GW2: The Final Word on Raids, As Far As I’m Concerned

I spent my vacation week doing my best to sample as broad a range of raid groups as possible, exhausting my entire three-guild network (and taking steps to broaden out to a fourth, after cleaning up a guild bank and leaving it in the hands of my second account), not to mention clogging up the LFG tool in the hopes of being used as filler for other guilds’ raid attempts.

As you might expect in a random sample, there were good groups and well, not-so-great or seriously struggling ones.

I do think a majority of the small guild raid attempts I joined will get it over time, especially the ones with a static core group with the odd guildie or PUG filler, given sufficient practice on members’ parts and/or time to adjust builds and buy the necessary gear.

Quite a long time for some though. I had to bite my tongue to remain a polite PUG filler while eavesdropping on certain TS conversations.

“Is 200 condi damage a tick ok? That’s enough, right?”

Long pause, before another person answered, “Errr…probably not. Just as a standard of comparison, my engineer does 6-9k/tick condi burns.”

And that’s before we even look at the poison and bleed the engi is also reputedly able to output.

In another raid attempt, a warrior did his best to persuade me that I should be using a sword for extra bleeds, instead of a greatsword, even after I told him I’m in full zerker and have zero condition damage.

I dunno, I’m already dying here trying to maintain 25 might stacks with Sigil of Strength and still eke out 36-40k hundred blades damage while remembering and often failing to use Whirlwind Attack – preferably as an evade rather than use up a dodge – Bladetrail and Rush in perfect flow sequence to get another 8-11k per hit in.

Oh, and keep dodge rolling to keep endurance bar half-drained so that Stick and Move’s 10% damage can come into play, but leave enough endurance so that you can actually dodge a teleport AoE in case Whirlwind Attack is on cooldown.

Plus I respec’ed to the Berserker elite a day ago because another person in another raid group pointed out that PS Berserkers are capable of doing more damage than PS warriors – which on looking at the traits, seemed very much more objectively true.

(Note: When you’re -trying- to rush out the last few hero points for an elite spec ASAP, the Heart of Thorns zones are an infuriating place of can’t-solo-this-point-or-that and nope, not letting you run past these mobs without getting pwned.)

There are quite a few more skills Berserkers need to use, including the F2 going berserk that ups attack speed, their burst skills – that trigger the Berserker’s Power trait for even more percent damage, the elite Headbutt to recharge adrenaline for yet another burst and so on. All with cooldowns that I’m still not used to and don’t have the timing quite right.

It all ends up as a garbled mess of button pressing and leaves me still feeling very much inadequate compared to the successful kill videos, where some of those hundred blades go up to 56k. Not sure how they’re hitting those numbers really, maybe they’re getting more buffs from their group composition.

Yep, I’m sure you’re right and that putting on my exotic sword for a couple extra 50-200/tick bleeds on the Vale Guardian, instead of my Ascended Axe with the Sigil of Strength on it would really help your group right now!

P.S. I have a condi burn guardian if you really need condi for red. Pls love him. He can go up to 9-11k burning (I saw a 14k once that I’m still working on trying to achieve again. Not sure how the stars aligned for that though.) Reality check: I’m still getting the hang of him and only hit 5.5k averages, and he’s squishy as fuck and really hard to play in comparison.

P.P.S. Yes, I’m sure a properly specced berserker elite spec warrior with viper/sin gear can do very -nice- condi damage with sword bleeds and whatever else gives burning. Probably torch and longbow. I haven’t looked at those traits in detail yet, and that warrior certainly wasn’t telling me to do this. It was more like, “Yo, use a sword with your mace. It’ll give extra bleed damage! It’s better than axe! I’m telling you, it’ll be the meta any day now!”

“….”

I did get into other raid groups which I was pretty envious of, they looked organized, competent, fairly coordinated but still working on mechanics, and were pushing past to phase 3 or 4, before the break bar AoE shower coupled with green circles would cause a group wipe. (I wish I’d taken note of some of their names, but I was PUGing in irregular hours that I can’t manage consistently, so it seemed like a moot point.)

So it’s not all tragic, I just tell the out there stories because well, they’re way out there.

Tomorrow, I go back to work.

With the impending onset of reality, I find myself doing some serious personal soul-searching.

I am forced to admit that my last week’s gameplay style was unsustainable. (For me, personally. YMMV.)

I can’t sit around in LFG for hours on end, hoping to get picked up, and hang out in Teamspeak channels waiting for some group organizer to come in and say they need one more X, and pray that X is a character you can bring and that they want you.

I’ve signed up for progression raids in at least two places, but it’s obvious to me that a) you’re at the raid organizer’s mercy, they can pick you or not, depending on their preferences, and b) even if you do get the spot, there’s nine other people that may or may not play well, and -their- progress is not exactly something you can control reliably. (Same goes for yourself, -they- may be impeded by your lack of progress.)

In other words, it’s like a lottery. Maybe you’re lucky, maybe you’re not.

Feels almost like flushing stuff down the Mystic Toilet for precursors. (You have to put in no small amount of effort in the beginning to get enough things to flush. The flushing is completely out of your control. And the more times you flush, your chances of getting a precursor back is higher.)

It doesn’t mean you don’t try, of course, but I keep having to remind myself not to obsess over things that are out of my hands. I’m trying to learn patience for these longer term endeavors, and it seems I have as much of a way to go on the Serenity Prayer as I do on getting better game-wise.

Trying to raid 7 days a week in the hopes of getting lucky and managing to PUG a boss kill is not something I should be, or would enjoy doing.

Sustainable would be something more like once or twice a week. In a static group, assuming one has the fortune to get into one. (Remember: out of my hands, out of my control. *twitch* If not, the alternative would be to designate those one or two days I was going to give to a static raid as an advertise as PUG filler time too.)

Thing is, I’m more of a generalist than a specialist. I can’t go all hardcore WvWer, PvPer, fractaler, raider, whatever and only spend time in one game mode playing it repeatedly to death. So I have to come to terms with not being able to progress as far or as fast – somehow I accept the first three a lot easier than the last, not sure why.

In exchange, I get to play a greater variety of things every night. I’ll have time to do some map meta events, I can run around solo and harvest all the things or work on my collections and stuff.

Not to mention, I want a life that not only includes other GW2 activities, but other games, and *shock, horror* other non-computer-related real life activities, in the tiny spaces that are not working salaried hours.

This is not an easy decision, from an emotional point of view. There is just something in me that says, “Well, -they- did it, why can’t I, if I put in the same amount of herculean effort?” Maybe I’m just too conditioned to chase carrots-on-sticks and I’m bulldog persistent to the point of self-detriment. I find it a lot harder to make myself let go and accept openness and up-in-the-airness, rather than keep banging my head against the wall until it finally cracks and I get a sense of relief and closure.

There’s a treadmill there. I don’t have to stand on it. Or I can run on it a little and get off whenever I want to. It’s like “Wat. I don’t even… does not compute.” The concept is harder to master than a DPS skill rotation.

Especially when it’s a treadmill that doesn’t quite fit or work right, and may not be comfortable to run on.

Part of what helped me approach this decision was a conversation I had with a seasoned guildie. This guy knows his stuff (I think he’s in Attuned), when he tells me that Lupicus goes after least toughness in phase 2 and highest toughness in phase 3 or something similar, I’ll take his word for it – I presume he’s tested it or has heard from -his- contacts about such things.

He’s at the second boss, Gorseval, and -he- says it’s crazy.

And over-tuned. Way too tightly tuned.

I told him, no shit, this is what happens when you use DnT as your benchmark.

I think what puzzles both of us, in our own separate ways, is “Where is the room for progression, if the first and second bosses are like this?”

He wonders what the later bosses and subsequent raid wings are going to be like. Are they going to be even more insane?

What room does Anet have to maneuver, beyond increasing stats on gear, if they start from such a high baseline and have to keep ramping up?

I wonder about the encouragement for beginning raiders if they bog down right on the first boss from the get go. It’s not exactly the sort of thing that helps permeability into a raiding culture, I should think. More the divisive “can, can-not” divide right from the start.

Who loses in the end? The isolated subgroups. I think the hardcore WvWers can tell you how that feels like, when the whole place is empty save for them.

In our conversation, I mention the potential effect over-tuned encounters can have on latency-ridden Oceanic players. Not so obvious an effect in combat, but more noticeable in things like gliding or picking up item bundles.

Plenty of gliding at Gorseval, he says. Effed.

I’m like, I know. (And not terribly looking forward to it, to be honest.)

Then he tells me that class balance is way outta whack. The revenant autoattacks for super-high damage as compared to every other class, apparently.

Suddenly it makes a great deal of sense to me why plenty of successful group comps on Reddit use 2-3 zerker revenants/heralds.

If it’s less easy to screw up on a revenant and still do great damage, then duh, why not take the rev? Screw the other classes for now, until the impending revenant nerf. Which will no doubt arrive eventually.

There are cheese strategies making their rounds among the higher-level groups, supposedly.

(Not an accusation, it’s quite typical for certain Bartle explorer / spade types to poke holes in systems till they bleed. It’s what they do.)

I think some hints of that have spread onto the GW2 Reddit, with plenty of controversial disagreement over whether the Vale Guardian’s break bar should be broken or left alone, or whether certain races’ racial skills are a little OP for the Gorseval fight especially in conjunction with elite specs.

Most of all this I find rather inevitable, but what is more concerning are the implications.

Are we going to end up not just pigeonholing by gear and class and spec, but RACE now? LF Sylvari Chronomancer only.

The whole thing reeks of extremely schizophrenic design decisions. GW2 was meant to be inclusive and cooperative, and we’re fast swinging in the other direction of exclusive and competitive. As Bhagpuss likes to say, swerving headlong into WoW, while WoW seems to be doing its best to rip off (*ahem* copy and polish till it glitters) GW2’s cooperative aspects.

If you’re going to implement enrage timers, then you’re going to end up with players calling for ways they can analyze DPS.

And the only thing many players know are DPS meters.

With which some (or many) people are against being used as bludgeons to make other players feel bad, except that can already happen in other ways, proponents say, so give us our ways to objectively measure the criteria you’re punishing us for not reaching.

Except that many of the original design decisions of GW2 was to make those bludgeons unavailable so that it’s less easy for players to attack others as a matter of course.

Hell, I’d personally like a way to just copy the combat log and run it through a parser.

But if you can count it, people will start asking their raids to make public their “personal” DPS measured, I’m sure. But why shouldn’t they? There’s an enrage timer, so of course you need to have an idea that the overall raid has what it takes to succeed.

Schizophrenic.

And just generally lacking useful tools for people who might actually -want- to raid seriously.

LFG tool is a mess. Reddit bitches about it every so often.

I’d mention build saving and swapping, since roles are now important in raids, but that’s like kicking a dead horse. So I won’t.

So beyond the glass half-full perspective that introducing raids successfully encourage more players to learn and improve and up their level of play (though you’d think a learning -curve- might be more approachable than a learning -cliff- then), what has raids in GW2 successfully achieved?

If somewhere, someone, perhaps in management, put their foot down and said, “We want to increase our Twitch viewership” or folks watching GW2 videos on Youtube or something along those lines, then yeah, creating something that few people can do would encourage them to watch other people play.

If they wanted to give small groups of people (ie. ten, no more, nor less, it is the new number of counting) a reason to meet up, socialize and bond through adversity, maybe for social stickiness purposes so that more people stay hooked to the game, then… yeah, I’ll say that raids may help.

(Though schizophrenically again, guild hall upgrades assume much more than ten people in your guild; bugged guild missions that still haven’t been fixed end up excluding people to the tune of 15; PvP teams means dividing by 5 and compete among yourselves or stagger yourselves out; the only thing that feels inclusive and lets a guild play together as a community is WvW guild missions. Lord help you if you are a megaserver guild, I guess.)

Oh, and the gold to gem exchange has taken quite a bit of a dip.

It’s been hovering fairly constant at 80 gold => 400 gems for a while, beyond a short spike during anniversary sales and Halloween, but I raised my eyebrows a little today when I saw it has now dropped to 72 gold => 400 gems.

Between nipping gold sources (*cough dungeons cough*) in the bud, raising Ascended crafting costs and then creating social pressure to be in Ascended gear for raids, it seems like ArenaNet might be raking in a whole lot of moola from the someones willing to pay to have it now.

It’s a bit of a concern, if only because you’d expect a company to listen more to its paying customers, so we might end up heading in the WoWward direction after all.

Anyhow, I think it boils down to me just working towards finding a sustainable way to play and enjoy all the game activities as an “everything” generalist that likes an inclusive cooperative in-game community.

Should that fail to be possible in the next year or so, for whatever reasons, that may or may not be in my control, well, that might confirm my four-year MMO burnout cycle theory, and there’s always the Steam backlog as a backup plan.

GW2: The Pigeon-holing is Real

This is fast becoming a pet peeve.

I’m going to quote Reddit user isaightman:

“The stat difference isn’t so great that the raids are actually balanced around ascended, however the perception of other players and ascended-elitism will be the real barrier to entry.

As has been seen in basically every game ever, “LFM link achieve/gear” will become the norm.”

And also echo the commenter under him who mentioned that ArenaNet didn’t do the playerbase any favors by suggesting that players will need full Ascended to kill the final boss. (Naturally, this becomes, in playerspeak, “Entry requirement to the raid: full ascended pls.”)

So not only do newer players have a catch-22 gearing problem (Ascended gear can be earned in raids, but they have to be accepted in raids in the first place), it also is bankrupting veterans who are considering switching roles / builds to help raids along.

The perception of the players is the problem.

I was busy gritting my teeth when a raid leader took a look at the two guardians in the raid group and went, “Gee, I hope one of you can tank.”

There were revenants in the raid group, but nope, the leader didn’t look twice at them (I guess their new pigeonhole is passive might stacker), and even a reaper who actually volunteered to tank, and there was sooo much hesitance on the leader’s part to say, well, ok.

(For the record, the reaper did great. That’s what I’m planning to run when I eventually figure out, practice and can afford a tanky build. There is even video proof of another successful Vale Guardian kill with a reaper tank. The amount of damage he can output, coupled with his survivability makes me drool.

I’ve played zerker guardian and zerker necro, I can tell you which one is naturally tankier while still doing decent damage and it ain’t the guard. You can make an unkillable guardian for the tradeoff of him hitting like a wet sock.)

Condi somehow equates to engineer. Well… maybe necro or ranger or mesmer if someone is feeling kind. But really, they’re all second-best, that 47-skill rotation engineer is king, never mind if it’s actually humanly possible to perform the rotation consistently or no.

“We need a healer!” All eyes suddenly look at the rangers in the raid hopefully. (It’s as if the concept of blasting water fields died with WvW now in decline. And I am honor-bound to point out that just off the top of my mind, eles, guards, revs, necros can all put out healing, that engineers have a healing turret, rangers have a water field self heal and warriors have banners that can be traited to pulse regen… just sayin’.)

*sigh*

It’s just too easy to take shortcuts and label classes into roles, when really, we should be asking the players themselves what role they are comfortable playing and what build they’ve chosen. (And if there’s too much of one, then yeah, see if someone can swap.)

Our ragtag group of castoffs actually managed to get as far as bringing the Vale Guardian past 33% health, which wasn’t too shabby for what was essentially a training raid and getting people familiar with the mechanics.

(Just the third attempt for me personally, and each attempt has seen more progress, admittedly with different people. This time the strategy was sound and we had a consistent tank – which I must point out again was a REAPER *coughs*, so stop pigeonholing, sheesh.)

What tended to end up causing group wipes was that the circle running dps group hadn’t quite figured out a strategy to either consistently push the red seekers away and/or heal up the damage from the distributed magic lightning strike.

If that can get solved, then the last facet of the puzzle is improving dps to the required amounts before the enrage timer hits.

Which frankly, is a rather questionable design decision by Anet, because the need to improve dps means things like a) a call for dps meters (Syl has some great rants about them), and b) more pigeonholing of classes that can produce all the required boons and still do great dps before c) getting individual players to work on their builds and rotations, not to mention d) might be somewhat susceptible to ping.

Try as one might for class balance, players are going to find the ones that fit their perception of what is “best” and run with those. No one has ever kicked my warrior from a fractal or dungeon. I’m sure the same cannot be said for necros or rangers once upon a time.

This casual prejudice really annoys me.

That is not to say that I don’t know how to circumvent or make use of it. When in Rome do as the Romans do and all that. If some people want cookie-cutter, then it’s easy to blend in by just shrugging and going cookie-cutter.

But it’s just the dumb ignorance that makes pigeon-holing such a pet peeve.

(eg. Toughness-based aggro has been in existence since the beginning of the game. I picked up on it ever since trying out an anchor guardian build – and getting chased in circles by Lupicus during my first time in Arah, much to my guild’s amusement. I have personally manipulated it in dungeons like the Aetherblade facility. Somehow it is being heralded as a completely new thing since the expansion. It makes me boggle. It’s about time it became common knowledge, is all I have to say about that.)

I hope more people take up the challenge of proving the ignorant wrong – develop viable roles and builds for all the classes, successfully clear raids with them, maybe even clear Vale Guardian in exotics perhaps.

Prove that it’s player skill, teamwork, coordination/communication and practice that makes the difference, not one set recipe of cookie-cutter classes.

GW2: Wot I Think About Raids, Now That The First is Here

Two days later, the jury’s still out on my personal reaction to raids.

Things I Like:

  • It’s new content. It’s a puzzle to be solved. It challenges a player to get better in multiple ways.

Folks are doing a lot of thinking right now. Thinking about how to use the existing flexible and exciting GW2 combat system to solve new problems. What builds to use, what gear or traits would help X situation, and so on. It demands a fair amount of practice at reaction response time and situational awareness as well.

This learning and improving is core ‘hard fun’ gameplay, so to speak, in contrast to the multitudes of ‘easy fun’ grind already available.

  • This group learning aspect is an interesting theoretical challenge for me personally.

By nature, I am very much a loner. It has not slipped my attention that in real life, in the workplace for example, many people are much more social and prefer to work in groups as a team. That even schools and universities are starting to wise up to this and encouraging teamwork and group learning as a matter of course, to prepare students for ‘the real world.’

John Seely Brown says he’d rather hire a high level World of Warcraft player (preferably a guild master) than a Harvard MBA. Why? Because if you can herd cats to do raids and lead a guild of hundreds, you’ve probably demonstrated remarkable leadership and collaborative skills, not to mention probably have good organizational and social competencies to boot.

(I presume this assumes you’re the head of a mature and respectful kind of long-lasting guild or other organized community, rather than the many that collapse from guild drama or the internet fuckwad type.)

On a personal level, I’m more interested in the small stuff. The ways I can sneakily (okay, “diplomatically”) influence others and change their behaviour without directly putting someone on the spot. Observing how small groups function, make decisions and learn. Things that will transfer over to real life and improve my skill set, pretty much.

As a strong introvert, I’m never going to feel super-happy-bouncy energized in groups, but we have to learn how to mask and get by in some situations that demand teamwork or relating in a social manner to other people.

(As long as I can still snatch some time to be alone and have my peaceful introspective recharge breaks, I guess it’s an ok compromise.)

  • The current rewards seem reasonable. Both motivating, yet not -too- motivating to the point of feeling forced. They make sense.

I’m going by what is currently advertised on Reddit as the reward vendor. Seems like there will be RNG drops of Ascended chests for some lucky people, and less lucky individuals can still earn tokens towards said Ascended chests over time.

Given that the eventual plan is for the final boss to be defeated by everybody decked out in Ascended gear, it is only sensible to make the earlier raid bosses a way to get said Ascended gear in all the different desirable stat varieties possible.

For folks who don’t even want to go near raids, they can still craft Ascended gear at higher cost, so there’s an alternate option and it’s not forcing anybody to do something they don’t like.

At the moment, non-raiding people will miss out on (apparently) some unique skin drops and minis of the raid bosses. Which imo, makes sense and is perfectly reasonable. It is still a way for raiders to show off what they have accomplished (between their titles, skins, minis, etc.) but nothing that skews the stat or gear curve.

What really worries me is the Legendary Armor aspect. If raids are the only way to get a component of this, it’s a form of gating and forcing that we’re better off avoiding, imo.

One might argue that Legendary Weapons require things like world completion and ‘forcing’ into WvW or PvP or dungeons, and Mawdrey requires stepping into Fractals, which I’d grant you in part that the stepping in portion is unavoidable and even desirable (to persuade someone to have a taste and/or show that they’re broad enough to have experienced different aspects of the game), but my point is that earning sufficient currency for those activities is not that hard in difficulty or restrictively time-consuming. Raids, on the other hand…

Of course, if you make Legendary Armor or the required raid component non-account bound and tradeable, then all my criticisms go out the window because there’s an alternate path of spending phenomenal amounts of gold while making raiders incredibly wealthy in the process (mutual win-win), but given the recent trend, it’s like everything is getting account-bound these days.

So yeah… we’ll see. For now, the rewards feel fair.

As much as ArenaNet loves to take time to repeat over and over praise for the generally well-behaved and higher maturity level of the GW2 community (ie. what is praised is demonstrated more often), I also have to suggest the reverse side of that is a few hard-hitting public examples of what-not-to-do.

We’ve seen it with Dhuum bannings in GW1; Chris Cleary being the GW2 equivalent of sometimes overenthusiastic doom. In GM/dev comments on Reddit threads and forums where some account-banned beggar is clearly shown the door by publically displaying the egregiousness of the verbal abuse torrent they unleashed, the obnoxious racism of the name they chose, how many accounts they were using at one time or whatever else exploit they were up to when their time of judgment arrived.

Sadly, an entire community caught some serious tar-and-feathering from the ill-considered actions of probably just a few, but it’s still an object lesson in the kind of behaviour ArenaNet would prefer to promote and the kind that Anet punishes.

Let’s hope the future direction and tone is set properly this time, so that we don’t end up down the elitism “u salty, bro?” slippery slope too quickly.

(I’m not sure it actually is possible to have a non-toxic raid community… it kinda sounds like the dream of a non-toxic MOBA or PvP community… maybe the people attracted to that style of gameplay just have personalities that skew that way, but maybe, just maybe, a good part of it is cultural and can be addressed with both support from the often silent majority and the authorities.)

Things I Dislike:

  • There’s definitely more interest in trying out raids than there are willing leaders to organize.

For map metas and WvW, you can end up with a many to one ratio of followers to leaders and everyone’s happy. For ten-man raids, you end up with a bunch of excess followers standing by on the playground hoping to be picked.

(Why we went backwards to a set limit when Anet is supposedly the king of dynamically level-scaling challenges and flex raids are a thing even in WoW is beyond me.)

Exclusion can be real and let’s just say some leaders are better than others at letting people down, while others don’t give a damn and are happy to fling elitist min-max rhetoric around.

Surprisingly at the moment I am not finding this as frustrating as I might have thought – I think it is a combination of there not being any MUST-HAVE-NOW-BLATANTLY-BETTER-THAN-EVERYTHING-ELSE rewards locked behind raids (not sure how this might change once we see Legendary armor requirements), a long term mindset (I am assuming that a month later, strategies will be locked down to the point where you could probably copycat a publicized build and PUG it if sufficiently motivated, or at least organize a guild group around it) and the consolation prize that there are a shit ton of collections and things-to-do for legendary weapons that are also going to take a humongous amount of time/effort and can be done solo.

Eventually it may start to bug me, especially if raids start to be held up as the be-all and end-all of everything (something I made a point of avoiding in all my MMOs – I’m ok if raiders are seen as slightly mad pariahs, akin to those that made a regular habit of Triple Trouble, or the dungeon community, or the hardcore WvW guilds, etc. but I sure hope it’s not going to be all raids all the time next year – a 6 monthly schedule release, maybe, punctuating actual Living World/Story movement as a side seasonal activity sounds nice, 3-4 months at the soonest.)

Right now though my squirrel attention has essentially shattered trying to already balance the idea of daily fractals for a legendary backpack, legendary precursor collections and HoT-related achievements, let alone worry or sulk about being left behind raid-wise.

(I’m already behind! Everywhere! Aaaaaah! So is everybbbbody else! Time spent doing one thing is time spent not doing another thing! Panic! Breach! Broken! Falling! Screaming! Dying! *AHHHH*)

  • The perennial lack of tanks and healers

But wait, GW2 protests, we are not like other MMOs! We have made sure any class can tank or heal (aka be bunkery and survivable and hold aggro by manipulating toughness and having crowd control options, or be all supporty and healy)…

…Well, for one, many people don’t want to be in such a position of responsibility. Kinda like leadership. So there’s an inherent imbalanced ratio and shortage to begin with.

And right now, for another, it is both so tedious and costly to switch stats, traits, build and have multiple sets of armor and weapons and trinkets for different functions, without even build saving/loading. My inventory bags are bursting, ascended stuff costs money and the meta is in flux, so one would currently be gambling on experimental builds.

I’ll grant that this might alleviate after some time, when people have had time to adapt to the changes and decide if they like one particular role more than another, when progress is such that even failed raids are earning raid tokens for Ascended gear, when some tank or heal builds have been publicized, and so on. But for now, it’s still mildly annoying.

(WTB build saver/switcher like in PvP pls. I will spend money -in-game and real world – unlocking all the things for more options and flexibility. I just don’t want them in my bags anymore.)

  • Watching people do eyebrow raising things because they’re operating on a different schema as opposed to others, and being unsure which strategy is better / makes more sense

I’ve only joined two raid attempts so far (which I’d define as semi-PUG, being essentially comprised of guilded randoms just going in to give it a try in a nonserious nonhardcore way, aka no min-maxing class cherry picking or uber meta strategy in mind) and already I am 50% of the way to seriously considering if it’s worth the money/effort/time trying to find the right class and build and learn how to play a semi self-sufficient tank with heals.

Mostly because I keep resisting the urge to vomit blood every time someone who has the aggro decides to drag the boss into the group stacking on the circle because “OOOH, CIRCLE, MUST STACK TO PREVENT RAID WIPING DAMAGE” and now the group has to deal with a frontal cleave from the boss as well as the distributed damage from the attack.

I am currently geared as a viper/sinister guardian (after a mad scramble over a few days pre-raid launch to invest in an Ascended condi set for greater role flexibility – coincidentally, DnT’s Obal released a condi guide to the burn guardian while I was midway through this process . I was both gratified to see that my self-selected choices mostly matched up and rather relieved, because now I had a backup opinion to point to in case anyone laughed at the thought of a condi guardian.

By the way, it’s pretty sick damage. I paid 20 gold for Viper and Sinister amulets in PvP *grumble goldsink grumble* to prototype before the PvE investment, and I couldn’t believe I was ticking for 7-9k burn damage on multiple golems while still flailing around for decent direct damage with a greatsword.)

The thing about choosing to stat like this is that I have zero toughness or vitality and guardian hp is low to begin with. My health pool acts like a mine canary. It is super-sensitive to anything, anything going a little wrong.

I see the boss charging directly at me and I am liable to panic, because a 5k hp frontal cleaving Punch from him means I am literally half dead at 11k hp. Add on the possibility of absorbing 2-3k damage from the Distributed Magic mechanic from standing in the circle, and I end up scrambling around either praying that I catch an AoE heal from a happy druid healer or using up my own big self-heal. If a red seeker comes in, and doesn’t get pushed back, the aura damage from it means I go down. No two ways about it.

My first raid attempt had a mix of 3 people who all sorta kinda wanted to tank and had high toughness, who were spinning the boss dizzingly back and forth between them, leading to a fair amount of difficulty trying to avoid the boss for everybody else. Add on one particular tank who seemed determined to get in the circle dragging the boss behind him (because apparently “the lightning strike hurts the boss” was the schema he was operating from) and this was more than a bit of a disaster until we managed to coax him to stay out of it.

In my second attempt, I’d done a bit more thinking beforehand and decided that I could take on a bit more personal responsibility making sure that I don’t get killed in the circle, irregardless of a tank determined to pile on in there. So I gave up my greatsword and put on a shield, which provides a nice little shield bubble that knocks away seekers and can pulse a small heal. Except it has a cooldown and I can only do that every second circle or so.

So I came up with the alternate strategy of choosing to NOT get in the circle when I don’t have my shield cooldown and I’m either far away or low on health and I already see 7-8 people piling in and the boss going after them, since you only need 4 in there. No doubt, I now look like the odd moron out, missing circle cues.

(I’m thinking mace/shield for my third attempt to see if I can get a bit more pulsed healing that way. A coordinated water field with blasts would be so so nice though, or just designated slightly sturdier circle runners, but I don’t think the raids I’m getting in have quite gotten up to that level yet.)

Alternately, it is also somewhat tempting to find the right build and gear and volunteer to tank, so that I can see if it is humanly possible to execute such a basic tanky concept as “oh, face the boss away from the main group most of the time?” (I am so so broke though.)

It was somewhat gratifying that after a seemingly eternity of the boss deciding to go after the admittedly very good druid healer (who was inexplicably high toughness for some reason) and who insisted on getting into the circle (presumably to save everybody else’s squishy asses) in my second raid attempt, a revenant said he could spin up to higher toughness than the druid and volunteered to take the aggro, whereupon he did a very presentable job running the boss in a small predictable circle and all I had to do as a mostly ranged damage dealer was sit in the center of the circle and spin around to deal consistent damage.

(Possibly much to the aggravation of the melee damage dealers, because they seemed intent on trying to catch up with the boss on his merry go around, but they didn’t say anything. Maybe they appreciated the predictableness too. Who knows.)

Equally alternatively, I could possibly avoid some of the getting sidelong damaged aggravation by choosing to gear more conservatively with toughness and/or vitality, except then there is the worry about being able to meet the demands of the enrage timer later down the road.

Or I could bring another class to the raid. Which is another min-max strategy that no doubt many players will choose to use later down the road, only taking the ‘best’ and most optimal classes, rather than viable but not optimal can-dos.

So, mismatching schemas all busy hashing it out. “Fun.” *sigh*

  • The regularity of needing a set group and the time commitment required to progress within a reasonable timeframe (meaning by the time the next raid comes out) / “I have to do HOW MUCH of this to get the reward I want?”

I’m really not getting any younger. Real life has a knack of getting in the way eventually. I can probably pull off 1-3 months of being consistently hardcore (hey, some people don’t even stick with one game that long) and it’s hard to foresee things from there. It’s certainly impossible to match the free time of a college student.

And I seriously dread ArenaNet deciding to place the time yardstick too high for whatever raid requirement is needed for Legendary Armor – look at the Yakslapper title for a ridiculously calculated goal, only took 3 years to eventually change it.

(Really though, what’s functionally appealing about Legendary Armor is the flexibility of stat swapping. Though we will still have the problem of runes then. If that is recreated elsewhere by having to buy and save 12 sets of Ascended armor without taking up bank/bag space, I’d be okay with that, astronomical cost and all! Legendary armor as prestigiously shiny skin is still motivating for many people.)

The general uncertainty is a drag.

Right now I have no certain answers along this front, so my overall opinion about raids in GW2 is still relatively unformed. Too early to say “yea” or “nay.”

Blaugust Day 31: What Next?

And so we reach the end of August, after attempting 31 posts in 31 days.

We sort of cheated a little at the end, but well, producing walls of text has never really been a problem of mine.

(Producing wall of texts someone else might want to read, now, that’s a little trickier.)

Finding the time to sit down and devote an hour or two to  production of said wall of text, plus a picture or two, that’s harder.

I’d call the Blaugust challenge a success, as it managed to kickstart my blogging habit after a lazy July, and produced a number of blogs that I’ll be keeping track of, even after the month ends.

It’s been a pleasure jumping onto the madness train with a whole bunch of the blogging community.

To-do list wise, we got through about half of the items, and most of the important ones, which I’m quite happy about.

Trove has found itself a handy niche for the moment. I’m quite content to log on daily, fill the star bar for cubits, catch a challenge if I happen to be online for it.

The Tomb Raiser is level 32 or thereabouts. He can juuust about solo U5 dungeons if I’m willing to fight a little harder (ie. wait for energy to recharge and keep holding down the spam AoE button, rinse and repeat 4-5 times.) If I’m feeling lazy, then I’ll stroll through something a little easier in difficulty.

The remaining Trove goals are rather medium-term in nature. I’m working on a Sky Portal, solo, which means accumulating a fairly insane amount of resources that would be much easier to get if I had.. say, 5 or 10 members contributing a portion of the resources each. It mostly means I collect a little each day, stuff it in the bank and try to do more on the bonus days, and basically wait until the magic number is reached.

There’s always fishing for more ancient scales. Which usually means it’s TV show watching time in the other screen first, and fishing second.

Leveling up the Tomb Raiser’s gear any further would mean requiring a lot more flux currency than I can easily get my hands on, which usually means just wait for the hourly challenges and do those for some flux. Very.. time-limited. Working on it, but not in any hurry.

And there’s faffing about on other alts trying to level them up to 20, if I get bored of the above.

I still haven’t quite resolved where I stand on Guild Wars 2 at the moment.

Readers may have noticed that I haven’t bothered to make any mention of the front-page news announcement that GW2 is now… erm, what’s the correct phrase… “play for free” or whatever.

To me, it’s a total non-issue.

It’s too late complaining about the quality of the community. GW2 was going for 10 bucks for a long period, and I’ve noticed mapchat take a turn for the less-polite or patient, in comparison with the quality of the launch day chats.

Basically, politeness is a victim of popular success. The more popular GW2 becomes, the more people jump into the game, the higher proportion of people you will find that have been accustomed to certain speech patterns in WoW or LoL or other similar games and will act in a similar fashion in GW2, having never been fully immersed into the culture yet.

Add on a good dose of veteran impatience and the tendency of people to ape common frames of thought and a certain meta/elitist segregation that seems to have been occurring dungeon-wise (I watched with some bemusement today as someone gave a ranger a lame excuse for a fractals 10 and kicked him from the party – ranger had 3k AP, not exactly a noob – I did not join the vote kick, but I said nothing either, because I just wanted the damn daily done and didn’t want to get kicked before or during the event), and you will find some deterioration of friendliness, free or no free.

I see a great deal of players being all welcoming and social on Reddit, and I presume, in the game as well. Which is great for both them and the newbies – they get “new content” in the sense of having new people to play with / teach / help, and the newbies get that helping hand as well, and may both purchase the game and stick with it.

Which works for me, I’m not really “mentor” material most of the time, being all grouchy hermit and stuff, but hey, increasing game population means increase in all types of players and hopefully, increased participation in all the game modes I enjoy.

On a more personal level, I spent most of the day trying to work out what I was feeling and thinking about the whole “raids” bruhaha.

One thing I do know is that I’m getting increasingly tired of essentially being a martyr on someone else’s behalf, especially when they don’t seem to appreciate it anyway. Of being told I’m making much ado about nothing.

In other words, here I am, trying to be concerned about the really casual GW2 players who almost never see things like organized WvW or organized Teq or organized Triple Trouble or even organized guild missions, and keep obsessing about keeping barriers of entry low and for them to be on a relatively equal playing field so that they -can- join in, when they want to, and I generally find that most of the bloggers who profess this way of playing just seem to have “accepted” that they’ll never do it, period, so the whole activity just doesn’t exist for them, full stop.

It makes me just a little bit mad, this attitude of what-seems-to-me to be “learned helplessness.” The “I could never do it, so therefore I won’t even try” sort of acceptance.

On the other hand, I find the dismissive attitude of the self-proclaimed elitists annoying as well.

It’s really tempting and easy to segregate yourself into groups of people who think like you and play like you. It seems that -both- extremes are quite happy to indulge in this separation, as shown in a little Reddit flowchart that has been making the rounds lately – “In zerk? Go hang with zerk groups. Non-zerk? Go hang with non-zerk groups. Conclusion: everybody happy.”

Supposedly. Except that I note that the non-zerk groups have a tendency to not form, or take hours to complete, be comprised of more unsure players, etc.

To quote another Redditor, I feel like I’m basically undergoing a certain amount of “cognitive dissonance” here, because… let me fess up:

I’m generally lazy. I like my groups smooth and efficient and optimal. I like getting what I’m aiming for, when I group up, fast and painless. Unless it’s the weekend and I’m in a really good benevolent mood, I don’t have time to spend 3 hours teaching a bunch of people I’ll probably never see again how not to suck, in order for me to get what I want.

Given very little push, I am quite happy to fall back into old obsessive hardcore patterns and think elitist thoughts. With the right motivation, I’ll do whatever is needed to fall within the 10% who can do whatever it is I want to do, and who gives a fuck about the 90% who can’t, right? It’s not like most of them even -want- to. If they’re not even willing to help themselves, why should -I- care?

(You will note, all the “them” speech. Segregation. Division. Not community.)

Then I stop and I wonder if I should really let myself go down that road of thought. I’m not sure if I’d like the person that comes out the other end.

I suppose there is a certain amount of real world correlation and history at work. Singapore’s education system has always been “meritocracy”-based – which, during the time I grew up – mostly meant doing well at academic grades at an early age. If you scored top marks, you got shoved into the through-trains, labeled with really positive labels, and woe betide those that didn’t. They got the opposite treatment, pretty much.

It hasn’t been till the last decade or two that the very slow oil tanker has been steering in other directions, realizing that “merit” could be defined very differently (including musical, artistic and athletic merit, besides academic) and doing their best to recognize those with different strengths, as well as giving those who didn’t do well academically other possible and potential pathways to progress their education and careers (giving them the opportunity to possibly even overtake the supposed ‘elite’ once in the working world.)

The other thing the education system has been slowly attempting to do, through thick layers of bureaucracy, is to tweak policy for those who have somehow “fallen through the cracks” and don’t quite fit into neatly labeled categories.

The latest governmental propaganda is basically an exhortation to keep social consciousness in view, to have a heart, and contribute to the community, “No Singaporean left behind,” and so on.

I’m basically caught between being a pragmatic bastard and an ideal of someone better than that.

And I honestly don’t know which way I’ll go.

Is it at all possible to be an egalitarian hardcore raider?

Or do elitist thoughts and segregation away from the hoi polloi come as part of the territory?

(I’ll be frank, I won’t do a PUG Teq, when a TTS Teq is so much more enjoyable and efficient and equally available.

And there was a time when I just couldn’t be bothered rezzing anyone in the Silverwastes because they jolly well ought to waypoint back instead of just laying there dead and expecting someone to risk dying to peel them off the floor… especially when they die again in the next ten seconds that follow.

I’m feeling a bit more bleeding heart after a month away from GW2 and go for a rez, though it’s mostly to test myself and build quick reactions for future “challenging group content” than harboring any actual concern for the person or any expectation that the person will stay upright. Elitist? Probably.)

If I keep playing GW2, I will mostly likely do my best to get into and stay in a successful, regular, organized raid team.

(Unless it so happens that timezones and schedules are really restrictive and there’s no way I can wrangle something that fits.)

There’s no way I can ignore a mountain that is plonked down in front of me.

Not sure it’s worth it, really. But beyond the temptation of Legendary armor, there will be the basic fact that it is content I haven’t seen or played, and therefore must attempt until it is conquered (or I fall screaming off the mountain.)

I have no idea what’s going to come out at the other end. Burnout, drama, frustration, or just a bad case of elitist prick-ism?

Well. *deep breath* I guess we’ll find out.

Blaugust Day 29: Post-Raid Announcement “Hmm”

It ain’t the end of the world.

Nor was the announcement as ideal or detailed as one had hoped, but about as decent as it could be, I guess.

Raids are now confirmed to exist as a 10-person instanced challenging group content that will test the abilities of players to coordinate and use GW2’s action combat system to its fullest potential.

No attunements – so we at least avoid the ludicrous 12-step hamster wheel to even qualify to enter a raid. Apparently you just walk up to the door and you can go in to get your face smashed any time you’d like.

However, it -is- going to involve the heavy use of Masteries to get certain phases completed.

The example given was that one group would have to clear an escape path before the big ol’ raid boss nuked everyone to kingdom come, while the other group kept big ol’ raid boss distracted/controlled/damaged, and then everyone would have to run the hell away to the edge and glide around for a bit while said nuke went off.

Sorry, guys, while this is not an attunement per se, imo, this is pre-required grind with a different name. If your gliding mastery ain’t high enough, you’re not going to stay aloft for that long, right?

The only mitigating factor is that you’d probably only need a few specific Masteries for specific raid bosses (once the strategies are figured out) so that newcomers would only have to do that bit of ‘lateral’ progression grind.

It was repeatedly stressed that all the classes (ahem, professions) in GW2 are capable of builds that produce damage/control/support (aka fluid combat roles) so that you could play your favorite profession, rather than be forced to wait around for half an hour for a healer to be available, or be asked to play another profession cos X other player isn’t around…

… good and sound, in theory. We’ll see how long that lasts in the hands of players, who are liable to decide that Y class brings the most Z to the table, and therefore Y class is the meta.

I’m not sure what to think regarding the specific number of 10.

On one hand, the low number (aka 2 groups) does provide an arrangement where each player can play a visible important role that isn’t drowned out by visual chaos. It’s easier to match schedules for a smaller group of players, and so on.

On the other hand, if you’re the 11th player, it may not be that easy to find raid-ready groups.

We’ve yet to see just how the formation of this would play out though – can a randomly assembled PUG of 10 be expected to manage the difficulty, or is it going to be a more guild/teamspeak-only kind of affair? Dunno. We’ll have to see.

The big raid reward announcement is that it’s going to be possible to get Legendary armor off raids. Which is really good and appropriate, imo.

Stat-wise, no different from Ascended gear, but it’ll still have that piece by piece build up and show off factor, AND be extra-convenient for stat-switching… which you might expect future raids to require (shifting from zerker to tankier soldier or nomads to some kind of condi, or what have you.)

We’ve yet to see if this is going to come via random RNG drop or some form of gradual earning/token buy system though. The website phrasing says “earn” so hopefully, the latter is the case or is at least possible.

I’m not sure if the concept of Legendary armor imposes any kind of mandatory pressure to raiding. I don’t -think- so, given that the stats are the same as Ascended, and the existing concept of Legendary weapons being entirely optional. But I’m not sure how others might perceive it.

The other piece of good news is that GW2 raids will make use of the dynamic event system, so that has the potential for a goodly amount of task flexibility (beyond kill giant boss monster) and event chaining for raid content.

The underlying principles of no insane vertical gear progression and trying to cut out all the inconvenient and annoying aspects of raiding, while keeping the good stuff, were repeatedly stressed as well.

The concept of making Heart of Thorns basically contain ‘endgame’ content for all and sundry, of which one subset are PvE players who like raids,  (PvP players included, though I note they carefully didn’t mention WvW players) was also covered.

So at least the heart, philosophy and plan are in the right places… even if the reality might not quite match up to the hoped-for plan once it comes into effect…

I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see how it all plays out.

I’m not super-stoked, but I’m not freaking out either – which about as much as could be expected, I guess.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 29.