GW2: In Praise of Bite-Sized Content

Having spent a few too many days playing through two-hour long map meta events (sometimes, only to reach bitter failure), this weekend I found myself making only a few desultory efforts to taxi into an organised map before giving up.

“Eh, let’s give other people a chance to experience it and not hog a slot.”

“If it’s the weekend crowd, chances are likely their first few goes at it are going to fail anyway, given the learning curve and all that…”

“I could be doing this with much less frustration and failure a month or two later when more of the player population actually knows what to do.”

“This is wasting too much of my time when I could be doing other things.”

“Also, I’m nursing a headache and I don’t think I can withstand staying upright for 2 straight hours of middling ordinary play to razor-sharp focus right now.”

All the above ran through my mind and before you knew it, I’d dropped the taxi and ended up mostly in bed napping.

When sleep was finally impossible because the brain kept insisting it was time to wake up, I decided it was time to head back to core Tyria and catch up on stuff I’d been ignoring there.

Like topping off and completing the Fractals 3 mastery I’d been working toward steadily, given the news that Fractal rewards were getting tweaked a little in the future. (Well, that means I kinda need to have a basis of comparison and try out opening at least a few chests now.)

The most peaceful and still fairly efficient method of filling up the mastery bar that I know is solo killing of xp-laden ignored mobs.

So I popped some boosters, and ran around Cursed Shores (long time no see), Southsun Cove and ended up settling in Frostgorge Sound under the quiet, dark and deep waters killing all the things.

Sometimes, loving things other people loathe has its advantages.

I ended up finishing that rather quickly. In order not to waste the boosters, I turned my attention back to Pact Mastery 2 – at a more modest million or so xp – and managed to get that bar to completion too. Job well done, in just one hour.

I logged off, feeling satisfied.

Back again in Tyria after another round of naps, I started scanning the achievement and collection lists. Fractals and daily fractals stood out as something I hadn’t touched post-HoT. So I gave them a go.

Frankly, I must applaud the post-HoT fractal changes.

(Mind you, this is ignoring the reward aspect. I tend not to even keep track of how many fractal relics I’m earning when I play. I just do an activity, click all the chests, and only when I need the tokens, do I check my wallet to see how much I have accrued over time.)

Here I’m just talking about how much less of a pain it is, now that they’ve chopped up what used to be a set of three fractals, plus a final boss fractal.

Before, you were looking at a 45 minute minimum time investment, if you were lucky and got a decent group, or upwards of 1.5-2 hours for a not-so-great group. I’ve heard nightmare stories of 3 hour fractals, but I don’t want to think about those.

Now, especially given the guidance of a simple ‘daily’ fractal number, you just grab a group and go do that one fractal. Done in 15 minutes (give or take a few.)

If it’s the daily, you even get an extra bouncy chest to add on to the good feelings.

I open what I can with the free keys from the dailies, usually getting 10-15 silver junk plus some number of +1 infusions, and sell the rest of the chests on the TP.

If I feel like doing more, then I can scan the LFG list and either do two more single fractals to make up another daily, or jump on a group with more stringent goals (such as a specific string of two or three fractals) or a group that’s trying to do some kind of achievement/challenge.

Wow, it's been a while since I've seen this part of the map.
Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve seen this particular part of this map.

I am especially in favor of the -certainty- factor of the new fractals.

I keep the Fractals of the Mists wiki open in the other screen for easy reference, and at a glance, I can set my expectations appropriately.

Ok, that group is asking for a 2. That’s Bloomhunger, easy peasy, I can do that.

That’s a 23? Ok, tunnel crawl, kill a bunch of mobs, whole lotta dredge trap mechanics, k, I’m ready for that.

A 22? Ugh, Cliffside. Eh… I don’t like all those vertical heights and chanter stuff, I think I won’t join that group today.

I didn’t realize it until it was gone, but I always had this subconscious sense of -dread- with pre-HoT fractals.

On paper, randomization of a dungeon sounds like a good thing, for variety and all that.

At the same time though, there was a lack of control aspect to it. You had to remember how to do 14 different mini-dungeons, on the fly, and you’d only know which one you faced when you were hip deep in it. No takebacks. Get through it, or give up the whole thing. Even if you could manage such a thing, you’d worry about your four other teammates, were they as experienced? Would they stumble?

And well, RNG being a cruel mistress, sometimes you got the worst possible combination ever, and the whole experience wound up being a massive hard slog through stuff that was tedious, long and/or challenging. No wonder I tried to avoid fractals as much as possible.

moreaether

I feel a lot more openness and flexibility with the new fractals, now that they can be done singly.

You’re not stuck with a hopeless group for a marathon quest. You just complete one quick bite-sized challenge, and thank you, we’re done. Each fractal feels like a quick CoF path 1 now.

If you do like the group, and the group clicks and has the time, nothing stops the five of you from continuing further.

I joined a fractal group that had advertised itself as aiming to complete the Swampland challenge mote for the backpack, and that went by really well. A party member started asking about the Firestorm first achievement, another one asked “Hey, the next fractal is aquatic, there’s a challenge for that too, wanna do it?”

Before you know it, we went through the aquatic challenge mote, did the Firestorm first achievement, did the 5 minute time limit achievement for the Jade Maw, and made a pretty good attempt at the Cliffside 5 chanters or less achievement (didn’t get that one, we might have accidentally went through one too many chanters or the chievo bugged.)

They were still up for more, but my head was busy trying to pound itself out of my skull near the end, and I decided it was time for a break and another nap.

(And no, I have no idea why the last few days have been a sequence of minor headaches. It’s probably just a migraine, eye strain, lack of sleep, caffeine withdrawal or some kind of flu virus. Hopefully nothing more serious.)

The whole bite-sized collections making up a legendary is also a nice concept.

My first impulse on hearing that the fractal backpack was named “Ad Infinitum” was to laugh my ass off and nickname it “Ad Nauseam.” Which is what I imagined repeating -that- many fractals over and over would feel like.

Of course, when you actually SEE the damn thing being worn by an NPC, you start drooling at its shininess, and seriously looking at the collection page examining each task for its “doability” factor.

adinfinitum1

The first one’s not that bad, actually.

I got all of this in the space of a day or so (granted, that day spans two GW2 ‘daily’ days.)

The biggest time-limiting factor is the collection of 28 fractal research pages for a journal. If you do one fractal daily, it’ll take you 28 days, or a month-ish. If you get two fractal dailies done each day, we’re looking at two weeks. Which ain’t so bad, fairly reasonable a medium term goal, imo.

The biggest cost is the ball of dark energy, which you’ll have to salvage an Ascended weapon or armor for, I think.

I ended up staring at the Ascended chests collected over time in my bank and sacrificing a Dire stat weapon for it. At least I unlocked a free orange-colored skin in the process.

Over the next two weeks, I just need to catch one more volcanic fractal (to soak the ice elemental core I popped off Svanir a couple days before, and wondered then what the heck it was for) and one more swampland fractal to infuse a +4 infusion (easily gotten, given the amount of +1 infusions I’ve been receiving from the new fractals), and do mah fractal dailies.

I’m sure some of the challenges for the later backpack versions will get a little more tricky, but I’m enjoying the bite-sized nature of the process. It feels like you’re getting somewhere, for not that much cost or effort invested at one go, just a little gameplay here and there.

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GW2: Prioritizing Things To Do, Post-Heart of Thorns

wyvernvsfrogs

We’re about two weeks into the Heart of Thorns expansion. I guess now’s a time as good as any to finally come up for air.

The 64-bit client has worked wonders for me as a stopgap measure to stave off memory leak crashes (at last, upgrading to Windows 7 and a new computer with 16GB of RAM has been rewarded.)

On average, it chomps about 3-3.5 GB of RAM just doing normal things and goes up to about 4-4.5GB consumed during insanely packed meta events where a hundred players are in the vicinity, all sporting their own combination of wardrobe and dyes and particle effects.

Bright side, it doesn’t crash (at least, not yet, *touches wood*)

(I stress tested it the other day by walking into the Svanir Shaman Frozen Maw daily with full default graphics and name tags on. I figure, if it doesn’t freeze up and die then, it’s probably okay.)

Thus I get to see more of Heart of Thorns on a graphical setting beyond potato.

halfabreacher

Granted, it’s rather hard to frame a screenshot sans UI when you’re worried about getting randomly gibbed by a Mordrem sniper, a punisher, or *urgh* a stalker.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve become rather relaxed about goals in the expansion.

A seasonal cadence of two weeks/four weeks lent a level of stress that encouraged me to grind out all the rewards I wanted “before it went away.” There was a “limited-time” pressure that was sometimes obvious and sometimes subconscious, which made me more prone to frustration and impatience.

Faced with a deluge of possible rewards to buy and skins to collect, one would think that I’d be freaking out right about now, but knowing its permanence (assuming the HoT zones stay unchanged reward-wise as long as Dry Top and Silverwastes has existed is likely a safe bet), I’ve been looking on most of it as a long term goal. The slow chase will likely last me another year, if not two, and I’m okay with that.

If anything, I’ve been confronted by that age-old lateral progression bugaboo that we veterans keep advising newbies about: “Help! I’ve reached X threshold, and there are so many things to do! What should I be doing first?!”

My usual naggy refrain to these folks is that beyond a certain point (ie. get exotic armor as a baseline, strive towards Ascended trinkets and more,) we can’t really tell you what to do next because it all depends on what you value and want to prioritize.

Like story? Like dungeons? Like shiny skins? Like gold? They all head down different roads.

Similarly, I look at Heart of Thorns and I’m like, “Masteries? AP achievments? Raids (be it prep for the closed ones, or open world ones?) Gold + Relaxation? (So many nodes to hit, so much money players are willing to spend *twitches compulsively*) Shinies? (Like chase a HoT skin collection, a core Tyria legendary, a core Tyria precursor, or prep for a Maguuma legendary?) So many collections? Aaahhh collect all the things? *falls over dizzy like Skritt in Tarir*”

So I decided to put my money where my mouth is and prioritize my own shit:

  • New Stuff
  • Raids (while new)
  • Harvest Nodes
  • AP
  • Certain shiny objects
  • Gold
  • Masteries
  • Collect all the things
  • Raids (when they’ve gotten old)

This totally non-scientific list was mostly ordered by just choosing two things at random, eg. “Chase AP or Harvest Nodes to Relax” or “Chase AP or Gold?” and deciding which one I valued more, or which I’d pick if I could only do one thing that day.

It’s a little fuzzy around the edges, because technically, harvesting nodes is my main gold stream, but given the amount of gold I’m liable to invest into chasing AP or if the gold had to come from other sources like chasing events or doing dungeons, then certainly I’d choose to focus on easier AP goals first.

Yet if you were to ask me if I’d prefer harvesting nodes to chasing AP, I’d only have to look at my still undone Golden Badges in the Silverwastes to tell you that I’ve been hitting all the nodes first over something like that. Eventually I’ll buckle down and shove that priority up a tad, but as a general guideline, the above list works for me.

New stuff goes without saying for me. I was camped out in Tangled Depths over two weekends and quite a number of weeknights trying to bring down the Chak Gerents (all four of them.)

potatogerent

It may be potato graphics, but this reward chest has never looked shinier.

tdhole

The end result of succeeding the meta was mostly a great big hole blasted through to Dragon’s Stand, a couple of crystallized cache chests and a strongbox made accessible. Plus a piece of Mistward something that’s presumably used for making Mistward armor, when I get around to it. (Probably around the time I finally get around to making a Revenant.)

Once that succeeded once, it was like a great big load fell off my mind and I could start voluntarily choosing to ignore some raid sessions, knowing that more would be organized every day / every week. There would be time to accumulate the zone currency gradually. Now I could prioritize other things with my GW2 play time to catch up on other stuff.

Some of that involves getting more or less prepped for the impending *ugh* closed 10-man raids to hit GW2.

I’m still looking on that activity with a fair amount of dread – mostly because it’s hellish to try and match timezones and turn up at a regular schedule, plus there’s always that rejection feeling from an activity with such small number limits.

(Look at how guild missions have been complained about, when they inadvertently only reward 15 players, leaving the other… oh… 35 people who showed up feeling jipped? Or left repeating the same goddamn guild puzzle over and over until maybe most people get their reward, except a few that seem permanently glitched? Speaking of which, they really need to get around to fixing that. So bloody annoying. I was certainly never one who asked for them to make guild missions closed instances.)

Everyone’s also kinda dreading their reward scheme for raids – many because it seems like Anet’s reward adjustments feel like throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded, rather than following any sort of real plan.

Me, I’m bloody terrified that it’s going to be a one-way no-alternate-path “forcing” of players into their shiny new activity that they are so damn proud of and want to collect salty player tears on (What’s going on with that adversarial relationship anyway?)

Take the sudden account-binding of Nuhoch Hunting Stashes and fractal thingumies (I haven’t done fractals seriously post-expansion, I have no idea what’s been going on there.)

I had -thought- it was a clever way to provide players an alternate route to gaining currencies for activities they’d rather not prefer to engage in, while giving players who LIKE those activities an income stream from the players who hate it but want some of the rewards from that activity anyway. Meanwhile, the trade sinks gold via the TP. Win win, no?

No. Apparently, if you want Heart of Thorns zone currencies, you better just grit your teeth and grind events. Vice versa for fractals, though with all the bitterness coming from that front, it doesn’t exactly encourage me to do that activity until everything is given another look.

I don’t know.

My assumption is they’ll keep freaking iterating until they get it right, and we only need to wait until then, but damn, this iteration is SLOW.

In the meantime, I may as well do stuff that’s right in front of me, not get baited by a million and one design traps, and freak out only when there’s solid info to get grumpy about. (Like how I can’t actually prioritize a precursor rifle hunt because some poor bastard who wanted to do it first found out that bits of it were buggy and don’t work.)

One example of those things right in front of me is the revelation that I’m really most comfortable on my charr guardian as a main – I haven’t been playing any other character through Heart of Thorns for any long period of time – so I may as well take some small steps in getting him raid-ready. Like an Ascended greatsword and possibly a mace too – he already has an Ascended sword/focus and scepter/torch, but it’s been super-obvious that Heart of Thorns really really likes you to go AoE in certain scenarios… bottom line, guardian greatswords can do that and my nerfed (but pretty) Fiery Dragon Sword just can’t cut it.

I’ve a warrior and necromancer alt that also needs to be run through Heart of Thorns, and pushed towards raid-readiness, so that’s something to be doing too.

Considering that my warrior still hasn't finished the personal story, that's quite a bit of story chapters to go.
Considering that my warrior still hasn’t finished the personal story, that’s quite a bit of story chapters to go. It’s kinda nice to replay it all again, now that they’ve finally fixed the flow and put back the “greatest fear” arc, after leaving it broken for…how long?

Masteries, thankfully, I’ve knocked out most of the crucial ones, which leaves the nice-to-haves as a slow goal to work toward while doing other things.

Between that, attending open world raids, and maybe replaying the story for achievements, chasing mastery points and hero points for elite specs and harvesting all the things while the guild hall material demand is sending the economy into wild swings, I shouldn’t run out of still-viable things to do while waiting for fixes and iterations to the more egregious issues that have arisen, seemingly all over the game.

Looks like everyone, devs and players alike, will be quite busy until next year.

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Darkwing Tigercharr!
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Darkwing Tigercharr! (God, I love the charr gliding animation. It’s like they’re pouncing on some mice below. Also, winged cats are awesome. Not very immersion-y, but eh, that boat sailed a long time ago. Still awesome.)

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.”

GW2: Epic is the Expansion’s Watchword

If there’s one thing that strikes me about the Heart of Thorns expansion, it’s that ArenaNet has been really trying to up the scale on this one.

That's a pretty big frog.
The Nuhoch are pretty big frogs. These guys are part of a fan club.
This guy's fanclub.
This guy’s fanclub.

Everything is larger than life and supremely gorgeous. There may be only four maps, but they are probably some of the world’s most dense and tangled maps that an MMO has ever produced.

Perhaps LOTRO’s Moria might try to compete, but your typical MMO’s maps are merely only spacious but barren – this area is for that quest hub, kill 10 such-and-such named mobs, pick up 20 blah items and the rest are just mobs to grind through or run past.

Also, you cannot glide over or down to various scenery in Moria, and thus it loses by default to any MMO that offers flying or gliding.

hotd

Funny story about an item fetch quest that an NPC on GW2’s Heart of Thorns personal story sent me on. He told me to go get 6 ‘Chak Enzymes,’ either by talking to various other NPCs that had various ways which you could obtain said item, or by running around the open world killing said Chak, which are really annoying bug monsters that apparently eat ley line magic energy or something. Sorta like karka on magic steroids, triply annoying.

I talked to two NPCs, attempted to go in search of some items they wanted in trade, stumbled into some Chak bugs and thought, oh well, may as well kill them and get some enzyme that way…

…and then I followed a tunnel down, another tunnel around, slipped and fell and glided to safety somewhere, killing a bunch of Chak along the way, and realized “Oh, I have 6 Chak Enzymes now, I can go back.”

Except that I was thoroughly turned around by this point and made about six or seven abortive attempts to get back to the NPC, cleaving through a whole bunch more Chak along the way…

…By the time I found my way back to said NPC, I had about 27 Chak Enzymes on me. Oh well. Let’s just pretend I’m an over-achiever and say nothing about my sense of direction. Or lack of.

I digress. Let’s talk about scale. I poked my head into the new Desert Borderlands WvW map today. (Confession: Not to WvW, just to use a crafting station quickly without moving from where I was in the PvE world.)

hotc1

This map greeted me when I hit ‘M.’

After swearing a little, I scrolled down to see the rest of it.

hotc2

Well, -that’s- going to take a while to learn how to get around, and what all the special spots/events are… when I get to it eventually.

My NA guild claimed their guild hall a couple days ago, and fortunately nabbed Lost Precipice, so I have access to ogle both map variations.

hotg

Yeah, well, we say “guild hall,” we really mean a wide swathe of territory in which you can build multiple buildings. The scale of it may not be obvious in a map, so just take a look at the circular formation in the southeast corner of the map…

hoth

It’s this thing. A coliseum. I presume it can eventually be upgraded into a place where small PvP duels can take place (the space within looks comfortable for 1 vs 1 PvP, or 2-3 players to dodge around), and spectators can gather on the bleachers above to watch.

hote

The guild banners on display around the map are really cool.

hotf

Random scenery around the map. I think half a pumpkin is sticking out of the right hand side. One can apparently place guild decorations in the zone, but I haven’t had time to check out that functionality yet.

I think it’s lovely that our community’s decorator types (you know who they are, there’s bound to be a few compulsive ones in every guild or community) can step up and prettify the place for those of us with somewhat less interest in investing lots of time making things look nice aesthetically. (And you just know there’s gonna be a few jumping puzzles and other displays of creativity eventually.)

hoti

And this is the other map, Gilded Hollow (courtesy of one of the OCE TTS guilds)…

…yeah, the mind boggles.

(The draw of Lost Precipice – while seemingly slightly smaller in map size – is gliding, supposedly. There are apparently jump pads around the place that one can activate for updrafts to glide on. Unsure of just how it all works right now, whether stuff has to be unlocked or whatever.)

No other screenshots as yet, I’ll have to find the time to run around both maps in depth eventually.

I do have a few more screenshots I want to show off, but this is where I lay out a certain amount of spoiler warning:

There will be three pretty pictures from the Heart of Thorns story. I do not place them in any context, but they may show off some environments which you may prefer to stumble on yourself.

IF SO, STOP READING NOW. GO AWAY. COME BACK LATER.

If you have very little plans to ever complete the Heart of Thorns story, or don’t feel that you will be spoiled by seeing alien environments with no context or commentary whatsoever, then proceed on.

Continue reading “GW2: Epic is the Expansion’s Watchword”

GW2: Heart of Thorns Day 2 Impressions

I’m gonna take a page from Bhagpuss and use disconnected bullet points, because it’s impossible to organize one’s thoughts and still have as much time as possible to play GW2 before all my day off time is used up and I have to get back to the workaday grind again.

  • Found the Falls in GW2! Had a serious lore gasm! Was running around telling everybody in the vicinity (ok, just one guy who would listen) that OMG it looks exactly like the Falls in GW1
Guild Wars 2 Falls
The Falls in Guild Wars 2

As proof, I submit exhibit A, your honor, a screenshot taken during my personal Wayfarer’s Reverie way back in 2012.

fallspanorama

Even the tree on top of the three waterfalls is there, and the color of that sun…

  • Day 2 was essentially sample-lots-of-meta-events day.

hot10

I logged in to hear on Teamspeak that TTS NA was planning a trial run of the Dragon’s Stand meta-event.

Dragon’s Stand?! Wtf is that, was my first reaction. Turns out, it’s the very last fourth zone on the map. Which I have obviously not even been to yet. (Nor did I touch the third zone until late tonight.)

Fortunately, all those Teleport to Friend items from the third birthday present ended up proving themselves handy. We were advised to just grab one of those consumables, party up with a guildie and teleport to friend directly over, skipping through a great deal of unattractive running past Mordrem and dinosaurs.

Damn, the meta event is like Vinewrath, Triple Trouble (and possibly Marionette too) on steroids. You know all those people wishing madly that the devs would split up the zerg and have different groups running through different channels doing their own things and contributing to the overall map goal? Yep. Dragon’s Stand has it in spades.

My group had the south/east-most one, a whole set of chained events moving through various tunnels and corridors, involving in turn a fair amount of group splitting because we had to escort NPCs, prevent really nasty bosses from wrecking said NPC’s faces, and so on.

It ended in what is suspected to be a penultimate challenge before the real boss Boss – one chamber for each split zerg that required even further splitting to take down three objects simultaneously, and eventually I suspect, a small group will split off to keep the legendary champion causing chaos in the chamber from doing that. (Our first attempt pretty much had said champion wreaking serious havoc on one of the groups who was trying to take down said object.)

Said legendary champion has an invulnerability shield, which is only taken down when all three objects are destroyed.

Oh. And all three legendary champions have to be killed simultaneously.

Hahahahahahahaha… Talk about a serious coordination challenge.

I’m looking forward to further attempts though. This is going to be pretty meaty content for large-scale organized groups, something I was a little worried we were moving away from with impending raids.

I’m super keen for the day when everyone has learned roughly what to do and has all the masteries needed, and we get to see super-organized parties and groups and squads splitting up in perfect synchronisation to do their jobs and slide through the encounters smoothly.

The one criticism that I’m hearing so far is that some of these pre-events can take upwards of an hour or two to get through before the main event, so to speak. That’s quite a bit of time that not everyone may have to spare.

Not sure, maybe things will speed up as people figure out how to split up groups so that things don’t scale insanely and learn how to do each event efficiently. Waiting for NPC escorts to move though, tends to put a finite limit on the pacing. Swiftness can only make ’em run that fast.

hot11

This Wyvern Patriarch encounter in Verdant Brink was nuts. A really good kind of nuts.

I didn’t manage to finish this one yet, as I was peacefully soloing my way through Maguuma masteries and decided to be an iconoclast and actually DEFEND one of the rally points during the night meta-event of Verdant Brink.

I know, I know, how dare I not act like 95% of the other players and be constitutionally incapable of staying in one place for a couple minutes for an event to start.

I basically defended for 20 minutes or so, leaving the rally point vicinity only to try and run Pact Supplies into the rally point to build it up and/or try and escort a nearby Pact Soldier carrying supplies in.

Eventually the choppers arrived to take folks to the canopy… where this guy was waiting at my particular rally point – Shrouded Ruins.

(There are apparently champion encounters for each rally point. Haven’t seen all of them. There’s a Legendary Wyvern that nearly everyone sees, as it’s on top of the central Pact Encampment waypoint.)

I was plinking away at it solo for a while, observing its attacks (mostly a really nasty cone AoE painted on the ground if you got close, and a projectile one that left a circular burning AoE on the ground if you stayed at range.)

A second guy turned up, he of the minion master kind, and we were tackling him for a while as a duo, when I looked at the time limit we had for remaining night time and the state of this legendary wyvern patriarch’s health bar and decided we kinda really needed a few more reinforcements.

So I called out on map chat for help and provided directions on how to get to said boss, and we managed to attract 3-4 more players with that…

…it was enough to take him down to 75% of his health, whereupon he cheerfully showed us his next phase.

He coated the entire rocky platform with burning flame, forcing us to jump off the platform and glide around, using updrafts to get back. On a lower level below, some adolescent wyverns popped up, that could be attacked, and there were wyvern eggs that had to be picked up.

The idea was that you had to jump off the platform, glide to said cavern, grab a wyvern egg, jump off and into an updraft, and be lifted over the wyvern patriarch, whereupon you would toss the wyvern egg at him to break his shield. Literally dive-bombing with gliders.

It was ridiculously fun. Only about 1-2 of us managed to figure out what to do (or had the requisite masteries) but we nearly got all of his shield off before we ran out of time. But that was a really good kind of nuts. Can’t wait to eventually find a group that can actually do it in sync. Would be hilarious, methinks.

hot12

Another Verdant Brink champion fight of the very satisfying kind.

This particular one felt satisfying because it was just five PUGs, we were essentially strangers who had never met each other before, just happened to be defending the same rally point together, and we went up the chopper to see these two frog champions.

Someone had apparently done this fight before, and he took the time to type out some quick advice – mostly of the “this is a pretty hard fight” “someone with masteries needs to hop up the mushrooms to prevent one frog from healing in a fountain” “both need to die near simultaneously, so keep them low on health but don’t kill” variety.

Basically felt like a Vassar and Ralena sort of fight, two champions acting in tandem, one big fat Nuhoch frog doing stompy stuff and the thinner frog doing stealthy snipery stuff.

Both frogs’ bars had some words along the lines of “buffs/heals each other when in range” so I decided that it would probably be best to try and keep them separated as much as possible.

Turns out I have a rather crazy capacity to attract aggro with my scepter/torch (there’s some rumor that it’s the number of hits that might play an effect, and definitely I can output a really alarming amount of hits between smite, scepter auto and torch spamming, all critting in zerker so probably fairly good damage too), so I decided to just focus fire the big Nuhoch guy and pull him away to one side while the other four were duking it out with sniper frog guy.

I really really like fighting Nuhoch. They’re really big and kinda slow, so their tells are obvious enough for me to see, read and respond. It’s really satisfying to see him get ready to leap, and then roll away to the side just as the orange circle appears under me and he comes leaping over or belly flopping.

The other four got their frog to low (whereupon he promptly vanished, heading for the fountain presumably) and I saw them come over to mess around with Nuhoch guy. One guy ran off after the sniper frog in the fountain with mushrooms, and I decided to join him since I had the bouncing mushroom mastery, and the other three looked like they could manage the Nuhoch.

We hopped all the way up to the fountain, where we found thin sniper frog bathing and healing at an ungodly rate in the fountain, and I unleashed all the crowd control I had at my disposal in an attempt to interrupt him before he got to full.

(Fortunately, a little before this, I had swapped to Signet of Power (knockdown on activate) and Hammer of Wisdom (knockdown on command) while in Auric Basin because there were just way too many angry dinosaurs that needed breakbar damage. Add on an immobilize for DoT and I can normally juust take down a non-scaled breakbar while soloing,  and do a sizeable chunk or at least -contribute- to most breakbars in a group – assuming non insane scaling.)

Sniper frog had a tidy sliver of breakbar left, and luckily the other guy jumped the frog and did some manner of thiefy or revenant thing to him which took out the last bit of breakbar. That shorted out his healing, and he returned to the ground having healed up only half his health or so.

(Presumably if there were one or two people already stationed up there waiting for him, they could have returned him to the ground faster. We had to improvise, pretty much.)

The three on the ground had smacked the Nuhoch dead in the meantime, so it was just a matter of clean up on the other guy.

Before you knew it, a Froglicker achievement was had, and everyone was high-fiving each other for being awesome.

Impromptu five man fight. Really neat.

hot13

Then there’s encounters of the not-so-neat kind.

Hahaha, the Legendary Wyvern…

I was a little spoiled. Besides the beta fights of this wyvern, where after much say chat coaxing, I managed to get enough revenants to hit one skill on their weapons in sync to net the wyvern -once-, my first fight of this guy on the live servers was with a TTS group where a considerable number of people actually know what an interrupt/crowd control is, and someone was yelling “break bar break bar” over Teamspeak every time the green bar showed up, so about halfway into the fight, the group had more or less managed to keep it relatively grounded (but still cutting it a bit close, because not everyone had specifically specced for it, I don’t think.)

In subsequent PUG maps where I just pop my head in, because I’m grinding masteries and the choppers show up… well, you can forget any hope of grounding this fellow, because the horde of 40-50 people are pewpewing uncontrollably at it and probably thinking that the wyvern sweeps are unavoidable, and the break bar is scaled up to the point of 2-3 people being unable to compensate for the lack of everyone else’s cc contribution.

I have more or less resigned myself to lots and lots of puke green lines of death in a PUG wyvern fight for now. I suppose eventually everyone will learn, but urgh, it’s painful right now.

There was one rather funny fight where I tried to type break bar instructions into say chat, and an Anet guy was there in the same fight, and he said ‘cc’ when the green bar came up… and both of us watched the entire group promptly fail to even take it down 75% of the way, because apparently no one was a) reading say chat, b) had cc on the bar and/or c) couldn’t get out of combat to switch.

After which, I crashed out of that map – one of the few times I haven’t minded an out of memory error – and logged back into another wyvern fight. Whose map group also equally failed to take down the break bar, but it was at least really low on health compared to the other map so the pain was minimized somewhat.

The latest technical problems seem to be said out-of-memory crashes.

I haven’t seen hide nor hair of them since I swapped to Windows 7 and 16GB of RAM in the new computer, but somehow they are back in the last few patches of GW2 – possibly a combination of some memory leaks, the amount of time I’m spending in-game and the number of different player models I keep bumping into while doing group content and it being forced to render all of them.

I’ve had to crank down graphics settings a bit – rumor mill suggests something to do with anti-aliasing, as well as lowering visible player models. I knocked off some shadows while I was there. Less crashing now, but still somewhat unpredictable.

hot14

The last meta-event attempted was in Auric Basin, with the Octovines.

This is another rather intricate affair, with some really lengthy pre-event chains that have different groups splitting up to all four cardinal directions to help light up some pylons for extra magic armor.

The jury’s still out on whether these chains are necessary, or no, but for the first few attempts, I think the whole group wanted to maximize our chances. (Also, getting more people mastery xp and more of the map explored couldn’t hurt.)

It ends up in the city proper with four different groups performing different mechanics to weaken a shield and kill the Octovines. Simultaneously, mind you.

There’s some role differentiation. People with specific masteries can dress up in glowy armored suits and perform a tank/control/support role, doing their best to push some traps away from the main group and keep some big nasty dinosaurs stunned/controlled/out of the way.

The main group has to do their thing bombing down the Octovine shield with said different mechanics.

A particularly nice touch that we discovered was that there are interconnecting corridors within the city, so one group can run to another side’s aid if theirs is done and another side is having a bit of trouble.

I suspect the meta-event also rewards partial success, if only some Octovines go down. It’s just that no one had figured out where all the loot chests were located prior to this.

Celebratory group picture at the successful end.
Celebratory group picture at the successful end. (Note the cranked down player models on the periphery, had to lower settings since I initially crashed on first contact with a big group of players at one side.)

hot16

  • In other news, the solo story continues…

(It’s pretty hard trying to find a screenshot absent of spoilers, but I think this one is ok. Hey, it shows that it’s not ALL green jungle out there.)