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.

Blaugust Day 21: Sleep is for the Weak, and They’re All Ok By Me (On Gaming Priorities and Balance)

Yesterday, I managed to discover one thing I prioritized over writing a blog post and meeting the Blaugust deadline: SLEEP.

It was 9pm on a Friday night, all the time in the world to scratch out a blog post really, but since I’ve been nursing a mild cold that only fills up half a trash can full of tissues (as opposed to nastier ones that devours boxes of tissues and fills a trash can to overflowing) and feeling moderately woozy (which could also have been caffeine withdrawal from two Starbucks lattes downed mid-week to speed up the work day…)

…I looked from computer to bed, and bed to computer, and then said, “Forget it. Tomorrow’s Saturday. I’ll knock out two posts.”

The extra 2-3 hours feels really good this morning though. I suspect I’d been shaving off an hour or two the last few days and accumulating sleep deprivation that way.

Funnily enough, before I crashed, I managed to make time to knock out GW2 dailies and attend guild missions (and Trove dailies while feeling grumpy about how long weekly guild missions were taking this Friday.)

And dinner, of course. And a shower. Before game. Then sleep. Because health.

In my roundabout way, I’m trying to figure out how to segue into a topic that part of the blogosphere’s been talking about lately: Gaming priorities.

  • Apparently Izlain and Eri started it, with a Couch Potatoes AMA, where they talk about regrets from their gaming habits. (Which I will admit I have not prioritized any time to listen to, so am quoting off someone else’s summary. I’m a poor audio learner, ok?)
  • Braxwolf picks up the thread, where he wonders about the impact of having too many sources of short-term gratification tempting our younger generations and if this stands in the way of them being able to endure hardship for long term benefits.
  • Rowan Blaze adds on to it, pointing out that gaming is just one of a myriad other activities that it is possible to become obsessed with or addicted to, at the expense of other things. He goes on to cover gaming and its possible effects on relationships.

Then there are other posts that aren’t explicitly about gaming priorities, but seem to me to be related:

  • James over at Goobbue Crossing is feeling the grind in GW2, flooded with currencies he has little present use for and can’t figure out, and feeling under-motivated (and not really rewarded) to get past the learning hump.

Plus pretty much any and every other post that laments the fact that there are too many games out there (including those on one’s Steam list) and/or the need to focus playing only a few of those at any one time, and/or the challenge of finding enough hours in the day to knock out a blog post in addition to the above.

I find myself in total agreement with Syl’s comment over at Braxwolf’s:

There’s always something to learn in nature and it so happens that in nature too, substances that can heal you very often can harm/kill you too (aka ‘the dose makes the poison’). Games or rather escapism through games, has the potential to do a lot of good in a person’s life; it can get them through a time of hardship and tragedy, it can cure them of loneliness and insecurity. For a time. Until it stops doing these things and becomes the opposite.

The keyword is balance. Sometimes you know when to stop and re-balance, sometimes you’ll learn the hard way… It’s never too late to look at your life and change things if you really want to, especially if you’re still young and capable.

Moderation and balance, and becoming clearer in what you value, and thus should prioritize.

It’s easy to see that in Braxwolf’s case, one of his values is long-term benefits/greater good over immediate hedonistic happiness, and Rowan strongly values his relationship with Scooter, for example.

I can totally relate with James’ currency flood feeling, every time I try to get back to LOTRO, my bags overflow with things I’m sure I don’t need to bother with right yet, but have no idea where to put them in the meantime, and it feels like a hurdle I’m not willing to cross because some things about LOTRO just don’t appeal to me as much as other MMOs.

I try to play Eve Online, and while the learning hump there feels like a fun challenge to get over, I usually end up asking myself, but why would I do it? I would be paying a subscription (or grinding isk for one) to basically be someone else’s content, because I’m not really motivated by socializer or killer preferences. I’d be better off playing an MMO that hits my more favored Explorer or Achiever tendencies, and does so in a less directly competitive manner.

Different people may value different things more highly, and prioritize them differently as a result. It’s really all about balancing what we value first, and not let any of them take the upper hand and overwhelm everything else that we also value.

And if that does happen, well, it’s a learning experience… learned the hard way.

I dunno, but I rarely frame these things as a regret. Regret to me, kind of says that you wished they hadn’t happened. But in my opinion, I needed them to happen in order that I could learn valuable lessons and readjust my life as a result. One doesn’t learn by coasting through life. One only learns when one stumbles, or rams facefirst into a wall, or falls flat on one’s bum. Hurts, but learning to get up again is also another one of those important life lessons.

Incidentally, the longest continuous gaming session I ever experienced was in my foolhardy youth, where winning was everything, and my team raced two other teams on a MUD quest marathon to kill 30 raid-like bosses. It took us 9 hours. We won. One other team called it after that, and the last team gamely plodded on and finished at the 11th hour.

After that, I said “My god. That was crazy. Never again. Worth the experience once. But never, never again.”

No regrets. But I definitely learned the boundaries of one of my priorities that day.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 21.

GW2: WvW – Variety or Balance?

After a few weeks of the revised (essentially “randomized”) matchups, some of the repercussions have been starting to make themselves known via forum board posts (read: complaints.)

Bottom line is, there have been some VERY uneven matchups taking place over the last couple of weeks.

To take my home server Tarnished Coast as an example:

Our first week placed us vying against our dear and bitter frenemies Fort Aspenwood and threw the lower tiered Sea of Sorrows in place of Dragonbrand into the mix.

This ended up much as one would expect: TC and FA duking it out and SoS doing their best to get underfoot. The matchup wasn’t too misbalanced (at least from my TC perspective, other TC’ers or FA or SoS people may have their own subjective opinions) in that there were still good fights in between various coverage gaps. FA and SoS have a stronger Oceanic contingent than TC, whereas TC tended to dominate in the Euro timezone, and NA and SEA were fairly even, if slightly skewed towards TC.

It may have indeed helped give a relaxing SoS a wakeup call and got them inspired to fight hard, even if comparatively outnumbered.

The following week pitched the number 1 NA server Sanctum of Rall against Tarnished Coast and Sea of Sorrows.

Heh.

Well, I personally enjoyed the challenge of being back-to-the-wall against impossible odds (as long as our commanders were still organized and keeping morale high.) And I found encountering a zerg that was built even more tough and resilient than a TC zerg very refreshing – in that we realized there was still a lot of room for improvement for certain guilds and builds, and generally had to be very focused in our movement and tactics. It was also fun showing SoR some of the more distinctly TC-evolved sneaky tricks and catching them off guard at times, even if the odds were against us from the beginning.

But I admit the pressure to keep obsessively fighting and holding out kept me playing way past usual hours – while it was obvious SoR had enough coverage for different guilds to take shifts and come in refreshed. Since I gave up being hardcore about ten years ago, it was easy enough to find new priorities for GW2 gaming time once Dragon Bash rolled around (Dragon Coffers were selling for 7-8 silver then! Price will only drop as the month goes on, y’know! Strike while the iron is hot! Farm farm farm! Sell sell sell!)

I don’t even want to speak for what SoS was thinking and feeling against SoR. Based on their forum posts and in-game actions, some of the more hardcore WvW SoS folks definitely have a lot of heart and pride and were holding out just fine – but suffice to say they were even more outnumbered as a server than TC was, in general.

This week, Tarnished Coast has still remained glommed onto Sea of Sorrows, and Crystal Desert has entered the fray.

That’s the server from which we received transfers of three hefty SEA guilds seeking larger and better fights, so you might imagine that the style of WvW combat CD is used to is certainly not of the same size and scale. With Dragon Bash providing a useful distraction for any GW2 players who both WvW and PvE, the impetus to hang around fighting battles against uphill odds is not very strong for most, which leads to blowout scores in the larger server’s favor.

Scores like this are kinda nuts. It's barely even Tuesday. (On the bright side, you can see I got some power-leveling via crafting done, taking advantage of the pretty high crafting crit chance bonus.)
Scores like this are kinda nuts. It’s barely even Tuesday. (On the bright side, in the background you can see I got some power-leveling via crafting done, taking advantage of the pretty high crafting crit chance bonus.)

Reactions have been rather fervent. From those hardcore enough about WvW to post on the official forums on a regular basis, I must add.

I’m shamelessly generalizing here, but let’s invent a typical hardcore WvW player who only lives for PvP and “good fights” and disdains PvE in any form. Such a player doesn’t mind fighting uphill battles and being somewhat outnumbered or losing and dying as they’ve internalized a value system where the bigger a fight they put up, the more ‘respect’ this earns them in the eyes of their opponents. A balanced even fight is their Shangri-La, because the outcome is uncertain and player skill has the largest impact here. Winning against low or zero resistance becomes as boring as PvE to these folks, because there’s no challenge. The worst thing that can happen is that no one shows up to be fought against, leading to the ultimate boredom as one roams around in search of opponents who simply aren’t there.

Such players miss the old system very badly as it produced the most even matchups for them.

Strangely though, there is another subset of players that seem to have an impact on whether queues pop up across WvW maps or not. These players tend not to post on forums, and turn up based on the scoreboard. They have been derisively called fairweathers or pugs, weekend warriors, or if one is feeling very very kind, “militia,” by those who fancy themselves a lot more dedicated to WvW. They do tend to be less well versed in the game format, and have builds not optimized for it as well.

You will rarely find them in WvW when your server is doing less well. Yet once a server pushes over 300 or so, there seems to be some kind of critical mass effect that attracts them into jumping in and riding the gravy train and pushing the server even higher and higher scores.

Hardcore WvW players tend to be very scornful of this playstyle. Me, I don’t know. It occurs to me that sometimes, majority votes can’t be wrong. Maybe it’s not so much what players say, but what they actually do.

Tarnished Coast has been massively queued across a good number of maps in this blowout week. (You could map hop freely last week against Sanctum of Rall during most times that weren’t NA primetime, and I think it got even worse past Tuesday – I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there either.)

A number of these guys contributing to the queue are definitely beginner WvWers and primarily PvE players and probably not a few map completionists either. There are doubtless opportunists who leap at the chance to kill people when the odds are in their favor. Add on the regular WvW guilds trying to get on during their usual times for pushes, and things are definitely crowded.

I’m thinking – they wouldn’t stay in there, if they weren’t having “fun” with matchups the way they are.

Then there’s in the in-betweens, because I never believe in dichotomies. Call ’em semi-hardcore WvWers, casual WvWers, opportunists, militia, what-have-you, their behavior can reflect either extreme depending on personalities, available free time, morale and other conflicting priorities.

I suppose I’m one of this lot.

Speaking for myself, this week I haven’t been WvWing much either. Dragon Bash deflected me last week into achievement hunting and coffer farming, and my lowbie warrior was climbing the levels and getting better. Between the choice of being utterly bored for long moments and running patently outmanned enemies into the ground with way too many numbers – or getting run over while wandering around solo because the only opponents out have collected into wolf packs for survival, versus actually gaining levels every half hour to good music and racking in 0.75-1 gold at the same time, leveling the warrior is a lot more appealing.

And I can’t help but wonder if that’s a good thing.

(Cue the screams of horror of the heavily invested WvW players.)

No, I’m serious.

Assuming that one is a well-balanced GW2 player who does a number of different activities in game, and not just one primary thing, maybe it’s good to have off weeks where one can essentially take a break and go do other things.

One of the things I’ve always been perplexed about getting caught up in WvW was knowing when to stop. If you’re winning, you want to keep going. If you’re losing, you don’t want to log out and look like you’ve turned tail and run, so you fight on. The pressure can sometimes get a little nuts.

For me, it’s nice to have a week where I can mostly PvE and relax knowing that others, a LOT of others, are carrying on the fight. A week where I don’t feel guilty bringing in an underleveled character to goof around with and scoop up what xp I can when bored of the PvE level grind, or experimenting with a class/build that I’m really not that great with.

I might even bring in some alts to do WvW map completion, like no doubt many of the PvE population are now opportunistically doing. And maybe even visit the Obsidian Jumping Puzzle later this week – as long as all the EB keeps are controlled by my server. I am just entirely philosophically opposed to ganking and that whole puzzle is one big trollfest if it’s open to more than one server – I only enjoy going in when I know for sure there can be no red names there, period.

So despite the possibility of a temporary morale drop in a week where facing a server way too strong for us, I find I’m rather okay with the idea of variety in my matchups personally.

I think there’s the potential for greater inclusivity in that a lot more players may want to dip their toes into WvW this way.

The only thing I worry about is if the hardcore WvWers can get used to the idea. If they become too bored or too frustrated by the lack of good fights or a balanced even matchup, they may decide to take their ball elsewhere and play something else.

Which will also destroy the game format because it’s the hardcore WvWers that the rest rely on, for organization, for teaching and training, for being online way longer than they should, for leading and directing the militia to paint the whole map a certain color to begin with. Without them, the casuals won’t come in to play either.

It’s a funny kind of paradox.

Cater too hard for the hardcore, and the casuals won’t want to come.

Fail to cater sufficiently to the hardcore, and the casuals won’t have anyone to follow.

(And the in-betweens just keep doing their own thang, seeing how the wind blows.)

GW2: Dragon Ball – Hits and Misses

Finally got around to playing Dragon Ball.

I stopped by the Heart of the Mists first to tweak my default PvP costume a little (mostly removing the helm because I’m vain and it’s the dorkiest looking thing on an asura.) It’s not like I could do much more than that and change a few dye colors as I rarely sPvP at best.

Since I was there though, I popped in for a round or two of hotjoin for the fun of it, and shortly realized I was pretty outclassed and out of touch with where sPvP has gotten to since the beginning of the game when I tried it while only what, 3 maps were in rotation.

First of all, I wasn’t familiar with the new maps or what the objectives were – which is always a recipe for noob nonproductivity. I tried just focusing on killing some people to improve mah lack o’ PvP skillz (in the hope that it would help me get better at small scale skirmishes in WvW on the right kind of mobility build) and also shortly noticed that the opposing team moved very fast and were usually there to interrupt a 1 on 1 very quickly, while my team never seemed to be anywhere together at all.

I tried following another teammate around in the hopes of at least -looking- like a group, but then we eventually got wiped by a larger group of 3 or 4 people. And finally, on an old map that I was familiar with, I gave up any semblance of conflict with the other team and ran around backcapping points, doing my best to neutralize and capture stuff while everyone was elsewhere.

Alarmingly, that game, I ended up with the top scorer stats and a notch on my PvP daily done. I say alarmingly, because I fancied myself the biggest noob on that battlefield, being all non-sPvP focused and all that.

It also occurred to me that I kept seeing the -same- names on the opposing side, very pro players who kept beating up on what seemed like an outmatched team.

The penny finally dropped when the scoreboard came up on the match and I saw that on my team, none of the players were any higher than rank 7. (Hi, that’s me! And one or two others.)

Meanwhile, on the other side, everyone else was rank 20-30.

Wtf. I thought there was some kind of autobalancing of teams going on. What the hell is happening here? After a few minutes of pausing trying to figure out how to bring up the PvP scoreboard before and mid match (I think I removed my keybind for that, out of disinterest and all. Clicking on the top score works,) I noticed the UI had been improved slightly and that there was this sneaky little “swap teams” button in the top right hand corner.

Now I normally zone in slowly. However, there was one match when I think someone left (out of boredom or just being finished for the day or whatever) when I was looking at the scoreboard, and the swap team button lit up. I hit that and lo and behold, turned up in the stacked team, concentrated on staying out of the way and not dying, and voila, match won.

I suspect most of these shenanigans happen pre-match as the quickest loaders take advantage of the slow loaders and flip themselves out of the team most likely to lose (from observations of noobiness) and stack onto the team most likely to win. I load slow, which leaves me in a really bad position most of the time, nor am I some sPvP god that can win 1 v 3 fights (yet. Prob no interest to learn though.)

Once I sussed that out, I sighed and hit the “quit instance” button, promptly now guilty of being a “leaver” and weakening a crappy team even further.

Why the long PvP hotjoin story in a post about Dragon Ball?

Well, the game is plagued by the same inherent problems. It is further aggravated by achievement seekers looking for the path of least resistance.

It’s kind of sad, because it really is a nice little minigame.

arenaoverview

As Ravious mentions, it is an FPS-style team deathmatch game recreated in GW2. One starts out with a very basic weapon, and has to run around the map picking up better weapons (or skills, in this case.) There are health pickups of various sizes, and even a super damage power-up.

Personally, one of the things I really appreciate about the game is that it is, in theory, a level playing field. Everyone starts out with the same health and same weapons. Everyone has access to any weapons present in the arena. Any disparity is theoretically down to player skill.

This can involve map knowledge. I peeked at dulfy’s Dragon Ball guide and sorta vaguely read where stuff was, but didn’t have an idea of wtf she was talking about with three levels, top, middle, bottom, while a 2D map of where items are doesn’t really help navigationally and jumping challenged me in a 3D environment.

I was resigned to being absolutely clueless my first few games and ran around just trying to get familiar with the map, figure out where good weapons were and trying not to die (wasn’t so great on the last bit, presenting one’s back to skilled opponents tends to lead to horrific death screams and asura nap time.)

Soon, I noticed the disturbing problems plaguing hot join PvP were also present in Dragon Ball. My team was always outmatched, all the good players were on the other team, it was usually 5 vs 4 and never in our favor, and even more amusing, people were just giving up and staying motionless and letting the other guys kill them so they could get on to the next game more quickly.

Sorry, I have more pride than that. I’m a fighter. If I stay in a match, I’ll weave in and out, zig zag, dodge, jump, spin around and even gnaw on your ankles even as you throw three buffed fireballs at me and be the most annoying prat to kill. (I’m not sure if that’s playing an asura influencing my thoughts or the other way around, but yeah.)

hoggingbottom

Of course, this didn’t work out so well in Dragon Ball. As I grew a little more familiar with how the game worked over time, it was easy to discern that the game is unbalanced in favor of the better team in the later stages. Sorta like in DOTA games where a couple feeders will pump up the opposing team to the point where they become too strong to beat, and the rest of it is just a painful waste of time as one watches the cleanup phase, or a Natural Selection game where if one side upgrades to tier 3 things, the other side is generally doomed and struggling becomes hopeless.

That is not to say that this is a bad mechanic. What this does is help to -finish- games, rather than have things end up in a hours-long stalemate going back and forth. It is how it is. Take the game rules for what they are. But it does mean that enduring the cleanup phase on the losing side is quite a demoralizing drag.

When I finally noticed that there was always that ONE AFK GUY on my perpetually losing team (I’d swap out of that team, given a chance, wouldn’t you? Except I load slow, so other faster, better people get to do it first,) my patience snapped at last. (Achievement score to date, 12 matches played, 4 won. Even? Hell no.)

Take the game rules for what they are. No point whining about how things could be different. So I became a leaver and a quitter.

Of unbalanced matches anyway. Enter a game, notice my side had 4 people and the other side have 5? No one else joining? Outnumbered team getting pounded on as a result? Quit.

Rejoin. Enter new game, notice my side has an AFK member and the other team does not? Can’t swap into the team with a massive advantage? Quit.

Rejoin. I only stayed in games where I noticed all ten players actively participating. Trust me, you can tell. The end score is usually 500 / 280+. At least the losing team is trying and fighting.

Sad thing is, Dragon Ball is actually a fun game when participants are all roughly on the same level. I finally lucked into a good game of all present players…

Here’s the scoreboard of the most nailbiting and evenly matched fight that made my previously rather low opinion of Dragon Ball take a 180 degree U-turn.

evenmatch

That game was intense. The scores climbed evenly for the most part. By that point, I was getting familiar with the game format enough to start experimenting with more sophisticated skills beyond power up skill 1 and chase people. Preferably together in a gang with someone targeted. There was a crowning moment of awesome for me when I managed to get off a shield and cause two players on the other side to kill themselves with reflected projectiles and leave the last player in the group of 3 chasing us suddenly outnumbered by two people, who promptly died.

Suddenly I had the revelation that there was indeed a skill component to Dragon Ball after all – beyond just temporarily outnumber your opponents and dodge really fucking well (and grab health when you see it.)

I started experimenting and learning. Take a left at the start, and pick up the AoE skill and keep going left for the power up to skill 1. The shield is down thattaway between the sewage tunnels. Between those two skills, I was able to put up quite a fight and hopefully kill someone 1 on 1.

I dumped skill 1 on autoattack fairly early on. I get the feeling my latency is not great enough to match spamming skill 1 for a player with better ping, and I’d tradeoff getting timing right for slightly higher DPS. The only thing to be careful of was to detarget or spin around really quick if a player put up the shield, and one could tell from the buffs whether a player had it or no.

Run and evade like hell around corners, change elevation and run for where the health stuff is, when facing a team running in a pack and you’re alone. This got me better at movement and evading, even though I tended to lag off the jump pads now and then (I suppose the erratic lag-caused movements helps in evasion, so well, not complaining, take the game for what it is.)

This generally only tended to prolong the seconds before one’s death, if a group of guys was out to get you. Surely, I said to myself, there must be a way to counter this. What hurts groups of players? Light bulb goes on in my head – AOE! And lookie, the AoE weapon causes 30 damage!

Granted, it takes some practice to use, and to lead players so that the projectile lands on them, rather than missing. I generally can only pull it off like 30% of the time, and die otherwise, but hey, any chance is better than no chance at all, sometimes. It really fucking hurts too if someone shields up and you get the AoE back in your face.

But I’ve also had some LOL moments when I see my team and the other team duking it out at the bottom in a big pack of them outnumbering my side, and I sneak up behind them from up high, and shoot an AoE right down into the clump. Then jump right in, shield up my team, and well, suffice to say it can sometimes change the battle. Not all the time, but enough times to make it rewarding enough to keep an eye out for the opportunity.

I’ve learned it’s pretty rewarding to keep trying to master the AoE, because if you’re 1 vs 1 against another player, and you can pull off a 30hp hit on them plus your regular 15 damage attack, that’s the battle skewed in your favor really fast.

After having the kick used on me to fairly effective effect, I’ve been trying it out too. The idea is to close in on a player, preferably 1 on 1, and land the daze. It interrupts them, dazes them long enough to get some good 15 hp hits in and normally leads to them dying or at very low health running the hell away.

The only thing I haven’t really managed to use to great effect yet is the chill trap. I suppose it would serve to slow down people chasing you, but honestly, who has time to lay down a trap when one is focused on getting the hell away and juking as fast as possible… Maybe I’ll figure that skill out some day, probably when others use it on me.

The damage power up is quite interesting. I usually see it only used by a dominating group, which makes life exceedingly miserable for the losing team. But I did get the opportunity once to snatch it away while on the losing side and fire it right into the most kitted out, best scoring player on the opposition. I died doing that because he had three other flunkies helping to kill me. BUT HE DIED TOO. And lost all his weapons! Temporarily, anyway. We weren’t going to recover from that regardless as the balance was already too skewed, BUT IT WAS SATISFYING. Rarrrrrr. Defiant to the end and all that.

I have to thank that very active game and all the players who stuck it out for match after even match for helping me learn Dragon Ball in a satisfying manner. (I guess everyone else was also relieved to have a game where no one was AFK.)

bottomfun

Alas, after some time of well matched games, as people left due to either finishing their ‘win’ achievements or just moving on, we had people come in that well, weren’t at the same level of skill, shall we say.

With increasing irony, as I continued just playing, I noticed my team becoming the stacked team as the more “pro” players decided they wanted to all be together and maul the other team – who were beginning to express frustration on map chat, “Wow, my team always loses.” “Oh sure, all the pro pvp players on one side, and beginning pvp’ers on another.”

I said nothing.

I did not swap teams.

I was on 12/20 wins for the achievement and there was still a ways to go.

GW2: There Goes the Neighborhood

Let’s be playfully controversial today.

Breaking news of the last few hours is that two of the core three Aussie guilds that laid big foundations for the Isle of Janthir server, Southern Cross (SC) and The Kelly Gang (TKG) have transferred off the server and moved on to Jade Quarry.

While I’m a little disappointed that a core bit of the server community will no longer be there, and the logical thinker in me understands perfectly, the cynic in me is chortling.

Say whatever pretty things you like about “commitment,” it appears that there are many different types of commitment after all.

There’s commitment to the server and its community (aka server loyalty,) there’s commitment to one’s guild and personal friends (aka guild loyalty) and there’s also, horror of horrors, commitment to having fun (and all the varieties thereof.)

And it turns out, some are prioritized over others.

It is clear that for SC and TKG, that lately, the Isle of Janthir has not been giving them the level of professional hardcore WvW action that these guilds, regular 7 days a week, rain or shine participants, have been seeking. The Oceanic timezone in particular seems to be a morass of casual leaderless zergs pitted against some huge, well-led, tactically minded teams. Uphill fighting against stupidity is always hideously morale draining.

(Personally, I’ve flipped my hours some on the weekends and been playing more in the NA timeslot which seems to have better tactics and use of siege, so yeah…)

And after, we presume, a carefully considered decision, they’ve decided to prioritize the enjoyment of their guild members and their fun by moving on to a decidedly more WvW-focused T1 server, where the fights will no doubt be a lot more exciting and constant and competitive and at the level which they prefer.

I rest my case.

Fun über alles.

Chase the fun, for whatever definitions you find fun, because anything else leads to burnout.

Chortling aside, it makes me start to wonder if this guild moving phenomenon we’re seeing has been considered by the designers when they made WvW.

Are we seeing something that will ultimately be healthy for WvW, in that these periodic guild shifts provide change and novelty to servers who are moving towards stagnancy in their tiers based on ELO rating?

Some people claim they’re getting sick of seeing the same faces in WvW, the same guilds and the same tactics for the past, oh… 2-3 weeks now. More and more, it’s looking like players -don’t- have long term patience after all and a one week matchup is about as long as ArenaNet can push it. The hoped-for two weeks? I suspect a rebellion would be had and 75% of WvW players will turn up in Orr and in dungeons instead.

Guild movements shake those things up, with a little drama spice on the side. Especially if it’s a big guild shifting territory. Titan Alliance and RUIN in particular have sent Henge of Denravi and Eredon Terrace on a freefall towards the bottom rankings, causing a mad jostling of servers as they inherited pieces of TA.

Alas, all the excitement is to be had on the corpses of two servers.

Personally, if something that drastic happened to IoJ, I would transfer out too. (My own criteria is a crowded server, enough to PUG dungeons with at the timezones I play, enough to accomplish DEs in Orr, and to a lesser extent, enough WvW action going on.)

Or is it unhealthy, in the sense that these multi-game-spanning guilds are more focused on their own communities and less about fostering -server- communities?

One of the constant complaints from players of oldschool MMOs is that these newfangled MMOs simply don’t feel like home anymore, no one recognizes each other, there’s no familiarity and certainly, no such thing as server loyalty.

For a while there, I harbored a little idealistic hope that perhaps we would see something different in Guild Wars 2, that as more level 80s migrated to the WvW endgame, trust and respect would be engendered and there would be more server togetherness.

More and more, it’s looking like this optimism is getting brutally shot in the face. For one thing, WvW is not the only endgame. It does look like a hefty helping of PvE players would never be caught dead (or alive) in a PvP zone, as sanitized and un-trash-talky as WvW is. When I take some time out to farm stuff in Orr, I see a whole bunch of new different faces that I’ve never seen in WvW before.

Trust, respect and server togetherness? Hahaha. Since the week of IoJ’s tier 1 foray, where I think a shit ton of people pushed themselves over and above the limits of human endurance and monetary expenditure, the WvW maps have gotten somewhat worse in terms of armchair commanders, less communication and scouting calls, and an increase in tactical bickering that has led to a minor server implosion. I suspect SC and TKG are not the only guilds to move out, I haven’t seen certain other tags lately either.

I’m only relieved that it’s so far, been a minor implosion. Other servers have had it worse in terms of how much drama surrounded their “tactical disagreements.”

It’s looking more like what’s happening is that there is a WvW community forming, rather than separate server communities. Like professional athletes, some of the more hardcore WvW guilds look to be cycling from team to team, wearing whatever colors suit them at the moment, pitting themselves against the challenges they prefer. Screw the server, they’re all just pretty names, ultimately it’s the guild tags they wanna fight.

And I do have to wonder what this means in the long term for WvW.

PvP is an inherently competitive dog-eat-dog format. What we often see in FFA open world PvP scenarios is a few large guilds clambering on top of everyone else, destroying the will of the majority to even enter the fight. The sheep wander off somewhere else to have fun. The wolves run out of sheep and start preying on each other. And then even the weakest wolves quit and the remaining few look up and start whining that there’s no one left to beat on. Cue the end of that short-lived open world PvP MMO.

WvW is obviously not as bad or as accelerated a death spiral as that. But word is that even the biggest servers are finding WvW participation dropping off, that the outmanned buff has been seen at various timezones and the queues are shortening (except on reset days and weekends.)

Do we read into these guild movements a sign of server consolidation, a circling of the wagons, PvPers seeking out their own kind, a hope that they can achieve the holy grail of three servers fighting 24/7 indefinitely (perhaps six servers was too optimistic, given the forces of entropy acting on a three-month old MMO?)

It’s really hard to say, because a month ago, a lot more guilds dispersed out the other direction to attempt to fill 5-6 servers.

But I really wonder, in the long term, if we’ll see these guilds closing ranks again as attrition takes its toll.

What’s the cause of the attrition? I’m not sure. It could be a combination of many factors. People get tired of the MMO and stop playing, period. Tons of new games to hold their attention with. Or people getting tired of the lack of, ahem, external reward in WvW. PvPers live for the battle, but there isn’t enough of them to fill all the maps, and I suspect PvE folks are discovering that other GW2 activities are a lot more profitable in terms of virtual monetary gain.

I can run a dungeon three times a day and get 75 silver easily in just end-of-dungeon reward, not to mention the spare coins from the items in the chests and the mobs which may drop 5-15 silver.

I put on a magic find suit, and go to town spamming staff 1 in certain Orr DEs – I still hate Plinx, it’s over-farmed, but I’m quite fond of the Gates of Arah and Grenth chains – and it’s like a loot pinata of blues, greens, crafting materials and the occasional yellow. (Only still in the 90-100% magic find range. It might get even better with higher.)

I spent an hour flashing blade teleporting into various air elemental sparks, killing them meditatively to music, and I even met two guys in my timezone to party with, and all three of us popped 4, 3 and 2 charged lodestones respectively. You know how much that goes for on the TP? 2 gold each! (I’m still debating on whether I should be hoarding my measly two in an effort to get 250 for a pretty greatsword skin, or if I should just offload the darned things now.)

If we run the merry go around supply camp karma train in WvW, maaaybe we might get an insanely good karma rate and decent gold return, but frankly, it isn’t tactically sound at all. No, instead, most of the tactically sound options are goldsinks. It’s draining, in every sense of the word.

And I think, increasingly, people are wondering, what’s the point?

If you’re a T2 or T3 server, there’s a common goal. Wheeee, we wanna get to T1!

When you get there, the brutal truth is that you find out it’s just more of the same. More relentlessly paced.

Which really starts to differentiate those who love the art of killing and live for the ganks, while weeding out those who don’t really find it fun.

Not to mention, for some people, there’s also commitment to real life, to balance out commitment to fun and all the other types of commitment mentioned above.

I used to push 8-10 hours easily on weekends just WvWing, probably 12-16 when it was really ‘important’ with time out only for meals and an afternoon nap. Weekdays, maybe 3-5 hours in the night. Fun in the moment, fun while it lasted, but nothing lasts forever, eh? It’s like riding the launch wave because those crowds only come around once.

Some rethinking of my priorities later, it seems more personally healthy to me to only commit say, 1-3 hours as and when I feel like it, because obligations lead to burnout.

Surely, I’m not the only one.

And slowly, but surely, the WvW population might begin to shrink.

Let us also expect a dramatic crash next week, as the new and novel PvE content rolls out. Depending on how interesting and rewarding and repeatable the upcoming Lost Shores dungeon content is, I wonder how long it might take WvW to recover, and whether it will ever be the same again.