GW2: The Nerfs Will Continue Until Morale Improves

The watchword of the day is annoyance.

I suppose this is a change from the past month, where the operating phrase was “cruise control.”

However, I am not sure this is a terribly positive change.

The silver lining, of course, is that I finally got frustrated enough to break through into coherence on this blog again.

Most of last month was me questioning myself, “What are you feeling when you play the games you’re playing? Do you have anything to write or blog about?”

And the reply, as always, was “ehh… nothing very much. I’m not sure I’m feeling anything. Kinda numb. Empty. Just cruising. Kinda contented, I guess. Not happy happy. But not depressed or sad either. I’m just doing what needs to be done.

“A chore is a chore is a chore. It’s not super-tedious, but it’s nothing to get excited over either. You do it, mark it off the to-do list for the day or week, and proceed not to think about it any longer. You certainly don’t find a dire need to wax eloquently on a blog about brushing your teeth, bathing, cleaning the house, picking up groceries, paying the bills, doing GW2 dailies, doing PoE dailies, -every- day and -every- post.

“You know what? This is too much thinking about trying to write about nothing. Let’s go play Path of Exile. Your next build is waiting to be leveled or improved incrementally.”

The result: zero blog posts.

Until now. Where ArenaNet’s somewhat overzealous nerf of the standard chronomancer and necromancer raid meta builds promises ripple effects that will shake up the meta, in as yet unknown ways.

Doom and gloom has a way of spreading across Reddit and the forums though, and the knee-jerk reactions of others are not doing wonders for -my- mood either.

The reason why I’m blogging about it though is mostly a need to work out a bunch of conflicting emotions, and having no other outlet but to lay it all out here.

I have an underlying foundation of stability throughout whatever the hell excuse for “balance” occurs in GW2. The fact is that it is possible to own one of every class, if not more. I am also quite confident in being able to equip each class with whatever the hell is defined as “good” in the next meta, even if it will cost time and money to do so.

So even as one class gets hit with the nerf bat, another class will naturally be in ascendance, and if I have to equip and change to that class, SO BE IT. It is doable.

I know that I can -eventually- adapt to whatever’s needed. My raid group is full of people who can multiclass, so chances are fairly good that eventually the team will sort itself out into a new configuration that can cope – even if we might have to wait for the new strategies to be developed and then faithfully ape in cookie-cutter fashion.

Of course, doable does not mean easy, cheap or enjoyable.

Some classes aesthetically appeal to different personalities more. Some classes are easier to play without having to manage a concerto on the keyboard. Some classes have cheaper builds or less specific role responsibility to tax one’s concentration and reflexes.

I’d previously found a very happy place in raids as a condi PS berzerker-warrior.

I fulfill a support role by buffing might and providing banners. It even gives fury and added condition damage. Adding on burns on a boss ups the dps of the necromancer-reapers, who get a serious amount of burns to epidemic bounce.

I enjoy condition damage, it’s strategically different from straight up direct damage, there’s having to pay attention to layering on stacks and yet being able to pause and dodge and deal with other mechanics for a breath while still pulsing damage.

Also it is FIRE. My readers should know my pyromaniac obsession by now. I have the most luck sticking to classes and builds that let me play with fire, be it City of Heroes, Path of Exile or GW2. Fire particle effects just make me happy.

dropbearonfire

morefire

Not terribly original, perhaps, being a darkity dark lord with shoulder spikes and on fire, but who freaking cares when you can watch the world burn?

coh_worldburn

Warriors are straightforward. They hit things with their head. A perfect match personality-wise. They’re fairly survivable and sturdy – which is good because I tend to be clumsy and insta-die on squishier classes.

They contribute a decent amount of control. Condi PS especially excels with immobilizes, and I have felt successful in my niche but not terribly demanding role holding Gorseval spirits and escort wargs.

And I am now sulking and in a spot of mourning because it looks like the ripple effect is going to catch condi PS warriors in its wake.

The “common knowledge” being bandied about is that condi PS can no longer keep up 25 might stacks without a mesmer’s signet of inspiration to help it along.

This is true. If you’re in the standard condi PS build.

I spent a fairly fruitful if moderately frustrated night of testing with the dps golem ways and means to keep up 25 might stacks on a condi PS.

After a bunch of experiments, I determined that it was possible to stretch boon duration in various ways (with the understandable tradeoff of a slight drop in personal dps.)

Instead of rare veggie pizza, for example, one could eat dumplings and gain 20% boon duration at the cost of 20% condition duration. This, of course, is not terribly desirable.

So I invested a bunch of gold, leveled a scribe to 225 (hoorah for hoarding materials), and made a superior sigil of concentration. Dump that on the bow, dump a sigil of battle (cheap option, I was ready to go two sigil of concentrations if needed) on the torch, and voila, extended boon duration and a few more might stacks at the cost of some bleed dps from two sigils of earth.

Actual raid testing proved it was possible to maintain 25 might stacks with blasting might on the bow, For Great Justice and a bunch of extended might duration from sigil of strength crits.

Unfortunately, even as that bit of personal testing proved a success, our raid group was discovering the other ramifications of the nerf.

No one brought a rev, so our break bars – which were previously heavily dependent on rev breaking – ended up getting broken more slowly.

No one brought a necro, except in a few odd tests after repeated failures with a new comp, so the group struggled with mechanics that previously the necros with their many minions were taking care of. So… cage on trio caught a bunch of damage from adds that were previously tied up with minions and downed by epidemic. Conditions were flying left, right and center on Matthias and to a lesser extent, on sloth, without plague signet. Unmanaged adds on Xera were lethal distractions.

Without minions to heal, the druids had less astral force to go into celestial avatar and less healing ability, which was not really able to keep up with a spoiled bunch of clumsy souls used to getting topped off despite mistakes. Said clumsy souls were also mostly adapting to new builds or rotations and distracted, hence the mistakes.

It’s unknown what strategy our raid group is going to settle on. We were previously very necro heavy and banking heavily on conditions and epidemic bounce. I don’t know if the viper horror minion nerf means they are now off the table for good – the only hope for them is if their epidemic bounces are still strong enough to deal sufficient dps – but it’s not looking terribly promising.

This puts my condi PS warrior in a really bad spot as well, despite managing 25 might stacks, because to me, I exist to help boost necromancer epidemics with plenty of burns. The fact that a ranged build is easier to play in a number of these raid encounters was a bonus.

If there are no more necromancers, there is much less reason for me to be playing condi PS in a raid.

I am better off going normal power PS, in melee, where I can pretty much close my eyes and shit out 25 might stacks without working as hard for it.

Bonus, a power PS has more break bar management than condi PS, which would compensate for the loss of a revenant. They support direct power based builds better, because they never have to decide whether to trade off burning arrows for empower allies, and it looks like the new golden children are going to be elementalists (what’s new?), guardians and thieves, all of whom are direct damage builds.

*sigh*

redvsblue

Again, there’s an odd sense of conflict. I -shouldn’t- feel too terribly upset.

I already have a staff elementalist decked out in ascended (which I still barely know how to play, but have managed successful kills in some off-class runs.)

I have a decked out thief, which I’ve taken to Gorseval before, and can play (but somehow don’t terribly enjoy. Either I don’t have a thief mindset, or I can’t gel with how that particular thief character looks.)

I have lived and breathed guardian life for four years. I can play a guardian in my sleep. My main is a guardian, albeit I was waiting for legendary armor before upgrading his still exotic armor. I also have a second guardian alt that I can easily resurrect – especially since I decked out a revenant which never saw much play (thank goodness, I wasn’t terribly comfy with it) – so I can easily just transfer a whole bunch of ascended heavy armor weight stuff over, if need be.

I have an 80 ranger-druid (that I was going to practice on via world completion, eventually) and a boosted 80 mesmer and engineer (that I was eventually going to take beginner steps to learn, so that I can at least appreciate what the other classes bring to the table), and enough leather and magnetite shards and random ascended drops hoarded that it’s not going to be impossible to equip whatever is needful.

A change in the meta is theoretically a good excuse to learn how to play a new build, and be exposed to more variety in gameplay.

So why is it that I just generally feel annoyed? Like something that was tolerable just got even more tedious?

Well, for one thing, changing over builds means I have to look at my completely unmanaged inventories and try to get them in some semblance of order once again. I have to think and make uncomfortable decisions over which currency to use to buy X ascended item, or grapple with crafting and the mystic forge to make said item or switch stats.

For another, the change in meta means that raid team roles are now in flux once more, and my particular raid group hasn’t even settled on a workable raid composition, let alone who will be in which role most of the time. This leads to discomfort, rather than the numbing comfortable familiarity of knowing that such-and-such player will be here and doing this, and that player will be there doing that.

And while discomfort is all very well when you want to incite players to step up to the challenge and adapt, every time I hit a frustration or discomfort or pain point these days, I start asking myself, “it’s been four years, maybe it’s enough, maybe I’m done with discomfort?”

At the level that I’m playing Path of Exile, there is no discomfort whatsoever –

plagueoffrogs

– only a plague of frogs.

(No doubt at the higher levels, there is great unhappiness every time a patch comes and throws something out of whack. But I have to point out that in PoE, there’s usually something else that can be the new OP thing that patch.)

This leads to a path of least resistance where I find myself double-clicking the PoE icon on the desktop a lot more often than the GW2 icon.

I’m not quitting GW2, of course. I think I’m still too attached to it for now, even if the -developers- seem to be checking out more than moi. (Hi, Amazon Game Studios!)

Both me and my raid group are likely to settle for the path of least resistance too, which is to just wait until the theorycrafters with the interest and too much time on their hands publish their “findings” (regardless of how true the facts are objectively, what is copied and repeated becomes history.)

Or it’ll hit a drama patch and break up. (Always have to prep for that possibility as well. Human nature is human nature.)

Whatever.

Even Legendary Armor can’t get me excited these days.

(I will leave it to a new generation to bitch about exclusivity and lack of alternatives. Bitching implies caring or giving a fuck, something I no longer have the energy for.)

Yeah, it looks pretty acceptably great. The heavy version, anyway, which is all I care about. I can only hope that it doesn’t look fugly as sin on a charr or asura, which are the two main body types on my character stable.

The new raid will probably arrive some time in November, after Halloween. Perhaps there will be more collection steps to work on then. With enough patience, I presume my raid group will eventually get there. Or it will be sad pug life like many others already suffering now to steadily unlock the collection. Or if it proves too painful, then the other alternative is giving up. Then I’ll move on, to some other game.

I can neither get excited or feel stressed about it either way. What happens, happens.

All I am, is a little bit sad about my condi PS, and a little bit annoyed that I have to suffer through more ‘work’ and unenjoyable bits, in order to arrive at a self-chosen goal.

(Not complaining, it’s self-inflicted, delayed gratification is a thing… but just…annoyed.)

In the meantime, in order to get over my annoyance and forget everything but the cheerful meditative smoothness of things falling over and dying without a struggle, I’ll be over in Wraecrast, procrastinating on GW2 stuff I probably oughta do but can’t be arsed to yet.

uniquestrongbox

Likely more exciting loot than I’ll ever see in GW2.

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GW2: What Would You Do, Before the Last Day?

“The last day dawns on the Kingdom of Ascalon. It arrives with no fanfare, no tolling of alarms. Those who will remember, will speak fondly of the warm morning breeze. People carry on with their daily lives, unaware that in a short while… everything they have ever known will come to an end.”

All of Tyria is threatened.

There is no turning back.

You will face a decisive moment.

The point of no return.

gw2-noturningback

All this messaging has set off an interesting Reddit speculation thread, choice snippets of which I include below:

reddit1reddit2reddit3

Nah… there’s no way… they couldn’t…. could they?

Our desire for static unchanging persistence, for “permanent” content, for lack of change, screams “NO.”

Apparently, the promise of an MMO for the bulk of its players is not that it is “living” or simulates the real world with changes that ensure you can never step in the same river twice, the attraction is more the promise of permanent persistence, that it is always there and constant and piling on more and more stuff, a hefty elephant getting bigger and bigger and clunkier as it gets older.

But this is a company though that has proven willing to kill its babies, its already-built content. Stuff gets removed, replaced, new art assets come in to take the place of the old. Changes and iterations, in search of the next optimal or best.

The sylvari didn’t start out looking like how they do now.

Kessex Hills and Lion’s Arch are forever changed.

And you know what, as much as we might hope for rebuilding to occur, for some of that old beauty to return, truth is, we really can’t step in the same river twice.

I don’t think Anet will ever be so lazy as to just patch back in the original art assets and go, hooray, rebuilt!

If Lion’s Arch does get rebuilt again, one day… it might harken back to the old, but I bet it’s going to look different… hopefully better.

But you know, just like that Reddit user said, “I still have this pre-searing feeling…”

Let’s think about it.

Anet wouldn’t want to split the playerbase. Chucking in an expansion’s worth of zone content into a normal expansion box pretty much means that everyone who wants the new stuff will have bought a box and gallivanted off to the new lands. What about the slower players who haven’t played through Tyria, do we make them go through it before they join us in… say, Elona or Cantha?

Well, if open world Tyria isn’t habitable anymore, that kinda solves that problem, doesn’t it?

New players might just start as new Canthans, or new Elonans, or new visitors to the new land. If the content is still spread out on a 1-80 scale, they can pretty much level up in Elona or Cantha without ever knowing Tyria, with completely new personal stories that our Tyrian-origin characters won’t have.

Lore-wise, the waking up and movement of an Elder Dragon means a swathe of destruction on a scale that we as players have never witnessed in person before.

It may not happen abruptly in real time. Anet appears to have learned that a two week/four week pacing seems to keep most players on track as far as story beats are concerned. For something of this scale, they may let it stretch out to months (which also gives them time to polish up the next dribble of content.)

How better to create demand than to also artificially create scarcity?

What if we knew that Tyria as we knew it was going to be no more… come… oh, I don’t know, Q3 2015 or something.

Six more months to do whatever you want to do in Tyria, before we say goodbye.

Wouldn’t it be enough time? A new player could buy GW2 and pretty much play up all the Tyrian content in that time, if they wanted.

If they wanted to come in, like, one month to world’s end, there is also always the possibility of saying, “hang on, wait a month and then you can buy GW2: the Elonian edition, the standalone expansion and come play with the rest of us in the Crystal Desert” or something along those lines.

Well, all this is still hypothetical, until we hear what news they choose to share with us at PAX.

But even if it never happens and they’ve got some completely different ideas on the table, perhaps, just perhaps, it wouldn’t hurt to play the game as if we were never going to see Tyria again.

If each zone as you knew it was going to blow up the next day and be wrecked, or even just change and be lost in some other way, what would you have wanted to see or save or preserve in your memories?

gw2-spiral

This weekend, I’m entertaining thoughts of and trying to formulate a plan to carry out The Great Screenshot Pilgrimage.

The scope of it, I’m still trying to nail down, given the supremely limited time I have available and all the other more achiever-oriented things I also want to do.

Ideally, I would want to preserve each zone in my memories doing a walking tour like what I did for Orr, just ambling around and taking screenshot photos of pretty much anything that catches my eye. There’s a lot of unpredictable beauty in GW2’s zones and it’s simply the best way I know to stumble across a scene composition that just sends chills of awe down your spine. But jeez, it takes time and can use up 2-3 hours in one zone. There’s like 28 zones in Tyria. I can do that over a period of months, not this weekend before next Tuesday’s update.

So I started brainstorming a whole list of options for a screenshot project, that might be completed in differing spans of time:

gw2-thaumanova

  • Take the -one- defining picture of the area or zone. Or take a picture of the first thing you think of when you hear the zone’s name. (Those may not be the same thing.)
  • Take 3-5 representative pictures of the zone, covering the major landmarks and scenery.
  • Do it encyclopedia or wiki-style, a picture for each point of interest or vista or named landmark.
  • Do a walking tour of the zone to capture pretty much whatever catches your eye.

gw2-oakheart

Basically, I think my primary desire is to take sufficient “photographs” to recreate my memory of the place, with the secondary desire of wanting to capture unexpected moments of perfect beauty to share with others.

I -was- hoping to kill a few birds with one stone and use a character that needed to a) map explore and b) travel to all the dungeons, but I found out to my dismay that the camera height for an asura is set so low to the point that /sleeping doesn’t really hide one’s body from the image.

Grrr. It’s still possible, but very annoying to try and find workable angles on the asura, whereas I can pretty much just hide interface and /sleep on a charr anywhere and not have to worry about it, beyond the odd shoulder or arm spike getting in the way *hides everything.*

So it looks like I will have to do my screenshots with my tallbies, one of whom has completed map exploration – which would at least make waypointing convenient, but not get me anywhere in terms of map completion, or with the rest at some 40-50% completion, the partial fog of war making it a bit hard to figure out just where I’ve been or not that particular session… bleh, still deciding.

One thing’s for sure.

I tried experimentally doing Metrica Province and Caledon Forest today to get an idea of the time it might take for each zone, and I noticed that I was absolutely playing the game in a different manner, with my goal to look for beauty, rather than the next thing on the to-be-completed list.

gw2-caledon

The act of photography really prompts a lot more in-the-moment mindfulness and a new way of seeing, making you more aware of things you would previously not have seen, being so focused on doing your other mundane things.

Perhaps we should all try playing (or even living) as if we might never see the zone we’re standing in again, rather than assuming it’ll be around for forever.

GW2: First Thoughts on the Feature Patch and the New Leveling Experience

Truth is, it’s going to take me a while to absorb everything that just came down in a big info dump in the Game Update patch notes.

I haven’t quite made it through all the profession changes yet, just sort of went through the guardian notes that are my primary interest and glanced at the rest.

collections

The Collections are interesting, if a tide underwhelming at present. I’d been under the impression that many little tchotchkes would become easy collections to get some achiever dings over – things like food, or drinks or bags of loot.

Instead, the only fun one seems to be the junk collector with the Honorary Skritt title and the rest look a little more laborious. There’s -some- food, but only steak so far. No burgers, no pizza, no soup or vegetarian collections or stuff like that.

There’s certainly potential to expand, and I hope it will soon(TM), but at the moment, I’m finding it more attractive to offload some of the named exotics I’d been hoarding in the bank, wondering if they’d ever turn into precursors – looks like they won’t, but at least they’re collectibles now – at the currently inflated prices.

combatlog

The Combat Log is something I’d really like to gush over.

I think it’s gone unnoticed by many, but it’s actually USEFUL now.

The color scheme used in the combat log is a touch eyebrow raising, but sort of oddly reminiscent of oldschool MUDs where stuff is color-coded with a bunch of esoteric meaning. Presumably, since only those interested in the technical and numerical stuff would ever look at it, it’s ok.

Purple is being used for condition damage and orange for direct damage and green for healing, as far as I could tell from a quick glance at it.

All the condition damage is being reported *swoons in ecstasy* and even my clone damage from exploding was captured, so I presume other professions’ pets are also getting logged. That’s really really sweet.

I don’t know if someone will figure out a way to parse this yet, but there’s at least some -clear- data here.

One still can’t see other peoples’ damage and so on, which I think is for the best, since that might lead to comparisons and exclusion, but in the interests of -personal- improvement or optimization/efficiency, this is at least a tool that can actually be read and used now – rather than having to video record stuff and manually count white damage numbers and guess at other things.

The Miniature changes are surprisingly underwhelming for now.

I bound a few of my favorite minis that had been sitting in my bags, but was mildly dismayed to see that it was likely going to be hidden all the time (even from me!) on my toaster settings anyway.

Considering how I normally struggle with frame rates, perhaps it’s for the best that I don’t even see my own puppy following me most of the time. (Though if I’m alone and wandering the open world, even if the map is crowded, you’d think I ought to be able to see my own mini until I walk into the equivalent of world boss or WvW zerg congestion on my screen.)

The Trading Post changes have been mildly disorientating.

I’m not sure if it loads faster, and I kind of miss the tab that was just for taking items away from the TP. Right now, I have to load the whole damn TP and extra info just to collect some money, feels a little more clunky in that respect.

I haven't sold a Foxfire Cluster in forever, those are definitely NOT "my latest trades."

I haven’t sold a Foxfire Cluster in forever, those are definitely NOT “my latest trades.”

I -do- like the new filters, though it takes a bit of getting used to, after you’re accustomed to the old way of doing things.

Searching for armor my new mesmer alt could wear, within his level range, and with some Power on it, was a lot smoother and gave easier to choose from options.

The new filters are nice.

The new armor filters are nice, as sifting through on my guardian demonstrates.

But then again, I tried to type “Superior rune of the flame legion” into the search box and ended up cut off before being able to specify “flame legion” – which led to a whole bunch of other superior runes displayed.

Instead, the right keywords to use are “sup rune flame” or something oddly truncated like that.

That character text limitation is a little annoying to work around.

selling1

-Selling- things feels like one has to absorb a lot more info than before.

Having to drag a slider bar when one could previously just click a button to sell all is a step up in annoyance.

Sure, you list both fees now, but you don’t even helpfully provide a net profit summation, so now we’re expected to mentally subtract both fees ourselves. I think it’s -far- more likely that more people will be deceived by the total price and continue to pay TP tax without realizing it.

It’s more than a bit annoying to see that only the last 5 prices are visible at any time and that you have to scroll down to see the rest.This is a lot more game-able than the old system which let you see more prices at a glance, -if- you looked up the buy prices. Many won’t bother to scroll down. Expect traders to put up little honey traps in groups of 5 to knock the old prices off visibility.

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Take, for example, this random rare dagger that drops as random loot.

The first trap is easy to spot, someone posted one for 64.46 silver when the rest are selling at 66.46 silver.

selling3

If you take the trouble to scroll down past the 66 silvers, there’s a jump that’s almost invisible here, between 66 and 69 silver.

It is entirely possible that someone may buy up daggers up to this price on a fairly regular basis and that if you post this dagger for anywhere 69 silver and under, it’ll sell. How many people will be bothered to look through this, scrolling through a pathetic 5 prices at a time? Much less than before, I suspect. Expect lots of lazy selling at whatever minimum is offered.

I don’t know if all the changes really made anything clearer or not, it just feels like there are different places people will get caught out, and different places wily traders can come in to profit from those too lazy to work it all out.

And finally, the New Player Leveling Experience.

I’m not really radically against it, like many screaming over the forums and on Reddit.

I took a new charr mesmer up from level 1, playing through like a complete newbie, up to about level 9.

The tutorial tips that show up seem to be quite explanatory, with the option of leaving it up or quickly closing it via pressing the ‘X’ for close window. This catches that group of slower tactical learners who want time to read through instructions over just jumping in and doing it.

The leveling experience at low levels does seem to have been sped up slightly, which means that those used to the game can very quickly speed through the most limiting and annoying ‘locked weapon skill’ stage past level 2 and 4.

In truth, the only time I really chafed at the weapon skill lock was when I was trying to tag mobs in a crowded Defend the Armory from Flame Legion event, which had somehow attracted a good seven veterans or so – presumably in search of the new hearts. Only having mesmer scepter skill 1 is NUTS, it is so SO SLOW when you’re trying to tag or cleave as many things as possible before all these crazy exotic-geared 80s blow everything up. I got about 2 of every 4 mobs that spawned, if I was lucky.

I was really happy to finish that heart and get the event xp and then run as fast as my little clawed feet could take me out of there and go back to slowly and methodically single-targeting random mobs to death.

Going from heart to heart following the content guide did offer a more streamlined experience than previously, rate of experience gain included.

The profession loot seemed to be working for me, as I got a number of white and blue drops that were usable upgrades. Some +Power clothes that I could wear, and very attractively, new weapons like a sword, pistol (level 2, but not usable until level 7 when offhand unlocks, *gasp*), a greatsword and a staff.

Since I was getting bored out of my mind with the slow rate of the scepter autoattack – but the torment isn’t half bad if you can successfully block with skill 2 and layer 6-7 stacks of torment on , and the skill 3 confusion stacks are SICK, thank you combat log – I took advantage of this to swap and try out the other weapons, presumably as intended, though lord knows if new players will figure it out if it isn’t spelled out for them too.

Plains of Ashford apparently had two new hearts added to it. My memory isn’t the best, but it appears to be the cows immediately next to the starting drop-off point and the skritt/cannon area, which I did always think was a little weird that the area had nothing but a skill point and a dynamic event up there.

The clarity and fanfare with each level up does feel more pronounced now.

Can't you just hear the guitar riffs? It's as if a dev said, "Not rewarding enough, eh? HERE!"

Can’t you just hear the guitar riffs? It’s as if a dev was thinking, “Geez, they keep saying it doesn’t feel rewarding enough! Well, fine, HERE!”

Around level 9, I started getting a bit restless with the pace and took a break away from the content guide, heading into the Black Citadel and for the nearest Trading Post. Why they removed the handy one near the starting drop-off point is beyond me – too confusing for newbies? A little subtle proding to veterans seeking convenience to pop one if they want to use one, maybe?

There I grabbed all the usual twink gear – the cheapest +Power stuff at the off-level of 6, minor runes of +Power and level 10 +Power jewellery, wandered off the beaten track to hit a few yellow mobs and push myself to level 10.

Then I went through the Personal Story in a big chunk and rather enjoyed it. Mobs stayed at level 10, even as the Personal Story completions were awarding XP and pushing me through the levels, so things felt more doable and there was less of those old ‘stuck’ points where you were facing a +3 level challenge and unwilling to go off and get more levels before coming back, leading to repeated deaths and restart at checkpoints. I was level 12 by the time I finished.

Considering that I hadn’t even map explored through half of the Plains of Ashford, -HOPEFULLY- this will finally stop those ridiculous complaints of “help, I’m underleveled and have completed my starting zone” and the equally ridiculous advice to jump through portals and map complete another race’s starting zone to fix that. HOPEFULLY, newbies will find themselves level 15 at the point they’re really supposed to transition to the level 15-25 zone.

The one thing I did find a little disappointing was skill points being pushed so far back to level 13. This invalidates a number of skill trainers in the starting zone, which give you the “successfully passed” message and is somewhat disorientating, especially when you realize later that you’ll have to retrace your footsteps -back- to them to get SP. That’s… more than a bit weird.

So far, so good, I guess. I got to level 13 in a couple of hours, which -seems- like the pace that newbies would expect.

The biggest mixed feelings I get from this new player experience is the distinct sensation that we’ve moved over from stressing an Explorer experience to focusing on an Achiever one.

Personally, it doesn’t disturb me too much either way because I have tendencies in either direction. I can adapt to Achiever signposts if a game chooses to go that way, and I can jump into a sandbox with the best of them and explore and go read third-party wikis and websites to figure out what to do next.

I’m an EASK, after all, both playstyles are my primary and secondary, and I’m also strong enough an Explorer to figure out how to set the defaults back to the way I prefer it.

I mean, if I really let my inner elitist speak, I’d say, “If folks aren’t Explorer enough to figure out how to shut the upper-right compass off, then they’re the subset that the straightforward little arrow was meant for.”

That was the FIRST thing I went for, when I logged into my level 80 main and went, OMG, what is this awful thing in the corner, TURN IT OFF, TURN IT OFF.

So I brought up the Options menu, read through stuff, saw the new “Content Guide” drop down bar option, and promptly set it from Default to Off, glancing through the other options in the process and thinking, ok, those might come in useful when I’m leveling a new alt or going on focused map exploration. (It -would- be handy if we could set it per character, and not a one-size-fits-all account setting though.)

Then I went for my regular jumping puzzle visit, popped an Enchanted Map piece, went “Kewl, a sekrit to explore!” and promptly ran around visiting jumping puzzles I hadn’t visited for a long time, hoping to pop another map piece. Somewhere in Diessa Plateau, I overheard mapchat complaining bitterly about compass arrow, how it was hand-holding and so on, while another person asked if it was possible to turn it off, and the complainer went ahead and said something like, oh, I don’t think it’s possible until you hit level 80 or complete the Personal Story or something.

Rolling my eyes with the utter INCORRECTNESS of this, I had to speak up over mapchat and pointedly “handhold” the map into looking at Options => Content Guide, whereupon they realized, OH, we -can- turn it off, after all, while other people went, oh, these other options might be useful for map exploring, etc.

PSA: You can turn off the compass or content guide via the options here!

PSA: You can turn off the “compass” or content guide via the options here!

No, really, some things -aren’t- obvious to everybody, and I don’t see too much harm in clearly spelling it out for them if they require it. The clearly demarcated dodge tutorial, for example, at least ensures that more lowbies will figure out that they do have a dodge button. If that’s what they need to learn, so be it.

The only sadness I get is that it’ll be a bit trickier to guide an Explorer down this Achiever centered road now. Gone is the “world is completely open and ripe for the plucking” feeling from having weapon skills unlock from use, from having a wealth of skills and traits and options at an early stage. What is “overwhelm, too many options, too little direction” to an Achiever or a newbie is the “world is my oyster, ooh, so much complexity and depth” discovery feeling for an Explorer.

We somehow have to get the message out that it’s still going to be okay to turn off the Content Guide and strike out cross-country, immersing into the world, poking one’s head into every nook and cranny.

I know I will, on my other alts when I want the exploration and world immersion feel, but I’m used to the old way of doing things and can figure these things out for myself.

Maybe I guess it’s better to trust that the Explorers will know how to tweak settings to match their preferences over the Achievers. Maybe.

Did we want to risk losing the Explorer cohort in favor of the Achiever crowds? I guess one subset pays better than the other? Or many of the Explorers are already here and past the lowbie experience… the novelty of new content is still pretty far away in November, though.

Dunno. Certainly there’s still one thing Explorers can explore. The entire new level up system, its rewards and the whole ‘feel’ of taking a character through it.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see on how it plays out over time, once the knee jerk reactions to sudden change are done.