I Guess PoE and GW2 Just Swapped Places

A couple days ago, I dropped $110 USD buying a supporter pack for Path of Exile Ascendancy expansion.

That’s basically $105 USD for 1050 microtransaction points, and $5 for some fancy gargoyle pets and glowy particle effect weapon skins.

I then promptly spent 420 (or $42 USD) on an armor skin set that’s basically black metal and tons of fire, and another 420 points (aka $42 USD) on another armor skin set that’s dark gothic demon king-esque.

poeskin1

Mostly because I wanted to look pleasing to my own eye while playing Path of Exile and suspected the demon helmet would look great with the rest of the fire set, but also wanted the option to mix and match the other skins too.

I had a brief moment of doubt – in the sense that if a $20 sparkle pony was controversial and a $70 monocle was cause for riots, would I be doing something against my personal principles or in an overall ‘support ethical games’ sense to output $42 for an armor set or $110 in the name of looking awesome?

A month back, Tobold was whaling it up in various mobile game apps, possibly as a sort of experiential experiment to see how it felt.

Me, I draw the line at feeding with my wallet with games that purposefully use unethical tricks (such as loss aversion or creating delay roadblocks that ask you to pay to get past or create an uneven playing field between payers and non-payers.)

At the same time, I don’t really have an issue with personal convenience that doesn’t affect other players  or a payer looking shinier. (I have spent money on Freeblade and Dragonvale, both apps I enjoyed enough to support, and bought stuff that made life slightly more convenient for me, but I could still live without if I was playing free, that didn’t impact other players at all)

The moment I see apps that put paying players in competition with non-paying players, and gives them an advantage, I feel distinctly uncomfortable and only play the app for free, seeing how far I can get on it with zero money and more patience than the average joe. (eg. Dungeon Boss, in my book, and the current app I’m fooling around with, EA’s Dungeon Keeper, which has been the subject of considerable controversy and features more unethical tricks than other app’s I’ve toyed around with, in my book. As such, I’m hesitating on even footing out $7 SGD or $5 USD for this game, and will probably not do so.)

And yet, here I was, whaling it up (or at least taking steps into becoming a mini-whale) in Path of Exile.

Me, the person who normally sits around waiting for Steam games to go on 50% or 75% off before buying them.

Just dropped the equivalent of a collector’s edition box price set on PoE, both to support a game I’d gotten back into and was thoroughly enjoying, and to increase my immersion/involvement while playing by wearing some eye candy skins.

Weird thing was, though I couldn’t put it into words at the time and kept wondering why, I felt HAPPY. Overjoyed. Deliriously happy, even. It was like retail therapy to a deprived shopaholic.

I ran around in my own private hideout, admiring how awesome I looked.

I zipped over to maps with enemies on them to revel in how my outfit now matched the fiery incinerate skill I was using to clear packs and packs of mobs.

Enjoyment of the game went up about five-fold, because my character avatar now both looked the part and reflected the image I had in my mind’s eye, and also blended into the environment more (in the sense of looking lore-appropriate powerful, rather than a country bumpkin with mismatched armor pieces.)

If there was anything that was a downer, it was the twinge of apprehension I had when going to visit my stash in the various Acts’ public lobbies.

In a completely 180 degree motivation turn from what I’d expect a majority of folks who splurge on skins would want (aka to keep up with the Joneses and have the hoi polloi admire their bling), I was almost embarrassed to stand out so prominently and wondered if others would think badly of me for what could be perceived as flaunting one’s wealth.

Fortunately, I play PoE as a primarily solo game with zero need to interact with anybody, period, so barring a few stash runs, I was squarely back in my happy me place of HAHAHA,  FIRE IS AWESOME, I LOOK AWESOME, MUCH FIRE, BURN ALL THE THINGS before long.

poeskin2

PoE now allows you to have two pets out at a time. I couldn’t resist picking up the wolf pet either. For rather obvious reasons to anyone who looks at my web avatars.

(The gargoyle is also kinda fun because it’s essential a cat-goat thing. And we all know one other game with cat-goat hybrids, right? *ahem*)

Speaking of which, way to go, GW2.

Reddit just exploded this Saturday morning (my time) with an announcement that Mike O’Brien would be taking over from Colin Johanson as game director (for a little while, up to the point he hires or promotes a new one).

Goddamn.

I can only keep repeating the above word, for various reasons.

One, a changeup in game directors usually means somewhat of a change in game direction – even if the overall philosophy doesn’t shift to reflect what that head usually likes, each person’s take on things is going to be a little unique and the decisions on what to focus on is going to differ.

The big question in the air is… is that direction going to be swerving back to what I personally like? Or further on in a direction that I don’t like?

Magic 8-ball says, “The future is unclear. Reply hazy. Ask again later.”

The good news is that we’ve gotten a ton more clarity out of this one announcement in terms of Anet’s roadmap than we’ve gotten in the past year or longer.

Mike’s stated preference is to “do fewer things, but do them well.”

From that we can easily extrapolate that there’s going to be less trying to cater to all and sundry. There’s going to be a few niches they’re polishing, to hit possibly what they perceive as the majority of their players. Looking at the teams, that’s, in no particular order, Fractals, Raids, Living Story, WvW, PvP and probably not much else.

(There’s the “Legendaries” team too, which I presume covers that extended crafting grind, precursor-related quests, and bits of rewards sprinkled here and there to add up to the overall Legendary. More of a functional thing to enable new legendary skins/reward achievement sequences to be introduced, rather than a ‘new content’ thing.)

There’s also more of a high-level timeline being shared. The two week content drops appear to be essentially a dead experiment now. Just not feasible for the devs to keep up with and still produce content of a quality they’re satisfied with, apparently. The bad but realistic news is that players are going to have to wait longer for content.

On a not-terribly-encouraging personal note, getting the Spirit Vale raids out appear to be the biggest PvE thing for the first half of the year. We’d best be expecting Living Story 3 only in the third quarter soonest.

The other PvE thing appears to be coming in April, sort of a features cleanup and excess grind removal thing, that essentially seem to be  HoT expansion fixes, basically. Cutting back on the overenthusiastic tedious bits that came with HoT. Overdue. Needs putting in to refine a lot of HoT things up to enjoyable levels (random things I can think of offhand: zone timers, adventures locked behind event chain completions, provisioner token vendors locked behind event chain completions, guild hall costs, blah blah blah.) Just not going to be new /new/ per se.

Hey, maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll get Super Adventure Box showing up for April Fool’s (and they’re just keeping mum on it for now to surprise players. Hopeful, much?)

Iterating on WvW is going to take up the time between April to August or thereabouts, with a brief interjection of the last Spirit Vale raid wing…

… and I suppose PvP is somewhere in there-ish, though now seems to be its time, with season 2 ongoing right now (dunno, stopped caring a while back.)

Goddamn, Anet.

You sure know how to make me feel better.

About having spent $110 USD on another game.

I’m not quitting. I really appreciate the realistic roadmap, so my expectations are set appropriately.

It looks like what I’m going to end up doing for the next three months or more in GW2 is: dailies, 3-4 evenings raiding in various Spirit Vale wings (unless my raid group disintegrates for reasons that are out of my control), the occasional toe into whatever they’re testing on the public for WvW, the odd organized group world boss or zone meta now and then, and that’s about it.

So erm, I guess for the time being, GW2 is now going to swap over to become a secondary game, and I’m going to need a new primary game.

I suspect the two contenders for the crown are going to be Path of Exile and/or modded Minecraft.

To set my readers’ expectations realistically as well:

I think you can expect a lot less GW2-related and more PoE or general game (I have a really long Steam unplayed games list) blog posts in the coming months.

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GW2: Entertaining Oneself… The Champion Risen Archmage

championrisenarchmage

Grrr… This guy…

Looks small, packs a punch.

It struck me that the one part I was enjoying out of Wildstar’s dungeons – besides trying to get interrupts off successfully fast enough to save the group from a dismal wipe – was the amount of movement and reflexive dodging needed and the sensation of practicing and getting better at one’s timing, plus needing to understand and analyze exactly what each mob attack was doing because it was so punishing to ignore it.

By chance, while doing my dailies in GW2, I walked by the perpetually up Champion Risen Archmage in the Cursed Shores (assuming no champion train running, that is) and decided to give him a go.

Wow.

I ended up spending an hour there, by choice, and respawned about fifteen times from the nearby waypoint, having recreated a very similar feeling to your run of the mill PUG in Stormtalon’s Lair, with the added bonus of not having to wait 15+ minutes to even begin to attempt it, or having any ‘weak link’ scapegoat excuses that someone else was to blame.

This champion has it all, on demand.

A very quick firing small lightning bolt AoE… which hurts.

A bigger lightning storm AoE circle… which hurts like hell…

A lightning projectile that also freaking hurts…

And seemingly one or two other minor attacks that I haven’t really bothered to read yet, besides knowing one of them sorta corrupts the ground and applies two conditions.

He will test your dodging skills and mastery of timing intently, and punish like crazy if you screw up.

Which I did, often.

I am neither a condition thief with the benefit of toughness and lots of dodges, nor a zerk warrior utilizing an area where there were no respawning mobs and able to unleash heaps of damage in close range while still having a big health reservoir, good health regen, an evade and a block (ie. the two successful solo videos out there,) so I may have been trying this on voluntary hard and not-very-strategic mode.

What I ended up trying was just to plink away at range with my one-hand crit scepter and try to dodge every damn tell it had, staggering reflects, blocks and signet healing to recover from the many many accidents.

(In retrospect, maybe I should have tried shelter too.)

I was keenly aware that my timing wasn’t as picture perfect as it could have been, in theory.

Soon, the standard torch I ran around with in casual open world PvE was swapped in favor of the focus and the three blocks it provided.

I ended up staring at my traits and swapping the unused Powerful Blades (after attempting melee and blinds with it, I ate a couple of its projectiles and AoEs at such close range and decided against practising that at the time) for Signet Mastery, which boosted my signet heal recharge.

I started thinking I was running out of endurance way too quickly because I was so clumsy at this, and ate a 40% endurance regen food and put on an undead slaying potion, for kicks…

Biggest progress I made was around 50% of its health bar solo so far, but not for lack of trying, and I’m still dead certain I’m not staggering stuff properly (I tend to panic and start spamming when things go wrong.)

Most amusingly though, was that this attracted one or two Orr farmers when the archmage’s health started dropping, who seemed to be game enough to give a duo or trio a go.

It was somewhat gratifying to see that I was managing to survive long enough for them to take uninterrupted potshots at the champion, up until the point where I rolled a bit too far away and lost aggro from proximity, at which point they started being the focus of attention. And tended to drop after 2-3 AoEs they failed to dodge in time.

However, one ranger was fairly helpful and we actually successfully killed it in our impromptu duo attempt, as his pet actually took aggro some of the time and he managed to roll out of the AoE around 50% of the time.

Having that attention diverted from me gave me some breathing room and for my skills to recharge, ready to take over when the ranger inevitably went down. Since running to rez him would only mean unfriendly skies lightning aoe on both of us, I just ended up solo dodging it from the opposite side of the downed ranger and let him rez up again via his pet. Between that trading off of aggro and the additional damage from him, we managed a successful archmage duo.

Some day though… pulling off a solo would be fun.

And there’s also other classes and builds to try if my casual weak sauce one just isn’t up to the task.

Guess I know what else I can do when I get bored and want to get gud at dodging.

At a couple silver per waypoint (if you really screw up and don’t just flee to reset the fight) and no repair costs, it’s a lot cheaper in money and time spent than wiping repeatedly in Wildstar.

GW2: Endgame Ideas and Adventures in Goal-Setting

Maybe if you squint... there's 225 of 'em... somewhere...

“225 dolyaks in the snow, 225 dolyaks,
Take one down, slap it around, 224 dolyaks to go”

– anonymous Norn drinking song

It has not escaped my notice that during the last few days of blog silence (and game playing), my most popular post getting hits has been the one about Guild Wars 2’s end game.

That one was a rambling little response mostly making the point about what GW2’s endgame is – a smorgasbord or tapas MMO of many lateral progression options once you pass a certain baseline on the vertical progression ladder.

If you’re not fundamentally comfortable with that, you need to go play another game that is more familiar to you and gives you only one linear ladder to climb so that you can feel special about your “accomplishments” which mostly seem to involve the expenditure of time and perhaps how well you can execute a certain move.

Or conversely, if you’re entirely bored of the genre, it’s time to take a break and move on to a game with a completely different feel and challenges you in different ways. At least for a little while. (Here’s my shameless recommendation of a deep, tactical experience where knowing the right move and strategy is given a lot more stress than how long you take to execute it. I’m sure you can find more games out there too.)

However, if you’re still happy with the game and you’re just here to look for ideas on ‘what to do in GW2’, here are a couple of suggestions:

Reddit is a great source of ideas, as it’s got a huge cross section of variously motivated players reading and contributing to it.

  • When in doubt, a reddit search for “goals” should bring you nearly every thread and idea that may possibly interest a person – from the bog standard ‘get Legendary and look pretty’ ones, to be a PvP or WvW master or ‘collect all the things.’
Clothes? I don't need no stinking clothes to look pretty!
Clothes? I don’t need no stinking clothes to look pretty!

If you’re just interested in hearing about the way I play, then read on.

My voluntarily chosen over-arcing goal is achievements, but not in any kind of maniacal, obliged to win a leaderboard kind of manner. I tend to just use them as ideas or suggestions for things I could be doing.

What does end up happening anyway is a decent amount of progress
What does end up happening anyway is a decent amount of progress

I’m perfectly happy to let, say, the last two jumping puzzles sit undone because I haven’t been in the mood to do them yet. Or a bunch of posters and books in Ebonhawke and mariner plaques that I’ll get to, someday, when I want to have an easy immersive experience.

But maybe the next goal that pops up on the summary is 971/1000 trolls and I go, hmm, I can kill 29 trolls today. Hmm, where are there nice and easy trolls to kill? I don’t wiki because I like to remember these things as esoteric MMO trivia. I remember seeing trolls in Bloodtide Coast, but I think, nah, too high a level, it’s gonna be a pain to kill 29 of those. I think lower, and remember seeing a champion troll in Caledon Forest. Aha, surely there must be smaller minion trolls nearby. Sure enough, there are a bunch. Ding, achievement get.

I do tend to attack the time-limited achievements first, because you know, they are time-limited. This has led to some occasional QQ when striving to reach the quantity required by an achievement ends up taking up 100% of my current available playing time, but ArenaNet has been getting a LOT better on this front and giving more moderate sized ones.

Every day when I log on, I check the daily achievements tab and pick and choose. If I tried to complete all of them, I’d go crazy in short order, but hey, some people do. I highlight on the tracker all the ones I wouldn’t mind doing, then try to knock out a bunch with one stone. Maguuma killer, veteran killer, gatherer? Ok, off to Mount Maelstrom to slaughter a bunch of things, grab some easy veterans and harvest stuff then.

Once it hits 5/5, I tend to stop there and leave the rest of the highlighted ones as extras that I might do if I have more time that day. If not, whatever.

The Living Story tab gets checked next to see if there’s anything that I want to work on or knock out. I admit to being voluntarily completist on this one. Many are content just reaching the meta-achievement. My minigame challenge is to do all the non-infinite ones if at all possible.

I’m keeping an eye on the time in the meanwhile. Once it hits one of the scheduled Teq times for TTS, I tend to meander over and attend a run. I find attending Tequatl more exciting than chasing world bosses, and you do get rares and karma out of it too. The eternal hope is, of course, that I’ll pop a mini. One day. Some day. (Yeah, right.)

Minis are my other voluntarily chosen vice. Again, I’m not completist about this. The prices of exotics are crippling. I spit on any ugly gem store ones. (Ones I find cute, I might consider $10 for if I haven’t spend my month’s budget of $10-20 already, or convert gold to gems.) But I did start by picking up all the blues and greens since they were cheap, and as time wore on, I found I could earn enough spending money to buy rare minis sporadically.

And ever since I managed the initially-viewed-as-insane goal of 225 dolyaks slapped in 7 weeks by working on it slowly 5-10 dolyaks a day, I’ve become a little more open to the idea about long to medium-term goals by chewing away at them in chunks per day.

Being able to afford an exotic mini falls under an idea like that. The thing costs 50 gold? Well, if I earned 10 gold a day, I might be able to afford it in five days. Yeah, right. The amount of dungeons I’d have to run in a day to do that would make me slit my wrists in a hurry. Not sustainable for me. But I could probably earn 5 gold a day. Aim for two CoF and two AC runs (maybe only get half of that done in reality), sell some gathered materials and rares, that would work.

Also, temporarily setting aside one goal for another. I had 100 gold sitting in the bank for icy runestones for that someday Legendary.
Also, temporarily setting aside one goal for another. I had an extra 100 gold backup sitting in the bank for icy runestones for that someday Legendary. I couldn’t resist when the price dipped on 12 Dec as people began selling off their stuff to rush Ascended armor crafting. Title get. Screw the jackalope. (At least until I have more spare money for luxuries again. New goal: restore savings.)

The other thing that has caught my current fancy is the possibility of getting the dolyak finisher before they do their drastic revamp of PvP and remove ’em.

Being that I was only rank 11 yesterday (2785/4000), I sat down to calculate the exact number of points this would take and how achievable it might possibly be. Turns out, one is aiming for 36, 715 more points. Oh god, was pretty much my reaction.

However, at an average of 160 points per match, assuming the PvP ideal of one match won and one match lost (minus some fudging for the preponderence of stacking, and plus some for the ability to nab more points by hitting top whatevers in a certain category or volunteering to autobalance), it turns out that I “only” have to attend around 230 hotjoins.

That’s like 225 dolyaks, ain’t it?!

At 5-6 matches a day, one should be done in about 46 days, or 6.5 weeks. Sort of like the timeframe of a WvW league, eh?

That should keep me occupied until the next Scarlet patch.

Who knows, if I actually improve enough, I might get brave enough to join a solo queue some day.

Or there's always Wintersday in WvW.
Or there’s always Wintersday in WvW.

If you’ve actually read this far, thanks.

I’d suggest that to get the most enjoyment out of GW2, one has to take the time to decide and narrow down a couple of goals for your playtime.

This may be something as relaxed as “have fun and go where the wind and my guildies take me” or something structured like having some short, medium and long-term goals that you’d be happy accomplishing.

Faces only mothers could love
Or something as personal and meaningful as taking your own collection of memorable screenshots or roleplaying.

Point is, you do actually have to decide on something, and let other things be. For a while, at least.

If you get bored, then switch goals to something that does interest you, nevermind whether the first was completed or not. It will still be there and you can come back to it again. (Mostly. Time-limited ones excepted.)

And if you have to, switch games. It’s okay. You’re not paying a dime while you’re not playing GW2. There’s tons of other games out there. You can come back if and when it ever interests you again.

The Repetitive Nature of Games and Why Endgame is Elusive

Here we go round the mulberry bush...

Scree’s back! And the criticism this time is repetition.

Here’s the dirty little secret: games -are- repetitive.

One of the points of a game is that it lays out a set of rules and you repeat and iterate on the scenarios it presents you with till you get better at it and “beat it” or “win.” Games have a learning curve.

The nirvana that everyone is seeking is that perfect state of flow, where one’s skill level perfectly matches the level of challenge so that one is deeply engaged.

(Image from Wikipedia.)
(Image from Wikipedia)

Problem is, everyone is different.

One game’s level of challenge may match one player perfectly, while another may find the challenge too difficult and thus end up worried and anxious.

I’m not sure that graph is accurate on the lower scale, where relaxation is graphed at a higher skill level than boredom.

For some, it could be the other way around, where high skill level and low challenge leads to boredom, while a medium skill level and low challenge leads to finding the activity relaxing.

Then again, for others, it’s a lot easier to be bored than it is to really relax – one may need l33t Zen monk skills in meditation to achieve proper relaxation, while nearly anyone can be bored outta their effing mind on a regular basis.

It’s in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

It really comes down to what kind of repetition you find fun (or will put up with) in order to do something that you feel is enjoyable.

Different people reach different answers.

Scree finds that PvP produces a new situation every time it occurs. Those who prefer PvP tend to claim that they are drawn to this because the skills used can be the same, but the opponents are different, creating sufficient variety for them.

I’m especially tickled because I somehow managed to find that WvW was too repetitive and burned myself out from the game format some time ago.

You see, personality-wise, I’m very low on the competitive Killer Bartle scale. I’m just not really interested in the whole metagame of guess and second-guess your opponent in order to get one-up on them and win. So my tolerance for repetition on things PvP tend to be rather low, a couple rounds played for fun and variety… done.

Even in that eden of PvP, Eve Online, the blogosphere has been exchanging a little quote of the day highlighting a core repetitive aspect of the game.

Getting from one place to another apparently involves a lot of the same steps repeated over and over – turn off and on autopilot, manually warp to zero per jump gate. The only variety is what manner of shark awaits you at each step.

For some, that’s enough to consist of quite an adventure, and they willingly acclimatize themselves to the game’s little repetitive quirks to get the bigger experience.

I’ve been playing Don’t Starve quite a bit over the last few days. I easily get to my second winter and often get to days in the 100+ range. But then, I turtle.

homesweetbase

I turtle A LOT. I don’t play RTS games on a competitive basis because I tend to derive more pleasure spending two hours teching up to EVERYTHING and then creeping in the equivalent of siege tanks or battlecruisers to slowly demolish the computer’s bases one building at a time over outsmarting a real life person, who can turn out to be exceedingly obnoxious, win or lose.

I get that a lot of clever people have discovered they can shortcut this process and created dozens upon dozens of other strategies they can use to win against another party trying to turtle, which leads to more counter-strategies to defend against this, which leads to more counter-counter strategies to get the upper hand, unsoweiter.

I get that this is a delightfully deep metagame for some.

I admire it from afar with videos and commentators to help me understand it, but I choose not to spend a good part of my life learning one game to such a high degree of focus.

Back to Don’t Starve. I build a base. Preferably near 5-6 rabbit holes.

I expand it. I make a little tooth trap alley to the side to fend off hounds.

icallitthehoundnommer

I engage in tons and tons of repetition, including chopping wood for a day or two, gathering grass and twigs for another day, checking on my nearby spider den with pigs (aka silk farm) to make sure it won’t ever overgrow into a Spider Queen, catch and cook meals for another day or two, spend another day or two figuring out and reaching the next source of rocks and flint – just to prep for an expedition that may extend me into unexplored territory and necessitate a secondary base/firepit or an overnight stay not-at-home-base with a campfire.

When Winter comes, I run back to civilization central and my tooth traps and spend a good half my time just chopping wood and keeping the food supply going. Because I don’t want to starve, thank you. (Or freeze.)

NOT FREEZING.
NOT FREEZING. FIRE LEVEL ABOVE DESIGN PARAMETERS.

On the other hand, Azuriel would probably stab his eyes out from the repetition I engage in with the same game. He prefers forward adventuring progress.

Me, I haven’t even seen Maxwell’s door in many of my worlds, and never stepped once through it. I prefer a slow and steady stable state with some incremental creep.

My guess is that each person’s preference for how much excitement and adrenaline rush and thrill versus relaxation they want in their games is different.

(The old hard fun vs easy fun war again. There’s actually two more types if you follow the link.)

For those who find they enjoy a game that is short and linear but continually ramps up the challenge till the content is all done (like Portal and Portal 2), MMOs are going to be an inherently disappointing affair. Once they’ve mastered every challenge they care to, that’s it, done. Finite content is finite.

Time to go on to another game or another MMO, at least until the devs have enough time to produce more content to devour.

An endless endgame?

Whatever it is, it’s going to repeat -somehow-.

WoW raids are a delaying tactic. Kindly repeat the same fight but with the variation and difficulty of cat herding a lot of players with different schedules and skill levels for an RNG chance of desirable loot. Hopefully, this takes you long enough so that the devs can produce the next raid for you to do something similar till the next patch.

If you think that in Everquest Next, there won’t be players who will be searching for and making a point of repeatedly killing the most desirable mobs… I think that you’re sorely mistaken.

One hope that it has of stretching gameplay is the possibility of player-created content, which provides supplementary content to dev-created content, just like how mods can extend the lifespan of a single-player game.

Clarity of preference is important, rather than just dismissing a game as “too repetitive.”

I suspect that Scree prefers “impactful” games. A game where player actions can mean a great deal. Where player actions form the meat of the content via emergence. Where hopefully the NPCs have enough AI to form meaningful, discernable patterns that can be exploited but not TOO exploited.

Well, we’ll all be watching upcoming PvE sandbox games to see if they manage to achieve this elusive holy grail.

A lot of this stuff tends to break the moment you throw the “massively multiplayer” part of the equation in.

We’ve learned that player-created content tends to give rise to “xp farms” where players design, create and run repetitively an optimized encounter so that they can reach max level (and level alts) at the best possible speed. (Thank you, City of Heroes and Neverwinter. Possibly Everquest 2 too.)

We’ll see how fast ingenious players can map the world sufficiently to determine node spawning patterns (must farm crafting materials, y’know!) or provide trackers for mob movement or spawns to determine the most probable places to head to for xp/loot/combat action.

Case in point: observe niche game A Tale in the Desert – randomly spawning mushroom locations produced a shroomdar. This game barely attracts 1000 players at the best of times.

Do you think the combined brainpower of a popular MMO cannot crack what a single team of developers code? Or at least harness the power of massive crowds via  individual player reports? e.g. see GW2 dragon timers before the API was made available.

If you have xp in a game, players will figure out the best way to get xp fast. Even (and especially) if it means repetition.

Skills-based, not levels, you say? I point you to Darkfall and its stories of skill grind, where at least some players will macro it, or engage in the equivalent of leaving a weight on one’s keyboard a la Morrowind or other Elder Scrolls games.

If you have loot in a game, rest assured players will repeatedly do whatever it is to gather it.

Ideally, they are enjoying the activity they repeat. (Note: level of enjoyment varies based on player personality and preference.)

Whether that activity is combat (versus mobs or against other players), or gathering some form of resource (xp, gold, shiny loot for stats or looking pretty, craftables, luxury collectibles), or exploration and discovery or yes, even travel and commuting from point A to point B.

Eventually though, a player is bound to get bored of whatever repetition they were engaged in and wander off. Or burn out if they weren’t careful enough. Part of the gaming life cycle.

The real questions are:

  • Do they wander off to another activity in the same game?
  • If they wandered off to another game, do they ever come back to the one they left? (Check things out or pick up where they left off?)
  • And how frequently do they do it?
  • (Oh, and do they give the devs any money for providing such experiences in the meantime, of course. 🙂 )

GW2: Endgame is Everything

Finally got story mode done on the warrior, after an uncountable number of exploration mode runs...

Scree from the Cynic Dialogues has a post-mortem up on why he lost interest in Guild Wars 2 after six months and couldn’t get back into the game despite repeated tries.

His main issues appear to be a foundational disagreement on how traits were designed in the game, and unhappiness with the speed of developer fixes and response.

Which I happen to agree are very good reasons for why one shouldn’t play a game that one dislikes.

I personally have foundational disagreements on how World of Warcraft raids are the be-all and end-all of anyone wanting to play their game in a hardcore manner (with item level and ever-increasing stats being so emphasized), and would probably go berserk trying to deal with pithy Ghostcrawler posts in between the drastic game changes that seem to happen with every WoW patch.

Nor can I really deal with the fundamentally Eve Online concept of paying a good $15-30 a month for the privilege of getting beat up while learning valuable lessons “to get better, for the future” for at least 2-3 months while you skill up, plan, plot, join organizations and eventually get good enough at the game to do well, earn sufficient isk to possibly pay for your account(s) and then proceed to beat on each other and any newbies who stray into your path in an endless political war of power and greed-mongering.

(Though from afar, I do like the episodic pace of change the Eve devs put out with every update.)

So I don’t play World of Warcraft.

Or Eve Online.

And Scree doesn’t play Guild Wars 2.

But I find his outlook on endgame most interesting. He’s not happy with games that don’t have a stated, defined plan for “the end game,” especially if the speed of tweaks to it are glacial to boot.

To him, GW2’s endgame is possibly WvW – which tends to spawn a myriad of similar complaints from primarily WvW players about the game type being ignored or new fixes that make things even worse.

Or it is dungeons and possibly the fractal dungeon which ramps all the way up to fractal level 50 with increasing stat difficulty and the need to grind for a particular Agony stat in order to qualify for higher leveled fractals. Except the rewards are mostly all cosmetic, which makes them optional, and this somehow grates on him.

To him, the endgame is everything.

If it’s not clearly stated and defined, and given substantially tempting rewards and focused developer attention, he loses interest. Fast.

On the other hand, here’s me, five level 80s and 408 days in (2,561 hours – the average is really kinda scary, all those weekends and waiting for Tequatl must have skewed it…) and still not bored.

I haven’t seriously played WvW in easily three months, nor have I visited a fractal dungeon for a long long time.

So what in the world have I been doing?

This week, I’ve been evolving a comfortable routine of trying to catch at least one Tequatl kill a day via the TTS guild, maybe two or three with other characters if I have the time.

Then I work on finishing up the daily with some easy extras for ~7-9AP, the daily reward laurel and that nice sense of checklist done easy satisfaction.

If there’s more time to spare after that, I pull up the LFG tool and see if I can get in on a few easy CoF p1 or P2 runs, or a definitely less easy TA new Aetherpath attempt (two more dungeon-related achievements to go).

scarletisastalker

Or if I’m feeling brave, some of the dungeons I’m less familiar with to become more habituated to them, and maybe even get one of my last few completely unfamiliar and undone paths finished on the way to the Dungeon Master achievement.

1-3 dungeons later, I am decidedly dungeoned out for the day.

(But several gold richer.)

I may pop into Southsun for twenty minutes peaceful farming with a magic find cupcake for incredibly incremental progress on T6 mats for a Legendary.

I definitely visit the Under New Management puzzle for empyreal fragments, and one weekend I visited Skipping Stones on a whim to discover that the Super Adventure Box had decidedly improved my jumping ability yet again.

Or I jump over to one of the Orr zones to run around in the most haphazard manner gathering resources and maybe stumbling across an orichalcum ore or ancient sapling as a bonus – it’s really just peaceful solo time.

Depending on my mood, over the last few weeks, I have also:

  • used a GW2 node website for more focused and targeted node gathering
  • gone to farm Champions in the Frostgorge loop
  • stopped by a world boss or two
  • visited and revisited some jumping puzzles new and old
  • made an attempt at map exploration on alts
  • tried to level up my mesmer further via lowbie zones and personal story
  • bought a new character slot
  • made a temporary necro to regain the skull mask I must have accidentally salvaged off my level 80 necro
  • experimented with various races of warriors while working towards accumulating Black Lion Keys

(By level 7, you can generally get the level 10 Personal Story done, then clean up character, getting a few lucks via salvaging along the way and delete.)

Plus, you get to see all the branching level 10 stories. Hot golemic love action!
Plus, you get to see all the branching level 10 stories. Hot golemic love action!

I also recently discovered that the Daily Activity Participation is rather fun and easy to do. Just talk to the NPC in Lion’s Arch, putz around for one game (and maybe even win it) and then exit one reward chest richer.

I’ve been deriving a certain satisfaction in accumulating and salvaging a ton of blues and greens from my Teq and dungeoneering and oh, Scarlet invasion efforts. Each day, my magic find slowly increments by 1-2% back towards the 180% I was used to previously, except now it’ll apply for the entire account.

I have yet to properly inventory and tidy up my bank and guild banks once more or figure out what kinds of stats I want on each character for Ascended armor and weapons and work towards those. My Artificer is only 465 on crafting, and nothing else has been incremented past 400.

In the past update before Tequatl Rising, my daily routine involved at least one visit of the Super Adventure Box for a round of bauble farming or an achievement or Tribulation Mode attempt.

And so on, following whatever was new per Living Story update.

In a way, this very comfortably harkens back to Guild Wars 1 for me.

There was so much lateral progression you pretty much had to pick and choose what you wanted to get done for the day, according to your own personal goals.

You could PvP with various formats. You could work on your story missions across four chapters till you were done. You could do it all over again in hard mode. Or do it yet again with books to keep track of your repeat progress and reward you. You could vanquish every zone. Or work on map exploring and scraping every last corner of the world. You could run the harder ‘dungeon’-like zones Fissure of Woe, the Underworld, Domain of Anguish with a group or solo with your own heroes. Or follow the Zaishen ‘daily’ and do the highlighted goals. And lots more besides.

The Hall of Monuments worked as a sort of focused vertical progression ‘endgame’ where you could do a whole bunch of lateral activities but gradually increment that final number.

In GW2, ArenaNet points and achievements appear to be a method of coming close to that idea.

I’m a dabbler. I putz around casually a lot, hoard a ton of stuff that may never ever get used, pick a goal at random from a big list and work towards that for a while, then find something else to do.

The cool thing is that everything I choose to do, benefits me and my account in the end, somehow, someway.

Other players, I am sure, do this very differently.

Some spend all their days in WvW, zerging or roaming as their interest takes them. Some fixate on a Legendary they want and single-mindedly work towards that. Some chase dragons, or world bosses, or champions all day long. Some are happy just perfecting the cosmetic look they desire for their characters. Or creating the world’s largest collection of alts, or miniatures, or what-have-you.

For instance, one of my guild leaders seems to be quite a PvP fan, and half the time, I see him on one sPvP map or another. The other half he seems to spend running guild events (which include WvW) and missions and maybe taking some time out to PvE and follow the Living Story.

Another of my guild leaders has 15k ArenaNet Points and still counting. so guess where his focus must be.

The leader of the TTS guild I joined appears to be enjoying himself spending nearly all his time online in Sparkfly Fen organizing one kill after another, and wrangling six (yes, it’s now six) guilds with all the attendant leadership and administration challenges that must follow.

And of course, some content themselves hanging out in Lion’s Arch, or just finishing their dailies, or wandering the open world or roleplaying with a guild.

In Guild Wars 1 -and- 2, the endgame is literally -everything-.