NBI/GW2: Screenshot Safari #2 (#NBI2015Safari)

So here’s a freshly taken screenshot for Murf’s NBI screenshot challenge.

I was originally going to rummage through my old City of Heroes screenies for the theme Heroes and Villains, since ol’ Murf has a fondness for that game last I checked, but eh, that seemed a bit too straightforward when folks are busy playing around with puns and such. (Maybe I’ll find a cleverer theme to match to a CoH screenie within the next two weeks.)

It so happened that I was practising dungeon soloing again today, this time managing a CM story solo, which took a slow and steady but relatively safe 40 minutes (taking it leisurely since it was a first time try, there are Youtube vids of much faster solo speedrun times).

Since I was by myself, I watched the cutscenes and was reminded of the whole human Ministry schism again where both factions think they’re on the side of right when it comes to dealing with the charr – except one wants to make peace with them and the other one would prefer to slaughter them all.

I finished the dungeon and found I had extra time on my hands so… you know, why not practice AC story again?

It was at the end of that dungeon when I really started -looking- at the scenery and realizing that:

a) One almost never looks UP in a dungeon. The Ascalonian Catacombs was surprisingly cavernous in places and made for some nice screenshots.

and b) Hey… what’s this small blue glowy thing here? Hang on… is that…

…the sword that caused the Foefire?! And have I been running past it a million times in groups when running Kholer in explorable dungeons? (Not sure if they removed it there though.)

But certainly I’ve been blind-spotting past it when running AC story mode, even when alone. (Cos the red name mobs are over that way and hitting the ‘skip’ button for cutscenes is an automatic reaction by now.)

So since I was happily alone with no one waiting for me, I decided to take the time and grab a screenshot that did it some justice.

Rytlock, Sohothin and Magdaer
Rytlock, Sohothin and Magdaer

As for the theme, well, you gotta be a bit of a GW2 lore nerd.

Magdaer was the sword that King Adelbern used to cast the Foefire, wiping out his enemies, the invading Flame Legion charr about to take over Ascalon City, but also damning all of his people in one fell swoop, turning them into ghosts trapped in undeath.

Rytlock’s decidedly charr take on the Foefire

Martyr hero or mad villain?

That theme pretty much encapsulates the entire charr – human relationship for the past couple hundred years. Depending on your perspective, one or the other are villainous and the other side are the good guys.

And even now, when there are folks on both sides looking past those old hatreds, you still have the recalcitrants on either end – Separatists and Renegades alike – who are now seen as the troublemaking villains… except if you’re on their side, then they’re the freedom fightin’ heroes.

Heroes and villains, all.

Edit: Sheesh, I forgot the prompt thingy. Which NPC in your MMO could be seen to be heroic or villainous, depending on how one frames their story?

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GW2/NBI: Dungeon Soloing Is A Lot Like Writing

Wurms, wurms, they're everywhere....

Dear Reader,

You will not believe how many times I have pressed backspace or delete on this post.

I have a half dozen false starts and zeroth drafts of things I could say, and things I might want to say, while maybe these other things that I did type to myself should be left for my personal viewing.

I tried coming at the topic from a million and one angles, all of them maybe sort of potentially viable, yet somehow not yielding up a complete post.

Not yet. Not quite.

In the end, I just went back to my blog and forced myself to hit the “Add New Post” button and told myself I am just going type the first (but hopefully not the last) post on this topic directly into the post editor.

(If you could call continually pressing backspace to erase a turn of phrase and retyping a new one “directly,” that is.)

So, prior warning, this post is going to be rough around the edges. Not slick. Not smooth-sailing and superbly easy to read. Rough. Blocked. Start-and-stop and probably just as much struggle to read as it was to write.

The act of writing this post has been amazingly similar to my attempts to learn how to solo dungeons (or a dungeon – let’s keep our goals modest here.)

False starts, lots of deaths, intense frustration at certain ‘stuck’ points, a lot of thinking and trying and maybe some success and an equal or greater amount of failure and surrender (for now.)

You know, it’s not something that is often publicized.

Writers hide the struggle against the blank page, generally proffering only the finished product for an amazed public to ooh and aah over – unless you talk in-depth with writers on their craft or read books specifically on the art and craft of writing to begin to understand how the whole process works.

(And bear in mind, that process is different for different writers, of course. Some plan every last scene, some type by the seat of their pants, and so on. Whatever yields a ‘readable’ product at the end – I can’t even say ‘finished’ because it never is finished, for some writers.)

Looking into the art and craft of the GW2 dungeon solo reminds me a lot about the above.

Solo dungeon runners proudly show off their final product, a beautifully cut-and-edited video of their best and most impressive speedruns. Who can blame them? Watching flawless victory is a lot more entertaining for an audience than sitting through the many hours it must have taken them in real time to perfect their technique to the point where they can record their final product. The point, after all, is to show that the mountain can be conquered, not the many many falls it took to get to the peak.

The ordinary layperson tends to fail to grasp this concept.

They see the finished product and they think, “All right, I want to write the Great American Novel! In a month! Cos Nanowrimo is a thing!” Or they expect flawless nuggets of verbal gold the moment that they begin writing. Or they demand that their favorite authors churn out books like a factory for them.

Basically, they expect perfection in a multitude of unrealistic ways, and it’s a bit of a letdown (understatement of the year) when they don’t quite get what they expected.

Confusing the whole damn affair further are the bystander comments, some of which may very well be true for them (“yeah, I finished my novel during Nanowrimo! It’s awesome! I’m getting it published next month!”, “I just sit down and start typing every day and I got 50,000 words! Actually, 100k! Cos you know, I’m naturally a member of the wall-of-text club!”) or just internet exaggeration, who knows… but may very well not be true for you in specific.

So here we have a big morass of maybe helpful and well-meaning advice, some of which may or may not work for you, mixed with a quarter-pound of just plain look-at-me-my-prowess-is-better-than-you trolling and a lot of ill-formed personal expectations about how long it might or might not take, how successful or not it’s going to be, and somehow, from there, you try to sift through and eke out some information, some strategies on things you might possibly try, and then the bottom line is… you’re just going to have to sit your butt in the chair and try it out for yourself and see what works or doesn’t work for you.

Yeah.

Writing is a lot like that.

Dungeon soloing is a lot like that.

The stuff you read on Reddit asking about dungeon solos tends to come from innocent yet ambitious individuals who think it would be cool to be all super-elite and solo things like Arah and oh yes, make lots of $$$$ in the process, because selling Arah paths is a thing. How can they start learning how to do that?

(I’m sure writers have smashed many a forehead – theirs or the askers’ – against a hard surface when yonder innocent yet ambitious individual lets out that they think that writing a book would be a great way to earn royalties, make money and become super-famous and awesome like their favorite celebrity writer, and what would be the fastest and most efficient way to do so?

Of course, confusing the issue is that there do exist exceedingly prolific writers who write by a set formula and churn out bestsellers or the next bodice-ripper with a regularity you could set your watch or calendar by, and novices of their particular subset of craft can and do successfully join them in their $$$$ accumulation.)

Of course, not every individual asking on Reddit is exactly like that. Some of them do recognize there is a serious learning process involved and are merely trying to get any helpful advice they can from individuals or experts that have already walked the paths they’re hoping to travel on. Anything to make that very challenging learning process a little easier or a little more structured or just a bit more scaffolded, like out of the many dungeon paths there are, instead of blindly throwing oneself at all of them, are there any that are more doable or slightly easier to learn than the rest, and so on…

…except the answer may apply to the individual that suggested that X is easy, but not to the person receiving the answer… (maybe due to the class being used, maybe just due to individual player differences, whatever)

…well, they recognize that too, but they just want some guidance or a direction they can try, regardless. Which also makes perfect logical sense.

So you have people trying to be helpful, and people earnestly receiving that helpful advice, and then they go ahead and try it and…

…well, I don’t know if there’s a gruesome car wreck or if there’s great success, because again, this totally boils down to the individual yet again.

Which leads me to the interesting problem of trying to decide how exactly I should blog about my attempts at dungeon soloing…

Trust me, there are a lot more car wrecks at this present moment.

There’s no way I’m writing an ‘expert guide to dungeon soloing,’ as much as some people might like, because a) I’m definitely not expert status at this point in time, and b) I guess I lean slightly more to the exploratory school of thought that kind of cringes at the thought of people rote following a preset solved-by-someone-else tactic without real understanding.

To me, that seems to contravene one philosophy behind trying to solo a dungeon, which is to test yourself and your understanding of your class and the game mechanics and how best you might arrange things so that you can get through a particular encounter.

(Obviously, other people may have different philosophies in play. Some may enjoy purely the execution / reaction aspect of the exercise, and see no problems with imitation being the best form of flattery. Some may simply want to give themselves the best chances of success by being as optimal as a number-cruncher has calculated for their class. Some don’t give a damn about any glitches or exploits because lol, it’s up to the devs to fix the bugs in their game, if we can break it, we’ll use it, that’s what players do, we’ll do it fast and easy and painless.)

To be frank, I’m still trying to figure out where I stand on the various spectrums of these philosophies, which leads to a great degree of confusion in planning.

My life would be a lot simpler if I prioritized fast, efficient, painless like some other players. Ape everything – class, gear, traits, movement and positioning strategies – and just practice understanding fight mechanics + reaction time, everything else has been solved for me.

I think the problem is that I’m curious about too many damn things at once.

I want to know how it feels on the builds that I already have. I want to know how it feels on the ‘optimal’ builds. I want to adapt and customise new builds to solve various encounters.

I kind of want to figure out how to adapt various strategies for a different class (because look, every class has ranged and melee attacks and lots of blocks and evades and there’s always dodging) or to figure out other viable strategies (a warrior might dps and evade but maybe my guardian can reflect), yet I don’t have an issue with imitating a strategy that works either, especially if my attempts at new solutions aren’t working out that well.

Then there’s my damn morality about glitches and exploits. They make me cringe, in more ways than one. I don’t like the easy way out. I don’t like breaking the game or an encounter just to do something painlessly. And I sure as hell don’t want to get banned for an exploit.

It makes me bloody frustrated to go look up a video about how someone else has solved this problem and oh, the answer they’ve taken is to glitch something. Argh. Of course, they glitch it because the alternative is utter painful hell, and I find that out the hard way, and then I wind up stuck and dead-ended and frustrated.

Yet I’m sure that I’m not an extreme on the glitch morality scale, because I don’t have issues with things like skipping encounters by running or stealthing past, or using corners to block line-of-sight and pulling and leashing or constantly readjusting and making use of AI pathing to reduce damage taken. Those seem to be normal things that most everyone does in dungeons.

And frankly, I don’t have personal moral issues with using height and ranged attacks to get past an encounter (done it before in other MMOs, the system is supposed to declare the mob invulnerable or let it regen back tons of hp if that’s not kosher, standing on a rock or tree to shoot things feels like a natural human thing to do, the very point is that I’m trying to be hard to reach here, mobs could be given a ranged attack or some kind of cc to get us off the perch, it feels good and intended to outsmart a melee mob) but since Anet appears to feel that abusing the Z axis ventures into exploit territory, I avoid using that as a valid solution in GW2.

Kite around the mulberry bush, it is. No standing on the mulberry bush. Pft.

And I’ve followed the mulberry bush entirely off the point because I’m no wiser about how I should blog about my turtle-slow learning process.

I thinking that I may not want to show pictures and strategies and a breakdown of each encounter, because doh, that leads to blind imitation, right? (Or some bastard leaving me a note in the comments about how I’m doing it ALL WRONG and you should DO IT THIS WAY INSTEAD cos GLITCHING IS FASTER.)

And yet, I have a piss-poor memory and if I don’t make a record for myself about how far I’ve gotten through with each dungeon, and the strategies I figured out for how to get through it, I’m liable to forget what the hell I did and have an utterly miserable time the next time I try to make progress or practice.

And yet, maybe leaving some kind of record of the process is valuable for those that want to come after, in the same exploratory spirit, since what works for me may not exactly work for them, right?

And maybe it would be helpful to get comments and suggestions on areas where I am stuck, or having trouble. (Yet well-meaning comments can sometimes be helpful and sometimes infuriating – like trying to get someone to comment on or edit your writing. Maybe they have a valuable point. Maybe they should just go stuff it instead.)

And yet it would be kind of exceedingly stupid to publish a thorough solution that an ArenaNet dev can look through, decide they don’t like something about it, and proceed to get it fixed in the next patch, causing mass consternation (no small amount of it from myself either since that would invalidate a hard thought out strategy.)

I think “conflicted” and “confused” are good words to describe my present state of mind, yes.

Dunno, no real answers. Can’t decide.

If anyone is curious, at this present point in my experience, I would recommend AC story as a good starting point to learn dungeon soloing.

After all, it’s the only one I’ve managed to get through, start-to-finish.

Did have some deaths while learning, but they seem to be easily avoidable deaths with practice. My guardian main gets through it pretty easily. I tested it on an older guardian alt for fun, and that character also managed to get through it while in knight’s gear and berserker trinkets.

The upscaling makes it fairly forgiving to somewhat wacky, not quite optimized builds, with zero food or consumables.

Tried it on a sinister necro for fun, and wow, it hurt a lot more. It’s probably my lack of familiarity with the class and precise dungeon mechanics (which tend to get masked on guardians since they’re so block-filled and heal-y) but it was also eye-opening to try and figure out how to solve it from another perspective.

No, Eir, -I- need help. Your job is just to be a meatshield.
No, Eir, -I- need help. Your job is just to be a meatshield.

(Got super-duper frustrated when the Lovers bugged out on the necro. They became immune to conditions. Vs a NECRO. In SINISTER gear. It was fucking awful and repeated massacres for a long while. Nearly wanted to quit and decided to just give it a few more shots, switching over to zerker and a stabby dagger. Had to essentially waypoint kamikaze to get past the bug.)

Rate of return, beyond satisfaction in completing a dungeon by yourself, is not very high though.

No real NBI prompt for this post. Just this one thing: Give yourself permission to write a sucky post and get it done. All just part of the process.

And yeah, this advice may or may not work for you.

Only one way you’re going to find out.

“Challenging” Dungeon Redux

I joined a Guild Wars 2 Twilight Arbor Aetherpath LFG that said “new to path, need a leader” for the pure masochistic fun of it.

It was as Wildstar Stormtalon Lair as you might expect.

Two below 700 AP newbies, two 3k-4k AP, half an hour trying to coordinate the ooze kiting together with only three people communicating, the last one being Taiwanese and having language issues, so he was forgiven even if he didn’t say so, and the other just not a talkative sort, I guess. One person was nearly frustrated to the point of giving up, but he held on and we somehow managed it in the end.

Slick and Sparki surprisingly died on the first go, Foreman Spur took two goes.

There were many many repeated wipes on the Aetherblade trash spawns, likely due to lack of DPS to burn ’em down quickly and lack of experience of the newbies with that particular faction’s annoying schticks since they probably weren’t around for the Living Story Season 1.

Instance holder’s fortitude finally gave out at Clockheart after further repeated wipes and the team’s best attempts not being able to bring down its hp beyond half.

Kudos to the team for holding together until then and managing a whole sequence of mass rezzes during various encounters though.

Not to mention, being ridiculously patient through multiple lapses of memory on my part as I walked right through various Aetherblade ambushes (I kept overestimating the team’s DPS capability to the standard 3+ melee zerk one and rushing in way too much) and running afoul of sneaky mechanics while trying to explain the part I did remember.

Do we consider this a challenge?

Or merely inexperience that is bound to get better with practice and preparation.

In before prepared groups cakewalk through Stormtalon’s Lair with interrupt spam and stacked AoEs in Wildstar. Calling it now.

Wildstar: Odds and Ends and Approaching the End of the Road

End of the line?

It gets better the further up in levels you go, they say.

Well, here’s the stuff I found neat on my journey from 15-21.

ws_grinder

Mah bike looks cool.

I hear it is possible to upgrade the look of mounts later with rear and front flairs, which I think is a great system for further customization along the self-expression and showing off prestige front, and of course, the endless collection of mounts is a captivating system for collectors.

ws_2handers

Mah sword looks cool.

The teen levels appear to be the home of some really neat two-handed sword designs. WTB similar stuff appearing in GW2, just less cartoony and more fantastical.

I also discovered that the warrior sword skills count as a spell cast and were only being performed on button up by default, rather than button down.

Which was probably inducing further delay into the stately swings, between my latency and tendency to press down on keys rather than release quickly.

ws_combatoptions

I heartily recommend going into Combat Options and selecting “Use Button Down instead of Press Twice” and “Hold to Continue Casting” (which should select all three options.)

This allows you to still see the telegraph indicators for range, but also simulates a kind of auto-casting by holding down the relevant key.

(When you’re 200-250ms behind, any kind of automatic casting that allows you to sneak in more attacks is welcome for maintaining dps so that you don’t look like you totally suck on damage charts.)

ws_shiphand

The Shiphand solo instances demonstrate yet again why storytelling is best conveyed via a solo one which you can traverse at your own pace, and not be spoiled by some other guy in your party having done it already rushing you through it.

I tried the Hycrest Insurrection Adventure at lvl 15, a 5 man instance which is apparently set at a more lax difficulty level for casual PUGing.

They were… okay, I guess.

It was hard for me to discern story once again in a group setting, since one is always more concerned with not falling behind from the group than being able to take the time to read stuff.

There was a vote option of multiple paths to pick and choose, similar to GW2 explorables, except the option came up three times in that one Adventure, leading to presumably more branching possibilities and ostensibly more variation.

I say ostensibly because while my first group was probably entirely new to it and the majority just ended up picking the first option every time, my subsequent group had someone who had been presumably playing since Closed Beta, because that someone matter of factly announced, “2-2-3 is the best xp” and guess what path we ended up doing, by unanimous vote.

There was a fair amount of varied mechanics in that one Adventure, from snipers that shot at you from range and you had to dodge *ahem* dash to avoid being knocked down, NPC citizens which you stayed near to put on a disguise and thus ‘stealth’ through certain parts without drawing aggro, a timed portion to stop a moving convoy by defeating all its guards (bit of a vertical fight, one had to jump up on two platforms of a slow moving vehicle, have one person pull a lever which opened a door for others to go through and plant a bomb, etc.)

Bosses were usually two-phase or more, with varied shapes of AoEs to dodge and could move around quite a bit.

ws_firerocks

And of course, the odd room full of fire and falling rocks to sprint and dodge your way through.

At the end of the Adventure, a little scoreboard screen comes up to show you how you did.

ws_advbronze

It’s a bit odd, I suppose, in that it’s neither here nor there. You can’t compare how other people in your party did, though I suppose add-ons for that will pop up like a bad penny later.

I’m not sure what staying alive means, beyond extreme cowardice and maybe the least damage taken, which seems a bit unfair to tanks. Certainly -I- wasn’t tanking, I was safe and sound DPS with high armor and an itchy trigger finger on the dodge key.

The first was a group that didn’t really have a clue what we were doing, the following was being shepherded by someone competent doing the tanking. Albeit, a ranged engineer tank, which added some variety to the well-established holy trinity.

ws_gold

A scoreboard does set up a bit of an inferiority complex though. You keep wondering, maybe my warrior isn’t an optimal choice to bring versus say a stalker with much faster rate of attacks or some ranged dps which can spray and pray more sustained damage while dodging.

No doubt, the speedruns will come in due time, and groups who can’t finish in like 15 minutes or less will be considered lousy.

Finally, at level 20, the first dungeon. Stormtalon’s Lair.

Shades of grawl shaman fractal all over again...
Shades of grawl shaman fractal all over again…

People keep singing the praises of Wildstar’s dungeons, for some reason. Oh yay, it’s hard, it’s challenging, the trash mobs are actually scary and a threat!

I feel like I must have missed some super easy dungeons in the interim. Maybe because I don’t play WoW.

It felt like a normal oldschool dungeon where you are expected in a hardcore fashion to spend hours in, in order to complete.

The group finder suggested to bracket 75min for the dungeon, and horror stories talk of 3+ hours and PUGs disintegrating on the first boss, with folks cheering on this level of ‘challenge’ as refreshing.

There were trash mobs. There appeared to be two main varieties of spawns. One spellcaster with two melee animal mobs that could generally be tanked-and-spanked.

ws_normaltrash

Group up, AoE ’em down. The Storm Watcher appeared to have some spells that caused AoE that needed to be either dodged, or a good group could use interrupts to stop this.

The other main type of trash mob spawn was a melee and spellcaster healer duo, a sentinel and shaman of some sort, linked together.

Naturally, PUGs will beeline for the nearest target, ie. the melee one, especially if you have a ranged tank engaging and backing away reflexively. Which then sets up the unending chain of letting the shaman freecast heals and keep Mr Melee up for an indefinite period of time until sheer force of dps burns through it – assuming your own healer hasn’t run out of mana *ahem* focus to support the tank first.

The trick, as some people explained, was to go for the shaman first and synchronize interrupts when it tries to heal. This is, of course, much easier said than done in a PUG without voice comms, but my first not-so-coordinated but seemingly fairly experienced PUG managed to pull it off maybe 75% of the time, while the second fail PUG did not. I was probably the only person with interrupts on that one, whereas the first PUG had two warriors (so 2 interrupts each, plus one more dps with one interrupt. Land 3 at any one time to get stuff done.)

Really -competent- tanks will manage to pull the melee to the spellcaster so that both are grouped up and can be burned down together. (Which I thought was basic competency for a tank, but apparently the people who queue up in a tank position in a group finder are extremely luck-of-the-draw.)

Our first PUG by the way struggled with a middling engineer tank with bruiser bot, who left after three wipes on the first boss, and was replaced by yet another engineer tank without bot who was plainly geared properly for his role and very very competent. The healer remarked on how much more easy it was to heal him, and this veteran of the dungeon explained all the mechanics and brought our newbie group through with only minimal wiping.

The first boss also had a reputation of being a PUG destroyer. (Sorta like Kholer, I guess. Except this one is unskippable.)

He involved three phases. First one was basic tank-and-spank, but he did a plus shaped AoE that needed to be dodged out of. (Or interrupts coordinated, I’m guessing.)

The second one involved him going invulnerable while the four adds that surrounded him went vulnerable. Pick the right one that the tank is also focusing on to burn down. Random people get marked with a bomb AoE that is centered on them. Dodge out of AoE, but pros apparently -move- the AoE to the mob first before dodging out so that it gets caught by the AoE and damaged. A randomly moving static discharge AoE that caused stun would start to plague people as more adds went down.

Last phase was tank-and-spank again, except this time there were a lot more randomly moving static discharge AoEs to avoid or be stunned, plus the boss would do a BIG AoE that covered most of the room except a few defined safe spots. Except since the AoE pattern is -probably- based on the tank’s position, the safe spots may not necessarily be in the same place if the tank wiggles around too much, and the tank does have to move to avoid the static discharge stuns, so it’s fairly reflex based in a PUG that hasn’t coordinated any set way to make his AoE predictable.

Combined with my latency, this generally meant that I got caught if I was a split second too slow, but fortunately it only hits for around 3k damage with knockdown, around 1/4 to 1/3 my health bar, and eventually healable by a healer when they get around to it.

However, it -is- possible to coordinate interrupts and disrupt his AoE entirely, as we discovered by sheer chance one AoE pattern. (Or rather, someone had spammed an interrupt and I saw the interrupt armor indicator at 1 and -hadn’t- spammed my interrupts prior to this, so I banged down on my keys and got the knockdown through. Which was fairly satisfying.

Though I admit that I wasn’t a god of interrupts at any other time as muscle memory hadn’t set in, nor was one used to reading all the cues necessary while trying to avoid AoEs in a fight one was seeing for the first time. I’m sure it’s learnable though.)

ws_secondboss

Ironically, one member in my second fail PUG said that the second boss was, he felt, the hardest boss. Well, my first PUG would beg to differ.

Our patient tank explained the mechanics to us. Phase 1: Tank-and-spank. Phase 2, he splits into three adds, burn ’em down. Then he knocks everyone back and we have to run through a gauntlet of tornadoes, reach him ASAP and interrupt.

Perhaps, as I said, we lucked out with two warriors in this PUG. Our leveling bar tends to have two interrupts and we’re very used to spamming kick to knockdown so that we can actually get some decent damage in with our one spammable power attack. We simply cannot level at a passable pace without having learned to use what Wildstar calls a Moment of Opportunity, which is extra damage when the mob is interrupted during a telegraph and goes purple for a time.

While the gauntlet was indeed somewhat annoying – I kinda felt I spent most of my time in the air while running forward at a snail’s pace, we could at least fling our ranged interrupt once we got semi-close and then spam our kick when finally in melee range. Thump, went the boss. Repeat this twice more, and then done.

More trash mobs of the same ilk. One miniboss with some more shaped AoE to dodge and interrupt.

ws_stormtalon

And finally, the last boss. Stormtalon. Who turns out to be sorta shaped like a dragon.

In the words of our esteemed tank. “Tank and spank to start, don’t stand in front of him, has a cleave. He’ll knock us back and stun, gotta break out and rush to him to interrupt. Lastly he’ll target a random member, making a safe zone around them. Rest of the room will be red, we gotta follow that person as they circle the boss. Lightning bolts will constantly target them.”

Which actually went pretty well and was downed in the first go, though two DPS bit it at the last phase, me included.

ws_whoops

Oh look, almost exactly 75 minutes.

Since the tank and healer survived, along with one melee dps, they got the other quarter or so of its health down and dead.

As for what killed me: the safe zone in phase 3 was centered around me and I was perhaps a little too anxious about keeping still enough to not accidentally kill -everyone- by running around like a headless chicken, and I must have inhaled some lightning circles by staying too still.

Would I be keen to repeat the fight and get better at dodging all that crazy AoE?

Yeah, I would.

Would I be keen to repeat the whole Group Finder experience and gamble on random PUGs on the offchance that I might eventually reach Stormtalon again to practice the fight?

Ummmm…

No.

I’m afraid not.

If I were someone with a regular North American time schedule, had a guild full of friendly regulars to play with, and often ran together with voice chat, such group dungeons would be PERFECT experiences for an established regular party of five.

But since my times are more of an irregular sort, I’m left PUGing it in various games.

My second Wildstar PUG ended up with another engineer tank who was plainly in pure assault gear as the healer simply couldn’t keep him up. He was as fragile as toilet paper.

When he died, I stayed up for just about as long by mere virtue of having heavy armor, a health bar and being able to dodge, although I was no tank at all either, due to not having any tank statted gear, nor any APM or skills slotted for tanking or threat holding. Basically, it was four DPS dying in sync with the healer also biting it somewhere in the middle.

And no, despite my pleading for -someone- to use and slot one interrupt so that I could use my two interrupts to apply knockdown (something I wanted to practice at getting better at), at no time whatsoever did the interrupt armor on any boss drop from 2, leaving my interrupts ineffectual.

Naturally, we wiped three times on the first boss and ended up standing around looking at each other, while the healer tried to explain to the tank that he needed the right gear to step into the tank role.

One DPS ran out of patience and dropped out of the party. We re-queued, and guess what, the engineer wordlessly insisted on the tank role again. With the same healer. When he actually could have taken the open DPS slot.

We stood around looking at each other again, while one more random DPS joined. Then the tank opened a vote kick on the healer.

“…”

Since this was the epitome of stupidity, I was driven to sufficient trolliness to reject the vote kick on the poor healer, and then I subsequently opened a vote kick on the tank.

(It’s not like I have a reputation to maintain in Wildstar. This is cross-server Open Beta and I don’t intend to be here for long.)

The tank quit the instance before the vote kick ran its course.

Of course, we then opened up the queue again, but since we were running in off-peak non-NA times, 10-15+ minutes passed with no tank stepping into the role and the party broke up shortly after.

The healer maintained that this state of affairs was NOT a result of the holy trinity but more due to “tanking being hard to learn” and thus no one wanting to be tanks.

Whereas I’m sitting in my chair thinking that if this is the usual state of PUGs in traditional holy trinity MMOs, it’s no wonder that tanks hide, take refuge and tank only in their guilds, and that there is really no need to put up with all the inherent pains of finding the ideal holy trinity group when I could LFG and get a PUG in under five minutes in GW2 because no perfect trinity is required.

You might ask, why didn’t I swap specs and try tanking?

No tank gear, for one.

Nor had I looked at that portion of the warrior tree and skills that involved holding threat yet. But mostly no tank gear in my bags.

(I do note that Wildstar loot looked interesting in that Adventure and Dungeon loot seemed to contain a lot of supportive stats – which makes a certain kind of sense, people who like to group should run their group content and get gear that is relevant and useful for their needs.)

People say that Wildstar dungeons are fun. And challenging.

It really makes me wonder about how and what they define a challenge.

Mechanics-wise, yeah, they’re complex and interesting. But learning how to perform them well seems to be much less of a challenge than assembling a properly prepared (read: gear and build) group together in the first place.

If one considers the random nature of the PUG as part of the challenge in a difficult dungeon, then I could also say that getting a precursor in GW2 is so fun-and-challenging because one is battling a most cruel RNG in the form of Zommoros’ Mystic Forge.

Personally, I’m left feeling less ‘challenged’ per se, and more helpless.

It’s the same sort of challenge as the Marionette. You could teach until your tongue turns blue and ultimately, your progress is still at the mercy of someone else not screwing up. It is RNG.

RNG you could skew in your favor by joining an organized community – a hardcore dungeon guild, or TTS marionette-running instances, fer example, but still RNG, rather than a challenge that one can defeat through one’s efforts.

Maybe I simply over-analyze these things too much.

I’d love to hear from someone who found Wildstar dungeons fun and exactly why they found it fun, for them.

Are they running with a regular group of friends, for one?

Which would imply they could learn and improve together over time, whereas PUGs are forever luck of the draw – you cannot count on running into the same people again.

Or perhaps this is just a foundational mindset difference in perspective.

I enjoy GW2 dungeons because my deaths are my fault. It’s always in my locus of control to not die or to break off and run and prevent a death by letting the mobs leash if the rest of my party has wiped. I might even be able to save the day and rez three dead people with my warbanner and turn the tides or solo the thing if I can perform the mechanics well.

In some cases in Wildstar, my deaths are my fault. I stuck around in the AoE and failed to perform the mechanic correctly. Looking forward to doing better on the next try and the prospect of improving is exciting, yes.

However, needing to rely on a tank or a healer to not suck, or dps to be actually competent, and waiting for the stars to align in the correct position so that one gets a good group are things that are not within my personal locus of control and are a complete buzzkill.

Nor can I turn any tides if I’m set up to be DPS, I traded off aggro generation or survivability. So if the tank screws up, or the healer screws up, I’m paste. I suppose eventually one could have a damage set of gear and a support set of gear in one’s bags, plus two sorts of specs, but that’s going to be way ahead in the future, rather than in the first dungeon.

In the meantime, we end up with a blame game where everyone points fingers and blames another party for not pulling their weight, causing the death of the group.

How this is fun and enjoyable, I”m not really sure.

It’s these sorts of foundational underpinnings that lead me to suspect that I’ll be done with Wildstar by the end of the week, if not sooner.

I don’t really need to play a game that breeds hostility and competitiveness and elitism, and that’s simply what the traditional MMO model does.

I do enjoy the combat system that Wildstar has chanced into creating though.

Maybe one day someone will make a subscription-free single-player or cooperative multiplayer game with the same underlying combat mechanics – fast frequently recharging dodge rolls and sprints and lots of telegraphs to dodge – I’ll be happy to play that.

GW2: Casting Blame and Looking in a Mirror

Yep, definitely the AFKers' fault for this one...

Today, I’m angry.

Fortunately, after going out for a nice lunch, my mood has mellowed down enough to talk a little more calmly.

But I’ll share with you all right now that I had a flash of indignant rage and pretty much only saw red for a while after reading Ravious’ post about Tequatl and how Sanctum of Rall had decided to abandon their home shard by going off into an overflow of their own – ostensibly to jettison their AFKers and thus have an easier time killing the undead dragon spawn.

First off, I just want to make it clear that it’s not his fault that this somehow pushed one of my buttons.

I have been sleep deprived for the last couple of days, so I might already be predisposed to being short-tempered and grouchy.

There has been the usual influx of hostility over map chat when things are difficult and people experience failure and then start the casting about of accusations and blame.

There have been one or two individuals whom you almost think are being belligerent trolls seeking some kind of reaction, but you still try to give the benefit of doubt and assume they have their own perspective, and try to work with or just put up with them and not react or respond to their more provocative statements.

There’s been Stubborn’s stories about his ongoing WoW guild drama, which on the surface appear to be a standard ‘A team’ clique forming to go raiding by themselves, ignoring the ‘B team’ and weak links with relief.

This particular group appears to have the audacity to use the guild resources of calendar planning to send secret invites to each other, with guild leadership none the wiser, and cheerfully and readily drop out of group and raid WITHOUT A WORD when the team complement ends up not to their liking.

A custom no doubt developed and encouraged by automated dungeon finders, where the next bunch of people in your party are merely a click away and all interchangeable. Feel free to dump them if they are idiots and retards and morons and slackers.

Finally, there’s been this morning’s experience with the Twilight Arbor Forward/Up dungeon path, otherwise known as TA F/U.

F. U.

Literally.

Because it has a reputation for being the most challenging of the three paths and the last boss chews up parties and spits them out.

Naturally, it’s the one TA dungeon I haven’t done and want to do so that I can check off yet another step towards the Dungeon Master achievement.

A guildie sends the LF1M message out on chat, so I think, why not? And join up.

Zoning in, one glance reveals it’s a mixed PUG. The ranger mentions straight off that they haven’t done the place, and I chime in to support her, saying it’s been a while and I don’t remember the path very well, so please mention any necessary mechanics.

(I really don’t remember TA that well. It’s not one of the dungeons I run very often, just now and then. And I can’t for the life of me remember whether I’ve done this path or some other combination of Forward or Up.)

Another glance shows that one of the members, a mesmer, has only 800 AP so I assume right off that he’s new and nervous and cut him some slack for not saying much of anything.

The guildie and the other one say nothing, so again I assume everything’s fine and they’ll clue us in as we get to stuff. I’ve got GW2dungeons.net pulled up in the other screen for additional reference too.

We hit a spot of trouble almost immediately when no one mentions if we’re running or killing through the first few groups of mobs.

Having done other TA paths once upon a time before, I assume we’re running and so am focused on the guildie and the other guy to follow in their footsteps because I simply don’t have sufficient map familiarity otherwise.

This leaves, alas, no time for typing anything into party chat and everyone is left to fend for themselves in the classic hesitant start and stop manner of everyone trying to figure out what everyone else is doing before breaking out into an all-out run for survival because oh my god, I’m going to die, and better them than me.

Naturally, four of us make it and the one that was the least prepared for running and thus ate the aggro collapses.

While we huddle in a corner and wait for the poor soul to make the lonely run by themselves, I -try- to get someone to say something about the Nightmare Vine strategy we’d be using by asking what’s the plan.

After all, in some forsaken corner of my memory, I vaguely recall that a few of my groups liked to leave the last vine alive and burn down the middle one once it appeared, others whittled down all six then hit the center one, and there may have been one that just rushed the center one – I don’t know, I couldn’t remember!

There’s pretty much dead silence. I try again and ask if we’re killing the outer ones first or rushing the center one. ‘kill outer’ is the two word reply. No one mentions the Volatile Blossoms.

The poor ranger trying to get to us has died twice in the meantime.

My heart bleeds a little and I type, “hey [ranger name], do you need some help getting to us?” And am about to try and figure out if I can walk them through running, or just move the entire party to killing the hounds and husks in the way, because why not, it might be easier for this group to clear the way together…

At the same time, another guy decides this is the best time to open the fight and attacks an outer Nightmare Vine.

OH SHIT.

I do a 180, slam down my two banners and rush in to hack away. The guildie jumps in. The newbie mesmer must have walked right into some Volatile Blossoms or just stayed too long in the red circles they threw up because he just curls up and crumbles like tissue paper without a single purple-colored skill firing.

Then the guy who started the fight goes, “oh, whoops, not everyone is here yet.”

Yeah. But too late now. We’re committed.

The ranger does eventually get to us midway through a couple of vines. I still can’t remember if I should be leaving the last vine alive or not, so I watch what the other people do. The guy who started the fight attacks the center one once five vines were dead. So I shrug and jump in and wail away on it too. The guildie has decided to work on the sixth one. Ok, whatever.

Unfortunately, we’re a little slow on dps and the outer vines begin sprouting one by one again. I wince inwardly, trying to solo warrior race against the clock as all the others, presumably with more toughness than me slotted into their gear, turn into my impromptu meat shields.

Close, but no cigar. Maybe one tenth of the big vine’s health remains when I’m finally the only thing in the room the vines can target. Berserk-geared zero-toughness warrior goes down like berserk warrior,

TPK. But I mean, we started a man down and everyone was unprepared and no one even -described- the strategy. So fully understandable, let’s try again, this time with better communication beforehand, right?

Guildie sends me a private whisper. Paraphrasing, “Hey man, really sorry, but I think this is a noob group. They’re hopeless.”

“Yeah,” I agree, for such is undeniable. “Are you familiar with the path?” I ask, because I myself am unfamiliar and will have trouble leading thusly. “Let’s try some coordination and see how it goes.”

It’s a bad start, no doubt, but the group hasn’t even had time to gel yet. Sure, if we’ve tried explaining the fights and are still wiping every encounter, then yeah, we can bow out with grace then, no probs.

“I did it up to the end once,” he says. “The last boss is really tough.” (I’m aware, I skim read the GW2 dungeon forums.)

“I don’t want to waste an hour, I’m going to drop party.” And he does. Without a single word to the rest of the group.

One or two more bail without a sound, and one of them must have been the instance holder, because I’m summarily kicked out of the dungeon and find there’s no one left in the party by the time I’ve zoned out.

Guildie goes invisible. Or logs off in a huff. But I do suspect he just went invisible.

Okay, maybe I just have rejection syndrome like Stubborn, or it’s a perfectly human reaction that everyone goes through, but the thing that zapped through my head was, “WTF, man, was it me?”

And sheesh, no one even tried. It was easier to just drop the damn group and presumably start over another time?

Well, because I’m not the sort to take this kind of thing lying down, I stay right at the entrance of TA and pretty much refresh the LFG finder non-stop, determined not to move a muscle until I -finished- TA F/U.

And in the very next group I joined, that’s exactly what we did.

A staff guardian cleared volatile blossoms for us. The group stayed tight as a group and ran together through spawns. We targeted the nightmare vines one at a time, clearing them all with a marked target until the big one was burned down.

We reached a spot of trouble when we had to drink from the fountain and stealth past one-hit kill deadly swarms. I was reading the guide with one eye while trying to follow in the footsteps of the two who seemed to know where they were going, while also trying not to blindly walk into an area that would reveal me. I scraped by, the last two didn’t. The three that made it patiently waited for them. One of the guardians was kind-hearted enough to turn back and try and clear volatile blossoms to make the run up easier – except he must have accidentally ate a one-shot because he fell over and died. So we two crept back slowly towards him and conducted a revival rescue. Everyone made it in the end.

At the last boss, we quite naturally wiped a few times while trying out various strategies. There was the rush in to the back of the tree, put up reflects and try to burn it down. Got halfway through its hp, then everyone got massacred by machine gun poison projectiles from the 1001 spiders.

There was a 1500 distance attempt by the retraiting ranger to range the tree down a la Dulfy’s guide, except one of the warriors might have went forward a bit far and aggro’ed the spiders. We were actually holding the spiders off decently well with melee, but the party didn’t seem interested in a “some melee and hold off spiders, some range” strategy.

There was the rush forward to the front of the tree with reflects and try to burn it down. Nada.

Some people were wondering if it was at all possible to defeat the tree if not achieved on the very first attempt. Luckily another guy found a video of an engineer who solo’ed TA F/U. “Lol, he just ran around like a retard and hit stuff” was the conclusion.

Huh. Okay. So we tried that. Everyone slotted a ranged attack, and a sacrificial guardian volunteered to be the first to dive in and soak the initial aggro. Strategy: Kite everything. Run in a big fucking circle.

What do you know, it worked.

It was kind of surreal and yet hilariously funny, in a Three Stooges sort of way. One of the guardians was pretty much leading the entire morass in a big circle, and everyone else just looked after their own survival, kept moving to avoid the projectiles, and focused on hitting the tree, revolving in a merry-go-around that occasionally switched directions and would be lethal if stopped. Reflects were used, I had my banners down to offer stats and pulse regen, etc.

Tree died. Probably everyone got their last TA path ticked and done, there was much rejoicing and everyone left content.

I tell you this long story to try and explain why it makes me so MAD when people just give up and look for the easy (or efficient) way out, blaming any convenient scapegoats that are not themselves. When they are not willing to reach out and communicate to others, whom they have labeled as hopeless/idiots/whatever, preferring instead to close themselves off in little groups of us vs them.

We’re okay, -they- are not.

Try and extend a little understanding, goddamit.

Everyone was new to a dungeon once.

A few days ago, I was the class clown in another guilded group who kindly and good-naturedly walked me through Caudecus’ Manor path 2. Knowing I was new, they gave me full text explanations on what to do, when to do it, and there were many ‘lols’ at my expense as my Charr lumbered his way through, trying to figure out exactly when they were picking up barrels and when/where/why they were putting them down in special spots.

‘Don’t hug the barrel, Riot, lol, put it down’ as I grabbed someone’s already specially put aside barrel and tried to bring it back to where they had -taken- the barrels from. (Well, they were running back and forth, how was I to know where was the start and where was the end?)

I’m sure I looked like a total retard in that one.

My only saving grace, another asura who was late to join up with the party (‘short legs’ – always a good excuse) and couldn’t jump and needed a portal to get up to where everyone else was.

Conversely, I can run CoF path 1 and 2 like clockwork and teach my way through it – though the boulders (especially with the invisible boulder bug of this last patch that gave me quite a scare before figuring out the workaround) are still tough to time.

What I’m trying to say is, don’t be so goddamn quick to judge people.

Pro AFKers do it on turrets.
Pro AFKers do it on turrets.

Fucking AFKers at Tequatl, is the standard refrain of some people, especially after they fail and need someone to blame. We didn’t have enough dps. It MUST be the AFKers.

No one thinks that maybe the guy who is AFK fell asleep because he’s been up for 12 hours straight camping Teq to try and get a win in. Or was distracted by his kids. It’s not like he can actually get any credit without waking up and participating.

Oh my god, the zerg is drowning in poison clouds at his foot here. FUCKING TURRET OPERATORS, if you don’t know what you’re doing, GET THE FUCK OFF, you morons. Cleansecleansecleanse, OMG, where are our cleanses. OMG, the bone wall is up, you guys are RETARDS.

Guess what. All the turret gunners have jumped off the turrets because they’re clearly too incompetent to operate them. Would you like to actually try?

I have. Though it’s only lately that I’ve taken them over to practice with, once one of these situations come up and no one wants the turret anyway. It can be fairly tricky to keep a target lock on Teq to keep spamming 2 on him, while making sure your mouse cursor is in the right place to spam 3 on the zerg AND quickly shift to cleanse yourself or a neighboring turret if the poison clouds show up.

And to be frank, if you’ve never been IN the zerg, dying horribly to the poison clouds, you won’t actually know why and where precisely to be aiming the cleanse as a turret gunner. And it’s still guesswork because it’s very hard to see at that distance.

Nor will you ever understand how important it is to a turret operator that he has a reliable turret defense team around him so that he doesn’t have krait and risen in his face, an ignored Finger fucking him up with poison, and his turret just dissolve around him because it broke and no one repaired it UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY walk a mile in his boots.

Sometimes it’s not the turret guy’s fault that he can’t cleanse you BECAUSE HE IS DEAD and DOESN’T have a turret up in the first place.

Speaking of the turret defense team, you can scream at them until you’re blue about keeping the turrets up for flawless defence, or blaming them or turret guys for bone walls, but until you’ve actually tried to hold off a swarm of Risen (champions included) and gotten one shot because they all turned and looked in your direction at once, or felt the despair of the few of you lying there dead and the turrets being overrun because everyone has run off into the zerg (which is now busily screaming that they aren’t getting cleansed, while you’re begging for a few more responders to help out at X turrets, because omg, so many champions and even some grubs)…

…Well. Suffice to say that there are quite a number of moving parts in this fight that can break, and it’s not just AFKers that can be the only problem. Blaming them can obscure some of the real reasons why an attempt failed.

If the turret defence doesn’t know how to target krait hypnosses to whittle down krait numbers fast and ended up distracted by krait “clones” essentially, they take longer to fight every wave. If they don’t kite champions away or whack smaller targets first, mobs can wreck havoc amidst the turrets. All that focus on red names distracts from the very real danger of nearby Tequatl fingers, which give turret gunners a hell of a time if left unmolested.

Too much turret defence, more champions spawn, zerg doesn’t have dps. Too little turret defence, and the turrets get overrun anyway.

Squishy zerg = dead zerg. Especially if they can’t dodge shockwaves well. And zerg, did you have the right stats or slot the right group supportive skills?

A lot of things can go wrong, and it’s the nature of this fight that you can only see what’s happening in the area that you are near. If you’re at Teq’s foot, you can’t see what’s happening with the turrets. Vice versa, if you’re by the turrets, it’s hard to see exactly how many people have gone down with each shockwave + poison AoE.

It’s fairly impossible to apportion blame or responsibility unless you have a person in each place discuss what was happening there and put the big picture together.

Yet quite a number of people just lash out on map chat regarding things they have no awareness of whatsoever. Far easier to blame someone else than ask what they themselves could have done better.

It also disturbs me that the more highly skilled are taking themselves away from the main population, preferring to hang around only with themselves. It’s a very subtle form of elitism. The A team breaks off. The B team is left to their own noobish devices.

Is there no one willing to help them get better?