Blaugust Day 7: Playing Multiple Roles

It’s funny, but I feel like I have so many game-related things to do – games to play, games to grind in, games I haven’t played for a long time but would like to revisit, game videos to watch, beta games to beta – that I keep resenting the feeling of obligation to get a daily post out.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from a week of doing this, it’s that I much prefer a 2-3 day posting schedule so that I have some in-between time to reflect a bit more, chew on things and ponder, before I can build up enough excitement/motivation/intriguing revelation that I want to share in a blog post.

So I’m grabbing another writing prompt from Izlain today to get this post out:

Do you find it difficult to play a role outside of your typical class choices? This can be in an MMO, MOBA, single player RPG or any other game that uses class as a distinction for gameplay.

The short answer is, it depends.

I have a distinct class/role preference that I normally gravitate to first, in any game, especially when I’m just trying it out for the first time and want to play something within my comfort zone.

Specifically melee damage, sturdy/tanky, with preferably a side helping of support and/or control.


A Brief Word on Role Definitions

The holy trinity of Tank/DPS/Heals is too ‘binary’ for me, in the sense that I dislike the co-dependency of the ‘pure’ holy trinity roles. I would definitely lean more towards the tank + DPS side of the spectrum, but just saying that loses the usefulness of drilling down into specifics.

I’m fonder of using the more modern damage/support/control/(utility) role definitions, or a more City of Heroes style definition of tank(aggro control)/tank(absorb alpha strike)/damage(ranged or melee)/defending(support+heals)/control/debuffs to break things down into broader functions.

On Wading into Combat and Being Supportive


I gravitated to tanks quite early on, but if you asked me what I really enjoyed about tanking, it’s the following:

  • Being big and sturdy and leading the charge into combat
  • The sense of being able to control the battle from within the thick of things, to position enemies where you want them, to drag them to a corner or wherever (aggro control being a part of this)
  • Being able to thump things with a big badass weapon
  • Inspiring and supporting teammates from within the fray
  • Being able to take an immense amount of punishment and remain standing, outlasting the opponent and ending victorious

What I hated (and still do) about tanks:

  • The sense of being codependent on a healer to keep you upright, just being a big but squishy health bar reservoir to be kept topped off or blam, everybody dies
  • The feeling of obligation to know a dungeon well, in order to bring your little lost sheep (aka the rest of your party, who seem exceedingly content to be handheld through the experience instead of being equal partners) through safely, and to set a ‘good’ pace, for unfamiliar people whom you have no idea whether they like or hate your speed or lack thereof, and may be silently judging you


So generally, you’ll find me playing non-holy trinity games where everything comes with a side helping of damage so that you’re not helplessly waiting around for another person to ‘complete’ you, and looking for tough, high hp melee fighters that can apply control and/or offer defensive or offensive support.

On Spreading Out and Being Flexible

I enjoy variety and novelty and learning new things, and am a chronic altholic, so it is quite natural and easy for me to diversify roles. I just pick something that has most of the things I like, plus one or two switchups in role/function.

Ok, let’s do melee dps, but be squishy and stealthy instead!


Or let’s do ranged damage, but be relatively sturdy and have a lot of support/control/buffing functions up our sleeve!


Or let’s be tanky, but in a ranged fashion, summoning lots of minions to do your tanking/damage for you and control/supporting from the back!


Strangely enough in FPSes, I enjoy the sniper role a great deal, but rarely get to play it in a successful manner due to my ping and general lack of superb twitch aim.

So I have no real qualms about roles that involve sitting at the back and throwing vast amounts of damage and sniping or nuking things either.


One hit kills, be it from melee or range? Yes, please.


I enjoy the tactical and strategic aspect of waiting for the perfect moment and the payoff of the “BLAM, let the bodies hit the floor.”

Never knew what hit them...

Never knew what hit them…

Any roles that involve a great deal of fire-throwing? Absolutely, I have a little closet pyromaniac in me.

(I figured this out when I was playing fire tanks in City of Heroes where you get to burst into flame, /fire powers where you get to thump things with FIRE, fire blasters which throw great balls of fire and sheets of flame around, and fire/fire dominators which control things with the power of flame and smoke, summoning itty bitty demon imps made out of fire, and yes, deal damage by blowing things up with fire.)


The Role I Just Can’t Bring Myself to Play

There’s just one, the antithesis of my playstyle preferences, that I just cannot tolerate for long.

And that’s the -ranged- squishy pure support healer that is reliant on adopting groups and other players as their pets to tank and do damage.


Ranged is slightly discomfiting, but I can deal.

Squishy makes me feel useless if I keep dying.

What? I do damage like I’m waving a tissue paper around? Why am I even bothering to fight things then?

Whack-a-mole on health bars is not my idea of fun “combat,” since it’s more staring at the UI and less actively affecting the world…

… and are you serious, I have to rely on other people being competent and not braindead in order to make any headway? I can’t solo? Can I have some NPC bots to heal instead please? I think they’re likely to target faster and do more damage…

Yeah, well, even DOTA 2 ranged supports can output a very decent amount of damage with certain skills, which would make the rest of the somewhat thankless tasks slightly more worth it.

It’s just the ‘pure’ thing that I can’t stand.

I wouldn’t mind damage/healing at long range, though it’s a role I’m not likely to play often or favor first. At least you get to do -something- in between healing, and watch/affect the flow of battle from afar with good timing.

In a similar fashion, a sturdy tank that hits like a wet noodle and only focuses on aggro generation and control and is heavily dependent on a third party keeping them upright with a constant stream of heals is also equally boring to me.

I could probably play it, in the sense that the role functions are familiar and fairly second-nature. But I’d definitely begrudge it after some time.

Fortunately, there are a lot more games out there that have broken away from the holy trinity and realized that players can deal with multiple roles, applying the appropriate skill at the appropriate time, making combat both more interesting and complex, and also allowing for -anyone- to be the hero and come in and save the day with good gameplay (be it throwing a heal or revive, tossing a crowd control or doing damage at the time when that function is most called for.)

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, I for Izlain and “I keep forgetting to add this last line until I edit the post” and the number 7.


GW2: Do Players Have the Patience for Long Term Strategy?

This week, I had another one of those small revelations. Natural Selection 2 is launching on October 31, in case you didn’t know, and it suddenly hit me that there are some significant similarities between it and GW2’s WvW format. (But there are also some big differences.)

What is Natural Selection 2? Well, it’s an FPS mixed with an RTS basically. It’s the long awaited sequel to a now-very-old Half Life mod which I used to play very heavily. It’s human Marines with guns and armor versus bitey, clawy, flappy, spitty, goring aliens known as the Kharaa.

I’m not going to talk about NS2 any further, though I’ve bought it long ago to support it. I’ve had too much fun with the free NS1 to regret it.

You see, I do have to admit that I am disappointed that I can’t seem to run it very well. Like 1-3 FPS on a self-created map, then crash. I can’t even join a server without stalling and hanging. Part of it may be that the beta has not yet been graphics optimized, or maybe it’s just poor coding, or most likely, it is the first reason colliding with my ailing ancient computer – I’ve mentioned I crash out of GW2 WvW habitually if I’m not on the rock bottom graphics settings, right? Other people get like 80 FPS in WvW while FRAPSing, the lucky bastards. Still got to wait until my budget stabilizes some, alas.

Instead I’ll talk about Natural Selection 1. The first game had a Marine commander calling the shots, placing structures for his fellow players to build, supporting them with medpacks and ammo dumps and basically giving them a set strategy to focus on and move toward taking out all alien hives on the map. Sound a bit familiar? That sort of coincides with WvW commanders in the sense of pointing out the long term strategy and giving direction. And yes, if the commander was bad, it made for a fairly short game, though folks would give some leeway to commanders still trying to learn the ropes.

Aliens had no commander in NS1, but they will have one in NS2, so it’ll be interesting to see how that develops. The alien hivemind in the first game was pretty much a sum total of the general intelligence of all the players in the field. Hopefully, some people would contribute their resources to building necessary structures and new hives (by turning into a builder alien, called the gorge) and at the same time, you needed some people who were very good at killing Marines to keep them occupied, reap resource, and eventually change into a hit-and-run assassin alien known as the Fade. Generally, if the aliens lasted long enough to have two good Fades, that meant the backline was doing well enough to have 2 or 3 hives and the aliens would be on their way to victory.

If insufficient players worked together well, or ran around like chickens with their heads cut off, the aliens would be massacred in short order. Sound like certain PUG zergs in WvW, perhaps?

NS1 had some interesting evolutions through its lifetime. In the patch version that I first joined in, it held at a fantastic balance point that could see 2h+ long games. This was a massive human versus aliens war that would rage on and on, with humans ending up bottlenecked at their last base, guarded by so many turrets the aliens couldn’t get in to seal the deal. Humans could have fun playing “Last Stand” for a long time, mowing down lots of aliens, holding out, while desperately guarding and waiting for their one last lone resource collector to earn enough to buy one or two jetpacks, for the most skilled of the team to sneak out of the vents and try and blow up the alien hives as quickly as they could with upgraded shotguns (aka a ninja.) It was tremendously exciting to watch your guys on the map and win as the underdog like this.

However, I’m not sure how fun it was from the alien perspective. On one hand, they are undoubtedly winning the strategic game. If they stayed on guard to end the ninjas, and kept pushing and pushing relentlessly, eventually, through sheer attrition, they might take down enough turrets and bleed the other side dry of resource long enough to break through and end the game by mauling the base and the commander’s chair (aka the victory objective.)

WvW arguments for giving underdogs a chance and hope for victory sound a lot like the above scenario, actually. I’m not sure if this would be a good or bad thing. Certainly it would get more people in fighting if they had more hope, there would be longer protracted raging battles (which some people really like, and I’m one of them, to a point) but if the battle rages on for too long, people also hit a certain satiation point and get bored. Then the next round of complaints would be, “Oh, it’s a perpetual draw. We can never really win. Why bother?”

Eventually, NS1 decided to move away from the huge tableau of unending perfectly stalemated battles. (I do kind of miss them, to be honest.) Instead, they took a larger page from RTSes and made resource point control more important and the higher tier upgrades slightly more game-changing. What this meant was that if one side played better than the other, and capped more resources, they would steadily accrue a larger and larger tech advantage. Past a certain point in the mid-game, eg. one or two Fades for the aliens or zero Fades for the aliens, it was possible to predict with nigh 98% accuracy which side was going to win.  The losing team could only hope to hold out as long as possible, if they were honorable, or they would quit or jump sides.

Does that also sound familiar from a WvW perspective?

Yes, it’s morale draining and heart breaking to be on the losing team, but quite a number of strategy games seem to have this period where the winning side is obvious, but they still have a “finish the cleanup” phase and the loser just has to sit there and take the lumps and wince as everything of theirs is demolished.

Perhaps the biggest difference between games is how long this cleanup phase lasts, and the next match begins.

In the later incarnation of Natural Selection, cleanup was methodical, but it was also fairly quick and over shortly. The marines would move in, upgraded shotguns blowing up barely evolved skulks (with no resource left) in one hit, and smash the hive to smithereens. The aliens would rampage in with all their number, maybe a celebratory massive Onos or two, and wipe everything and everyone out of existence. Match over. GG. Back to lobby. New map.

A reset happens quickly, and the losers forget their low morale by looking forward to the next game where they might have a chance. (However, if a team or guild was obviously stacking into one side, causing a skill imbalance, people would jump ship and leave the server very quickly.)

WvW at the moment lacks this quick game, match, reset. I think the keyword here is “persistence.” They’re going for what makes them an MMO, rather than a lobby game. (They’ve got structured PvP for the lobby lovers.)

I have a feeling that a lot of the people protesting on the forums haven’t quite grasped just how long term ArenaNet may be aiming for here. They may not be looking for their Alterac Valley fix, but there seems to be this hope for 3 or 4 day matches.

On one hand, it’ll certainly make stuff more exciting in the short term. It’ll give those who primarily WvW and don’t PvE or do structured PvP a reason to keep logging on, instead of being bored for a couple days if there’s a blow out victory. But how many people have the earning power to spend so much gold on siege and upgrades that last so short a time? Even I’m not sure how long the hardcore can keep up that kind of pace before getting bored and burning out. Certainly, the employed cannot. The weekend battle is perfect for them.

To me, and I’m speaking directly from first hand experience here, as the Isle of Janthir is experiencing one of those blow out victories for the moment (who knows, maybe the other servers might organize a push later in the week,) yes, it is kind of  boring to have a quiet battleground after so long an exciting battle, but maybe we kinda need these quiet breaks, the slow moments, the changes in pace.

If the borderlands jumping puzzles weren’t broken, we could be reaping a little more rewards of that hard won fight. There’s still the jumping puzzle in the Eternal Battlegrounds, and the Champion mobs that are like mini-raid bosses on an open world map.

And if the server and guilds were smart and organized enough, perhaps this would be a good time to teach fellow servermates where to place siege, or indeed, how to fire siege, or practice trebuchet shots and get ranges for such-and-such a place.

Certainly for myself, I’m exploring the Red Overlook Keep of the Eternal Battlegrounds from the inside for one of the first times ever, and marveling at how defensive its structure looks – like a real castle, tbh. I don’t envy someone trying to break in here.

Problem is, a lot of people don’t seem to have that kind of long term patience. You see ’em roaming around, looking for a fight, looking for excitement, the next victory, the next kill, deathmatchdeatchmatch, and the next thing you know, there are 20-30 people hovering around some poor demoralized bugger’s spawn, hoping to find a red name target.

My last story about Natural Selection 1 is a sad one. A while after the patch incarnation I talked about, they introduced a new mode for NS called “Combat” mode. This essentially took out much of the strategy and commander-ing from the equation, and made it a team deatchmatch. The better you killed the opposing team, the more resource you would get, the more upgrades and so on you could make for yourself.

The idea perhaps was to ostensibly help people become familiar with the more upgraded lifeforms and tech that they might not see in Strategy mode games except for short bursts of time, so that their play could improve. Instead, it turned out that many players, given the choice, would much rather go for the short term deathmatch kills all night and aim to become the pros of ganking and leaderboard champion, rather than work as a team, fight for resource, and follow a coordinated strategy to eventual victory. Combat mode took over the majority of NS servers, leaving Strategic mode fans mostly high and dry.

That was the death knell of NS for me, and I moved on shortly after – while combat mode was fun in short term spurts, it just didn’t give me the satisfaction of a real team victory. I enjoyed the buildup, the cooperation, and how people gelled together and supported each other. (I also missed the protracted wars.)

(Also, one always had the sneaky suspicion that some players on the top scoreboards were abusing hacks, and without team-based objectives and the attrition aspect of resources/upgraded tech, there was no way to best these guys – whereas in Strategy mode, no matter how well you aim, if you’re just one person, ramboing it alone, you’ll get mowed down eventually by the combination of all those factors that push one team towards victory.)

I don’t know what the fate of GW2’s WvW is going to be.

At the moment, I am just adapting to how it is.

If I get too depressed at being endlessly slaughtered, and can’t find it in me to do guerilla warfare, I’ll bow to the force of morale and stay out for the week. I’m human, after all. I’ll confess to taking a break last week to do some PvEing on an alt – had a mild infection that set me on antibiotics, no willpower to try and face two very alert teams without a stealth class, and it was refreshing to just quit worrying about the score or all things WvW for a while. This will allow the victors their map, their rewards, their quiet time to use or misuse as they will, and if others on my side want to practice their guerilla tactics or stay out also, all power to them.

If I feel like jumping into WvW, then I will. Possibly that’s what caused the massive onslaught of Janthir on the weekend, lots of people all spoiling for a new match after a loss, plus the regulars that play consistently.

When it’s too quiet when we’re winning, then I’ll do my jumping puzzles, PvE champion mobs, fool around with siege on innocent bunnies, and then zone out to PvE again, leaving the map in the hands of the fairer-weather players who come out to gank only when their server is dominating (but are fairly disorganized and can be run around) and the consistent players who will be in WvW rain or shine.

I think I’m basically lucky in that I don’t mind most of the activities in Guild Wars 2. (The only thing I’m scared of and won’t venture into alone is paid PvP tournaments, because I’m sure I cannot match that level of build/team cooperation by my lonesome, who knows how the metagame has evolved by now?

As such, this gives me a wide range of choices for stuff to do at any one time. And I know I’ll be playing this game on a long term basis (just like in GW1, I might take a couple months’ break at a time, but I can always pop in again when I feel like it, hooray, no sub) so I can afford a good amount of patience.

I only wonder if other players feel the same way. Or if they’ll be off chasing after the next shiny.

GW2: My Charr Guardian and Me

Part of my problem getting my thoughts in order about this game is that there’s SO much to do, and each thing to do could very well warrant its own post, so where the heck should I begin?

I guess, to get folks situated, let’s start with what I’m playing. I only did two beta weekends before I had my heart set on what I was going to play first and didn’t want to play any more when it wasn’t going to be “for real” and I’d have to do it all over again when beta characters got wiped.

Despite terrible alt-holism in most MMOs, I knew I’d be able to keep it at bay in GW2 for the very first main at least, because this absolutely sang to me and wouldn’t let its hooks go.

Name and Server Musings and WvWvW Stories

I’m playing Finder Blazebane on the Isle of Janthir server. Feel free to friend me if you like. Goldspam whispers will be summarily reported, and ArenaNet is pretty good with their banstick. 🙂

I tried to make it as Charr lore appropriate as possible, with a reference to my propensity for exploration and finding secrets and otherwise getting into stuff, and a side reference to being a Flame Legion foe. Imagine my amusement when in the very first area during beta weekend, I find a dynamic event to do with the Bane warband. I found it rather fun to run back and forth with them, pretending to be a fourth NPC a while. I guess I’m easily entertained.

In position as rearguard, Sir!

Why the *gasp* reddit server? Well, I joined them on Darkhaven during beta because I like a crowded server, and when they decided to move to Isle of Janthir, I looked carefully at the guilds list to see if I wanted to follow them or stay on Darkhaven.

Also on the consideration list was Sea of Sorrows as the unofficial Oceanic server, and Tarnished Coast for being the unofficial RP server (where most mature, tolerant, PvE-focused folks like to go.)

Being based in Singapore, server choice is fairly hard because at GMT+8, no timezone is ideal. Oceanic servers you’d think would be the best shot, but honestly, most run on Australian timing at GMT+10 or GMT+11 and when they set events at 7pm, one is still at work at 5pm –  it’s impossible to rush home in time and still have a life, as well as a proper dinner.

To be also brutally honest, the Asian gaming community ain’t all what it’s cut out to be. Conventionally, in traditional Asian thought, games are pastimes for children, so one ends up with a majority of teenage boys in their 10s-20s playing (yes, many still schooling), along with a ever-so-slightly more mature group of men and maybe a few women, that maybe aren’t girlfriends dragged in by their boyfriends, but don’t count on it. And the slang, well, I can talk and understand Singlish, but coming from a more Americanized gaming background in my college years of MUDing, it’s as painful as leetspeak is to the eyes.

A bit is fine, it’s still my culture after all, but I don’t want every last conversation I have in game to go like this: “haha lol wah u very xiong hor” (Goodness, you’re very fierce/scary) or “don’t sabo lah, u chao chee bye, this dungeon damn hard already, cannot make it one.” (Don’t screw it up for everyone, you -vulgarity-, this dungeon is already hard enough, we’re likely to fail as it is.)

Obviously, not everyone in Singapore types that way (it’s always the annoying kiddies, ain’t it?) And there are still jerks and assholes in North America (including obnoxiously racist trolls who would tell you to go back to China, u gold farmer – pst, little hint, Singapore’s not in China, and you’ll be surprised how international an MMO is.) Nor can I try to match a 12 hours transposed timezone all the time. Moderation is key. I need a mix.

I decided against Darkhaven as I suspect the crowd would follow the reddit server. Sea of Sorrows also went into the trash can because I’ve followed the Oceanic community since Age of Conan and Warhammer Online and Aion, the same guilds and same faces in PvP are getting a little tiring. Tarnished Coast was much harder to give up, but I feared for the state of WvWvW there because I’m hooked and I need a -fierce- server with ferocious fighting, not one that might just roll over and expose its belly. I may be wrong, maybe it’s a generalization that roleplayers are generally not interested in hardcore PvP pursuits, but… well, time will tell.

To my surprise and contributing to my eventual decision, Isle of Janthir sports a good mix of both North American and Oceanic guilds, including some of the more respectable aussie guilds I’ve met during prior games. It’ll be nice to have them on my side, for once, rather than beating my face in as an organized group versus a PUG. Add on the reddit crowd, and the Isle of Janthir should be able to field a good sized zerg or two and have organized guilds tearing it up at most hours of the day – a more balanced state of affairs in theory than say a primarily Oceanic or NA or Euro server.

In theory, anyway. In practice, we might get wiped out at all times by a foe that can field a bigger zerg at certain times of the day larger than we can, but we’ll see. We got beat on by the Crystal Desert for a couple days since headstart, and Sanctum of Rall was also quite a nuisance, then on the fourth day or so, Isle of Janthir rallied and took the lead.

I had a truly thrilling moment that day because it was my first day in WvWvW and I decided to spend 30 silver, one third of my total fortune, to upgrade our garrison’s cannons. Some time later, Crystal Desert swept in, shattered the outer gate, and as a couple of us trying valiantly to hold off the zerg (our own zerg was elsewhere) fled to the inner gate, I dashed to one of the cannons (if I was going to lose those 30 silver, by god, I was going to put them to use at least once) and presumably a few other players dashed to the oil and the other cannon, and possibly 4-5 of us WIPED out the 30 strong zerg between our AoE cannon fire, that I doubt they were expecting (the gate shattered, they’re fleeing, let’s chase!) Those cannons were hitting for 6000hp a shot, beautifully gruesome.

Even better because it was so unexpected, I was sure we were doomed. But perhaps they ran out of supply to build a ram (not too many people seemed to have grasped the entire concept yet) and they stood in the courtyard in the open long enough for us to catch them in the crossfire, entirely surprising both sides, I guess.

Best 30 pieces of silver spent, ever.

Holding that garrison allowed our offensive zerg to crack open Etheron castle and snatch back the Orb of Power, and began the long sweep of Janthir recovery back across their own Borderlands and get a foothold into Eternal Battlegrounds. Later, Stonemist Castle was taken in a truly stupendous three-corner fight, which saw it changing hands from blue to green while us reds were still locked IN the castle, and wiped out, and rallied back with a second zerg attacking while the first zerg was still on the way back from being wiped out and overwhelming green, which hadn’t had time to get any defences up. Stonemist was proudly red when I logged off.

But goodness knows how things have gone today. I haven’t logged in yet. Things could and do change again in an instant.


Charr. Gotta be. Maybe I’m a closet furry, I’ve always liked playing monster-looking races. I love the big gorilla hulk physique, and even better if it’s got fur, hunches forward and digitigrade legs. Then there’s the history and the lore. Since the days of Guild Wars, when everyone has to be a boring human, I’ve always wanted to play the more interesting monster enemies, Charr, Tengu, etc. To see how they’ve progressed from nearly naked fire-magic barbarism to an almost Saruman-level industrial tech in GW2’s Renaissance day is irresistible. They’re war-like, they’re soldiers, but they also have a “band of brothers” style honor and loyalty that makes them function entirely differently from humans, yet plausibly as an entirely different culture.

Origin and Background

I’ve seen all three Legions’ intro cinematic and they’re all fascinating. It’s been an agony to choose one to follow first, but I’m going with what I did on a whim in the beta weekend. A Blood Legion Guardian first, and an Iron Legion Warrior later, simply to avoid the common cliche of Blood Legion = Warrior. I’ll worry about Ash Legion later.

This makes the Guardian more Ferocious as he’s all about being up in the thick of things, fighting and bleeding, and the warrior can be either charming or dignified as I decide later, as a valuable cog in the great machine of war.

On the same whim, I gave him the background of having a sorcerous sire to explain his Guardian aspect of using magic and flames, and an interesting ‘weakness’ to the character, he’s always had to outgrow the stigma of having a traitorous sire that defected to the Flame Legion as a sorceror.


Charracter avatar (pun intended)

I wanted him to stand out a little and look slightly different than most Charr so I went for an interesting white-gray fur color. Pure snow white was a bit too bright and weird for me, perhaps suitable for an albino style necromancer, but a very pale grey-white gave the look I wanted.

I love the heavy armor look in every MMO, lots of metal plates and I don’t mind extra large pauldrons or spikes either, so it was ideal that the class I chose got to wear heavy armor.

Working hard to get to 30/50 in the Hall of Monuments has really paid off, because it opens out some glorious vanity costume options to overlay on top of the merely “okay and presentable” lowbie armor styles. Most of the lowbie armor is a lot of chain and scale mail options, that frankly, only look good in browns and greys and metallic colors, with perhaps a touch of accent color here and there. In my opinion anyway. It’s decent, but it makes you a little drab and blends in with everybody else also wearing the same stuff.

Guild Wars heritage armor? Awesome. The GW1 warrior always got the  best-looking armor, in my way of thinking. It gives a more respectable plate and chainmail armor style in GW2, and I’ve successfully dyed it a dark ebony steel color, as well as the current bronzed look, which I think comes from a random midnight olive drop. I went for a red accent color to represent the Blood Legion, and autumn did fine until I got an almost intangibly slightly brighter red called um, sunset or sunrise, I think, which I used mostly because it wasn’t the default red.

Then there’s my slight fascination with fire and pyromania in MMOs. Since my City of Heroes days, when I chanced upon my dream fire/fire dominator class that got to shoot fire, melee it up with fire, and generally throw fire everywhere, I’ve gravitated to any excuse for fire every since. It just looks SO good.

So imagine my delirious joy to see that the 30/50 HoM point gives these BEAUTIFUL fire god vambraces that give one wristguards that are ON fire.

Sword and focus combination

Words also fail to describe how much I’ve wanted Prince Rurik’s flaming dragon sword since the days of Guild Wars 1, but never played a suitable class that could wield it for long. Ranger and paragon were my mains, and though I dabbled with a warrior in Factions and did give him a flaming dragon sword for a while, it was steadily more obvious that a triple chop axe build with cyclone axe and the works was a lot more effective in bunched up PvE gameplay, so, goodbye, sword on fire. *sobs*

My Guardian now is making up for that lack and it makes me SO HAPPY. (It also conveniently doubles up as a torch in dark caves. I am highly amused that I bring light wherever I go. Someday I should try the dark room in the WvWvW ultimate jumping puzzle dungeon and see if that sword makes a difference. It does also make it quite obvious and readable whenever I switch to ranged scepter – which also looks fantastic with the Wayward Wand skin and glows with a soft blue light as opposed to bright yellow light.)

Scepter and shield

I’m pleased to report that I’ve met a player of an Asura in game who ran past me with my flaming sword, did a double take and went “RYTLOCK, IZZAT YOU?”

And another player in WvWvW who asked what my real level was because my gear looked so impressive. I didn’t have the heart to tell him they were all HoM costume pieces, for fear of disappointing him. (On the bright side, I saw a level 50 player, much much higher than I, who looked like one of those Black Citadel guards in face-covering rhino helmet and all, so there’s still cool stuff ahead, don’t fret.)

Thank you for the compliments, they appeal to my vanity. I try to look cool, what’s an MMO for if not to doll up one’s character?

So nice of ArenaNet to make it possible to look cool from the very beginning as a lowbie. It’s a good reward, isn’t it? Stat-wise, nothing is different. I choose to stop every 5-10 levels to head to the HoM, claim the rewards that just transmute the appearance of the skin to whatever equipment I’ve got. It’s an interruption to leveling, so arguably, those who don’t care how they look don’t need to bother.  I do it for vanity’s sake.

I bet the exclusive dungeon reward skins should also have pretty good appeal if enough players think like me. If everyone runs around with a flaming sword, maybe you’d prefer to show off your, oh I dunno, Orrian dragon purple sparkling lightning sword or something? (Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of reward skins, I just pulled that out of my imagination.)


Guardian, if you haven’t gathered by now. Why? “Because Guardians are OP.”

Nah, not really, though a lot of people seem to think that way, mostly because, I suspect, they tried to go 1 vs 1 PvP with a straight up uber damage build against builds that are by nature of the class damage+support, often in the form of buffs or some slight healing or condition removal. With their innate virtues, they also have a tide more regeneration as long as they don’t fire it off to heal others, and who would do that when you’re 1 vs 1?

Simple attrition warfare will tell you that a class with higher hp and more ways to self heal than thou has a distinct advantage in a straight up duel, assuming no one makes a mistake or is caught unawares, which aren’t the cases all the time in either WvWvW or structured PvP formats with an objective to fight over, rather than elimination of the opposing side. (There’s also having an extra ally turn up on your side that happens all the time in WvWvW.)

Anyway, Guardians are the dream class I’ve always wanted.

There are two general types of people in MMOs, those that prefer melee and those that prefer ranged (along with a hefty helping in the middle of the spectrum of hybrid  folks who like both and like to switch in and out between them.)

I’m distinctly on the melee-preferring side of things, though I enjoy the flexibility of a ranged option when I need to keep my distance or do pulling, etc. The Guardian gives me that opportunity as I can flip back and forth between scepter and sword, dodging in and out of melee range as I deem suitable.

I’ve also always liked tanking, but mostly for the support and control aspects of the role, rather than the awful responsibility of having to know a dungeon by heart and lead a group by their noses through every single damn pull and then sitting around and calling the mob names to keep the mob stuck to either tearing off your face as you stand there still as a stone either nigh impervious to harm (City of Heroes) or desperately trying not to die while praying your healers are on the ball (every other holy trinity MMO)  or biting your backside as you kite it around.

No, what I really enjoy about tanking is the ability to position mobs where you want them, to control their aggro (if only by biting your face off, rather than standing around dazed), to position my sturdy armor-encased self between harm and a softer squishier friend who would much rather I take the hit than him, thanks. It’s helping people, in a sense, it’s support by being situationally aware and controlling the situation.

And while I’ve never liked whack-a-mole healing in holy trinities, I rather enjoyed playing a dark defender in City of Heroes because it wasn’t all about topping off the green health bar (or red, in CoH’s case.) Yes, I had a heal, a strong self-based AoE heal that relied on me being able to position myself near a person in need and hit a mob with it in order to heal anyone near me. It was only one tool in the toolbox of all things support.

Other defenders had really strong buffs to make the team sneakily stronger, I had really strong debuffs to make the enemies sneakily weaker. Amusingly, it took a while for the playerbase to figure this out, it was never really obvious what the non-healing defender was doing on the team, but my goodness, when the defender went AFK or left, the team wiped or got into deep deep trouble doing the same thing they were doing previously. A bit of forums propaganda also helped to change the initial mindset around, along with no doubt, plenty of hard won experience faceplanting when the defender disappeared. Eventually, veteran players learned how to identify buffs and debuff anchors and appreciate them for what they were doing.

A dark defender was also a lot about control as well as support. It had a fear that you could throw on an entire spawn to negate alpha strikes (the in concert ranged retaliation from a whole group of mobs when first aggro’ed), you could LOS position an entire spawn of mobs through pulling with your debuff anchor and hiding around a corner so that they bunched up beautifully debuffed and harmless by the time they came to get you.

One of the things that was always missing in City of Heroes was a class that mixed melee damage and buffs-support. I couldn’t get my scrapper ninja desire going to sword someone in the face at the same time as I was performing support and control functions to protect the team.

I believe Guardians in GW2 are that perfect mix.

No, they aren’t as strong as City of Heroes support/control classes, where often, one control or support class played well – a tank, a defender, a dominator, a controller, a corruptor, a mastermind, whatever – can control the entire spawn of mobs for a team, allowing most of the others to slack off and not doing anything but hit damage buttons if they wanted. (More people playing well and support/controlling means faster, safer killing, of course.)

I think, in Guild Wars 2, the support/control of each class is tuned to only give 1/5 or 1/4 or at most, 1/3 of all the support/control actually needed by a team. I suspect at least 3 players have to be playing with support/control in mind in order to make things doable, and better still if everyone is on the same page. More on this later, I’ve only gone through the first dungeon four times now in PUGs, once successful in beta, one successful on Live (with umpteen wipes) and two failures on the Lovers, and the only thing that’s really obvious is everybody is not used to playing in a Guild Wars 2 way as yet and are still learning what they can do.

But Guardians, well, they sing to me. I went Greatsword guardian in beta, only switching to it when it was safe to leap in and do massive damage to the mob in melee, and then switching back to Scepter and Shield to plink away at range and control/buff. One thing became very obvious though, Greatsword guardians, while perhaps giving a scare and some unexpected burst damage in PvP to players who thought they had my number from seeing my teensy damage on a scepter, are rather squishy in PvE, they seem to pull a lot of aggro and hate the moment they leap into a thick clump of mobs and let fly, often ending the frenzy with a sliver of hp left – if you’re lucky. Perhaps it was also my gear build at the time, I went all out Power for lack of any more understanding.

On Live, I’ve taken a slightly different tack, helped along by the fact that I can’t live without my flaming dragon sword. The Fellblade just doesn’t look as cool. To my surprise, a sword doing fire damage is nearly as effectively offensive as a greatsword, though in more cone attack fashion rather than having a mutilate AoE clump option. I could have gone sword and board, but a shield’s two skills strike me as a primarily defensive option – including one dome pushback I still don’t entirely understand yet, especially how to ‘detonate’ it for healing.

A torch is the Guardian offensive offhand option. While it’s ludicrously fun for AoE damage, you haven’t lived until you’ve spat blue and orange flames like a flamethrower, it doesn’t help with survivability much besides the “kill them all before they get you” strategy.

So I went with the focus as my offhand, which seems a balanced mix of both defensiveness and offensiveness. Both skills can be used for either function. One shoots a straight ray that bounces, giving allies a heal over time (including myself) and damaging mobs. I haven’t mastered the art of healing any party member with it yet, alas, but I have a very good use for it. By being in a mob’s face and swording it, and firing it off, it bounces against the mob, doing damage, and right back into myself, healing me. A decent trickle heal that I’ve noticed allows me to stay in melee “tanking” the mob that bit longer – though honestly, with the way aggro flies from person to person, you can be in the mob’s face and he’ll still turn to shoot another player down, so I have no idea how to manage that except to fire a utility team regeneration buff if it isn’t still recharging, and hope the other players are themselves competent in some fashion and can mitigate their own damage.

The other skill is a shield that can take 3 hits from a mob, and if it doesn’t break, it explodes like an AoE damage bomb. It’s good for absorbing some hits, doing damage, and also combos with the other utility skill I like, Purging Flames (AoE damage field, plus condition removal to allies) to give a stack of three might buffs, which in turns adds to doing more damage on the mob with normal sword autoattacks.

I’ve also altered the stats on my gear a little since beta, mixing a healthy helping of Vitality into the mix along with Power. (I figure, if the WvWvW armor has Power and Vitality stats, there has to be a reason…) This has two positive uses, it increases my overall hp reservoir, giving myself a very decent buffer, and it also increases my healing power – which, since I didn’t want to be a gimpy healing Guardian standing at the back like a pathetic WoW paladin, I initially thought was rather useless and counter-productive, but I’ve since been convinced has the primary effect of helping ME survive by making my heals stronger, including stuff I can aim on myself, and the side bonus of helping others by providing an ever-so-slightly stronger trickle heal a secondary benefit.

I also threw in a bit of Toughness for the hell of it on my gear, to make myself more survivable but I’m really not sure if it’s the right thing to do. Toughness seems to match better with mace and two-handed hammer skills, which are more support defensive oriented, but I have no practice using them and my one attempt to do something with a hammer against the Lovers was really quite hard being unfamiliar with the skills.

I’ve been going Precision and conditional damage on my traits as it matches the offensive sword aspect more, and the Toughness traits are more useless to me. So the result is a neither here or there mix. Still primarily Power, with nearly equal high Vitality, a side helping of Toughness with Precision catching up, but both obviously secondary stats. It’s obvious if I specialized either I’d go more defensive or offensive respectively, but I really can’t decide as yet. Who knows, maybe being a flexible generalist is better for my solo playstyle.

I’m not sure I’ll ever find a good enough group to do the hardmode explorable dungeons anyway, but if I do chance across them, then we can spec as needed then. It’s Guild Wars, after all, where builds can be flexibly swapped to match the situation as needed, mixed with a side helping of WoW, where everything is easily reset by swapping gear and paying a small fee to the trainers.

Mind you, while offensive sword and focus is my preferred fighting style, I keep a scepter and shield on quick weapon switch. This lets me run in and whack mobs until my hp reservoir looks dangerously low (it’s better if I could read the combat animations a little better, some of them have dodgeable front attacks but I’m only 50/50 on successfully avoiding those as opposed to the clearer red aoe rings) then dodge right out, switching to a scepter and whacking an immobilize on it and plinking away, throwing defensive buffs on whoever else is near the mob now that I’m gone, regenerating and healing up until hp is back to full and I can go in and thwap the mob with my sword on FIRE once again.

I doubt the build is perfect. Or even if there is such a thing as a perfect build. All the other Guardian weapons and skills all look good too, to be honest. But I like it, and for now, it’s what I’m using because no one has figured out how to team synergize anything in PUGs yet. I doubt many of us even know what the other classes are capable of.

Eventually, I’m sure stuff will be figured out. All in good time though. It’s a new game, a new set of challenges, a place where no one -knows- anything for certain yet, the metagame is yet to be worked out, the world is big and broad and deep and ripe for exploration. There are so many things one could do. Life is good.