GW2: Casting Blame and Looking in a Mirror

Yep, definitely the AFKers' fault for this one...

Today, I’m angry.

Fortunately, after going out for a nice lunch, my mood has mellowed down enough to talk a little more calmly.

But I’ll share with you all right now that I had a flash of indignant rage and pretty much only saw red for a while after reading Ravious’ post about Tequatl and how Sanctum of Rall had decided to abandon their home shard by going off into an overflow of their own – ostensibly to jettison their AFKers and thus have an easier time killing the undead dragon spawn.

First off, I just want to make it clear that it’s not his fault that this somehow pushed one of my buttons.

I have been sleep deprived for the last couple of days, so I might already be predisposed to being short-tempered and grouchy.

There has been the usual influx of hostility over map chat when things are difficult and people experience failure and then start the casting about of accusations and blame.

There have been one or two individuals whom you almost think are being belligerent trolls seeking some kind of reaction, but you still try to give the benefit of doubt and assume they have their own perspective, and try to work with or just put up with them and not react or respond to their more provocative statements.

There’s been Stubborn’s stories about his ongoing WoW guild drama, which on the surface appear to be a standard ‘A team’ clique forming to go raiding by themselves, ignoring the ‘B team’ and weak links with relief.

This particular group appears to have the audacity to use the guild resources of calendar planning to send secret invites to each other, with guild leadership none the wiser, and cheerfully and readily drop out of group and raid WITHOUT A WORD when the team complement ends up not to their liking.

A custom no doubt developed and encouraged by automated dungeon finders, where the next bunch of people in your party are merely a click away and all interchangeable. Feel free to dump them if they are idiots and retards and morons and slackers.

Finally, there’s been this morning’s experience with the Twilight Arbor Forward/Up dungeon path, otherwise known as TA F/U.

F. U.

Literally.

Because it has a reputation for being the most challenging of the three paths and the last boss chews up parties and spits them out.

Naturally, it’s the one TA dungeon I haven’t done and want to do so that I can check off yet another step towards the Dungeon Master achievement.

A guildie sends the LF1M message out on chat, so I think, why not? And join up.

Zoning in, one glance reveals it’s a mixed PUG. The ranger mentions straight off that they haven’t done the place, and I chime in to support her, saying it’s been a while and I don’t remember the path very well, so please mention any necessary mechanics.

(I really don’t remember TA that well. It’s not one of the dungeons I run very often, just now and then. And I can’t for the life of me remember whether I’ve done this path or some other combination of Forward or Up.)

Another glance shows that one of the members, a mesmer, has only 800 AP so I assume right off that he’s new and nervous and cut him some slack for not saying much of anything.

The guildie and the other one say nothing, so again I assume everything’s fine and they’ll clue us in as we get to stuff. I’ve got GW2dungeons.net pulled up in the other screen for additional reference too.

We hit a spot of trouble almost immediately when no one mentions if we’re running or killing through the first few groups of mobs.

Having done other TA paths once upon a time before, I assume we’re running and so am focused on the guildie and the other guy to follow in their footsteps because I simply don’t have sufficient map familiarity otherwise.

This leaves, alas, no time for typing anything into party chat and everyone is left to fend for themselves in the classic hesitant start and stop manner of everyone trying to figure out what everyone else is doing before breaking out into an all-out run for survival because oh my god, I’m going to die, and better them than me.

Naturally, four of us make it and the one that was the least prepared for running and thus ate the aggro collapses.

While we huddle in a corner and wait for the poor soul to make the lonely run by themselves, I -try- to get someone to say something about the Nightmare Vine strategy we’d be using by asking what’s the plan.

After all, in some forsaken corner of my memory, I vaguely recall that a few of my groups liked to leave the last vine alive and burn down the middle one once it appeared, others whittled down all six then hit the center one, and there may have been one that just rushed the center one – I don’t know, I couldn’t remember!

There’s pretty much dead silence. I try again and ask if we’re killing the outer ones first or rushing the center one. ‘kill outer’ is the two word reply. No one mentions the Volatile Blossoms.

The poor ranger trying to get to us has died twice in the meantime.

My heart bleeds a little and I type, “hey [ranger name], do you need some help getting to us?” And am about to try and figure out if I can walk them through running, or just move the entire party to killing the hounds and husks in the way, because why not, it might be easier for this group to clear the way together…

At the same time, another guy decides this is the best time to open the fight and attacks an outer Nightmare Vine.

OH SHIT.

I do a 180, slam down my two banners and rush in to hack away. The guildie jumps in. The newbie mesmer must have walked right into some Volatile Blossoms or just stayed too long in the red circles they threw up because he just curls up and crumbles like tissue paper without a single purple-colored skill firing.

Then the guy who started the fight goes, “oh, whoops, not everyone is here yet.”

Yeah. But too late now. We’re committed.

The ranger does eventually get to us midway through a couple of vines. I still can’t remember if I should be leaving the last vine alive or not, so I watch what the other people do. The guy who started the fight attacks the center one once five vines were dead. So I shrug and jump in and wail away on it too. The guildie has decided to work on the sixth one. Ok, whatever.

Unfortunately, we’re a little slow on dps and the outer vines begin sprouting one by one again. I wince inwardly, trying to solo warrior race against the clock as all the others, presumably with more toughness than me slotted into their gear, turn into my impromptu meat shields.

Close, but no cigar. Maybe one tenth of the big vine’s health remains when I’m finally the only thing in the room the vines can target. Berserk-geared zero-toughness warrior goes down like berserk warrior,

TPK. But I mean, we started a man down and everyone was unprepared and no one even -described- the strategy. So fully understandable, let’s try again, this time with better communication beforehand, right?

Guildie sends me a private whisper. Paraphrasing, “Hey man, really sorry, but I think this is a noob group. They’re hopeless.”

“Yeah,” I agree, for such is undeniable. “Are you familiar with the path?” I ask, because I myself am unfamiliar and will have trouble leading thusly. “Let’s try some coordination and see how it goes.”

It’s a bad start, no doubt, but the group hasn’t even had time to gel yet. Sure, if we’ve tried explaining the fights and are still wiping every encounter, then yeah, we can bow out with grace then, no probs.

“I did it up to the end once,” he says. “The last boss is really tough.” (I’m aware, I skim read the GW2 dungeon forums.)

“I don’t want to waste an hour, I’m going to drop party.” And he does. Without a single word to the rest of the group.

One or two more bail without a sound, and one of them must have been the instance holder, because I’m summarily kicked out of the dungeon and find there’s no one left in the party by the time I’ve zoned out.

Guildie goes invisible. Or logs off in a huff. But I do suspect he just went invisible.

Okay, maybe I just have rejection syndrome like Stubborn, or it’s a perfectly human reaction that everyone goes through, but the thing that zapped through my head was, “WTF, man, was it me?”

And sheesh, no one even tried. It was easier to just drop the damn group and presumably start over another time?

Well, because I’m not the sort to take this kind of thing lying down, I stay right at the entrance of TA and pretty much refresh the LFG finder non-stop, determined not to move a muscle until I -finished- TA F/U.

And in the very next group I joined, that’s exactly what we did.

A staff guardian cleared volatile blossoms for us. The group stayed tight as a group and ran together through spawns. We targeted the nightmare vines one at a time, clearing them all with a marked target until the big one was burned down.

We reached a spot of trouble when we had to drink from the fountain and stealth past one-hit kill deadly swarms. I was reading the guide with one eye while trying to follow in the footsteps of the two who seemed to know where they were going, while also trying not to blindly walk into an area that would reveal me. I scraped by, the last two didn’t. The three that made it patiently waited for them. One of the guardians was kind-hearted enough to turn back and try and clear volatile blossoms to make the run up easier – except he must have accidentally ate a one-shot because he fell over and died. So we two crept back slowly towards him and conducted a revival rescue. Everyone made it in the end.

At the last boss, we quite naturally wiped a few times while trying out various strategies. There was the rush in to the back of the tree, put up reflects and try to burn it down. Got halfway through its hp, then everyone got massacred by machine gun poison projectiles from the 1001 spiders.

There was a 1500 distance attempt by the retraiting ranger to range the tree down a la Dulfy’s guide, except one of the warriors might have went forward a bit far and aggro’ed the spiders. We were actually holding the spiders off decently well with melee, but the party didn’t seem interested in a “some melee and hold off spiders, some range” strategy.

There was the rush forward to the front of the tree with reflects and try to burn it down. Nada.

Some people were wondering if it was at all possible to defeat the tree if not achieved on the very first attempt. Luckily another guy found a video of an engineer who solo’ed TA F/U. “Lol, he just ran around like a retard and hit stuff” was the conclusion.

Huh. Okay. So we tried that. Everyone slotted a ranged attack, and a sacrificial guardian volunteered to be the first to dive in and soak the initial aggro. Strategy: Kite everything. Run in a big fucking circle.

What do you know, it worked.

It was kind of surreal and yet hilariously funny, in a Three Stooges sort of way. One of the guardians was pretty much leading the entire morass in a big circle, and everyone else just looked after their own survival, kept moving to avoid the projectiles, and focused on hitting the tree, revolving in a merry-go-around that occasionally switched directions and would be lethal if stopped. Reflects were used, I had my banners down to offer stats and pulse regen, etc.

Tree died. Probably everyone got their last TA path ticked and done, there was much rejoicing and everyone left content.

I tell you this long story to try and explain why it makes me so MAD when people just give up and look for the easy (or efficient) way out, blaming any convenient scapegoats that are not themselves. When they are not willing to reach out and communicate to others, whom they have labeled as hopeless/idiots/whatever, preferring instead to close themselves off in little groups of us vs them.

We’re okay, -they- are not.

Try and extend a little understanding, goddamit.

Everyone was new to a dungeon once.

A few days ago, I was the class clown in another guilded group who kindly and good-naturedly walked me through Caudecus’ Manor path 2. Knowing I was new, they gave me full text explanations on what to do, when to do it, and there were many ‘lols’ at my expense as my Charr lumbered his way through, trying to figure out exactly when they were picking up barrels and when/where/why they were putting them down in special spots.

‘Don’t hug the barrel, Riot, lol, put it down’ as I grabbed someone’s already specially put aside barrel and tried to bring it back to where they had -taken- the barrels from. (Well, they were running back and forth, how was I to know where was the start and where was the end?)

I’m sure I looked like a total retard in that one.

My only saving grace, another asura who was late to join up with the party (‘short legs’ – always a good excuse) and couldn’t jump and needed a portal to get up to where everyone else was.

Conversely, I can run CoF path 1 and 2 like clockwork and teach my way through it – though the boulders (especially with the invisible boulder bug of this last patch that gave me quite a scare before figuring out the workaround) are still tough to time.

What I’m trying to say is, don’t be so goddamn quick to judge people.

Pro AFKers do it on turrets.
Pro AFKers do it on turrets.

Fucking AFKers at Tequatl, is the standard refrain of some people, especially after they fail and need someone to blame. We didn’t have enough dps. It MUST be the AFKers.

No one thinks that maybe the guy who is AFK fell asleep because he’s been up for 12 hours straight camping Teq to try and get a win in. Or was distracted by his kids. It’s not like he can actually get any credit without waking up and participating.

Oh my god, the zerg is drowning in poison clouds at his foot here. FUCKING TURRET OPERATORS, if you don’t know what you’re doing, GET THE FUCK OFF, you morons. Cleansecleansecleanse, OMG, where are our cleanses. OMG, the bone wall is up, you guys are RETARDS.

Guess what. All the turret gunners have jumped off the turrets because they’re clearly too incompetent to operate them. Would you like to actually try?

I have. Though it’s only lately that I’ve taken them over to practice with, once one of these situations come up and no one wants the turret anyway. It can be fairly tricky to keep a target lock on Teq to keep spamming 2 on him, while making sure your mouse cursor is in the right place to spam 3 on the zerg AND quickly shift to cleanse yourself or a neighboring turret if the poison clouds show up.

And to be frank, if you’ve never been IN the zerg, dying horribly to the poison clouds, you won’t actually know why and where precisely to be aiming the cleanse as a turret gunner. And it’s still guesswork because it’s very hard to see at that distance.

Nor will you ever understand how important it is to a turret operator that he has a reliable turret defense team around him so that he doesn’t have krait and risen in his face, an ignored Finger fucking him up with poison, and his turret just dissolve around him because it broke and no one repaired it UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY walk a mile in his boots.

Sometimes it’s not the turret guy’s fault that he can’t cleanse you BECAUSE HE IS DEAD and DOESN’T have a turret up in the first place.

Speaking of the turret defense team, you can scream at them until you’re blue about keeping the turrets up for flawless defence, or blaming them or turret guys for bone walls, but until you’ve actually tried to hold off a swarm of Risen (champions included) and gotten one shot because they all turned and looked in your direction at once, or felt the despair of the few of you lying there dead and the turrets being overrun because everyone has run off into the zerg (which is now busily screaming that they aren’t getting cleansed, while you’re begging for a few more responders to help out at X turrets, because omg, so many champions and even some grubs)…

…Well. Suffice to say that there are quite a number of moving parts in this fight that can break, and it’s not just AFKers that can be the only problem. Blaming them can obscure some of the real reasons why an attempt failed.

If the turret defence doesn’t know how to target krait hypnosses to whittle down krait numbers fast and ended up distracted by krait “clones” essentially, they take longer to fight every wave. If they don’t kite champions away or whack smaller targets first, mobs can wreck havoc amidst the turrets. All that focus on red names distracts from the very real danger of nearby Tequatl fingers, which give turret gunners a hell of a time if left unmolested.

Too much turret defence, more champions spawn, zerg doesn’t have dps. Too little turret defence, and the turrets get overrun anyway.

Squishy zerg = dead zerg. Especially if they can’t dodge shockwaves well. And zerg, did you have the right stats or slot the right group supportive skills?

A lot of things can go wrong, and it’s the nature of this fight that you can only see what’s happening in the area that you are near. If you’re at Teq’s foot, you can’t see what’s happening with the turrets. Vice versa, if you’re by the turrets, it’s hard to see exactly how many people have gone down with each shockwave + poison AoE.

It’s fairly impossible to apportion blame or responsibility unless you have a person in each place discuss what was happening there and put the big picture together.

Yet quite a number of people just lash out on map chat regarding things they have no awareness of whatsoever. Far easier to blame someone else than ask what they themselves could have done better.

It also disturbs me that the more highly skilled are taking themselves away from the main population, preferring to hang around only with themselves. It’s a very subtle form of elitism. The A team breaks off. The B team is left to their own noobish devices.

Is there no one willing to help them get better?

GW2: Three Year Old Plays Super Adventure Box

This, my friends, is why it is important to have properly graduated levels of difficulty.

There are all kinds of people from all walks of life and ages playing our game. That is one of the awesome things about it.

Some day, this kid is gonna crack Tribulation, but she would not have gotten there without the intervening modes capturing her attention and helping her have fun while learning.

Infantile should not be as hard as Normal should not be as hard as Tribulation.

Stop demanding for difficulty increases across the board just so you can show off how l33t you are.

GW2: Define “Hard” More Specifically

8-Bit Eye of Sauron

Tribulation Mode – World 1 Zone 1

This zone was where I started meditating and musing on the definition of “hard” or “difficult” as I jumped, died, respawned x 100.

You may be surprised, but I rather liked it and was enjoying myself doing so.

Knew it was gonna happen. Had to try regardless.
Knew it was gonna happen. Had to try regardless.

With the ICC, of course. It is a must on Tribulation Mode IF you want to play it as intended, rather than just look up a guide and follow someone else’s route for the sake of efficiency and just getting to the end. In which case, some patient continue coin grind would probably get you through.

Part of it is mindset and expectation. I expect and accept that Tribulation Mode is built for life-squandering trial and error to find the safe path, having been forewarned about it.

In the same way that I -don’t- expect and accept that Normal Mode will nom lives like Super Meat Boy. Especially with a previous expectation set by prior zones of a certain difficulty.

The other thing you may not know about me is that I can get into a certain obsessive “mapping” frame of mind.

In my old MUD, I once bemused an immortal who had made a maze he thought was too large to be mapped by giving it a systematic go, knowing what I did of how MUD mazes were constructed.

A room is defined with a number, then exits in all cardinal directions are linked to other numbers. The maze could be made more difficult by having a room flagged to periodically randomize which room was linked with which direction, but the list of linked rooms generally did not change unless he had tweaked the code.

As long as each room could be marked in some way with something unique, it was just a matter of drawing little squares, numbering them, and lines pointing in all directions, ready to put numbers next to them as one went in each direction and checked the room.

A mage character could create free little balls of light. I made 200, stuck them in my bag, and began dropping them. Room 1, one ball. Room 2, two balls. Unsoweiter. Making more balls as necessary.

It was mostly data collection, as the dropped balls would be wiped when the MUD next reset and the maze would be featureless once again. But dammit, I had the time and the insane curiosity had taken hold of me to see JUST how many rooms he had made and linked together.

My count was 198 rooms, if you must know.

oldmap

I never did get around to actually linking up the maze, though I did discover that some rooms appeared to be fixed and didn’t rotate directions over time.

Actual application? Zero.

But I was just really happy both systematically mapping in meditative fashion and increasing the sum total of my knowledge and understanding (and being considered nuts in the process.)

Tribulation Mode triggered that part of me with a vengeance.

The discovery, mapping and exploration part. It rarely gets its day in the sun.

I simply wasn’t satisfied following a single safe path and hitting the end ASAP. I had to know it all.

Must know the extent of this barrier...
Must know the full extent of this barrier…

My dream? Every single flower, every single trap and barrier all neatly demarcated. Once the danger zones are clearly indicated, by definition, all and any alternate routes would show up as well.

My artistic capability being fairly non-existent, I can’t quite draw a top down view of the zone and label stuff, though I wanted to, quite badly. I contented myself with taking loads of screenshots, constructing a mental map and promising myself I’d come back with video footage to collect more data.

I’ll probably run out of time before ever getting it done. And probably go into a panic in the last week and just consult guides to get the rest over with, but it was the thought that made me glad to keep minesweeping with my body, on purpose.

Ooh, there’s lava here? Where exactly does it start or stop? *flings self into the depths* *rotates camera eagerly*

iseeyoutrapzone

Of course, the ICC and the checkpoints help. If there was longer iteration time or a punishing penalty per attempt, I’d leave it for someone else to do.

There was one section in zone 1 though that I DID NOT LIKE. As you might guess, this was a timing dependent section, with a sequence of jumping rocks that bounced up and down and caused knockback into bottomless abysses.

I was keenly aware of my latency yet again, as I would make it to the next platform, then get knocked off as the rock behind me came down and impacted, in a manner very similar to how knockback hit me when water spouts evaporated under me. Again and again.

I was desperately scrabbling to find as safe a spot to stop as possible so that the number of required jumps in tandem could be reduced and client and server could catch up. Even the safe spot was 50/50, sometimes I’d hit it and be safe, other times the knockback of the rock WAY behind me as it came down would kick me off regardless.

This is Tribulation Mode though, so you won’t find me on the forums criticizing it as long as one attempt in a hundred or so works. I was hitting slightly more success than that, and the checkpoint was just ahead, so I just barreled through 30 lives or so trying.

After that, it was back to peaceful trial-and-error mapping again.

And so it came to pass that as I was rezzing for the umpteen time, having missed a jump by a hair yet again, that I started to wonder just what other people got out of Tribulation Mode being “hard” and whether they were justified in feeling superior as a result.

Also, was it really hard? And in what way?

Other people are, no doubt, better at jumping than I am. Now, they could have better, faster reflexes. I passed the twenties quite some time ago, and I hear competitive Starcraft players retire by 25+. They could have better ping. (They probably do.) They might have better computers offering them faster framerates. (They definitely do.) Maybe they play a character with more accurate feet placement. Perhaps they just have an instinctual knack for judging where invisible hitboxes will come down.

On the other hand, I feel confident in saying that a lot more people would consult someone else’s guide and content themselves with precise execution, than would willingly throw themselves into the task of mapping for full understanding. My failing at instinctive jumps leads to a lot of analysis – it’s become almost second nature to look from corner to corner of each jump, eyeballing the closest distance and using that line to make the jump, my charr jumps are probably a lot better than someone playing a human who doesn’t jump on a regular basis, and so on. I probably have superhuman levels of patience and persistence at times.

What makes one superior to another? Whose measuring stick are we using? What is this obsession with measurement, anyhow?

The process of discovery in Tribulation Mode is time-consuming. I happen to be able to spare the time. Does that make me superior to someone who cannot spare that time? Does it make Tribulation Mode “hard?”

Tribulation Mode requires precision jumping, sometimes with near-pixel perfect accuracy, and sometimes it has to be done in a time-critical fashion. If someone can pull that off more consistently than another, does it make them superior? Even if the advantage is only via geographic location, rather than actual reflexes?

Tribulation Mode is costly (in terms of lives) when you are trial-and-erroring for the first time or make a mistake. You are required to either prepare for this via grinding baubles in other modes (spending time) or put down the equivalent of US$7.50 in either real money or in-game currency. Is any method to be considered superior to another?

People who can put up with Tribulation Mode are demonstrating high levels of patience and persistence. Does it make them better than someone else who chooses not to, or can’t be bothered to do the same?

Honestly, I don’t think so.

And I really don’t get those people who think that achieving this somehow makes them feel special or more prestigious to wave a shiny green or yellow sword around.

How in the world is your self-worth predicated on restricting what other people can or can’t achieve?

Oh, and when you say you want “harder” or “more difficult” content, kindly specify if you want it time-consuming, reflex-based, latency-reliant, stat-dependent, group-required or some other way of excluding a group of people from said content.

P.S. Here, before the inevitable retort of “Sure, you say all that because you can’t do it. Nyah nyah!”

And what does this prove?
And what does this prove?

P.P.S. Now I’ll grant you one thing. If you just say you want an option available, because you enjoy the process of defeating a challenge in some manner, while the alternative of easy mode leaves you bored. I support adjustable, variable difficulty to reach the optimum state of flow.

But hard in what manner? Something that takes multiple repeated tries before success? Something that takes a group or social media to puzzle out together? Dependent on what, luck? The mystic forge does that. Skill? What does that comprise of, exactly? How many hours spent striving for it is reasonable?

And I will still make fun of you if you ask for a more special reward for doing it “the hard way” because you deserve it.

GW2: …Join Them (First Thoughts on The Aetherblade Retreat Dungeon)

I give up.

I will bow to the pressure of the cruel design and tell you right now that I cannot be inclusive in the Aetherblade Retreat.

It you are not level 80, you can join (if you’re the only one. Or two. Maybe.) I won’t stop you, but if you’re dying every now and then, I will not stop to rez you. It will just get me killed.

If I get into a group of three or more low levels (as I did on my very first broadcast LFG,) I will quit your team without a word. Good luck recruiting some other guy to be your level 80 patsy.

If you cannot dodge or move around with at least middling competency, you are a detriment to the party. You can still come, because I try not to be a jerk, but be aware that it is nigh impossible to rez at certain sequences in both boss fights. You will have to lie there dead and weighing down the team until we can get to you – which is extra time spent not damaging anything, and increases the likelihood that one of the survivors will slip up and die and the whole team fail as a result.

If your build is specced to have not much group support whatsoever, I will get a little grumpy with you inside. How will I know this? The collective damage I take when in a spawn with the Aetherblade Strikers. That lightning channeled attack is hellish. I am a knight/berserker guardian, I can’t help but soak up a good amount of collective aggro – and I only have so many heals and blocks and dodges and one invulnerable.

Your responsibility, if you don’t want to soak that attention or help to split it up (say with a friendly ranger pet or clone), is to either damage the mobs fast enough that they die before I fall over, or interrupt them when they do that lightning thing – daze them, pull them or whatever, or offer me enough support that I can stay upright through that.

Speaking of rangers and their pets, from my first successful unbugged run... An Anet ranger person's personal opinion. Feedback for the dungeon team, guys!
Speaking of rangers and their pets, from my first successful unbugged run… An Anet ranger person’s personal opinion. Feedback for the dungeon team, guys! (He was great controlling one of the Striker’s lightning damage with his pet too, btw. Saved the team from quite a bit of pain there.)

In some groups, I only drop to half health from the Strikers, in some groups, shit dies so fast I don’t even have to fire renewed focus. In others, I routinely go down before the mobs die – the only gratifying thing is to see how fast people scramble to pick me up, possibly because they don’t want to be the ones soaking that – and I know there will be tough times ahead.

Groups like that make me want to play some other profession or build and see how other people are handling that kind of focused aggro. I may have to figure out a decent warrior damage/support build and gear for dungeons instead.

The good news is that I’ve earned what appears to be 6 gold in a day with four successful runs – with no exotics dropping, just yellow rares and the bags of gold at the end. (Because I have the crappiest luck ever. Some other guy in one of my groups got Magmatron off a random trash mob. 6 gold right there, easy.) So I may be able to get dungeon appropriate gear for my warrior faster than I thought.

I’ve also had two runs where Kiel bugged out. (One of which I was very thankful for because it was a disaster pug – entered when they were stuck at mid boss, thinking to be benevolent and work on my laser dodging practice, had to duo the golems down and one guy quit right after because he had earned his achievement by virtue of dying right before the laser walls came up or something similar – Kiel bugging was a graceful way to bow out before final boss pain.)

And one run full of new people who, credit to them, didn’t give up at the first sign of difficulty, but were doomed to eventually fail as the mesmer claimed they were on a lagging laptop and habitually died at the start of every cannon aoe phase, the other guardian followed right after and the elementalist was iffy. It ended up being a long ass revival attempt between me and the thief after every cannon phase, and eventually ended up with one of us slipping up and going down, followed by the other shortly after.

(I don’t know if we could have duo’ed her down, but to me, it seemed pointless to try and “carry” the majority of the team through like that. Succeed or fail together, y’know? If three or more carry one or two, that’s possibly fine. One or two carrying the rest just makes me grumpy as all get out.)

One good thing about this dungeon is that with the possibility of earning a gold at the end, I am a lot calmer about the prospect of an occasional failed run or multiple wipes.

How much can repairs cost? The worst party cost me 6+ silver before we called it – because other people died a lot more, some of it not their fault because a bug kept spawning them back in the boss room after a failed attempt.

I even tried to gung ho “solo” the final boss fight after the rest left and only figured out that doing it alone was going to be… if not impossible (because nothing ever is), pretty damn difficult because of her propensity to keep pointing and doing the teleport attack on you as the only target, and it only took 5-6 deaths to figure that out, to the tune of maybe 10 silver repairs or so.

One successful run will make back that combined loss with additional profit.

As I said, it helps to be absolutely uninvested and uninterested in the monocle, so there is no overriding obsession to try and do it as quickly and as many times as possible. Something I’m very thankful for this time around. For those who are, well, good luck…

One of the earlier learning attempts. You only have time for typing or hidden interface screenshots when yer dead.
One of the earlier learning attempts. You only have time for typing long sentences or hidden interface screenshots when yer dead.

Some of the achievements are going to be a bit of a challenge. I’m having some worry regarding the laser achievement, though others find it easy enough. I can’t help but wonder how many of those professing it to be easy:

a) have great ping

b) are not the ones attracting the majority of the golem’s aggro, thus slowing them down and running the risk of geting pulled right into a laser

c) are of a profession and specced to do good damage at range

I’m personally finding the low lasers undodgeable. Every time I attempt to dodge through them, I get stunned then hit by the lasers. So I have to jump the crates. And jumping up the crates with two golems on your hiney doing their best to pull you, well, it’s not great chances that you won’t get yanked off then zapped by a laser.

I can generally heal through the low laser damage, but the achievement may be a problem unless I swap characters or figure out some way to drop that crazy toughness induced aggro. All three sets of armor that my asura owns all have toughness on them, dammit. I may simply have to arrange one with the guild where I simply don’t hit a darned thing and just focus on jumping up the crates and running, perhaps. 🙂

The AoE avoidance one, well, that may be a mite tricky as melee. I’m surprisingly calmer about that one though – the repeated death not-great PUG let me experiment with a sceptre/focus and staff combination on some of the later runs and kiting Mai Trin seemed a lot easier that way. I’m going to be testing that out a lot more.

Even if dps drops (and I’m not sure it does, considering how much time I actually get to hit her with a hammer before she squirms off or does so much bleed or damage or a Horrik AoE lands that one has to back off regardless), it might eventually be possible to earn it at least once. AoE avoidance is all about practice, anyway. And one just has to do it once for the achievement.

As for Unfriendly Skies, mwahahahahaha, already got it. My second guild run was utterly gruesome, in a very good way. Two warriors, a mesmer, an engineer and me. The damage output was mind blowing. Fury was nearly always on, and the engineer threw up so much might stacks, that even my mighty blow hammer was hitting for 4k crits. If anything, I was probably the weakest link. I just did my best to hold attention, apply protection, use shouts for condition removal and stability, wall of reflect stuff, and self heal like crazy long enough for the others to unleash hell.

So I can confirm that if you do manage to kill the final bosses within 15 minutes, what will happen is that a Dynamic Event will pop up with about 1:45 minutes on the timer telling you to go get the Aetherblade Cannon that Horrik drops, and you’ll have sufficient time to run across the bridge and interact with the cannon spot on the airship. A little cutscene sequence will appear showing the cannon firing.

cannon1

cannon2

cannon3
Sorry for the not great graphical quality screenshots, but regular readers know how badly my computer sucks. I lower everything to minimal in group situations to avoid being THAT GUY who keeps crashing out.

The interesting thing is,  one of the warriors from that crazy good run had previously had a horrible and unsuccessful pug experience before. So, this dungeon is a bit of a crapshoot. If your group happens to have fantastic group synergy, and can dodge at least decently well (I’m not -that- elitist) it’s a wild ride. If one or two of your team members are below average, it’s going to make things a lot harder.

I don’t know what to say about that. I think eventually selection pressure is going to weed out all those who can’t hack it. Or find it too tough or exhausting or uninteresting to keep learning/practising/improving, having spent most of their time on the ground or dying repeatedly.

I do not know how far the elitism is going to go, and whether it’ll eventually rise to the point where -I- can’t hack it any longer either and start getting kicked out of groups for being fail. (Or having people mysteriously vanish without a word from my groups.)

In the meantime, I guess I’ll keep trying to earn that one gold every dungeon complete until the elitist speedrun fellows take over. Six days last time, wasn’t it?

GW2: How Inclusive Should the Molten Weapons Facility Be?

So… let’s talk dungeon. Specifically, the potentially controversial Molten Weapons Facility that has made an appearance as the next stage of the Living Story – Flame & Frost: Retribution saga.

The raging controversy at the above linked thread is the old debate about having the option to solo vs “forced” group content. One of the major beefs is the ol’ bait-and-switch over time, especially with the lure and promise of a narrative to be completed. Players are suckers for a good story, and want to see it from beginning, middle and end. Throw in a 5-man dungeon to cap off your story, and it’s the Personal Story => Arah Story dungeon WTF all over again.

Two other subsets appear to have issues with this. One, the antisocials and/or ‘friends and family only’ small group less than five folks who are rather dismayed at having this appear to cock block their story or achievement progress (and let’s not forget the tempting vanity shinies too.)

And two, the for-whatever-reason movement-impaired, ie. those who cannot dodge or jump well, possibly physically handicapped or having a disease or have poor ping, etc, who know very well that they will either soon be left out or excluded due to accessibility issues, or don’t want to deal with the emotional drama/stress/tension that is bound to arise from having a not-so-great player in the midst of a group focused on getting to the end as quickly as possible.

(Now before any of the above take major umbrage at my description of them, know too that I also habitually fall off cliffs, through gaps, fail dodges, and jump poorly, nor does it seem to be helped by having a latency all the way from South East Asia. At least it’s not Australia?)

I dunno. I think I have a point I want to make about inclusivity vs exclusivity, but it’s not quite well formed yet.

Oooh, that's deep.
Oooh, that’s deep.

Instead, let me tell you about my experiences with the Molten Weapons Facility so far:

Round 1 – Random PUG, all level 80s, same server, on cookie cutter guardian

Since the dungeon had bugged out as the patch dropped, and I was simply too sleepy to wait any further, I tried to get on as soon as I woke up in order to catch the wave of people who still hadn’t done it yet. As pure random chance would have it, I did find such a group. Good, it’s my favorite way to experience a new dungeon, and just like the launch crowds only happen once, you cannot take away knowledge once it is learned.

We were all 80s, the group consisted of 2 warriors, a mesmer, an engineer and moi. The warriors were using shouts and banners, there was me on the ye olde AH shout hammer guardian, and I am not conversant enough with the other two classes to know what they were doing, but I am sure there was a good mix of control/dps/support going on. We learned the mechanics via experiencing it, there were barely any deaths, whole thing ran very smoothly. I had a hammer knockback, which was very helpful on the protectors, found my stability shout pretty heavily utilized, and made a mental note to take in hallowed ground next time as well.

Round 2 – Guild group, 4 level 80s and 1 lvl 40, same server, on cookie cutter guardian

For my next run, I joined some guildies, three of which were running it for the first time and one of whom, along with me, had done it once before. Group composition, mesmer, 2 necromancers, a lvl 40 warrior and me. I brought hallowed ground, swapping it back and forth with retreat as needed.

The two of us checked with the three who hadn’t done it to see if they were open to spoilers. They were, and wanted strategy tips but they didn’t want to rush through, which was a-ok with me because I loathe speed runs with a passion. (More on this later though.)

Noted the ore appeared to be on cooldown or a per-character basis. I’m still not sure if the karma items are on an account basis – I failed to receive one of them when my inventory was full and I’m going to be a little sad if I miss the little conversation snippet because of this. Thankfully, no achievement linked to it.

All in all, a relatively smooth run. A few more deaths than the previous round, and one wipe on the boss as folks figured out the mechanics. I believe most of the additional deaths came from trying to rez each other, because getting locked into place rezzing during a high mobility required fight is always tricky. We ended up finishing the ranged boss with two people, or one really, as I collapsed one second before it died (which joyously rallied me, even before the others rezzed up for the super-saiyan boss version.)

Round 3 – Random PUG, 2 level 80s, a lvl 52, a lvl 25, a lvl 4, same server, on experimental spirit weapon build guardian

Now that I had the facility under my belt, so to speak, I was curious to see if a new character would reset the ore or karma items. I was also curious to see if spirit weapons had been improved any. Well aware I was going to be a LOT squishier, I decided to chance it with a random PUG.

Group composition: Me, a lvl 80 engineer, a lvl 52 warrior, a lvl 25 elementalist, a lvl 4 guardian. I checked the achievement points of the lowbies, and they were all only at a few hundred. The engineer had 3000. I’m sure some of you are laughing on the floor right now. Me, I knew very well this wasn’t ever going to make it to completion and sighed inwardly. I briefly considered logging cookie cutter AH alt on to maybe soak more pain and give more group support than the more selfishly built one, but what the hell, it was going to be a test of how the designers had scaled/balanced their MWF!

The good news is that we managed the Molten Alliance veterans just fine. The bad news is that we popped a Champion Ember as the boss in the hall after the dredge tunneling machine, instead of a Champion Ooze. This, if you are not aware, spawns a great variety of Ember minions of normal and veteran quality and KEEPS spawning them. All of which throw a ground based lava font aoe.

This utterly decimated the team. Over and over. We tried pulling the whole mass back into the tunnel, which helped us take down everything not-Champion for a short while and dink 1/5 of the Champion’s health bar off. Concentrated ground aoe in that chokepoint is a killer though, and took squishy ol’ me out in four hits or so, once I’d used up all dodging capacity, blocks, invulnerable, the works. Let’s not even talk about how the lowbies fared, between not having developed dodge reflexes, underdeveloped traits/skills, and naturally very little toughness/vitality.

So we tried the Ember in the hall, which helped me survive it a little longer by virtue of kiting it around internally screaming my head off that this is entirely the wrong build for this sort of thing, except all the lowbies fell over in three seconds when the other Embers looked at them crosswise, and then I fell over when eight lava AoEs appeared under my feet before I could even hit the dodge button.

I swapped to projectile reflects and absorbs, which did nothing for the ground based aoe damage. I wasn’t traited for shouts, and had a grand total of maybe 200 healing power, so I doubted it would work either. Long story short, we called it. They did, however, very gamely give it their all over and over, and it was just very obvious that these were all inexperienced or new Guild Wars 2 players, while I wasn’t on a cheaty optimal group-focused build either and had been hoping to sneak in and get ‘half-carried’ by other stronger builds.

Round 4 – Random PUG, all level 80s, same server, on experimental spirit weapon build guardian

So immediately on disbanding, I jumped right in to another group LFM, and what do you know, the slightly less experienced level 80 engineer in round 3 had popped right in to the new group with me. I was quite gleeful about this, tbh, because this evened out the variance between dungeon experiments.

Group composition: 2 mesmers, a thief, the engineer and me. I took one look at the group and decided to pre-warn them that I wasn’t in your typical AH hammer guardian tanky build. Fortunately, the spokesperson of the group who had done it before was very accepting and said no problem, it was all about skill and knowing when to dodge/jump, etc.

As luck would also have it, we spawned the Champion Ember. This, I noted with some amount of vindication, did knock over one or two level 80s with the ground based aoes – BUT with the dps outputted by five level 80s (and probably some aggro tanking from mesmer clones) , I was able to survive long enough for the Ember to fall over before all my helpful survival skills ended up on cooldown. I did have to bounce between melee and ranged, instead of just face-tanking shit with a hammer though.

Veteran Molten Alliance seemed to go down somewhat faster. Protectors were harder to manage as the shield knockback doesn’t launch them far enough out of the circle, and the spirit hammer knockback is hard to control/precisely position.

The boss fight was on an order of distinctly more challenging. The two mesmers were very skilled and kited well with their clones and had the shockwave timing jumps pat. The engineer, as expected, spent most of his time facefirst on the ground. I wasn’t far behind from that, along with the thief.

Some of it just seemed to be bad luck though. The loudest, most skilled spokesperson still fell over when the berserker landed a chained up knockdown or some such on them. I come out of loadscreens a bit more slowly than most (either lousy computer or ping or both) so when the berserker boss superpowered himself, I had just enough time to see the flame circle sweep towards me but not enough time to react with a jump, dodge, or run away – which somehow one-shot me. Wonder if it critted. I did eat a few more shockwaves during the next go, because I was trying the ‘jump over’ method spokesperson was recommending, but I think ping was a problem. That or being on a charr or my overall timing. I had MUCH better success with dodges or blocks (or stability, which I resolved to slot in the next time, as the spirit weapons were just getting splattered by the boss – so much for hp buffing.)

Despite the multiple deaths, we did actually kill the bosses (two tries each) and complete the dungeon.

Round 5 – Picky PUG, all level 80s, same server, on cookie cutter guardian

I was actually hoping to be a masochist and subject one or two more random PUGs to my ‘horrible’ guardian. However, the only group advertising in map was someone looking for – I quote – “shout/banner warrior, AH hammer guardian or TW mesmer.”

As is my usual custom, I ignored such pickiness (like, I suspect, most people do) and watched the group leader advertise two more times. Then I decided I was bored enough to go do one more experiment for the sake of science (and this blog!) and also, I kinda wanted another try at the jetpack pop chance at the end of the dungeon.

It helped that the group leader had engaged in a civil mapchat conversation with someone who was expressing that their previous group had wiped on the last boss and was feeling the dungeon to be extremely hard, whereas said group leader said, no no, it’s very easy, here, join my group and I’ll show you. (Then promptly renewed his advertising for the new GW2 trinity.)

So I sent them a tell, told ’em I’d log on Mr Cookie Cutter, and joined them.

Need I really say anything more about how it went?

Oh well, if you insist. Group composition: elementalist, ranger, necromancer, warrior and me. The necromancer had minions out, the warrior had banners and shouts going, combo fields were dropping left, right and center, almost no one’s hp bar moved except for maybe mine, which would just bounce up and down between full and half in the manner of AH guardians. One crisis moment of nearly dropping necessitated a brief backing off to staff empower up to 3/4 health, and there was one mind-blanked-out face-tanking hammer-humming moment which caused me to eat a flame circle and drop downed, because I plain forgot to even watch out for it.

So… what is the moral of these stories?

I dunno. It actually just makes me sad. I WANT to be inclusive, dammit.

I don’t want to reject non-level 80s from, what is essentially, an event dungeon group.

You know who those only-in-the-several-hundreds ArenaNet achievement points players are? They are our game’s new blood.

I’m sure people could probably “carry” one or two of them in a very strong dungeon powerhouse builds kind of group. But I wonder if they want to be “carried” or if they’d really rather just contribute.

I’d really love to take in non-standard builds to a dungeon whom ArenaNet -claims- that any group of five players can manage. And I gotta admit, I did complete the dungeon successfully with one. But I do worry about how much of a drag down I will be on the group as a result.

Then as icing on the temptation cake, I find that I actually crave the rewards that pop at the end of this dungeon. The jetpack looks pretty nifty, but I’d really kill for a mini firestorm and to be able to construct an endless potion of his berserker brother.

Now to perfect my miniature shrinking ray...
Now to perfect my miniature shrinking ray…

With THAT kind of goal in mind, and a 14 day time limit on this dungeon, doesn’t that add up to a distinct designer pressure for achievement-oriented players to run this dungeon back to back as many times and as quickly as possible?

I’m probably still going to bring my squishy Charr into MWF one or two more times, for the heck of it and because I’m going to master dodging and jump timing, dammit,  and I’ll apologize in advance here for any group wipes and repair bills and extended runs this might or might not cause some unlucky random PUG.

But after I get being stubborn and experimental out of my system, expect to see me on the Asura hammering my way to victory repeatedly for a few vanity shinies.

Taking bets now on when speed runs and the MWF farm become the only “proper” way to run this dungeon, and what the ‘expected’ strategy everyone is ‘required’ to follow ends up becoming.