving like mad to stay out of the bad stuff, and shit, there’s a lot of bad stuff.

Also, in the back of my mind, problem-solving mode is always on, and all I can think is: it was a strategic mistake to let things get this out of control. Someone should have been on turret control duty. If no one is assigned to it, I’m going to try and do that next time and keep the number of those things down and see how that goes. Hrm, I’m a burnzerker, maybe I can position my fire field to hit Sabetha, and a turret simultaneously? Geez, gonna be tough, but can try it…

… before you know it, I’ll probably miss another bomb because I’m too busy trying to keep track of something else.

Nothing for it but time, repeated practice and creative problem-solving though.