Oversaturation Leads to Not Caring

Today’s mood: Nonchalant

A lot of blogs (too many to link, alas) are buzzing like a poked hive with the big news that Everquest Next will be no more.

Wildstar’s prospects don’t seem to be in ascendance either, with the news of a sizeable reduction in force.

What hit closer to home for me was news that Colin Johanson was leaving ArenaNet and GW2.

There’s been a very positive spin over the whole affair, but for the more jaded of us, there’s always a glass half-empty side as well.

Let’s face it, people don’t decide to leave a company if growth is in sight and things are going well. There are always niggling bits that push people out the door too. Maybe it’s not-so-great relationships with bosses or colleagues, work environment, family pressure, a pet project that got canceled, responsibilities that got taken away, new responsibilities being less easy to cope with than the old, no forseeable growth opportunities or openings to climb the career ladder, whatever. Not saying that any or all of the above might necessarily apply in Colin’s case, but who knows, right?

I do think HoT was a gamble that seems to be backfiring on Anet quite rapidly. (Launched last August; discontented rumblings throughout Jan-Mar.)

Reading between the lines, we see a bit of a scramble for extra revenue this quarter. Shared inventory slot bundle for $35? Glider wings of different color variations, $10 each? “Hey, guys, we’ve decided that March is going to be a whole month of discounted gem store sales daily! Keep logging in daily! Maybe you’ll see something you like!”

Translation: Daily-log in metric is falling.  Revenue is falling. We have a first quarter report to give to NCsoft soon.

Anecdotes suggest many casual players across various guilds have ceased logging-in over the past weeks and months.

Personally I’ve been seeing attendance at Oceanic TTS Teq and Triple Wurm shrinking. The Oceanic leaders called some kind of important community meeting yesterday. I’m kinda waiting to see the minutes to see what was decided.

Why couldn’t I attend and hear the discussion firsthand?

Ha. The exact same reason world boss raid attendance is shrinking, of course. I was doing the new content – Salvation Pass raids – and locked into my closed group of ten peoples (give or take 3-7 fillers.)

Presumably at least 50% of the people who would otherwise be filling up a TTS instance have been drawn away by  ten-man instanced raids, leaving the rest struggling to keep taxing in PUG fillers for world bosses or HoT zone events.

The inevitable divisiveness is upon us. The community has been fracturing into smaller and smaller bits, and I heartily doubt it’s ever going to recover.

We’ve been moving away from things that draw a server community together – megaservers, guild missions in the open world that can pull others in and let people meet, WvW server loyalty crumbles as the game mode diminishes, no large Living Story zone events like the Marionette or Lion’s Arch rescue, towards things that lock smaller and smaller groups of presumably likeminded people into instances. Players would now rather not play with others who don’t think like them. They would rather not waste time teaching new people stuff. Strangers are useless noobs who would drag the group down.

It’s been an interesting progression of emotions for me this past week anyway.

I’ve realized I can’t muster the energy to fight or complain anymore. I sounded the warning trumpets early on, and they were ignored and/or it was already too late to steer the oil tanker in another direction.

Certain Reddit veterans have taken up the grumbling about story being locked away in raids, while others are happily disagreeing with them. There’s rants about raid challenge – too much, too little, whatever. There’s people hating on raids, there’s people loving raids. Unsoweiter.

I have decided to resolve my dilemma very simply. Wallet vote. While the state of affairs that I personally disagree with continues, I’m not paying a dime for anything.

I like seeing new content. So as long as my current raid group holds up, I am also content to trundle along and see if there’s any chance of progressing further or no. Success or failure is up to the group as a whole. Patient play and practice will see the group through, assuming no critical fractures or drama – which would be also out of my hands and beyond my control.

The really interesting question I asked myself this morning, while I had breakfast: “If my current raid group falls apart, would I be willing to make the effort to find yet another raid group?”

At the moment, all signs point to no.

I have tried quite a few raid groups and most of them are incapable of rising to the challenge.

Nor can I seek out any more hardcore raid groups because those would be way too much stress (not to mention, they wouldn’t take a mic-less player anyhow.)

Most importantly, now that one has, more or less, gelled together into one static raid group, it has now become an in-group, out-group thing. Presently, I no longer care about the fates of anyone or anything outside of the nine other people, so to speak.

My time has been locked up /here/ and I can’t be /there/ or anywhere else. TTS world boss raids lack attendance? WvW needs people? Sorry, I’m raiding and it’s going to take up the evening. So… guess you’re outta luck.

If the raid group dies, I become yet another rudderless ronin once more.

It is -conceivably- possible that I could apply to join yet another group, undergo the gelling process once more and reattach to yet another nine people.

Or most probably, I would ask myself what would be the point of attaching to a game whose direction is drifting off god-knows-where or is pointed towards a destination I’m not interested in going anyway?

And then de-attach completely.

I mean, the process is almost complete anyway. I’ve stopped caring about the game as a whole. I’ve stopped caring about my server. I’ve stopped caring about the general game population. I’ve a teeny bit of care left about my mega-community and my personal guilds that is steadily crumbling as I stop attending the events held by them in order to run raids.

I definitely shouldn’t give a damn about any semblance of lore or story because it’s going to take a good half a year to get revealed every so slowly, and blocked by massive obstacles called raid bosses. If I see it, I see it. If I don’t, I don’t. Whatever.

Really interestingly, I’ve stopped worrying about the whole “competence” angle ever since Vale Guardian died.

Remember I had/have this little personal hangup and insecurity over whether I’m seen as competent in the eyes of others? Seems to be a number of reasons why this has become less critical, all of a sudden.

One, I managed to kill VG in different groups. So I’m evidently playing at a sufficient level that won’t automatically cause team wipes. This satisfies the baseline level of my insecurity.

Two, even if you’re competent, if too many of the group isn’t competent (yet), you aren’t killing VG or any other raid boss anyway. So personal competence does not correlate to raid boss kill success. The solution is merely plenty of group practice and/or teaching/coaching and addressing specific mistakes/issues (assuming the people in question are open to improving and won’t go defensively apeshit on you, which… can be a bit of an ideal dream.)

Three, apparently as I de-attach from caring or being passionately invested in a game, I also no longer care about whether I’m seen as an expert player or not. I mean, who do I have to impress? Nobody whose opinion I care about.

(My personal standards seem to be set much higher than the average anyway, so I may as well just listen to my own internal compass.)

I have “The Eternal” title now. Honestly, I’m not actually going to ever set foot into any PUGs that would ask for it to be displayed. Fear of strangers and toxicity is way too high now.

The only real meaning the title has for me is the memory of the nine people who came together to specifically help get me the title even after they already had theirs (and managed to not die, one by a thread, literally, he was downed as Sabetha died. Possibly another hero teammate managed to keep rezzing too.)

So I guess, six months later, I now have the answer to the question “What’s going to come out of the other end, once I fall down the raiding hole?”

A sort of separation aloofness, that can be perceived as a mild case of “elitism” by some.

A load of not-quite-burnout, but definitely detachment from the game.

P.S. I think it’s important to clarify what “not caring” means for me in this context, because the phrase often conjures up the image of a petulant individual throwing a tantrum and ragequitting, or someone with a trembling lip mumbling “I don’t care” while signaling with all their body language he or she patently does.

At the moment, it is very much an insouciant nonchalance, with a side sprinkling of resigned indifference.

In my mind, GW2 has taken a sudden drop in status to secondary game, and it seems the amount of importance I invested into it has also dipped as a result.

I still show up for raids, I still try my hardest because that’s the right thing to do when you’re participating in organized group content. If a kill happens, hooray. If a kill doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. It just means more waiting until the next time.

In between the actual mob fighting, during all the waiting and organizing and scheduling that would drive the sane mad, I just stand around AFK, swap screens and try to squeeze in as much alternate game playing as I can (Path of Exile is much better for this than Stardew Valley, since I can instantly drop from the former, while the latter only saves game progress per day.)

It’s better than taking delays like a personal affront, I should think. This maintains my mood to pretty cheerful levels all around and I end up looking at most things with equanimity. I like being mellow better than my youthful days of super-serious intensity.

In other news, my Path of Exile Perandus League character has just hit level 63. (Yes, I’m a noob. Yes, I take my time.)

He’s been doing pretty well with a dual Righteous Fire totems + Searing Bond build. It’s very gear-independent, I’m still sitting on highly backdated level 40 something gear with the barest minimum of slotting (Increased Burning Damage on the totems, is about it).

The Blasphemy gem is my new favorite thing (for some definitions of new, I think it was introduced quite some time back.) It can automatically apply curses slotted to it, as an aura, at the cost of some mana reserved.

Since Righteous Fire totems use no mana whatsoever, I’m running Flammability as an aura, that doubles as a very handy mob radar/spotter for shadowy areas as nearby mobs instantly light up with a glowy orange-red symbol on their heads.

I’m juust starting to feel the pressure in the Merciless areas, from insufficient resistances, armor and %life increases. So that’s my current focus, run around the lvl 60+ areas, kill stuff, hope some nice-linked on-level gear drops that I can upgrade for better resist and +life and hit the %life nodes on the skill tree each level from here till maps.

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.