Blaugust Day 31: What Next?

And so we reach the end of August, after attempting 31 posts in 31 days.

We sort of cheated a little at the end, but well, producing walls of text has never really been a problem of mine.

(Producing wall of texts someone else might want to read, now, that’s a little trickier.)

Finding the time to sit down and devote an hour or two to  production of said wall of text, plus a picture or two, that’s harder.

I’d call the Blaugust challenge a success, as it managed to kickstart my blogging habit after a lazy July, and produced a number of blogs that I’ll be keeping track of, even after the month ends.

It’s been a pleasure jumping onto the madness train with a whole bunch of the blogging community.

To-do list wise, we got through about half of the items, and most of the important ones, which I’m quite happy about.

Trove has found itself a handy niche for the moment. I’m quite content to log on daily, fill the star bar for cubits, catch a challenge if I happen to be online for it.

The Tomb Raiser is level 32 or thereabouts. He can juuust about solo U5 dungeons if I’m willing to fight a little harder (ie. wait for energy to recharge and keep holding down the spam AoE button, rinse and repeat 4-5 times.) If I’m feeling lazy, then I’ll stroll through something a little easier in difficulty.

The remaining Trove goals are rather medium-term in nature. I’m working on a Sky Portal, solo, which means accumulating a fairly insane amount of resources that would be much easier to get if I had.. say, 5 or 10 members contributing a portion of the resources each. It mostly means I collect a little each day, stuff it in the bank and try to do more on the bonus days, and basically wait until the magic number is reached.

There’s always fishing for more ancient scales. Which usually means it’s TV show watching time in the other screen first, and fishing second.

Leveling up the Tomb Raiser’s gear any further would mean requiring a lot more flux currency than I can easily get my hands on, which usually means just wait for the hourly challenges and do those for some flux. Very.. time-limited. Working on it, but not in any hurry.

And there’s faffing about on other alts trying to level them up to 20, if I get bored of the above.

I still haven’t quite resolved where I stand on Guild Wars 2 at the moment.

Readers may have noticed that I haven’t bothered to make any mention of the front-page news announcement that GW2 is now… erm, what’s the correct phrase… “play for free” or whatever.

To me, it’s a total non-issue.

It’s too late complaining about the quality of the community. GW2 was going for 10 bucks for a long period, and I’ve noticed mapchat take a turn for the less-polite or patient, in comparison with the quality of the launch day chats.

Basically, politeness is a victim of popular success. The more popular GW2 becomes, the more people jump into the game, the higher proportion of people you will find that have been accustomed to certain speech patterns in WoW or LoL or other similar games and will act in a similar fashion in GW2, having never been fully immersed into the culture yet.

Add on a good dose of veteran impatience and the tendency of people to ape common frames of thought and a certain meta/elitist segregation that seems to have been occurring dungeon-wise (I watched with some bemusement today as someone gave a ranger a lame excuse for a fractals 10 and kicked him from the party – ranger had 3k AP, not exactly a noob – I did not join the vote kick, but I said nothing either, because I just wanted the damn daily done and didn’t want to get kicked before or during the event), and you will find some deterioration of friendliness, free or no free.

I see a great deal of players being all welcoming and social on Reddit, and I presume, in the game as well. Which is great for both them and the newbies – they get “new content” in the sense of having new people to play with / teach / help, and the newbies get that helping hand as well, and may both purchase the game and stick with it.

Which works for me, I’m not really “mentor” material most of the time, being all grouchy hermit and stuff, but hey, increasing game population means increase in all types of players and hopefully, increased participation in all the game modes I enjoy.

On a more personal level, I spent most of the day trying to work out what I was feeling and thinking about the whole “raids” bruhaha.

One thing I do know is that I’m getting increasingly tired of essentially being a martyr on someone else’s behalf, especially when they don’t seem to appreciate it anyway. Of being told I’m making much ado about nothing.

In other words, here I am, trying to be concerned about the really casual GW2 players who almost never see things like organized WvW or organized Teq or organized Triple Trouble or even organized guild missions, and keep obsessing about keeping barriers of entry low and for them to be on a relatively equal playing field so that they -can- join in, when they want to, and I generally find that most of the bloggers who profess this way of playing just seem to have “accepted” that they’ll never do it, period, so the whole activity just doesn’t exist for them, full stop.

It makes me just a little bit mad, this attitude of what-seems-to-me to be “learned helplessness.” The “I could never do it, so therefore I won’t even try” sort of acceptance.

On the other hand, I find the dismissive attitude of the self-proclaimed elitists annoying as well.

It’s really tempting and easy to segregate yourself into groups of people who think like you and play like you. It seems that -both- extremes are quite happy to indulge in this separation, as shown in a little Reddit flowchart that has been making the rounds lately – “In zerk? Go hang with zerk groups. Non-zerk? Go hang with non-zerk groups. Conclusion: everybody happy.”

Supposedly. Except that I note that the non-zerk groups have a tendency to not form, or take hours to complete, be comprised of more unsure players, etc.

To quote another Redditor, I feel like I’m basically undergoing a certain amount of “cognitive dissonance” here, because… let me fess up:

I’m generally lazy. I like my groups smooth and efficient and optimal. I like getting what I’m aiming for, when I group up, fast and painless. Unless it’s the weekend and I’m in a really good benevolent mood, I don’t have time to spend 3 hours teaching a bunch of people I’ll probably never see again how not to suck, in order for me to get what I want.

Given very little push, I am quite happy to fall back into old obsessive hardcore patterns and think elitist thoughts. With the right motivation, I’ll do whatever is needed to fall within the 10% who can do whatever it is I want to do, and who gives a fuck about the 90% who can’t, right? It’s not like most of them even -want- to. If they’re not even willing to help themselves, why should -I- care?

(You will note, all the “them” speech. Segregation. Division. Not community.)

Then I stop and I wonder if I should really let myself go down that road of thought. I’m not sure if I’d like the person that comes out the other end.

I suppose there is a certain amount of real world correlation and history at work. Singapore’s education system has always been “meritocracy”-based – which, during the time I grew up – mostly meant doing well at academic grades at an early age. If you scored top marks, you got shoved into the through-trains, labeled with really positive labels, and woe betide those that didn’t. They got the opposite treatment, pretty much.

It hasn’t been till the last decade or two that the very slow oil tanker has been steering in other directions, realizing that “merit” could be defined very differently (including musical, artistic and athletic merit, besides academic) and doing their best to recognize those with different strengths, as well as giving those who didn’t do well academically other possible and potential pathways to progress their education and careers (giving them the opportunity to possibly even overtake the supposed ‘elite’ once in the working world.)

The other thing the education system has been slowly attempting to do, through thick layers of bureaucracy, is to tweak policy for those who have somehow “fallen through the cracks” and don’t quite fit into neatly labeled categories.

The latest governmental propaganda is basically an exhortation to keep social consciousness in view, to have a heart, and contribute to the community, “No Singaporean left behind,” and so on.

I’m basically caught between being a pragmatic bastard and an ideal of someone better than that.

And I honestly don’t know which way I’ll go.

Is it at all possible to be an egalitarian hardcore raider?

Or do elitist thoughts and segregation away from the hoi polloi come as part of the territory?

(I’ll be frank, I won’t do a PUG Teq, when a TTS Teq is so much more enjoyable and efficient and equally available.

And there was a time when I just couldn’t be bothered rezzing anyone in the Silverwastes because they jolly well ought to waypoint back instead of just laying there dead and expecting someone to risk dying to peel them off the floor… especially when they die again in the next ten seconds that follow.

I’m feeling a bit more bleeding heart after a month away from GW2 and go for a rez, though it’s mostly to test myself and build quick reactions for future “challenging group content” than harboring any actual concern for the person or any expectation that the person will stay upright. Elitist? Probably.)

If I keep playing GW2, I will mostly likely do my best to get into and stay in a successful, regular, organized raid team.

(Unless it so happens that timezones and schedules are really restrictive and there’s no way I can wrangle something that fits.)

There’s no way I can ignore a mountain that is plonked down in front of me.

Not sure it’s worth it, really. But beyond the temptation of Legendary armor, there will be the basic fact that it is content I haven’t seen or played, and therefore must attempt until it is conquered (or I fall screaming off the mountain.)

I have no idea what’s going to come out at the other end. Burnout, drama, frustration, or just a bad case of elitist prick-ism?

Well. *deep breath* I guess we’ll find out.

Blaugust Day 29: Post-Raid Announcement “Hmm”

It ain’t the end of the world.

Nor was the announcement as ideal or detailed as one had hoped, but about as decent as it could be, I guess.

Raids are now confirmed to exist as a 10-person instanced challenging group content that will test the abilities of players to coordinate and use GW2’s action combat system to its fullest potential.

No attunements – so we at least avoid the ludicrous 12-step hamster wheel to even qualify to enter a raid. Apparently you just walk up to the door and you can go in to get your face smashed any time you’d like.

However, it -is- going to involve the heavy use of Masteries to get certain phases completed.

The example given was that one group would have to clear an escape path before the big ol’ raid boss nuked everyone to kingdom come, while the other group kept big ol’ raid boss distracted/controlled/damaged, and then everyone would have to run the hell away to the edge and glide around for a bit while said nuke went off.

Sorry, guys, while this is not an attunement per se, imo, this is pre-required grind with a different name. If your gliding mastery ain’t high enough, you’re not going to stay aloft for that long, right?

The only mitigating factor is that you’d probably only need a few specific Masteries for specific raid bosses (once the strategies are figured out) so that newcomers would only have to do that bit of ‘lateral’ progression grind.

It was repeatedly stressed that all the classes (ahem, professions) in GW2 are capable of builds that produce damage/control/support (aka fluid combat roles) so that you could play your favorite profession, rather than be forced to wait around for half an hour for a healer to be available, or be asked to play another profession cos X other player isn’t around…

… good and sound, in theory. We’ll see how long that lasts in the hands of players, who are liable to decide that Y class brings the most Z to the table, and therefore Y class is the meta.

I’m not sure what to think regarding the specific number of 10.

On one hand, the low number (aka 2 groups) does provide an arrangement where each player can play a visible important role that isn’t drowned out by visual chaos. It’s easier to match schedules for a smaller group of players, and so on.

On the other hand, if you’re the 11th player, it may not be that easy to find raid-ready groups.

We’ve yet to see just how the formation of this would play out though – can a randomly assembled PUG of 10 be expected to manage the difficulty, or is it going to be a more guild/teamspeak-only kind of affair? Dunno. We’ll have to see.

The big raid reward announcement is that it’s going to be possible to get Legendary armor off raids. Which is really good and appropriate, imo.

Stat-wise, no different from Ascended gear, but it’ll still have that piece by piece build up and show off factor, AND be extra-convenient for stat-switching… which you might expect future raids to require (shifting from zerker to tankier soldier or nomads to some kind of condi, or what have you.)

We’ve yet to see if this is going to come via random RNG drop or some form of gradual earning/token buy system though. The website phrasing says “earn” so hopefully, the latter is the case or is at least possible.

I’m not sure if the concept of Legendary armor imposes any kind of mandatory pressure to raiding. I don’t -think- so, given that the stats are the same as Ascended, and the existing concept of Legendary weapons being entirely optional. But I’m not sure how others might perceive it.

The other piece of good news is that GW2 raids will make use of the dynamic event system, so that has the potential for a goodly amount of task flexibility (beyond kill giant boss monster) and event chaining for raid content.

The underlying principles of no insane vertical gear progression and trying to cut out all the inconvenient and annoying aspects of raiding, while keeping the good stuff, were repeatedly stressed as well.

The concept of making Heart of Thorns basically contain ‘endgame’ content for all and sundry, of which one subset are PvE players who like raids,  (PvP players included, though I note they carefully didn’t mention WvW players) was also covered.

So at least the heart, philosophy and plan are in the right places… even if the reality might not quite match up to the hoped-for plan once it comes into effect…

I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see how it all plays out.

I’m not super-stoked, but I’m not freaking out either – which about as much as could be expected, I guess.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 29.

Blaugust Day 27: The Worst That Could Happen When “Raids” Hit GW2

Yesterday, as all the leaked news spread across Reddit increasing the hype level, I scribbled down a blog post draft at work, reacting to the cheap trigger word of “raids” and explaining why I have an almost illogical and irrational emotional response to the term.

(Bottom line: Old memories of a time when I was definitely less mellow, more prone to acting on obsessive/hardcore behavior that did not prioritize anything but “winning” and concerned with looking good in the eyes of others.

In other words, if you give me a typical raid setup, I’m liable to do my best to climb the ladder all the way to the top, to hell with rl priorities like work, sleep, eating, hygiene, whatever.)

Then I promptly forgot to bring said scribbled notes home to expand into a post.

One TV show, one good meal, one warm shower, one series of guild missions and a nice long streak of Trove-playing plus old TV show watching, revisiting Steam game Recettear on a whim and 8 hours of sleep later, I have mellowed down to the point of almost treating the whole thing like a non-issue.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am still deadly serious on one thing.

If the raids in GW2 are done badly, if they are designed in such a way that they promote increased player toxicity, a worsening community, and a personal impulse to act obsessively at the expense of my other real life priorities, I -will- be quitting the game that I no longer recognize.

But that statement is not meant to be read as any kind of histrionic threat (not that Anet would care, they’re not even a sub game, y’know?) but more as a statement of fact that it would be in my best interests to do so.

It’s just like if, for example, I knew I had a gambling problem – if I was addicted to lockboxes and due to however my brain was wired, unable to control myself from exceeding a reasonable budget at the expense of my real life, then it would be in my best interests to not even come near a game that offered that sort of thing as a design choice.

I did it once before with City of Heroes and Incarnate raids, after all. I just didn’t enjoy the gameplay. I didn’t appreciate that group content gave exclusive rewards that soloers couldn’t strive for, essentially “forcing” players into one style of play. The community had taken a u-turn since the implementation of loot systems and tiered raids were the culmination of that. Ultimately, I just threw up my hands and quit, rather than make myself and others upset by ranting and raving and writing walls of text on why the devs shouldn’t do X or Y.

Part of the fear and gut reaction to the prospect of quitting is this holdover idea that one needs to be “faithful” to a particular MMO, that an MMO is for life, that one has invested -so- much into playing a particular game that it’s hard to let go.

Last night rather nailed it in that there are so many other games that I could be playing and occupying my time and attention with, that I shouldn’t have to even worry at all if I find one game no longer suits me.

So this Saturday morning, as I scramble to catch up with all the belated Blaugust posts that I consciously chose to put aside to prioritize work + games on weekdays, in the more logical light of day, I am finding it all a relative non-issue.

Yes, I would still feel a little sad if the game I loved took a turn for something that I no longer enjoy or recognize. I would be saddened to break social bonds that had formed as a result of the game and leave those communities for other horizons.

But you know, it’s not like it is something that anyone is immune to. Even the big kahuna World of Warcraft has had periods of big sweeping change, and I’m confident to hazard a guess that each time, it knocked loose some people who could no longer enjoy the game it had become.

So, even while I’m hopeful that things won’t be as bad as my irrational emotional fears are making things out to be, an honest, pragmatic look at the worse case scenario that -could- happen reveals that even that situation isn’t the end of the world. Just the end of me playing one game.

(Which does sound scary and final, similar to how the phrase “losing your job” might stir uncomfortable emotional feelings in the pit of one’s stomach. Realistically though, it’s not like that one job was IT, there are many other jobs out there that one could also be doing – and after an initial period of pain aka limited funds, the goddamn job hunt and interviews, etc. – one might find that the next job turns out better than the last.)

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Birthday, Belghast and Blaugust, and the number 27.