GW2: Disconnected Ramblings

I finally finished the Heart of Thorns story today. The last chapter’s flight phases were a humongous PITA between 250ms latency and having to replay a considerably lengthy fight of multiple phases if one failed to dodge a single hit while in the air.

Granted, I voluntarily chose to make it harder by deciding not to group up for this fight.

But I just found it nigh impossible to find a reliable means of dodging said hit, the hitboxes just didn’t feel or seem right from one’s gliding camera angle. I tried strafing with lean techniques, speeding up and changing vertical angle with said lean techniques, stealth dodging and it all seemed 50/50 as to whether it would work or not. I suspect the distance traveled by the object which hits (oh, how roundabout we must speak to avoid spoilers?) is just too short for our laggardly latency to react to reliably.

The only thing I didn’t try was undeploying the glider to drop and redeploying it because duh, that’s nigh guaranteed failure at our kind of ping. I’d just crash feet first into the floor, which is the equivalent of lava here.

Anyway, it was a mixture of sheer dumb persistence, a little luck and developer tweaks (they put a second essential object on the other side, where the floor hopefully has not fallen away and left you a flying unreachable essential object – assuming it didn’t glitch out, at which point you just have to die and try again and hope it’s there this time) that got it done.

Also, Canach. Canach is my bro. If I got lucky enough to evade the first two hits of the stupid flight phase, but got murderized out of the sky just as the phase is ending, my bro braves a ridiculous amount of shit in order to rez me while I’m downed. I narrowly scrape through the bloody aerial phases a number of times that way.

Glad that’s over. I liked the ending. I got to do something that felt rather appropriate on a Hero’s Journey sort of narrative, while satisfying some meta player urges.

While watching the cutscene, I couldn’t help but think back to Scarlet and “Someday you’ll see. Tyria needs me.”

In other news, can someone please explain to me what “antisocial” means in an MMO context?

I’m starting to think that it’s a blame-others phrase slung around by people who either don’t have the time / priority to invest socially into an MMO (but would like to, because nostalgia) or a euphemism for “Woe is me, no one is willing to help me get what I want done at this very moment NOW, or magically reads my mind to know that I am lonely and want someone to talk to.”

By nature, I’m quite a lone wolf.

I enjoy soloing mobs the Bhagpuss way a lot. (And throw in lots of shameless harvesting/gathering and selling, because ka-ching.)

But by my count, I’ve done -so- much socializing in my MMO of choice that I find it hard to understand when others claim it feels friendless and antisocial.

Random example:  the past weekend has been spent in a Teamspeak filled with 120-130 people for hours on end. I don’t talk but there are plenty of others chattering away. We’re practising / trying for world first on the Tangled Depths meta event, which seems to be a mite overtuned on the early days of Triple Trouble Wurm sort of scale. Said meta event happens every two hours, so there is at least one spare hour of time in between, before set up and preparation of groups and all that.

You can see every range of social and asocial behavior going on. People have the freedom to AFK for that one hour, some in a big clump at the waypoint and some hiding away alone in corners, while others choose to group up and “explore” the map that way, aka beelining from one marked point to another following the one guy with a clue as to where he is going. Still others choose to solo explore and spontaneously come together for events or just when crossing paths. Some talk in say chat, some talk in Teamspeak; some talk constantly, some sporadically and others not at all.

I have helped two guilds claim their guild halls, aka group sizes of 20-40+. I tried a guild PvP mission, aka group of 5. I did a fractal, aka a PUG of 4 other strangers. I ran into random people while on my solo wanderings about the Heart of Thorns maps and helped them, rezzed them, communicated or coordinated with them to defeat (or make relatively good tries on) at least three separate Verdant Brink night time champions multiple times. I joined others asking for help at hero points, I start soloing hero points and sometimes someone joins me spontaneously and we get it done…

…I’m not even -trying- to interact with anyone here. I just keep bumping into them. (Or they fall down at my feet and it feels bad to walk away without Fing them up.) Halp?

Finally, really quickly, a discussion on MMO spoilers.

I get the spoiler thing. I do. I don’t want to be spoiled myself, so I don’t open stuff marked with spoiler tags until I’m done with whatever it is.

But here’s something I still don’t get, that maybe my readers can help me with: is there an expiry date before something is no longer considered a spoiler?

If someone wants to talk about the ending to Harry Potter or discuss something re: past seasons of Game of Thrones, isn’t there a time when one should assume it is either public knowledge by now, or whoever still doesn’t know probably doesn’t care about it to begin with?

Do I have to spoiler tag what happens to Macbeth?

In the storyline context, Guild Wars 1 is ancient history by now. A bunch of heroes slay Abaddon. Kormir takes over. It’s known fact. It’s part of the timeline.

Sylvari are Mordremoth’s dragon minions. Used to be a spoiler. If you don’t know by now, then none of Heart of Thorns will make sense, especially when the dragon starts whispering sweet nothings to your sylvari character.

And so it goes. Time moves on. The story is going to progress and it’s going to operate based on what just happened in Heart of Thorns.

So… expiry date? When?

Aka, “Please please tell me when I can start discussing all the cool story revelations and sharing all the delicious screenshots without having to muck around with HTML formatting and spoiler tagging nonsense that I’m very very bad at.”

A Single-Player MOBA?

Tobold has come up with an intriguing, if heretical, idea: Why not a soloable or single-player MOBA (or game mode?)

It’ll catch a hitherto untapped audience, those that prefer PvE or those that can’t commit to the length of a match with other players (without a pause button to periodically go AFK) or those simply too nervous to learn the depth of a MOBA while facing the habitual toxicity of its regular audience (and provide a stepping stone training mode for those who might not mind PvP but want some extended practice by themselves first.)

The imagined protests that immediately cross my mind are those that shriek, “OMG, the very POINT of a MOBA is to group up to defeat challenges! Teamwork and communication are critical! The very feeling we’re craving is in that practiced coordination and super-smooth execution! Go solo somewhere else, like a singleplayer RPG, and not in MY game!”

Amusingly, it seems to be a similar protest to those who oppose soloability in MMOs, or soloable dungeons, or what-have-you.

There appears to be an underlying fear that they won’t have anyone to play with, if a solo option existed.

But frankly, that seems to be a completely off-base assumption, given the example of both solo and group options co-existing in MMOs. The social players still party up and complain bitterly about instances that force them to solo, the solo players still wander off by themselves and complain bitterly about instances that force them to group, and if the devs manage to hit that magic “no-forcing, solo or group as you prefer” option, then everyone seems more or less happy, or at least, content to deal with it.

Creating alternative game modes is great for variety, offering choices for people with different preferences.

The danger seems to be mostly overwhelming a player with options (which basically means they need a linear progression path or some kind of signposting or a “do this activity for more bonuses today!” promotion), plus the issue of having to devote sufficient developer resources to tend to that game mode.

Some people might wonder, “Well, in many MOBAs today, you can already play solo, in a sense. What’s he going on about?”

It’s true. Many many people solo queue into a match that contains other players on both sides.

Still others will solo queue into a co-op game, in which players are all on one side and bots on another, which is the equivalent of GW2-like social engineering – everyone on the same side, incentivized to cooperate against a computer-controlled enemy team, essentially PvE in a MOBA.

Anyone can easily set up a bot game in which all other nine players are bots, where they are completely alone and left in peace to do whatever the hell they want, or a custom game where they can tweak some variant of this player-bot formula to however they like.

But I think Tobold is implying something a little more. That developers can explore this as yet unexperimented-with space or niche further.

An easy analogy is that of dungeons in an MMO.

People expect to group up, to have roles and experience teamwork while defeating a sequence of enemies (with complex mechanics to learn) for rewards at the end.

However, we have the example of Guild Wars 1, which turned the concept of dungeoning on its head a little by letting players solo their way through pretty much all instances with henchmen or heroes (and mind you, some players still grouped to do the harder dungeons faster and more efficiently.) Ditto The Secret World, if I remember correctly, some instances were soloable.

We have Guild Wars 2, which has experimented with the idea of the Queen’s Gauntlet, a solo-only series of challenges (with complex mechanic to learn), as well as inadvertently produced a challenging side activity of soloing dungeons meant for groups (which appeals to another subset of players.)

Why not create MOBA game modes with a little twist to them?

One interesting possibility that comes to mind goes back to a MOBA’s RTS roots. Just like you could have one player control a number of heroes in GW1, why not let a single player control multiple MOBA heroes?  That would probably be a great multi-tasking, micro-taxing, control-group practice singleplayer challenge right there. It’s not as if MOBAs don’t embrace that concept already, with heroes that can summon other mobs or illusions.

Something else players of singleplayer modes do expect is some kind of narrative or progression path to follow. Why not throw in a story mode in chapters bookending MOBA fights, perhaps with preset groups of opposing or allied heroes?

It’s not like it hasn’t been done before. Duels of the Planeswalkers is a Magic: The Gathering game that some players buy for its PvP, and some of whom merely buy to play its singleplayer chapters or puzzle challenges, unlocking cards along the way.

One might protest that without other players to show off vanity cosmetics to, that the whole revenue stream of a MOBA might break down.

However, one could also offer hero unlocks a la League of Legends or Marvel Heroes, or even content unlocks where each hero has a ‘story mode’ that you could pay for in microtransactions. PvP players who don’t give a damn wouldn’t be nickle and dimed at all, while PvE players who like that sort of thing might be convinced to pay $2-5 for several more hours of unique gameplay/maps/puzzle/story DLC.

Unlocking special achievements or increasing levels are another easy way to keep a singleplayer gamer solo farming or engaging in speed runs or mastering Dark Souls-difficulty challenges to their heart’s content. Get X number of last hits or creep or hero kills, win Y as hero or other, defeat Z mob with some kind of mechanic or finish the match in a set amount of time or whatever.

You could have leaderboards for this version of asynchronous competition too, again akin to certain competitive mode challenges in Guild Wars 1, or even in games like Batman: Arkham _Whatever_, where you have combat and predator challenges for a single player to test themselves against, improve their score versus other players’ scores and so on.

In my opinion, the singleplayer MOBA (or variant game modes thereof) is certainly worth a company’s time to experiment and tinker with. It’ll be interesting to see which MOBA decides to eventually branch or innovate in this direction, or if they think grabbing their handfuls of the competitive PvP / eSports pie is more than sufficient to focus on.

Just Plain (or Playin’) Mercenary Now

It figures. I go all gung-ho and farm Mordrem body parts for two days, because my compulsion to complete was reaching OCD standards… I bang my head against the Dodgy Crowd and Wicked Rodeo achievements more than a dozen times solo, before finally surrendering and looking for extra help in a group…

…and the big plan was to then title the next blog post “Mercenaries of the Silverwastes” and write some commentary on that.

Then Anet pulls the rug out from all of us with the announcement that Living Story will pause for Wintersday break and only resume on Jan 13.

Oh.

Hrm.

That feels like a bit of a letdown. Kinda deflated, really.

I think the biggest problem I have is that the story continuity kinda goes nowhere with this sort of pacing. One needs to have a sort of mini-arc come to a more-or-less satisfactory conclusion, before declaring a break.

One doesn’t just ramp up and build up mystery and suspense, plonk a big cliffhanger of a door in the way and say, well, wait 2, no, it’s 5 weeks now to find out what’s next!

Especially not if you’ve built up the expectation that the story will be explained in two weeks, and then suddenly extend it to five.

Did one really have to wait a week to announce that kind of thing, especially if it’s already scheduled? Just putting the Jan 13 date out there the moment Seeds of Truth launched, to say that it would continue then, would probably have mitigated expectations a little better.

Also, people wouldn’t have looked at the ridiculous amount of artificial Mordrem bodypart grind (two bladder pieces, wtf?) and freaked out.

Honestly, beyond getting strung along with a story that goes nowhere, I don’t have a big issue with the concept of a break for Wintersday.

It’s Christmas season, many people get busy irl, work takes a holiday in many companies, and personally I could use SNOW AND ICE for a while, instead of SAND AND ROCK.

It’s been…what, six weeks of the Silverwastes? There’s a limit to how novel the zone can feel, and as much as I’d really like to see what’s behind the west wall of vines that are ever extending outward (especially with the Shadow of the Dragon-sounding roar that echoes every now and then when you hang out between the Amber and Blue forts), it might do us all some good to have a break from the zone and go elsewhere for a change, before coming back refreshed.

(One will,  however, be a bit pissed story-wise, if we come back to find Camp Resolve strangled by vines. No, seriously, there’s this big giant vine creeping up on the camp here. For weeks. Cos plants grow slow, I guess.

If we can light signal fires to artillery barrage the forts, I humbly suggest that we turn the front part of this vine into a bonfire to signal the big guns to light it up further…)

Oh well.

If anything, it mostly comes as a bit of a relief.

Steam was offering Van Helsing II at 66% off the other day, and while I didn’t pick it up yet (I figure 66% ought to happen again during the Christmas sale, and I’m always hoping for 75%), it did remind me that I’ve always been intending to try out Van Helsing I, which has been sitting in my “to-be-played” list for an eternity now.

So I cranked it up and discovered that action RPGs seem to be a rather good accompaniment to an MMO habit. Quick to start, lots of mobs to fight, interesting skills and build pondering, plenty of loot drops/reward factor, and the ability to just log out and pause everything/put all progress on hold until the next time you feel like playing it.

(Between Path of Exile, Marvel Heroes and now Van Helsing, I’m racking up quite the collection, here.)

Van Helsing is entertaining in the sense that it feels a bit like a cross between a regular RPG and an action RPG. There’s a bit more of a story going on, with quests you pick up from NPCs, and sidequests. Stuff is supernatural-themed and you seem to be a bit of a mercenary hunter with one main plot you’re investigating, but along the way, you do a lot of other things and help various people – standard RPG schtick, really.

You have a nice interaction/banter occuring with your ghost “companion”, which sort of acts like a more elaborate Torchlight pet (she’ll be deadly insulted if you call her a pet, though), that will pick up items and gold for you, and go to the shops to sell stuff, plus a whole lot more besides.

There’s a bit more of a stop-and-start feel to the skills than something like Path of Exile or Diablo (the older versions anyway, I -assume- 3 is similar),  but not as awkward feeling as Marvel Heroes.

The challenge factor is a lot more appealing than Marvel Heroes, in the sense that one actually feels threatened by the mobs and can die to them, unless you do a lot of fancy footwork to kite stuff, or use healing potions and prep accordingly.

So at least I’ll have more time to play that in the 5 weeks that Living Story is more or less on hold.

Wintersday this year is in Divinity’s Reach, so I guess that’s something new and novel, to see the grand city dressed up in Winter finery.

I finally got Wynne’s Locket:

Picked up the Do Not Tread achievement after a lot of practice with Caithe and her skills and finally avoiding getting trampled or charged by acting like a total wuss and single-pulling centaurs out to the edges of the battle to murder, while letting Faolain tank the rest of them. (Stealthing in to rez her again if/when she goes down. Gotta match her for being a manipulative bastard, y’know?)

Was brought near to the point of tears and surrender with the other two achievements, and finally decided to join a group for the Wicked Rodeo achievement, if only to see how different it was when other people got to have their own skills.

It wasn’t a bad time, actually, though we wiped twice. Each go at it sort of showed us a bit more strategy on how we might actually progress with it.

Eventually, we settled on killing the elementals near the sides of the walls, leaving the nasty sand pools there, while avoiding most of the wind walls around the arena.

At the same time, I was playing Caithe, and decided to switch my gear around to 4 parts of Soldiers and 2 parts of Clerics, which made me a lot tankier than my usual Zerker stuff. (Died the first time to too many windwalls, died the second time to stumbling backward into two sandpools and getting conditioned to death with all my movement abilities on cooldown – which was stupid, but look, was avoiding windwalls, okay?)

I could pretty much just sit there and take one of Togron’s normal rock shard attacks without flinching, fer instance.

This also had the added bonus of turning me into a magnet for the elementals, so I could just tap them and bring them to the rest of the party gathering by the walls. They quickly made short work of them while I just spammed 1, afraid to do anything else and then move out of position with the rest of Caithe’s very movement-oriented skills.

The rest of the group was also more mobile and long-ranged, so they then pounded on Togron to bring his hp down while I just sat around at far range attracting his rock shards again, and preventing him from his close-range attack of creating sand pools.

That went really super smoothly, to the point one of the other party members asked if that felt like there were less waves that round. No, we just killed the elementals and worked his hp down really fast. -Really- fast. Cos no one died.

That experience gave me enough encouragement to try for Dodgy Crowd again, on normal, solo. Being really careful with Caithe and putting the eles near the walls before killing them, so as not to make nasty sand pool obstacles for myself.

After a few more times banging away at it, I got it, which makes me happy to feel like I accomplished something.

With that strategy, I might just give Wicked Rodeo a go again solo. Some other time, though.

I did get curious enough to join another group for Wicked Rodeo, this time playing myself, not Caithe. And yes, you can indeed reflect or absorb the windwalls. I got tons of mileage out of Shield of Absorption, and a lesser amount out of Wall of Reflection (problem with reflection is the windwalls will bounce away, so you better be standing in the right place.)

That group was a little less coordinated or organized. I kept mum on the strategy my original group had pulled off, cos I wanted to see what this one would come up with first. It ended up with most of us dead and one person finally managing to stretch it out and solo the last part of it, after repeated tries wiping. Still a viable enough solution, as far as it goes.

And I’m really just quite relieved that I’m done with the stupid Mordrem bodypart grind for now.

I ended up being one of those self-focused leechers for a bit, getting some hits in on a mob and then booking it to another. That’s just how the system is set up, right? It doesn’t actually matter if the bosses die or not, you still get the body parts. I don’t -want- the greater nightmare key reward, it gives glove boxes, which I don’t need right now. I just want -more- body part bags to open so that I might actually get a damned spleen or the second half of a bladder.

So one stops playing the Silverwastes properly, instead taxi’ing like mercenaries for hire into the next Silverwastes instance above 50% completion. One taps the events, does the bare minimum of defence, and runs around looking for lost bandit chests instead.

(Look, RNG and me don’t get along, all right? I’ve opened about 300 of them so far – 159 of them on a dedicated chest farm run – and only got one boots box out of it. On the 300th or so box.

The only good thing I can say is that I’m making quite a decent killing on materials that come out of the champion bags.)

Once the breach happens, hop into the first most-likely-to-die boss that you need (that’s usually Troll or Thrasher), tap it, bail when it feels like you’ve got enough damage in, and run, do-not-pass-Go, to the next boss you need (Husk or Terragriffs) and stay around to kill that (readying up an extractor to click the moment the first one dies.)

That’s at least two parts, and maybe even three, if you get the timings just right.

They might fix it eventually, but hey, not for 5 weeks, apparently. *coughs*

The good news is, I don’t need to do that anymore. I can now stay around like a good person and focus on killing one mob, so that other people who still need the parts can run from place to place.

The bad news is, I’m probably still going to pick an easy mob to kill first and go to the harder ones later.

That, and the fact I’ll beeline for any chest first over actually doing a Silverwastes event now.