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.”

GW2: Heart of Thorns Day 2 Impressions

I’m gonna take a page from Bhagpuss and use disconnected bullet points, because it’s impossible to organize one’s thoughts and still have as much time as possible to play GW2 before all my day off time is used up and I have to get back to the workaday grind again.

  • Found the Falls in GW2! Had a serious lore gasm! Was running around telling everybody in the vicinity (ok, just one guy who would listen) that OMG it looks exactly like the Falls in GW1
Guild Wars 2 Falls
The Falls in Guild Wars 2

As proof, I submit exhibit A, your honor, a screenshot taken during my personal Wayfarer’s Reverie way back in 2012.

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Even the tree on top of the three waterfalls is there, and the color of that sun…

  • Day 2 was essentially sample-lots-of-meta-events day.

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I logged in to hear on Teamspeak that TTS NA was planning a trial run of the Dragon’s Stand meta-event.

Dragon’s Stand?! Wtf is that, was my first reaction. Turns out, it’s the very last fourth zone on the map. Which I have obviously not even been to yet. (Nor did I touch the third zone until late tonight.)

Fortunately, all those Teleport to Friend items from the third birthday present ended up proving themselves handy. We were advised to just grab one of those consumables, party up with a guildie and teleport to friend directly over, skipping through a great deal of unattractive running past Mordrem and dinosaurs.

Damn, the meta event is like Vinewrath, Triple Trouble (and possibly Marionette too) on steroids. You know all those people wishing madly that the devs would split up the zerg and have different groups running through different channels doing their own things and contributing to the overall map goal? Yep. Dragon’s Stand has it in spades.

My group had the south/east-most one, a whole set of chained events moving through various tunnels and corridors, involving in turn a fair amount of group splitting because we had to escort NPCs, prevent really nasty bosses from wrecking said NPC’s faces, and so on.

It ended in what is suspected to be a penultimate challenge before the real boss Boss – one chamber for each split zerg that required even further splitting to take down three objects simultaneously, and eventually I suspect, a small group will split off to keep the legendary champion causing chaos in the chamber from doing that. (Our first attempt pretty much had said champion wreaking serious havoc on one of the groups who was trying to take down said object.)

Said legendary champion has an invulnerability shield, which is only taken down when all three objects are destroyed.

Oh. And all three legendary champions have to be killed simultaneously.

Hahahahahahahaha… Talk about a serious coordination challenge.

I’m looking forward to further attempts though. This is going to be pretty meaty content for large-scale organized groups, something I was a little worried we were moving away from with impending raids.

I’m super keen for the day when everyone has learned roughly what to do and has all the masteries needed, and we get to see super-organized parties and groups and squads splitting up in perfect synchronisation to do their jobs and slide through the encounters smoothly.

The one criticism that I’m hearing so far is that some of these pre-events can take upwards of an hour or two to get through before the main event, so to speak. That’s quite a bit of time that not everyone may have to spare.

Not sure, maybe things will speed up as people figure out how to split up groups so that things don’t scale insanely and learn how to do each event efficiently. Waiting for NPC escorts to move though, tends to put a finite limit on the pacing. Swiftness can only make ’em run that fast.

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This Wyvern Patriarch encounter in Verdant Brink was nuts. A really good kind of nuts.

I didn’t manage to finish this one yet, as I was peacefully soloing my way through Maguuma masteries and decided to be an iconoclast and actually DEFEND one of the rally points during the night meta-event of Verdant Brink.

I know, I know, how dare I not act like 95% of the other players and be constitutionally incapable of staying in one place for a couple minutes for an event to start.

I basically defended for 20 minutes or so, leaving the rally point vicinity only to try and run Pact Supplies into the rally point to build it up and/or try and escort a nearby Pact Soldier carrying supplies in.

Eventually the choppers arrived to take folks to the canopy… where this guy was waiting at my particular rally point – Shrouded Ruins.

(There are apparently champion encounters for each rally point. Haven’t seen all of them. There’s a Legendary Wyvern that nearly everyone sees, as it’s on top of the central Pact Encampment waypoint.)

I was plinking away at it solo for a while, observing its attacks (mostly a really nasty cone AoE painted on the ground if you got close, and a projectile one that left a circular burning AoE on the ground if you stayed at range.)

A second guy turned up, he of the minion master kind, and we were tackling him for a while as a duo, when I looked at the time limit we had for remaining night time and the state of this legendary wyvern patriarch’s health bar and decided we kinda really needed a few more reinforcements.

So I called out on map chat for help and provided directions on how to get to said boss, and we managed to attract 3-4 more players with that…

…it was enough to take him down to 75% of his health, whereupon he cheerfully showed us his next phase.

He coated the entire rocky platform with burning flame, forcing us to jump off the platform and glide around, using updrafts to get back. On a lower level below, some adolescent wyverns popped up, that could be attacked, and there were wyvern eggs that had to be picked up.

The idea was that you had to jump off the platform, glide to said cavern, grab a wyvern egg, jump off and into an updraft, and be lifted over the wyvern patriarch, whereupon you would toss the wyvern egg at him to break his shield. Literally dive-bombing with gliders.

It was ridiculously fun. Only about 1-2 of us managed to figure out what to do (or had the requisite masteries) but we nearly got all of his shield off before we ran out of time. But that was a really good kind of nuts. Can’t wait to eventually find a group that can actually do it in sync. Would be hilarious, methinks.

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Another Verdant Brink champion fight of the very satisfying kind.

This particular one felt satisfying because it was just five PUGs, we were essentially strangers who had never met each other before, just happened to be defending the same rally point together, and we went up the chopper to see these two frog champions.

Someone had apparently done this fight before, and he took the time to type out some quick advice – mostly of the “this is a pretty hard fight” “someone with masteries needs to hop up the mushrooms to prevent one frog from healing in a fountain” “both need to die near simultaneously, so keep them low on health but don’t kill” variety.

Basically felt like a Vassar and Ralena sort of fight, two champions acting in tandem, one big fat Nuhoch frog doing stompy stuff and the thinner frog doing stealthy snipery stuff.

Both frogs’ bars had some words along the lines of “buffs/heals each other when in range” so I decided that it would probably be best to try and keep them separated as much as possible.

Turns out I have a rather crazy capacity to attract aggro with my scepter/torch (there’s some rumor that it’s the number of hits that might play an effect, and definitely I can output a really alarming amount of hits between smite, scepter auto and torch spamming, all critting in zerker so probably fairly good damage too), so I decided to just focus fire the big Nuhoch guy and pull him away to one side while the other four were duking it out with sniper frog guy.

I really really like fighting Nuhoch. They’re really big and kinda slow, so their tells are obvious enough for me to see, read and respond. It’s really satisfying to see him get ready to leap, and then roll away to the side just as the orange circle appears under me and he comes leaping over or belly flopping.

The other four got their frog to low (whereupon he promptly vanished, heading for the fountain presumably) and I saw them come over to mess around with Nuhoch guy. One guy ran off after the sniper frog in the fountain with mushrooms, and I decided to join him since I had the bouncing mushroom mastery, and the other three looked like they could manage the Nuhoch.

We hopped all the way up to the fountain, where we found thin sniper frog bathing and healing at an ungodly rate in the fountain, and I unleashed all the crowd control I had at my disposal in an attempt to interrupt him before he got to full.

(Fortunately, a little before this, I had swapped to Signet of Power (knockdown on activate) and Hammer of Wisdom (knockdown on command) while in Auric Basin because there were just way too many angry dinosaurs that needed breakbar damage. Add on an immobilize for DoT and I can normally juust take down a non-scaled breakbar while soloing,  and do a sizeable chunk or at least -contribute- to most breakbars in a group – assuming non insane scaling.)

Sniper frog had a tidy sliver of breakbar left, and luckily the other guy jumped the frog and did some manner of thiefy or revenant thing to him which took out the last bit of breakbar. That shorted out his healing, and he returned to the ground having healed up only half his health or so.

(Presumably if there were one or two people already stationed up there waiting for him, they could have returned him to the ground faster. We had to improvise, pretty much.)

The three on the ground had smacked the Nuhoch dead in the meantime, so it was just a matter of clean up on the other guy.

Before you knew it, a Froglicker achievement was had, and everyone was high-fiving each other for being awesome.

Impromptu five man fight. Really neat.

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Then there’s encounters of the not-so-neat kind.

Hahaha, the Legendary Wyvern…

I was a little spoiled. Besides the beta fights of this wyvern, where after much say chat coaxing, I managed to get enough revenants to hit one skill on their weapons in sync to net the wyvern -once-, my first fight of this guy on the live servers was with a TTS group where a considerable number of people actually know what an interrupt/crowd control is, and someone was yelling “break bar break bar” over Teamspeak every time the green bar showed up, so about halfway into the fight, the group had more or less managed to keep it relatively grounded (but still cutting it a bit close, because not everyone had specifically specced for it, I don’t think.)

In subsequent PUG maps where I just pop my head in, because I’m grinding masteries and the choppers show up… well, you can forget any hope of grounding this fellow, because the horde of 40-50 people are pewpewing uncontrollably at it and probably thinking that the wyvern sweeps are unavoidable, and the break bar is scaled up to the point of 2-3 people being unable to compensate for the lack of everyone else’s cc contribution.

I have more or less resigned myself to lots and lots of puke green lines of death in a PUG wyvern fight for now. I suppose eventually everyone will learn, but urgh, it’s painful right now.

There was one rather funny fight where I tried to type break bar instructions into say chat, and an Anet guy was there in the same fight, and he said ‘cc’ when the green bar came up… and both of us watched the entire group promptly fail to even take it down 75% of the way, because apparently no one was a) reading say chat, b) had cc on the bar and/or c) couldn’t get out of combat to switch.

After which, I crashed out of that map – one of the few times I haven’t minded an out of memory error – and logged back into another wyvern fight. Whose map group also equally failed to take down the break bar, but it was at least really low on health compared to the other map so the pain was minimized somewhat.

The latest technical problems seem to be said out-of-memory crashes.

I haven’t seen hide nor hair of them since I swapped to Windows 7 and 16GB of RAM in the new computer, but somehow they are back in the last few patches of GW2 – possibly a combination of some memory leaks, the amount of time I’m spending in-game and the number of different player models I keep bumping into while doing group content and it being forced to render all of them.

I’ve had to crank down graphics settings a bit – rumor mill suggests something to do with anti-aliasing, as well as lowering visible player models. I knocked off some shadows while I was there. Less crashing now, but still somewhat unpredictable.

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The last meta-event attempted was in Auric Basin, with the Octovines.

This is another rather intricate affair, with some really lengthy pre-event chains that have different groups splitting up to all four cardinal directions to help light up some pylons for extra magic armor.

The jury’s still out on whether these chains are necessary, or no, but for the first few attempts, I think the whole group wanted to maximize our chances. (Also, getting more people mastery xp and more of the map explored couldn’t hurt.)

It ends up in the city proper with four different groups performing different mechanics to weaken a shield and kill the Octovines. Simultaneously, mind you.

There’s some role differentiation. People with specific masteries can dress up in glowy armored suits and perform a tank/control/support role, doing their best to push some traps away from the main group and keep some big nasty dinosaurs stunned/controlled/out of the way.

The main group has to do their thing bombing down the Octovine shield with said different mechanics.

A particularly nice touch that we discovered was that there are interconnecting corridors within the city, so one group can run to another side’s aid if theirs is done and another side is having a bit of trouble.

I suspect the meta-event also rewards partial success, if only some Octovines go down. It’s just that no one had figured out where all the loot chests were located prior to this.

Celebratory group picture at the successful end.
Celebratory group picture at the successful end. (Note the cranked down player models on the periphery, had to lower settings since I initially crashed on first contact with a big group of players at one side.)

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  • In other news, the solo story continues…

(It’s pretty hard trying to find a screenshot absent of spoilers, but I think this one is ok. Hey, it shows that it’s not ALL green jungle out there.)

Blaugust Day 28: What I Hope Does Happen When “Raids” Hit GW2

So now that I’ve taken a cold, hard look at my worse fear – being forced to leave the game I enjoy playing, what do I hope will actually be announced in the “challenging group content” PAX announcement happening in less than 24 hours?

Now is the time I put on my optimistic hat and go with the assumption that my favorite devs aren’t stupid, aren’t stomping all over their stated philosophies when they implement “raids” into their game and like coming up with innovative spins on old systems that polish away the nasty bits while accentuating the good bits.

Now is the time I make my best guesses to see just how close or completely far off track my thinking is from the good folks who make GW2… just for the fun of it.

(Black-and-white for people prone to misreading: NONE OF THIS IS REAL. These are just my guesses. We will hear what’s actually going to happen in slightly more than 12 hours’ time.)

1. Open World “Challenging Group Content”

There will be some raid-like monsters present in the open world. Some may be similar to Vinewrath in the Silverwastes, that is, unlocked by a focused/organized whole map effort doing necessary dynamic events, and then consisting of several different fight phases. We might even see the appearance of ‘rare’ world bosses to hunt down- given a prior example of how we appear to have ‘rare’ mobs in Dry Top making an odd appearance now and then – though I’d really hope they tweak the spawn rate up if that is the case.

By placing some of these raid-like stuff in the open world, we will still have the advantage of making some of this content open to all players, that they can stumble into an organized group attempt and then consider joining said guild or community if they are interested – ie. lowered barrier of entry, as opposed to the typical vertical progression barrier scenario of “sorry, your gearscore is not high enough, you can’t do this.”

It is entirely likely that some of the world bosses in core Tyria that are now on timers will get a bit of a challenge upgrade, even if it is merely as simple as including the defiance breakbar that we know is coming. (This may lead to some bitching and complaining from those presently enjoying the mindless choo-choo, but I personally doubt that the challenge will ramp up to horrific levels, it may simply be a sort of “tutorial” mode difficulty levels for raids and make more world bosses Claw of Jormag tedious until the population adapts.)

2. Instanced “Challenging Group Content”

It will not be just fractals, though we know a fractal revamp is coming that will bring fractals to 100, but smooth the difficulty of the lower levels down so that the barrier of entry will be lowered there too.

It will not just be revamped dungeons, though if a whole bunch of dungeon bosses don’t suddenly incorporate the breakbar with a resultant small spike in challenge, and/or have some of the more egregious exploits fixed… then we will know that Anet has pretty much given up with the existing dungeons.

What I am hoping is that instanced raids are tied to being opened/activated by guilds.

Maybe this will be similar to present guild missions, opening out a spot on the map that anyone can enter (which would make it an open-world raid, see 1. above), or just trigger a teleport to an instanced map that only guild members can use, making it a closed raid.

I’m thinking that the most elegant way of producing these raids would be tying the system with the previously announced guild hall maps. It would make total sense to unlock guild hall buildings and trophies and basically a “group” reward each time the group manages to conquer a difficult and challenging boss.

Maybe the personal reward could be guild commendations and/or an odd specific currency or two – mordrem hound head, mordrem wyvern tail, whatever (as long as said guild vendors expand and offer more neat stuff like Ascended armors, unique gear designs, minis, plus guild hall decorations). We’d have our token buy reward system for raids, we’d have some individual benefit, and still channel most of the effort towards the social/group progression aspect which imo, is one of the better aspects of the whole concept of “raiding.”

The inherent exclusivity of a closed instanced raid is much easier to swallow if you tie it to something that is already “limited membership” only, and then leave the players to set their own barriers of entry. Some guilds will naturally put down some very high bars/thresholds to fulfill (eg. I hear some dungeon guilds want you to be able to solo Lupicus in order to coach/teach others, etc.), and some guilds will remain more open for anyone to join.

Some players will not join guilds, period, and those are the people that are probably not interested or cannot make the commitments (time, certain builds, need for organization) that raids/challenging group content tends to require anyway, so that’s already a first round of self-selection done, without any ‘entitlement’ histrionics.

(I’ve never really seen people throw an entitlement fit over Triple Trouble Wurm, for example. The people who aren’t interested/motivated enough simply assume that they can never do it and either give up or never bother to approach a community. Everyone else who wants something from the wurm, be it seeing done it once, just getting achievements, or running it ad nauseam, found a community that got them what they needed.)

Then all Anet needs to do is keep a weather eye out over how the ‘meta’ threshold requirements are shifting, and tweak mob difficulty accordingly so that it meets whatever the plan is.

With guilds, there’s your kicking mechanism and threat to wield to enforce appropriate behavior right there. Act like an idiot? Boot, you’re out of the guild and you can’t do X raids with us any longer.

With guilds, there’s incentive for a longer term social contract and better community behavior, rather than the merry-go-around “easy, press a button, exchange a teammate” of LFG where some people feel there’s no consequence for being obnoxious to easily-replaceable strangers. We -really- don’t need that extra encouragement for toxic behavior in GW2 raids – we’ll have enough of that hostility in the open world “challenging group content” already, given some people’s tendencies to vent their frustrations and run their mouths in mapchat.

3. The Unexpected / Invasions / Raid “Rifts” as Extra Challenging Group Content?

The last bit of speculation may be a little far out there, but given some hints from data-mining and the oft-repeated desire (not mine, personally) for GW1-like Fissure of Woe or Underworld content, where a crack team of people venture into an instance and get a whole bunch of desirable awards for performing well, and can be assembled up spontaneously from whoever’s around at the time…

… one last cherry on top to accompany 1. and 2. would be the introduction of random portals/doorways into a “raid” instance – akin to something we already see on GW2 Halloween. This would be the middle ground between completely open and completely closed, would satisfy the odd desire of something LFR-like, would have the random lottery feel – both one’s PUGmates and rewards would likely be RNG – and probably allow for bringing back some very old and desirable and $$$ cosmetic skins like jetpack, ghastly grining shield, scarlet’s kiss, whatever.

This might even be seasonally turned on or off, to bring that completely unpredictable and unexpected, high risk/high reward bonus feeling.

Between 1, 2 and 3, I think this would catch pretty much nearly all the different types of raids possible, and offer a multitude of lateral progression gameplay activities for people to choose from. They could do some, all, none as desired, and only lose out on the unique cosmetic stuff, while still (hopefully) having alternative avenues to get whatever desirable stuff they want (even if it’s just buying it from the TP as the alternative.)

Account-bound titles, plus some unique cosmetics, would let the prestige-seeking raiders still show off their things that can’t be otherwise bought, while still making a decent gold profit from the stuff they -can- sell to others who don’t like their particular raid activity.

The key is that as long there aren’t artificial barriers of entry that discourage new influx, a wealth of possible raid options catering to different styles, alternative means/options for gaining desired rewards, and no critical story content tied to said challenging group content that some people aren’t likely to want to do, raids in GW2 aren’t likely to be so bad.

Especially since we don’t have vertically progressing stats on gear AND can freely switch our traits and builds on the fly (where’s that build-saver already, dammit), as opposed to other games with more fixed roles.

How can Anet screw it up? Introducing design choices that are opposite to the stuff named above. New infusions that add on more stats. Grind such and such new stat or mastery to qualify for the next tier of raids. Only do this one raid if you want X item, only do that other raid if you want Y item. Tie raid content to Living Story progression. Set difficulty that demands such high performance that people feel obliged to measure every last number and to kick anyone who doesn’t perform in a picture-perfect robotic and macro’ed manner. Unsoweiter.

I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen.

P.S. I’m really only expecting 1. and 2. to appear in the coming announcement, but I’m ready to be surprised by 3. or 4. Something I haven’t thought of / foreseen, just in case.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Birthday, Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 28.