GW2: The Fine Line of Frustration

Look, ma, a pickup zerg killed Pyroxis!

It must be hard being a game developer.

Make things smooth and easy and players will steamroll through content, proclaiming themselves gaming gods and demanding more challenges NOW. Fail to sate them, and they sulk around, declaring the game boring and stagnant and having “nothing to do” and quit before you know it.

Make things difficult and challenging, and when players run into problems, the resulting frustration recoils and whiplashes around seeking any available targets. Forums explode into a frenzy of complaints and stridently worded requests for things to get easier.

I guess I’m watching the fallout from the Crown Pavilion changes and Queensdale champion train destruction with a sort of embittered fascination, rather than frustration, because I’m not very affected by either.

Some bloggers and regular readers may have noticed that I’ve been going around being a tide controversial and combative in their comments bar, for which I do apologize if I come across as an elitist arrogrant prick or argumentative troll.

I stopped to ask myself why exactly I felt prompted to act this way.

And the answer that came back was: I’m waiting to see if anyone gets frustrated enough to challenge me in reply, to stand up for their own argument and get a better handle on why they were feeling frustrated beyond “I tried it once. It was so much harder than I expected.  I felt bad. There was nothing I could do. I don’t want to do it anymore. I quit.”

Because frustration is normal when one encounters a setback and resistance to the fulfillment of individual desires.

Because it’s what different people do in response to frustration that proves interesting.

Four months ago, I was as frustrated as frustrated can be with regards to the Marionette.

There was a great deal of rampant zerg stupidity and much failure in the early days too.

Worse, there were achievements that I wanted to complete that were reliant on the bulk of the playerbase not being SO BAD at the marionette that I would never get the chance to enter the later circles to attempt the various dodging achievements with my piss poor latency.

I wrote a guide, and I tried to force it down everyone’s throats as blatantly as I could, advertising it on Reddit even.

I -could- have just given up, thrown up my hands in despair, wallowed in misery and written reams of whining complaints on various forums instead.

I’m sure my tiny guide was not the sole cause for the playerbase improving at the Marionette.

Many other people stepped up. Commanders tagged up and did their best to count and distribute people into five different lanes, regardless of the willful selective deafness of certain players. Others took it on themselves to broadcast and disseminate info into mapchat. Players who repeatedly attempted the Marionette took their individual steps towards getting good enough to reach a collective success indicator, wherever they were on that journey.

Did we lose some people? Very possibly there were those that just tried it once or twice, died repeatedly and decided, “never again.”

It stands to reason that they would not have gone back to the Marionette, and the ability curve may have adjusted itself upward a tide due to that too.

They were going to be lost anyway. One cannot help those that do not wish to be helped.

I see some interesting parallels between this update’s Champion Pavilion Boss Blitz, and the Marionette and Escape From Lion’s Arch events.

They all have a considerable chance for failure.

Failure induces frustration.

Frustration produces… ???

Complaints, certainly.

And counter-trolling in response.

Neither of which are terribly productive, but very much human nature.

Then again, in the Escape From Lion’s Arch, one super frustrated individual created an entire new megaguild called MEDX, devoted to rescuing Lion’s Arch citizens. An enormous number of people appeared to buy into that premise, perhaps wanting to be heroes to the NPCs or perhaps wanting chances at the great loot, and we saw that guild have some good times in parallel with our TTS community, as we hopped various overflows.

We saw various servers take on the Marionette, and start succeeding over time.

The two biggest differences that I see between then and now:

Megaserver  – We’ve lost our server communities. I’ve not been shy to criticize this as not the most ideal state of affairs ever. Everything is now overflow, filled with more aggressive strangers, given very little incentive to cooperate or communicate because they’ll probably never see each other again. Also, language barriers.

Where Have All the Leaders and Followers Gone? – With each patch that pushes more coordination and communication, anyone who has had the slightest bit of self-interest and sufficient motivation to do something constructive about it has self-organized. They’ve found their communities, that come complete with people motivated enough to lead, and people with enough self-interest to follow.

Those left behind do not appear motivated enough to do anything beyond complain and feel helpless and sorry for themselves.

No, really, it’s not hard. Help is but one Google and some typing away.

I read a random post on the GW2 forums, and I see someone from an EU server talking about GW2Community. Google it.

NA server-wise, TTS is the name on everybody’s lips, but there are undoubtedly others. Just off the top of my head, Attuned does Wurm and so on.

Network. Reach out to people. Send a whisper and ask for an invite to an organized instance if you wish it. Numerous guests and friends of friends have jumped into these events and had a great time.

Nooooo….. but I don’t wanna join a guild or a community! I don’t wanna change instances! I wanna log in and immediately have the world revolve around me and do what I wish and give me loot!

It reeks of being unable to adapt or change. It also suggests you don’t necessarily want it badly enough, and would prefer not to have to interact with a community (some of whom may be people you dislike personally) – in which case, it’s a personal choice and your tradeoff is that you don’t get the reward that you also wanted.

Everything is about tradeoffs.

Still, I see the beginnings of a little bit of hope this time around…

Tarnished Coast WvW used to have what was known as a case of “celebrity commander” syndrome. Jadon, Nightlight, Odinzu, Deyja. The militia would flock to them. Anyone else who tagged up had a much harder time.

But times change, and these commanders moved on, and mostly dropped into various personal guilds, away from the public eye, or transferred away. For a time, the militia ran around lost, helpless, frustrated, losing structures like unthinking headless chickens who couldn’t even find a feather on their bodies, let alone an arrow cart.

Some militia individuals, away from the zerg mind, did their best or what they could, improving their game, be it siege or roaming. New individuals stepped up to command and rally the unthinking zerg.

Out of frustration, very possibly, but they did, because they were motivated enough.

Tonight in the Crown Pavilion, while just cranking through a bunch of my Queen’s Gauntlet tickets for my sick and twisted lottery attempt at the Choice of Lyssa recipe (will never happen, I’m sure, but well, Gauntlet Chances are easier to feed a gambling urge with than lockboxes that require paid keys), I overheard an individual being very chatty on mapchat.

Said person was rallying others, updating on boss percentages, being very friendly and unassuming but being very -present- and indicating signs of activity, and said person had a commander tag.

I looked down through the railing at my feet as someone in the cage I was spectating fell over and died to Liadri, with a grumbled “lag” as I rezzed him, and lo and behold, there was a group of 7-10 people at the centaur boss under us, and over to the left, another group that seemed to be working on ogre with another commander tag in play.

My FPS was 12-14, and I decided the other 40 odd tickets could wait.

I got down the ramps in time to see that two bosses were left, and that this plucky group of pickups was busy taking turns to fall over to Pyroxis’ bouncing projectiles and get rezzed.

Oh, what the heck, I thought. And went to join them.

45 seconds later, I was backpedaling out of combat to put on wall of reflection and shield of the avenger because there didn’t seem to be anyone in the group putting those up.

I was the sole source of reflects for a minute or two, but a few more people started trickling in, attracted by the fight.

Someone else stepped up and spelled it out. “Use reflects on him.”

My one pathetic wall of very sporadic reflection was suddenly joined by a second, and a third, staggering themselves out appropriately. Later, there was a mesmer feedback around the big scorpion destroyer.

We still took turns getting mauled by the bouncing unreflectable lava projectiles, and getting rezzed.

I worked on improving my personal game by getting better at dodging them when I saw them coming (the ones that come in from the sides or behind though… grrr…)

Surprise, surprise, I was having fun.

The other boss must have died at some point, because our group of 10ish suddenly ballooned to 20-25 as a second group appeared behind Pyroxis.

Steadily, his health bar dropped and the meanie scorpion poo-head died.

And we all got a reward chest.

Bronze, yes, because this was cleanup after some other group prior had left the instance at 4 bosses.

But my point was that this one person rallied a map that were willing to sit in an instance left at 4 bosses, doing their own thing, and performed a successful clean up. Said person had to leave to go to work, so there was no further attempt. Still, it’s proof of concept. Proof it can be done.

There have been heartening posts on Reddit that some commanders got together and tried rallying a map – some with positive results, silvers, with eyes towards gold, feeling it almost within reach.

There has been the case of AARM, and another guild on Northern Shiverpeaks whose name I unfortunately forget, who decided to “host” a map. They bring in 30-40 odd guildies, and like magic, when those around them see that a serious attempt is being made, also start to cooperate and coordinate out of peer pressure and self-interest.

Since we now lack server communities, perhaps this is where some guilds may find a niche to step up and step in.

The magic of MMOs is in community, after all.

And sometimes players need a little push before they care to talk to others.

The key, really, is that no one is forcing anybody into this. The rewards are available elsewhere and not exclusive.

Abandon the map if you truly hate it. Abandon the game, even, if you’re that bitter.

But if you’re frustrated enough by the thought of not being able to achieve gold or silver on one tiny piece of temporary content, then maybe start thinking of ways to be part of a community that can manage to do so.

That community might be a guild, a cross-server community, that very map instance you happen to be on, or the GW2 community at large.

Advertisements

GW2: Strength in Unity – Building Community

This is just a thought that’s been floating around in my head for a while, steadily building up as I read forum posts (aka complaints) on seemingly disparate things like big guilds being favored by guild mission design, big dragons being a mindless loot pinata for the masses and WvW heavily skewed in favor of zerging.

I’d like to take us down a philosophical “what-if” road of game design.

What if small guilds and loners were equally favored or had an advantage doing guild missions?

What if big dragons were really tough to kill and required an organized group to take down (and for added chaos, an inexperienced unallied player passing by could wipe the group?)

What if WvW favored the small group roamers and the solo/duo gankers?

Here’s my guess as to what would happen.

Everyone would form their own private guild of one to do the guild missions for the goodies. Or at best, hang around with their small guild buddies and not have any reasons to interact with anyone else out there.

People would flock to an organized group for the sole purpose of dragon-killing (aka raids) and woe betide the poor n00b passer-by who unknowingly committed the egregious sin of “not supposed to be doing that, u dumbass.”

WvW would become an open world PvP land where no one would venture in besides the few wolves looking around for their fights (and now whining on the forums that there’s no one to kill instead of too many.)

In other words, Guild Wars 2 would turn into any other typical MMO – your standard cesspool of insular hardcore elitism ruling the roost while the not-so-hardcores, casuals and dabblers just get by with amusing themselves until the next big MMO launch.

Perhaps the most interesting (if slightly sweet and sappy) underlying theme that runs through the GW2 storyline is that there is strength in unity. That despite our various differences, it is worthwhile coming together in common cause.

I’ve been observing my server in WvW for a while now as a sort of “embedded correspondent” (though I’ve gotten lazy on any actual reporting and have been just enjoying participating instead) and one of the things that most impresses me about Tarnished Coast is how united everyone is (comparatively, anyhow.)

Guild members from different guilds regularly hop into each others’ guild channels and aren’t automatically shunned or made unwelcome. Guilded and unguilded militia alike blend seamlessly into zergs led by commanders from any WvW guild, producing very respectable performances (ideally anyhow, and it’s gotten noticeably better as time creeps on.)

Yeah, there’s still the odd ‘pugs’ comment here and there, still a couple players with more hardcore ideals. so do put a little thick skin on if yer gonna venture into WvW but on the whole, it’s not at all a toxic environment. People work hard, but still remember to have fun and do silly, absurd things for the heck of it.

It’s most telling to me that most commanders reacting to a poor performance tend to go into a sort of quiet frustrated despair and exhaustion, then look around for other constructive things for the group to do, or take a break and switch things up, or spend time teaching and instructing, rather than vent onto their team or let it all hang out on chat channels. It’s a very mature response to a loss.

And what this builds in the end is respect and loyalty, as well as an accepting and tolerant community.

(Now having been part of a server that imploded on itself, I’m not going to say this will last forever, one would have to be a very idealistic seer to predict that. Sometimes all it takes is the wrong spark to set off a firecracker chain reaction.

But based on the example and culture of other roleplaying servers from other MMOs like LOTRO and CoH, one is at least hopeful about it. Which is pretty optimistic for a obsessive paranoid like me.)

And to get back to my original point, I wonder if this would have formed without ArenaNet’s hand in the design?

If game success did not favor coming together and community building, anyone who did so would be making an uphill effort.

Weatherstock in LOTRO would never have happened without the music system to begin with.

Maybe we need to recognize that in GW2, coming together in groups do have clear advantages (but hopefully never forced, so everyone always has alternate, if somewhat-less-advantangeous options) and this is in the design for the long-term purpose of building communities.

(I know I soloed pretty much my entire GW1 existence, minus an out-of-game friend or two.)

And if one has issues with this, perhaps one is playing the wrong game.