Blaugust Day 11: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Traffic and Love the Comments

Ysharros over at Stylish Corpse has been wondering about Blaugust’s impact on everybody’s blog traffic.

It seems the general consensus is that there has been an uptick in traffic from Blaugust, if only from posting every day and getting those daily views as a result.

As usual, our well-loved blogosphere contrarian Bhagpuss pops in with the diametrically opposite finding that his traffic has taken a hit the moment Blaugust started (whereupon we can surmise that he’s been hogging the eyes for most of the rest of the year. Yarrr. Do share. Kidding.)

It seems therefore fitting that I should turn up with the absolutely bland, neutral, middle-of-the-road conclusion that Blaugust has had very little effect on my traffic as a whole.

I am a fairly visual person, so I need to post supporting diagrams and such.

Since I don’t want to make anyone, especially during Blaugust, feel inadequate (or conversely, feel extra bolstered in ego at my expense ūüôā ), I have excised the numbers and only want to deal with trends and patterns.

(I post actual numbers only once a year, when WordPress provides their handy yearly summary, if anyone is curious on that front.)

Here’s the recent weekly graph:

weeklystats

If anything, the most startling thing is the fact that my pageviews have remained fairly constant, even through my dead silence in July.

Well, ok, you can see a dip there and a stable plateau, which suggests my actual regulars haven’t checked in when I stopped writing.

On the whole, regardless of if I write daily or every few days or sporadically or not at all, I’ve been getting a constant stream of traffic from elsewhere, that pretty much drowns out any day to day trends.

Honestly, I think three quarters of them are probably bots.

The last quarter are probably some poor souls who typed in a phrase into Google, and saw one of my clickbait headings look interesting and click through, to either read that page only, or have their eyes glaze over with the wall of text and just as hastily leave. (I’ll count it as a win.)

The good news is that I don’t feel compelled to do anything, one way or the other. I’ll write what I want to write, when I want to write it, and let the stats fall as they may. (They’re probably still all bots anyway.)

Well, no, there’s one type of reader that I’m fairly confident are human, and come in very high quantities. The guide-seeker. The walkthrough hunter. The “Let Your Fingers and Google Do the Gaming For You” subset.

stats2015

Here’s my current 2015 blog stats, and the top ten most popular “posts.”

I apologize for those that hate algebra, but this was the best way to mask actual numbers and still show trends and popularity that I could think of, bright and early in the morning.

Let X be some number. You can pretend X = 10, or X = 100, or X = 500, whatever. (It’s not as high as 500. For sure.)

Posts about the GW2 jumping puzzle in the Silverwastes, getting better at WvW, Heart of Thorns beta screenshots and a random humorous Don’t Starve list scored about the same amount of views.

A post about my sinister necromancer build experiments and early days in Dry Top getting to Tier 4 scored 1.5X views, which suggests that people have been googling for sinister necromancer builds and dry top tiers (and probably getting rather disappointed when they hit my rambling musings, rather than a clear cut guide.)

Minecraft: Agrarian Skies – The Fires of Industry is also somewhat popular – I suspect that the release of Agrarian Skies 2 probably contributed to a sudden spate of Googling for tips. Admittedly, the post goes into quite some detail about all the simple machines I was building, so -maybe- it was a little helpful.

For guaranteed evergreen success though, I would advise blogging about how MMOs are dead.

Super duper popular topic. There’s TONS of people convinced the demise of the genre has already happened / is happening right now / will happen any day now and looking for echo chamber posts to support their point of view.¬†Really, I don’t have to write a thing for the next year, and I think they will still come in droves to this post.

And yes, despite its slightly outdated nature (and the nagging voice in the back of my head that says I need to update it… someday), views are coming in, landing on, and hopefully staying on my magnum opus – a guide that took me ages to write, but felt had to be done. If only it helped just one person enjoy and appreciate GW2’s combat a little more, it would have been successful.

Admittedly, there was some calculated ulterior motive at work when I kept it as one gigantic page, instead of breaking it up into separate page subsections. Besides making it easier for people to save and read offline, I kinda wanted to encourage repeated visits and the channeling of all interested pageviews into this one guide page so that I would have an idea of total visitors, and accumulate pageview score into this one massive clunker of a post.

Working as intended.

The last interesting fact about 2015 is that very little of the popular posts were actually -written- in 2015. (The orange bar next to it indicates a post written in the year.)

I’ve been resting on my laurels and doing whatever the hell I want, really.

statsyearly

It is therefore entirely possible that my annual stats may not match last year’s peak, and I’m perfectly ok with that.

Over the past few years, I’ve gathered that most of my popular posts coincide with GW2’s Living Story updates (which we’ve been rather short of, in the year 2015, *coughs*) or updates in some other game that I happened to write about, and are usually guide posts of some sort.

That, or first impressions and opinions on (presumably fairly niche) games that I somehow managed to beat game journalism sites to the punch with (hurrah, timezones?), thus showing up in Google faster.

stats2014

If I get a sudden surge of unexpected traffic, it’s because someone somewhere popular Tweeted or Facebooked or somehow shared my post, and it contained a controversial opinion or a clickbait-style title, resulting in a sudden surge of Internet people burning with the desire to share¬†just how I got it wrong. ūüôā

(This usually results in me cackling to myself all the way to the stats bank instead.)

I also learned that the absolute best way for me to explode my usual pageviews is to write a useful ‘guide’ post and then shamelessly self-promote it to the GW2 Reddit.

stats2013

See? Nearly all ‘how to’ guides, with a few tongue-in-cheek or bitchy opinion posts or “accidentally stumbled on a Google search keyword without meaning to” ones.

Truth is, though, many¬†of these accidentally popular posts are not the posts that have the most meaning to me, the ones that I’m proudest of.

(Well, a few I am happy with, if they fulfill their function and my intent as I was writing them.)

If I spent all my days catering to the whims of my traffic, my site would look and sound very very different. More impersonal. More ‘third-party’ guide information. And it wouldn’t at all make me happy.

I gain nothing with traffic and increasing pageviews anyway. This is a free WordPress blog. I pay zero cents. I get zero cents in return.

The possibly weird ads you may sometimes see at the bottom of each post are WordPress busy recouping their bandwidth lost through hits on my posts. I do not give one damn if you click them or block them or just put me in an RSS reader so that you never have to see them.

I find it a fair exchange for not having to worry about DDoS or hacking attempts or server upkeep and maintenance. WordPress can handle all that and just give me the space and tools to be creative and express myself.

-That- makes me happy.

I’m happiest sharing my screenshots of virtual places¬†I find lovely: GW2’s Orr, Labyrinthine Cliffs, zone-defining screenshots, City of Heroes lookback, some from TSW, etc.

I’m proud of the verse and prose I sometimes find the occasion to write: “Love” Song for Tequatl, GW1’s Ozymandias, Missing the Magic of MMOs (and shamelessly stealing words from somebody else and rearranging them… kinda a good metaphor for MMO clones, come to think of it), Asura urban noir vignette, and the longest charr short story ever.

I’m content with the day-to-day rambling posts that fill the gaps in between the ‘masterpieces’ (intentional or otherwise) because waiting for inspiration to strike is a sure recipe for utter dead silence and a blank page.

And I’m cheered up when human readers to decide to leave a comment to let me know that they read and appreciated what I wrote.

Traffic? Pageviews?

Pshaw. They’re probably all bots anyway.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, Y for Ysharros and Yet-Again-I-Forget-To-Add-This-Line-Till-Later, and the number 11.

GW2: Oh Happy Day

lumi-collection

T’was a very fruitful weekend for me in Guild Wars 2.

The last carapace chest finally deigned to drop for me during a Vinewrath on Sunday.

I’ve pretty much lost count of how many I’ve done prior to this. You know those lucky bastards that get 3 carapace chests in like, 4 Vinewraths? I’m their polar opposite. Someone’s got to draw the short end of the RNG stick, I guess.

While banging my head on the wall of innumerable Vinewraths, I ended up with about 6000 crests in total across weeks of Silverwastes, minus a thousand or so for one of the Ascended accessories that needed to be bought for the collection, and not including the ton of Mordrem parts I haven’t got around to exchanging for crests taking up room in my bags.

It worked out quite nicely, as I decided to be lazy and buy my last carapace headgear instead of running a third character through the storyline.

Minus another 1000 for the last Ascended accessory that needed to be bought, and I had 4000 left over to pick up all the buyable Mordrem tonics and minis.

Turns out both the Mordrem husk and troll tonics are pretty good for screenshots, as you can scroll directly into first person view with them. The husk camera is set a little higher than the troll’s. I think I prefer the troll overall, but I’m sure there will be times I might find the husk one handy.

The most delightful thing for me about finishing the Luminescent collection is the title. I’m madly in love with it ever since I saw it, and ever since playing its namesake in the Personal Story. Happily wearing it now.

I’m really not sure what to do with the Ascended armor chest that was its final reward. I already own a Zojja’s chestpiece that was a lucky drop from a Wurm kill. If I continue decking that warrior out, each piece only increments by such a minute amount I feel almost sorry selecting a wear location other than the chest.

Or I could pick another Zojja’s breastplate and give it to my guardian main… except that would make all the colors not match and feel a little weird. It’s not like he -needs- Ascended, since he doesn’t WvW or do fractals.

Or maybe one of my many other alts could use it? What stats? Who? *brain shuts down at this point and I just throw it in the bank to think about later*

ambi-collection

And the last four Ambrite weapons that were still pending three weeks ago?

Yep, finally managed to pull enough fossilized insects after some weekly patient attendance at DTOP’s regular Fri/Sat ‘one hour after reset’ runs. (Or Sat/Sun morning for me.)

I almost didn’t think I’d get it done this week.

I lucked into an insect during Saturday’s two hours, and then promptly failed miserably to get one on Sunday, despite opening some two dozen chests over the two hours.

I bought my final sets of keys (about 12 of them all told) and logged out, intending to catch another sandstorm some other time and just run around opening chests, and never got back to it on Sunday.

I also start on about 14% of the Maguuma Wastes PvP reward track. Eventually, I’ll get the last fossilized insect that way, worse case scenario.

Monday morning, I wake pretty¬†early before work, intending to get a blog post about the Luminescent collection done, and see that the clock says :57 minutes. Hmm, there’s three minutes left of a sandstorm! What if…

So I log on (thank you SSD for quick load times) and run around like a mad charr with CTRL held down, hoping to spy at least one chest before the sandstorm’s up.

I see one! It’s on a cliff! I grab the blue crystal and fail the jump several times, cursing under my breath, watching the sandstorm time tick down.

I get up there at last! I open it!

No insect.

Some random recipe that actually overloads me.

Baaaaaah. Much deflated, I look around for another chest. There’s under a minute of time left.

Encumbered, kinda half blind while walking around and scanning through my open bags settling on something to throw away to make room, I toss out some grey junk, and then another piece of grey junk to make one extra slot… just in case.

There’s another chest! Under half a minute left!

I run over and with 15 seconds on the clock, I throw it open and BAM, a golden fossilized insect slides into that slot I just opened up, while 8 bits of sand overload me.

THERE IS AN RNG GOD.

I fling 16 copper more of grey junk out my inventory to let the equally worthless sand slide in, then cradling the last insect, dash over to Divinity’s Reach to pull out the other three I’d been hoarding in the bank.

One quick waypoint to trade all the insects into the appropriate form, another waypoint back, and the celebratory crafting began.

Blog post? Err… Nevermind, I’ll write it in the night.

Besides those little bouts of satisfaction, I also got in a bit of leveling time during double xp weekend.

There was a spot of time the servers were being rather dodgy and the Silverwastes map was pretty much unplayable, so being neatly stymied in my attempt to get the last carapace chest, or do anything (like kill Tequatl or Wurm) that required a stable connection without dc’ing, I decided to power level my charr mesmer instead.

Boy, was that a little insane.

I’d never eaten so many boosters in my life.

Usually I settle for an experience booster and a killstreak booster at most, and food and a wrench consumable.

Since double xp was going on, I threw on a celebration booster from the log-in rewards too, for another 100% xp. I made some candy corn cake that gave 15% xp rather than the usual 10%.

I’m still too cheap to waste 5 experience boosters for a single improved experience booster, so I held off on that, and just nommed my usual stuff. Plus a speed booster, because what the heck, I was starting to accumulate too many of those.

Then I ran off to find yellow untouched mobs and hit one.

That 64xp mob? Coughed out some 500+ xp in bonus experience, and steadily rising from the killstreak booster.

Man, did that experience bar jump.

I calculated that 3 moas would move the bar by one tenth of the total experience bar. So 30 fully xp laden mobs equated to one level.

In one hour I jumped around 7-8 levels, and that was while wasting time chatting to a friend.

Said friend wanted to come along in the next hour, so that was what we did, scoring another 8 levels.

Level 25 to 33 to 41. Craaazy.

What eventually screwed up the streak was a whole spate of maps that we were in crashing and restarting, resetting all that sweet sweet bonus xp back to essentially zero (or the same amount as the mob’s usual xp.) Fields of Ruin? Crashed. Lornar’s Pass? Crashed. Harathi Hinterlands? Crashed.

WELL. That’s pretty much all the maps that are good for that level range. (Yes, we could downlevel, but you don’t get the maximum amount of potential xp that way, you get a lil less. And we were already spoiled from the crazy numbers we were scoring with each mob.)

So we ended up taking a break and it turned out that was all the time I could spare during the weekend for leveling because I got distracted by the Vinewrath once the servers stabilized.

Oh well, plenty of time to level at leisure now that my crazy collection obsession is sated, and I can slowly make a little progress on my Great Screenshot Project. (No mention of mass carnage and destruction for the expansion, so I guess I don’t have to hurry on this. Phew.)

I’m kinda looking forward to seeing what the whole horde of newbies who grabbed GW2¬†during the $10 weekend sale are making of the game.

The only thing that frightens me is the quality of mapchat in the low level zones. Prior to the newbie influx, they’ve tended to make my brain rot from the inanity and barrens-chat worthy phrases (I figure that many of the¬†people still leveling lowbies during this time are not…hmm, shall we say very devoted GW2 players or veterans – vets¬†are likely to have so many tomes of knowledge they have to use up or are perfectly fine crafting or EoTMing their way to 80 – and thus¬†carry a bit of their usual MMO culture with them back into this game.)

I’m not sure I want to find out if it’s got worse or better or stayed the same.

I -am- having quite a bit of fun with the influx of newbie posts on Reddit though. I’m a little too hermit-y to consider helping random people in-game, but y’know, give me a soapbox and a comment space to write in and I can’t resist giving my twenty cents of advice.

Guess we all do our part to try and live up to that “fun, welcoming, inclusive community” moniker.

A State of Contentment

Happiness is a bunch of Labyrinthine Cliff screenshots...

The usual blog silence descends when I’ve run out of things to say, beyond an update on what I’ve been up to, games-wise:

Games I’m Playing

Guild Wars 2 – Next Living Story is slated for one month from now. Whoosh.

Welp, it gives people time to get Wildstar out of their systems, I guess.

I’m more or less done with Festival of the Four Winds, beyond an occasional peek into the Crown Pavilion when I feel like it, along the same irregular pace I keep for Teq and Wurm. That is, once every 3-7 days.

cliffs_overview

Same with the Labyrinthine Cliff events (maybe I’ll get another Favor of the Bazaar sometime this month!) and the Queen’s Gauntlet (maybe I’ll get a Chaos of Lyssa! Nah… I don’t believe in delusions of lucky drops, even with the latest patch, but I may as well convert spare tickets into tokens.)

8 Orb Liadri is still beyond me for now.

I just can’t muster any desire to craft a very distinct build plus gear -just- to do it over 90+ times, given how my latency affects orb pick-up speeds. Over on Reddit, an Aussie DnT guy mentioned that he took 80+ tries, while looking on in envious contrast at his NA guildmates, so I have no illusions about the amount of effort it’s going to take.

Plus framerates of 20 are likely not the most ideal, so I think I’ll just wait for the next year’s Festival or the one after that, if and when I finally get the spare cash and time to get around to upgrading my computer.

I might get around to another bout of screenshot taking in the Cliffs sometime this month...
Maybe one more round of screenshot taking in the Cliffs sometime this month…

I’ve dropped back comfortably into my old routine of logging on for an hour or two to finish my dailies and gather all the things.

Yes, I’m weird, I really like gathering all the things. My watchwork pick has been a great purchase for me on this front, since my commenters talked me into going for it.

(They convinced me it’s really all about the individual. I can’t see any use for the salvage-o-matic, for example – I’m getting far more orichalcum and gossamer from salvaging via Mystic or Master kits, and I calculated it’s enough to pay for even Master kit usage if and when I finally run out of Mystic Forge Stones. Just leave leather giving items for basic kits, though I do tend to just shut my eyes and salvage when using Mystic kits.)

Every couple of days, I get enough watchwork sprockets to auction off and put a couple gold in my pocket, saving me from the chore of enduring a couple dungeons – which I’m not a great fan of. I won’t say it’s anywhere near a great income stream (running a world boss choo choo train and selling the rares will probably net the same or more) but it enables me to get some pocket money while doing stuff I -like- to do.

Every now and then, I break routine and do part of said world boss choo choo train, or poke into a dungeon (or even a fractal yesterday and a guild TA aetherpath today!) or hop into WvW for a change of pace – and it all feels as it should be.

Dolyak photo bombs are another great way to break routine.
Dolyak calf photo bombs are another great way to break routine.

A true amusement park functioning like it ought to – come in, play the minigames or go for the rides you want, leave when you need to, no obligations, subscriptions or regret required.

Terraria – The anticipated relaxed pace of GW2 for the next month gives me time to poke around other games. A whole flock of NBI bloggers appear to have taken up residence in J3w3l’s Terraria server, and I’m poking my head in, as well.

A big patch or two seems to have been introduced since the last time I played it with J3w3l, and there’s plenty of stuff to explore and look forward to as well.

The world’s not in hard mode yet, as I think other players are still starting from scratch, but the big kahuna at the end appears to be the Frost Moon event, said to be harder than the Pumpkin Moon waves we were fending off the last time.

It’s all good, because this gives me time to work on building cool stuff without getting worried about nasty mobs or corruption coming around the next corner.

I played around with some pixel art – pretty much a first for me.

It's a platform game, right?
It’s a platform game, right?

Got re-obsessed with the Great Biome Project – saving all the trees and biomes for posterity in their little penned-off convenient-to-access zoo enclosures…

Saving the trees...
Saving the trees… one rectangle at a time. Still have space for Hallow trees once we get to that point.
In Africa, they set aside sanctuaries for lions. In Terraria, antlions are the endangered species.
In Africa, they set aside sanctuaries for lions. In Terraria, antlions are the endangered species. This is all Eri’s fault, by the way. Beyond numerous potholes in the desert, -somebody- also insinuated my project failed the last time around! Well, three rows of desert this time! I saw three antlions spawning once!

And working on digging my fallout shelter in preparation for hard mode.

Unfortunately, lead is not a valid material for lining walls with. Tinfoil will have to do.
Unfortunately, lead is not a valid material for lining walls with. Tinfoil (or tin plating) will have to do.
Dooown the vault shaft, into the decontamination tank.
Dooown the vault shaft, into the decontamination tank.

There is a whole new FISHING system which looks deliciously fun to play around with.

Catching critters for bait, as well as critters to turn into a terrarium collection (the rabid collector in me demands a whole laboratory floor of them at some point), and then catching a whole bunch of new and rare fish in various biomes, and having some kind of quest to turn them into the Angler NPC…

Haven’t had time to play around with this as much as I’d like, but definitely intend on getting around to it.

also works great as
The decontamination chamber also works great as an underground fishing pond on my doorstep.

Path of Exile – My new favorite game, which is working great in conjunction with the above two.

I “finished” normal difficulty on my Shadow at around level 35ish… only by some definitions of the word, because the last two maps ramped up pretty insanely in difficulty and I was sure I wasn’t in the right gear or build for completing it properly. I couldn’t be arsed to switch out my haphazard gearing because that would mean dealing with three stashes’ worth of inventory management I’d been putting off, so I went the waypoint rez route instead.

LOTS of death, LOTS of rezzing. Nickle and diming the last boss to death with poison and an occasional hit before exploding into bloody gore.

Totally doing it wrong, I know.

But I just kinda wanted to see the end of the story content.

After finishing Act III and watching the end credits roll, I found myself back in Act I… on the new Cruel difficulty, one step up from Normal.

Still level 35.

OH. Then it hit me that one was going to have to play through Cruel and Merciless to get to those lofty level 90ish heights.

*gulp*

There are experience point penalties for death in those two harder difficulties, so it was time to say goodbye to waypoint rushes. (Ah, I hardly knew ye, dear strategy, now obsolete…)

I took a short break to roll up two new characters, a Templar (str/int hybrid) and a Ranger (pure dex), and fooled around in the lowbie levels for a bit, feeling out the differences in gameplay and playstyles. Both were taken to the Ambush League, which apparently had a different stash and economy from Normal (until the league ends, anyway.)

Realizing that suddenly made the chore of inventory management a lot less onerous, when I figured out that there wasn’t going to be much point trying to hoard gear to twink out new characters in Normal, because I was going to start them in Ambush (until July ends anyway.)

So I logged back into the Shadow character, and cleaned my four stash tabs up. Also in the process, upgrading all my gear as much as I could, and re-evaluating all my skills and gems and refining the build further.

Then I took him out for a spin on Cruel difficulty, to find that the difficulty was back to being just right, and even a bit more exciting now that I had to take a bit more care in what I aggro’ed and fought and positioned myself.

The loot shower was also a lot nicer, with more blue magic items dropping and a couple rares, so the rewards seem rather in tune too.

(No doubt at some very high level point, blues will be like trash and maybe rares will drop like candy, but, for now, things feel good and like an improvement.)

In fact, the rewards in the side passage maps were so tasty my inventory and stash started filling up exceedingly rapidly.

I’m now pondering a convenience microtransaction purchase at some point soon-ish to enable the way I prefer to play. (Toss a whole bunch of loot in the various stash tabs while clearing a map or two, then sit in town to slowly clear out the loot, evaluating it and selling it.)

I don’t have to, of course. I could just clear stuff out as and when it comes, or choose not to pick up relatively valueless blue drops, but meh… pacing-wise, I prefer the above.

So it’s likely I’ll talk myself into putting down $20-30 for Path of Exile at a near point in the future, and I think that’s fair enough.

I got a whole game’s value out of it, playing for free, and now that I think I like it enough to keep playing, at higher levels of difficulty and challenge, with more varied characters and builds, it seems attractive enough to expand my bank space further to accommodate those characters, while at the same time, paying Grinding Gear Games for the game and online service.

League of Legends – Still waiting for an NBI blogger game. ūüôā

On the back burner otherwise, but definitely looks attractive as a whole new game (and genre) to learn, with new systems and new gameplay expectations.

I like and approve of the microtransaction model as well.

I’m just not really driven by the whole competitive league and ranking aspect of MOBAs, so random join PvP games don’t really sound like something I would choose to inflict on myself on a regular basis, except when I get the rare whim. Sounds just like PUGing a dungeon, except now there’s even more personalities to create drama when one side inevitably loses.

I would need a regular team of friends with which I’m used to playing with, which can then proceed to match itself competitively with others. Or solo, I’m likely to just end up playing a random cooperative bot game for some mild fun.

Either way, dabbling is good for the moment. There are only so many games one can play at any one time.

Games I’m Not Playing

The Elder Scrolls Online – All this “quitting TESO” talk of it feeling like a singleplayer RPG is making me -want- to play it, lol.

I -like- singleplayer soloist games.

Except I’m nervous about the bait-and-switch at the very very end, where apparently you’ll need a group THEN (after how long singleplayer?)

And buying a box for $60 and paying a sub fee for $15 every month is a hurdle I simply cannot get over.

Let’s see, compare and contrast the potential gameplay value I get out of Path of Exile and League of Legends spending LESS than $75, or pay $75 to give TESO a try?

Sounds like paying $150 for an ArcheAge alpha to me.

If you really reaally like the game and setting and all, maybe it’s worth it then.

(For example, I am likely to be a premium-paying sucker for Eternal Crusade, as long as it doesn’t blow up on a technical front, like crashing or lagging very few seconds. The attraction of just being in a Warhammer 40k universe is -that- powerful. I mean, it can’t do any worse than Warhammer Online, right? *stares at Collector’s Edition box collecting dust* Welp, WAR was a fun first month, anyway.)

For anyone else, it’s really not. (Heck, I’m still waiting for a 75% off sale for Skyrim DLC.)

Wildstar – Sorry, I have a home in GW2, I no longer do launch crowds.

Especially not for vertical progression games that play just like WoW, even if it’s on sci-fi steroids.

I’m content to follow along with the various blogs that are covering it.

I’m getting various amusement kicks from the ones that protest about its challenge and its “hardcore” nature, and enjoying myself leaving *hardcore* chants all over the comments of the sites I think can take the light-hearted pokes.

The game is what the game is.

Take it for what it is, if you’re going to play it.

If you disapprove of its fundamentals, you -shouldn’t- be playing and supporting it with your wallet to begin with.

But I will wait and see how many hype hamsters wash out after a month or three, when they can no longer stand the HARDCORE.

They must not have been *hardcore* enough!

If you’re just having fun with the leveling aspect and playing around with its housing and dabbling in its casual parts, and content enough to pay the sub fee for those aspects only, and not at all perturbed by being weaker numerically in gear, I promise to leave you guys and gals alone though.

I’ll just read the blogs and enjoy the stories and screenshots from a distance.

If the game ever gets cheaper, or moves away from its rampant Achiever-driven RAIDS SO HARDCORE stance to pay attention to the bulk of people that are enjoying its more casual aspects, I might join ya’ll for a bit of fun…

…but not before.

GW2: What Would You Keep Doing Without a Reward?

I was meaning to get around to this post sooner, rather than later, but the sudden news bulletin of City of Heroes closing down pushed back the schedule even further. It also means I’ve completely lost track of the posts in the blogosphere that circled around this topic, and can’t find them again, so no links for you. ūüė¶

The basic question was:

What would you keep doing in an MMO, even if you were not being rewarded for it?

Most of the time, the conclusion implied was that one would pretty much do nothing that wasn’t rewarded, players being such min-max optimizers, after all.

What I want to point out is a fundamental assumption in the term, “reward.”

There are extrinsic rewards, such as xp, levels, a piece of gear that improves your character’s stats or appearance, gold, an Achievement, a title, a score increment, a chest you open that provides some or all of the above.

And there are intrinsic rewards, that mostly fall under the umbrella of “fun,” with the caveat that what constitutes this differs from player to player. It could be the pride in being first at something, the egoistic thrill of being able to show off something others don’t have, the pleasure of self-improvement, the satisfaction of progress on a goal or a checkmark of completion on a to-do list, the joy of receiving a gift (unexpected or otherwise), the excitement of confronting a challenge, the triumph of beating said extremely difficult challenge, the delight of learning something one didn’t know before, and perhaps even of mastery, the happiness of being in moment-to-moment flow, the wonder and awe of seeing a beautiful landscape, unsoweiter.

The truth is, one would be a very foolish, masochistic player to keep at any game if one were deriving more frustration and unhappiness out of it than enjoyment. So in that sense, nothing we do in an MMO is ultimately delinked to any form of reward.

The real questions are, in which order should the rewards be coming, at what frequency, and how does that shape player goals and behavior in turn?

The typical MMO generally makes you put up with mild to severe unhappiness as you “work” towards an end-goal that promises, or at least, affords you the hope that you will (eventually) get an extrinsic reward shiny, that will then feed intrinsic feelings of fun. If you’re lucky, you still enjoy the process so that mild to severe unhappiness isn’t present and things are still okay. But at the rate of repetition that is usually required, familiarity leads to contempt or boredom more often than not, and before you know it, there is the obligatory “grind” to get to the “good stuff.”

Thing is, chasing an extrinsic thing first for the intrinsic feeling later is dangerous. Taken to extremes, it’s like a drug. You end up chasing something for the buzz at the end, and somehow, that buzz ends up so momentary that shortly after, you’re in desperate pursuit again.

Given the propensity of humans to fool themselves into thinking situational normal, even when they’re not, one may end up chasing a reward that never comes, yet feeling more and more miserable in the meantime.

Now Guild Wars 2 isn’t completely revolutionary. It doesn’t remove the above. It’s probably unwise to, since players are used to the formula and many do need external reasons to keep playing and maintaining critical mass of playerbase is always important to a game.

But Guild Wars 2 is also quite sneaky. They’ve added on to the model by including the other order rewards can come, and mixing it up with a helping of variety and choices.

You’re moving along on your path towards a heart, a crafting node, a personal story waypoint – something explicit and linked to an extrinsic reward. Then you stumble across something unexpected. A hole in the side of a cliff that you’ve never seen before. Curiosity and novelty pop up, do you go in? Maybe you do, to feed that intrinsic urge, and before you know it, you’re on a mini-adventure complete with traps and enemies and argh-inducing jumping puzzles, and at the end, you’re pleasantly surprised to see a ‘boss’ mob with a chest containing an extrinsic reward.

You didn’t know it was there when you first started, but it is now an additional happy bonus. And it reinforces (aka rewards) that style of play, because you are now assured that there very well may be something tasty to find at the end of the rainbow that caught your eye.

Or you stumble across a dynamic event. Decision point time. Do you follow it, or continue on your initial path? Though both will ultimately yield extrinsic rewards at the end, that choice might be different from person to person. If the DE is still new and novel, or if one wants karma as a reward, or if one wants to see people, you’d take off in that direction, but if the other stuff is more pressing, then you’d continue on your way.

The jury is still out on whether the bulk of players will eventually grow bored with the same DEs they’ve seen, or avoid them due to difficulty level not being commensurate with rewards (Nageling giant, anybody?)¬† or whether a sufficient critical mass of players will show up just because it’s there and waypointed on the map so may as well try one’s luck to get some karma, but if you think ArenaNet isn’t aware of this, you may be kidding yourself. Their proposed solution is to change up the dynamic events, so that the new novelty factor may indeed skew more players’ decisions towards heading there.

The other question running in everyone’s minds is whether there will be enough players in the zone to even see the new DE. Well, time will tell on that front, but there are a few things that may help this. If a player chooses to remain on a single level 80 main, he still may have to level up his crafting, gather things to sell, maybe visit all the hidden chests scattered around the zones that will be eventually marked out on a wiki daily for loot or even just grow bored with the highest level zone and go wandering.

Alternatively, he’ll be in WvWvW or doing explorable dungeons, and possibly out of the equation altogether, which doesn’t bode well for the lowbie zones… except, for the presence of altholics. There are what, 8 professions and 5 races (and not enough character slots on purpose.) If you think a sizeable number of people won’t be rerolling alts to try out different playstyles, well, you’re a far more focused, faithful one-character player than I.

And guilds are account-based. Alts will be part of the same guild. What’s to stop a player from opening his mouth and going,” OMG, there’s a new something-or-other that popped up in (insert lowbie zone) here. We need help!” Now how many high levels will bother to respond, I don’t know, but between boredom, curiosity, guild relationships and helpfulness, plus the assurance that downleveling will still give valuable rewards, perhaps enough.

The one thing I’m not terribly fond of at this point is that though a player can join multiple guilds, he can only see the guild chat of one at a time. I have to say, it quite defeats the purpose of multiple guilds, which is to give one more connection points to more people and stuff going on in the world. I would have much preferred ArenaNet to limit guild joining to one-world specific (to avoid the complaints of spies in WvW) and allow for players to listen in on all guild chats at once.

A Tale in the Desert’s multiple guild feature worked that way. City of Heroes’ global chat channels worked that way. The basic point is to have multiple chat tabs linked to various groups of people for some specific purpose or other. If I can’t hear what those other folks are doing in-game, then I may as well just join multiple guilds’ ventrilo servers or something, except that would be way too much effort to bother for a loner like me. I do hope they take some time to iterate on this once the launch frenzy slows down a bit, because it’s a flawed feature otherwise and could stand a lot more polishing.

Back to rewards, since I’ve sidetrekked. What would you keep doing in an MMO, even if you were not being rewarded for it?

Here’s my personal answer.

Bear in mind, that of course I’m being rewarded, by intrinsic rewards, rather than motivated by a search for tangible extrinsic ones (which is usually what is meant by the term.)

Without the lure of crafting material drops, I would most likely not be genociding vast swathes of wildlife as I’m doing currently (I need 15 vials of thin blood for a rare, dammit, *kicks the trading post*)

But I would be going up and down and into stuff that catches my eye and spending hours trying to figure out how to jump from one pillar to another, simply because the mountain and the broken ruins are THERE.

View from atop some really high ruined stairs staring towards the Breached Wall

Drawn on by the lure of cliff bats that something may very well be up there, I lost a couple of hours to figuring this out, which eventually turned out to be the Crimson Plateau jumping puzzle.

I would, surprisingly enough, continue to rez players, often in the thick of combat, even if I don’t get xp for it and even if I don’t get any thanks for it. It’s a little odd when you consider that I’ve observed 80-95% of players continuing to shoot at a big mob because either they don’t see the downed player because they’re fixated on the mob, or maybe they’re scrambling to deal as much dps as possible so that they’ll get a gold contribution reward instead of bronze or silver.

But I see the downed player struggling, or the defeated player lying there, and I know they are praying for a Good Samaritan to help them out of the mess they got themselves into. What does it say about your server community if everyone walks on by or ignores someone in need of help? How is that player feeling right now? If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you want to be helped?

It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling deep inside when I respond promptly, and it’s even thrilling to act as a combat medic and roll towards someone right underneath constant projectile fire above your head and begin reviving. And because I play a Guardian with my fat cat butt covered in heavy armor and a hp tank bulked up by Vitality, I can even take a few hits through the revival process without going down myself.

I would, as long as the dungeon strategies do not turn rote or pigeonhole classes too much in one permanent playstyle, continue to join dungeons as time and whim permitted. I’ve actually joined two AC story mode dungeons way over-leveled and having done it once for the helm already, because I wanted to see how different teams reacted to it.¬† Because I like the learning process and the randomness of a PUG and figuring out to best work together and facing a challenge that allows me to demonstrate what I’ve learned and continue to seek mastery at it. The moment it becomes, bring the class built this specific way, and not the player, is the day I stop.

And most of all, I would be still in WvWvW as long as they keep the scoreboards on, because it’s a nonstop, unending, always-different-situation thrill. Novelty, achievement, teamwork and server pride all rolled into one.