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.

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.”