The SAD Project – Day 6 – Slumdog Puglord

ensolyss

It’s Saturday, the start of the Oceanic/Asian weekend, and today’s screenshot story is about facing one’s fears… head on… only to realize with some head-scratching befuddlement that I seem to have developed thicker skin than I thought.

I basically went through the entire gamut of PUGs today – successful run, failed run, achievement run, many many wipes run, normal mode, challenge mode, watched people get kicked, got kicked twice (or at least the vote kick opened and I didn’t stick around.)

All on fractal 100.

It all started when I was idly browsing through the fractal LFGs wondering which fractal I dared to PUG today.

100lfg

The first thing I saw was an offer by a guild to sell the Nightmare fractal – level 100 challenge mode for 40g, and that you could pretty much just afk at the final boss.

You know what I thought?

I thought, DAMN, that’s cheap! Just 10g to each guy. I was pretty darned tempted to just pay and get it over with. If it was a scam, welp, 40g is not very much in the larger scheme of things to lose and you could always report them as a minor consolation prize.

The fear of being scammed and the uncertainty of not actually knowing how to pay/trade for things like this was about 25% of the reason for why I finally didn’t bite. The other 75% was mainly me checking out my achievements panel and going, “ah crap…”

nightmarechievo

I got 5/7 of the standard achievements wandering into a lvl 25 Nightmare fractal by myself on the day it launched, and went “meh, I’ll wait until the PUGs know how to do a smooth run and all the video tactics and guides are out,” and never bothered to go back in again.

Ironically, I ignored fractals so long, the PUGs passed me by in skill level, so to speak.

I basically wasn’t sure if you could even earn the challenge mode achievement if you didn’t have the standard nightmare fractal achievement fully done and unlocked.

Seemed unlikely, given prior historical examples of Anet achievement coding.

Turns out that one of the T4 dailies was the Nightmare fractal, and lots of groups were starting up for it. Most of them at the time I first looked all said, “100cm food/pots/exp” though.

Bleh. Food was no problem, I carry food for raids all the time. Fractal potions are more of a pain, being an infrequent fractal flyer, but I could just take the time to prep and buy a few from the vendor.

Exp… well, ha, I watched Deroir’s nightmare cm fractal guide of a coordinated group run, and I solo’ed most of a level 25 nightmare fractal once upon a time…so… that would be a bald faced lie.

But what the hell, the new post-raids GW2 PUG atmosphere is really simple, right? Fake it till you make it.

If you can lie about legendary insights and be encouraged to do so, because you’re going to get kicked by puglords otherwise, if the veterans don’t feel like teaching or communicating because “go watch a video, go train, go make your own group to die horribly until you learn how to do it our way without error,” (hang on, how are they going to learn how to do it your way if they don’t interact with you?)  if the newbies don’t feel like communicating because the veterans are pricks anyway, what the hell, what’s the worse that can happen?

People say or think nasty things about you, and you get kicked. Oh, is that all?

So I hit the join button with the only 150 AR character I had, the necro, with the sneaky thought that I could cheat a lil and switch to parasitic contagion in an emergency to be even tankier and at least not the first guy to die.

Well, that emergency came pretty soon. There were quite a number of downs, quite a number of deaths. Still, I was holding my own on about 80% of the fractal.

Fortunately, accompanying me in terms of needing scraping off the floor was the group starter himself/herself, aka the person who made the “exp” request to begin with.

The rest of the PUG were surprisingly tolerant of much of the shambles we made, for a time. I got some invaluable firsthand experience of what the mechanics of the challenge mode consisted of, and was busy analyzing and figuring out solutions mid-combat.

The first death knell arrived during a phase when a boss split up into adds at 66% health  that had to be taken down within a time limit. It got blatantly obvious that two of us didn’t have a clue, when three people had put down personal waypoints on the minimap (which I didn’t even see) and the two of us didn’t. My little sheepdog act of following along got semi-exposed. We wiped.

In short curt sentences, the one guy I followed badly explained that the two of us needed to go east, at which point I looked at the minimap and realized there were personal waypoints set and quietly put mine on east, while the rest were busy being grumpy with the slightly more frequently dead and missing mechanics group starter (a warrior).

“at 33 clockwise” was the final cryptic phrase given before combat resumed. I dutifully went east and wailed away at my designated mob. (The warrior died.)

At 33% health, I did a best guess scenario and beelined east and “clockwise” to southeast-ish, managed to find the mob, which no one was attacking, so I guess I got it right. The four of us more or less managed to kill that boss, though two more of us died and had to be sloowly rezzed back to health (hey, at least it wasn’t just me) before it died. (The warrior was left dead and rezzed after the fight.)

The second death knell was the bullet hell rooms. Look, I’m on 250ms ping. I was pugging in NA time. NA folks consider 75ms to be “laggy.” Bullets in GW2’s bullet hell simulation are very rarely where they appear when you’re on 250ms ping. You have to be very very predictive to manage. To be very very predictive, you need the experience which I still didn’t have at that point in time. Things went as well as you might expect, which is to say, not terribly well at all. The one or two remaining guys soloed it, no doubt getting even grumpier.

We went through a number of repeated attempts on the final boss Ensolyss. I got an immense amount of practice in through that pressure cooker experience. Most of the mechanics I was getting the hang of and coping with… except for the third and final death knell.

One of Ensolyss’ attacks is him rearing up and slamming his fist into the ground to create an orange AOE circle that does damage, swiftly followed up by an expanding shockwave that knocks you back. What seems like half a second or less later, a nightmare hallucination forms above you (and each player, apparently) and slams down for massive damage in another orange circle.

I simply could not work out the PUG strategy for this. The organized group video guide said to dodge -into- the shockwave, so that you didn’t get knocked back. I did so, and was usually standing in the middle of a few orange circles for the hallucinations to wreck.

Half the time, my ping was such that I couldn’t hit the dodge key in time to dodge out and away from the hallucinations after dodging in, and the other half of the time, I ain’t had no endurance left. The cm mode damage went right -through- death shroud.

If I dodged out or tried to jump the shockwave, I’d hit the tip of the shockwave and get knocked down anyway, and being knocked down is bad news when death is about to fall on your head at any moment.

It was obvious that other classes were getting by using blocks and invulnerabilities. A necro has no blocks and invulnerabilities. It was a PUG, you can’t rely on a mesmer to distort for you or get group aegis from someone. A necro apparently had to fall back on picture perfect timing with evades and excellent endurance management (or, like in a nightmare 100cm necro solo video I watched after the fact, you do it alone and just dodge out of the -one- predictable hallucination circle, as opposed to the chaotic mess of 5 circles in a group of 5.)

So about 75% of the time, like clockwork, every time Ensolyss did that attack, I’d go down like a ton of green poison bricks.

Still, we lost the warrior first. One of the veterans was pointing out that he/she needed to -dodge- the mechanics (as we were spending half the time trying to scrape said warrior off the floor, and this tended to compound my error rate when I was trying to be too kind and get locked in a rez).

The warrior started to lag behind when restarting the fight, seeming reluctant to try again (or maybe was trying to adjust build, who knows.)

This eventually got on the nerves of another supposed veteran, who initiated a vote kick, and that was the final straw for the warrior, who then quit.

Shortly after, I succumbed to yet another one of those falling hallucinations of death, and that I saw the vote kick pop up for me as well.

I hit leave party without bothering to wait.

In retrospect, what surprises me is more of the silence and overall rudeness of the encounter. After I left without a word, I felt that I couldn’t let that be the last step of the interaction, so to speak, and sent a whisper to the person who initiated the vote kick.

It said, “no worries, I’ll leave, good luck.”

I just wanted to end on a civil note.

At any time, if any of them had said anything along the lines of, “look, this isn’t working, you’re not experienced, could you leave?” I would have.

Of course, no one is in the right on this. Should I have joined a group that said “food/pot/exp?” Probably not. I still did, though. It was one of the fastest ways to get some experience with 100cm.

Should the group starter who patently wasn’t experienced advertise for “exp?” Lol, obviously not. They still did though.

Should the other party member have initiated a vote kick on the group starter and essentially thrown a mini-coup? They still did, though.

Meh, it’s a PUG. “Ideally not supposed to happen, but still does” is like the definition of a PUG.

At some other point in time, mostly in the past, I might have been a bit upset – over how some people are treating others, over my perceived competency/reputation or lack of -, but today, I feel strangely mellow about the whole thing.

The logic goes like this: 100cm is like a mini-raid. It’s made for coordinated groups. Coordinated groups have things like communication, strategy, meta classes that synergize together.

It was a PUG. There was no communication, there was evidently some secret PUG strategy of which I at least saw how the personal waypoint system worked, and meta classes, don’t make me laugh, no chrono, no druid, no warrior (yes, we had no might worth speaking of through the multiple runs.)

And still, some guy who I will probably never see or group with again wants to be picky.

You’re a dime a dozen, buddy. We all are, when we’re slumming PUGlord style.

I will never see you again.

If we see each other again, you will probably not remember me. (-I- don’t remember your name now, just your attitude.)

If you do remember me and refuse to play with me ever again, it’s your choice to narrow down your overall options for people to play with. We all have fun in our own ways. If that pickiness involves 30 minutes of wait time while you sift through people for a specific criteria, I don’t got the patience for that anyway. Hence, I should care zero about your opinion of my competency and actually work on my own competency as evaluated by myself.

And so it goes, this new design of GW2 that makes everyone treat each other like strangers.

After I left, I pulled up the LFG, saw another three fractal 100 advertisements, and jumped into another 100cm at the last boss.

I watched someone even more rabid dog than the first veteran JUMP on a mesmer who had all signets out (not the right build, I assume) and demand kill proof by showing The Unclean title… which the mesmer actually had, hrm.

Surprisingly, they didn’t quite demand any kill proof from me – which I would not have passed – until alas, the falling hallucination of death got me.

At which point, Mr Rabid Dog started to ask, and I got out of there in a hurry with a quick “Leave Party” and nary a word. No civil ending note for this guy. I noticed that basically, incivility breeds incivility.

Mr Rabid Dog would say that I started it, by being one of those inconsiderate silent bastards who ignores “exp” demands on LFG (I don’t actually recall that particular advertisement specifically asking for kill proof until I got in, though, and I certainly had -lots- of fresh -if semi-successful- experience with Ensolyss.)

By this time, the LFG adverts had shuffled around, and I actually saw a 100 normal chievo run pop up. Oooh, this would be handy to round out my 5/7.

You know what? After cutting my teeth on challenge mode, I looked like a complete veteran in normal mode, helping to scrape 2-3 people off the floor here and there, and helping to succeed at a couple of the bullet hell phases. The falling hallucinations of death? Still got hit now and then by them, but they didn’t insta-kill me in normal mode.

That’s where the screenshot at the top of this post comes from. A successful normal mode run, in which everybody got a bunch of achievements and everyone got T4 Nightmare done.

After which, I jumped into yet another normal 100, thinking to get more practice. This one did not go well at all, and after struggling with several total party wipes at the bullet hell stage, I found my patience at PUGing finally evaporating for the day and decided to gracefully bow out with a, “don’t think this is working, thanks all” and a voluntary quit.

Meh, there’re all PUGs. PUGs are unpredictable and unreliable, it’s in the nature of a PUG. I act more selfishly when I PUG. Other people act selfishly when they PUG. You PUG. I PUG. Everybody PUGs. If you PUG, you take the bad PUGs with the good PUGs. If you hate PUGs, then well, don’t PUG.

If I really wanted 100cm done, there are ways. I could pay to be carried through. I could try my luck begging my raiding group for help. I could join an internal guild fractals group. I could start my own PUG over and over until I got lucky. I could try to solo 100cm – there are videos of it being done.

The goal today though was just to join some fractal PUGs and I went for the Nightmare fractal on a whim.

To my surprise, I learn that the rudeness of strangers doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, that I’m capable of acting in ways that others might perceive as rude and annoying and that I don’t care as much anymore, and also that the Nightmare fractal is both interesting and relatively manageable (meaning mechanics-wise, NOT “doable-in-a-PUG-wise.”)

New goals that have now formed from this random exploration: watch more nightmare fractal videos and analyze the encounter with the benefit of some experience, give soloing it a shot some day, get a warrior to 150AR (I’m so triggered by the lack of might in PUGs -and- a warrior has blocks to deal with the falling hallucinations) and test if that’s any better for 100cm than a necro.

Not bad for a couple hour’s worth of play.

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The SAD Project – Day 4 – Random Panda Bravely Dungeon

randompanda

First off, here is your nifty screenshot of the day.

I haven’t been visiting the guild hall to harvest random materials in a bit, but today, while idly looking for stuff to do, I hit the “visit Guild Hall” button.

Our guild recently (and when I say recently, I mean maybe 1-3 months ago, I live in geologic time when it comes to GW2) swapped over to the Lost Precipice guild hall area.

This is generally a very rocky, arid, barren, cliffside landscape, so I was rather surprised to see some decorator had gone plant-happy across the entire guild hall, presumably cleverly making use of strategically placed trees all over to act like bushes and hedges.

It makes the whole hall look great. But my favorite is this lil panda in the bushes, seemingly assembled from snowballs and chak gerent eyes.

ar-rip

I start with that, because the alternative is screenshots that look like this.

I’ve been spending the last two days mostly staring at various characters’ equipment screens, wondering if I can consolidate agony resistance into some characters’ up to the point of T4 fractals and wondering -which- characters and also wondering if I can stand making the effort.

The first point: consolidating agony resistance.

Previously, I had a 150+ AR necromancer, cobbled together with some mix of the +5 versatile infusions and +8 to +10 agony infusions. I’d also been working on bringing a PS warrior up to 150, but ran aground somewhere around the 87s.

Some patches later, necromancers are see-sawing in status, no longer quite masters of the epidemic bomb and undisputed sole rulers (except for one druid) of T4 fractals. Power PS warriors have also taken a massive hit in perceived popularity, and at T4, condi is king, anyway.

Since I run a condi PS warrior for raids, you’d think it’d be easy to just transfer AR over to him, but a) staring at my old characters, I realize that half of their infusions are the old type of +5 infusions and probably don’t work anymore / have to be traded for the new type or something, and b) I really want to min-max this guy and work on upgrading him slowly with infusions with +5 condi damage stats – which cost a bomb, compared to the normal type.

Then comes the second point: -which- characters should I consolidate them on.

I’m regularly terrified of and/or loathe fractals and most group content.

This reaction is mildly amusing to me, considering one of the recent topics in the MMO blogosphere seems to be a general nostalgia towards running dungeons and missing the feeling of contributing in some role (healers, mostly).

I figured it out though. There are a couple things I really really -hate- about group content.

One is the unpredictability of PUGs.

I like my group content runs smooth. Now that my raid group full clears regularly, I find I am actually enjoying my weekly raids in GW2. I like the predictability of the encounter. I know my teammates, I know -this- healer will regularly save my bacon when I run out of health doing a mechanic, I know to expect certain things at certain times, I know when I am supposed to do my part pulling other peoples’ bacon out of the fire with a well placed rez banner and so on.

Try -that- in a PUG.

O. M. G.

Seguing into this is the disparity of skill levels in a PUG. I hate it.

I am not super keen on having to carry some helpless barely contributing folk through an instance, though I can tolerate it if the overall run is smooth and easy.

At the same time, I am also keenly aware that I have zero skill level when it comes to higher level fractals and the mechanics therein, particularly the newer ones, so to others at a much higher skill level, they are no doubt keenly aware that they are carrying ME and the embarrassment is unpleasant.

(It is a catch 22 that you will gain no skill if you do not even make the attempt though, so the only alternative is to suffer embarrassment, risk being kicked or singled out/be carried, and try to suck less with each go at it.)

Then also, if you lack the critical mass of competent people to carry the less competent, the whole encounter turns into a roiling, time-wasting mess of wipes, silent leavers, and waiting for more.

Which brings me to point 3: waiting to play a game.

Maybe I’m old or something,  but it has been blowing my mind lately when I watch Twitch streamers play various games like Player Unknown Battlegrounds or Friday the 13th or pretty much -any- multiplayer game.

They sit in a lobby for an amazing amount of time, waiting for sufficient players to fill up the team.

Thereafter, there is like a 45 second countdown before the match even begins.

During the match, there seem to be interminable amounts of waiting or quiet periods where absolutely nothing happens, interspersed with a couple life or death seconds of combat.

If you’re on the losing end, welp, you can now watch other people play the game until the match ends, or you can join another lobby to wait for another match to begin.

The common rejoinder of the hardcore fractaler is to say, “welp, make your own group to do X” and you know, I gave it a try, starting a few groups with an easy daily recommended fractal.

Almost immediately, I realized that I was going out of my mind WAITING for someone to join.

It got so bad that after a couple minutes, I dashed into the fractal myself – Urban Battlegrounds, comes with NPCs – and started soloing, because what the hell, right? At least I was doing something.

The NPCs and me had pretty much taken down Dulfy when finally, a second person joined.

I changed the LFG to “31 already in” and we finally had a full complement by the time we were breaking through to the final room.

This is all very well on easier difficulties, but on higher levels, where soloing would be slightly less easy, it becomes a really difficult decision between waiting in the lobby slowly going gibbering mad or slogging through like molasses and/or wiping in the attempt.

It also seems somehow less polite to start first at high levels, when one should -theoretically- begin and work as a team.

So there’s the choice of characters. My condi warrior does -not- solo well. At least, not in the condi PS raid spec, which is built to provide lots of helpful offensive TEAM buffs. It is also pretty darned squishy when the TEAM isn’t quite a team… like one might encounter in a PUG. You know how to look like the weakest link in a PUG? Being the first one to die and/or keep dying.

The necro can solo, but it’s not very group-oriented, and it tends to be slow as molasses, slowing down teams that might actually want to work as a team.

What kind of character might be able to carry a PUG team to victory in fractals? (Remember, I want to -smooth- out my runs as much as possible.)

Caveat: I am not -that- skilled at individual fractals AT ALL. That rather eliminates clever things like mesmer portals and blinks, thief stealth and shadowsteps, and truth to tell, the thought of running low hp reservoir guardians or elementalists in a PUG gives me the screaming heebie jeebies. (Besides, I can only operate a guardian blindfolded.)

So it came to pass that I actually *heave, deep breath* entertained the thought of healing, as a druid.

A bit more research suggested that going full magi would be extremely counterproductive, fractals expects damage output from 5 players, not 4 players of possibly questionable skill and 1 dumb druid trying to spam heals.

A condi druid, though… I already have full viper’s for a condi ranger. It was just a matter of switching some traits and skills…

Oh, and actually knowing how to USE those skills and a druid’s celestial avatar.

I’m still working on that part.

I gave it a spin in a level 7 Cliffside, and only managed to go into CA twice (how the fuck is astral force built again, maybe things died too fast), only managed to put spirits down for the last fight, and all the while, my juvenile lynx was possibly causing absolute havoc with the chanter run because I left it on guard mode until some long suffering soul targeted it, and it occurred to me that “huh, where did my lynx go? errrr, spamming my “follow me” key doesn’t seem to be working so well… hemm…*quietly switches it to passive mode in lieu of any better ideas*”

Somehow, I don’t think I should try to druid in a T4 fractal just yet.

Incredibly, there are even players attempting fractals that are far more worse off than me.

This was the transcript of a level 54 Chaos fractal chat. One player was having some difficulty making the multiple jumps to the first fight.

In a previous run of the fractal, when I was busy fucking up the jump myself, I’d learned that as long as one player makes it there, everyone else can just type “/gg”, kill themselves and respawn at the new checkpoint set. Hoorah, pain avoided.

Player 1 (LFG Leader): ! / gg!

(a couple tens of seconds later, when it was obvious that the struggling blue dot on the minimap wasn’t)

Player 2: just /gg

(more tens of seconds later, the blue dot moving around, getting confusion debuffs, losing health, not quite dying, healing up again)

Player 3 (Me): type ‘/gg’ you will respawn here

(because I totally do not believe in issuing unclear commands without explanations)

(one minute later, with no attempt at communication or typing from the errant 5th blue dot)

Player 4: just die please

(a few more seconds of struggle later… Player 5 quits the team without a word)

Player 1: !!?

Player 4: ok

Player 4: that was nice

Player 4: lol

Player 2: xD

Yeah. I feel for you, unknown player 5. But you are not exactly helping yourself if you don’t communicate, follow well-meaning instructions, or at least ask a clarifying question either.

fractals-rip

Then there was this absolutely mind-screwing encounter where I somehow managed to attract a whole bunch of aggro and conditions, barely clinging to life as the boss dropped in hp, and finally gave up the ghost around 25% of the boss’ health…

…whereupon the other four party members danced around the boss for another thirty seconds or so, with his health bar barely moving, whereupon the last unlucky guardian taking the brunt of the damage that I’d been absorbing finally ran out of his self-heals and dropped dead…

…whereupon the other three party members did a bang up job evading all the mechanics, and slowly hand-rezzed the both of us…

and the dead guardian went: am i onl yperson with any kind of aegis or group heals lol

dead guardian: tf (sic, maybe he meant wtf)

dead guardian: answer yes all necros and a theif

and inside my head, I was like, “well, strictly speaking, I’m running transfusion, so that -is- a group heal” and “but but- there’s another dragonhunter with the same icon as yourself in the party, what the hell?” and “why are you obsessing over aegis and group heals, when we’re trying to break the bar?!”

But anyway, I eventually got hand-rezzed by the thief and the other dragonhunter, the dead guardian got picked up, and we got the rest of the health bar down and the boss died…

…though I still wonder why the other three didn’t just kill the boss, since they were evading all the mechanics perfectly anyway…

…unless they really really needed my dps or cc or something in order to successfully do so…

The more I think about it, the more my brain hurts.

Maybe I -should- install arcdps to get a better read of these various fractal encounters and how much my contribution is, compared to everyone else’s.

Maybe I’m better off not knowing.

But yeah, I really don’t know how to best deal with these fractals. There are randoms. There are people with far more skill than me that think I’m a deadweight. There are people with far less skill than me that I in turn think are deadweights. It is random. It is unpredictable.

I’m really really safe on a necro (which makes for relatively smooth runs), except when I’m not.

My condi PS buffs the whole team and generally provides a lot of offensive power and cc, except when I’m dead.

My condi druid might conceivably make life easier for a PUG fractals team, except I’d actually have to know how to play it well.

*sigh*

I suppose I’ll just have to keep dabbling away at it, dipping a toe in as much as I can stand, until I myself am familiar enough again to jump into a T4 without totally embarrassing myself.

GW2: Fractals of Silence and Skill (Or Lack Thereof)

FoOoooO, quaggan is gift-wrapped!

I’m hoping to mark the end of my fractal journey for the time being by this week or the next.

At the start of September, I was fractal level 25ish with 26 AR (after goodness knows how many years) and not terribly motivated to go any further.

Eh, some gold, some fractal relics, lots of blues and greens, the odd yellow or orange, pretty much everything to be salvaged since most of the stats that turn up in fractals – Magi, Cavalier, Soldier – are odd, to say the least. Plus Ascended rings that take up slot space (I am constitutionally incapable of throwing -anything- away in an MMO) and the rare rare chance that something pretty might drop.

Oh, and the same content ad nauseam, alongside questionable PUGs – since I lack that mythical beast known as a stable, organized group within my timezone who can deal with my schedule (or lack of it.)

For the hell of it, in a similar vein to my self-imposed “collect all the Scientific skins” challenge, I decided to try to get to fractals 50 before the expansion hit, with its vaunted fractals revamp that would both make the leveling curve easier and slope it upward ever higher to 100.

After all, it is both satisfying to be able to say “been there, done that” as well as be among that rare opposite breed of player who can play the so-called ‘most difficult’ content in GW2 and yet not be an eager raid fanatic.

We’re a few days away from the end of September now, and I’m officially at fractal level 45 tonight.

It’s a little bit trickier to rise further in levels via LFG PUG, given the number of highly aggravating mistlock instabilities that make it daunting to open an instance at one’s current level.

Essentially, I’m sitting around waiting on the largesse of someone else who has already reached fractal level 50 to start their group and jump in… assuming they haven’t already hit their quota of PS warriors and are busily demanding eles and guardians, or conversely, in a more haphazardly not-at-all meta compliant group, hoping that the party won’t give up and fragment from one or two players just up and quitting the group one fractal in, because they didn’t like the chaos/inexperience on display or took umbrage at the ranger or necro in the party or something.

In any case, it’s been an eye-opening experience.

If there’s two things I’ve learned from my fractal journey, it’s these:

  1. Other people are not super-skillful gods of competency. There’s no need to be deathly afraid of them, or conversely, looking like a right idiot in front of them.
  2. I am not a super-skillful god of competency. There is always more I can be learning and improving on incrementally, as long as I keep an open mind, stay observant as to what’s still lacking, and am patient with myself.

Where 1) is concerned, I’ve feel like I’ve seen it all at this point.

I’ve seen people fall off the Uncategorized fractal simply from mistimed jumps, not a harpy knockback; fail miserably at running wisps in the Swamp (guilty); get smashed by Jade Maw tentacles or fall over consistently from failing to pick up crystals; completely fail at either kiting Mai Trin or managing the cannon phase without panicking like a headless chicken; mess up on really idealistic plans to output sufficient dps to take down Molten Berserker, Grawl Shaman or Subject Six in one go; splatter all over the Thaumanova fractal trying to manage the heat room or shield room; totally screw up the dredge fractal buttons or kiting the last boss from lack of communication, unsoweiter.

What might rather surprise those who haven’t been there is the capacity of practically all of these groups to pick themselves up (even if they have to peel themselves off the floor multiple times after a total party wipe or log out to repair and return) and -eventually- complete the fractal.

The only kind of fractal group I’ve seen fail is the kind where one person gives up and leaves in silence, followed by one or two more… at which point I’m left staring at one or two more people left in my party and think “fuck it, I don’t want to organize this” and leave wordlessly as well.

That’s generally a failure to communicate, pretty much.

It seems to be the oddly damning sin of most PUGs – silence.

Everybody barely says anything and just kinda hopes that everyone knows what they’re doing. If carnage results, then a slightly better group will start to produce one sentence communication, and a bad group just ups and disappears right there.

On this front, the higher level fractal produces better odds that more people generally know what they’re doing, more or less, though there are a few difficult encounters that can start to reveal flaws in that assumption – most memorably in the Snowblind fractal, where certain groups end up throwing one’s bodies over and over at the elemental source while total party wiping the instant someone accidentally aggros one too many ice elementals while 40-60% of the group either doesn’t know what to do about them or decides they will keep pewpewing the elemental source instead.

Granted, the way that encounter is set up, it becomes almost quite impossible to have a lengthy discussion because you’re either getting chill debuffed, chased by really nasty Svanir, constantly knocked down by the elemental source once you run out of stability, struggling to light the fire before the debuff kills everybody, desperately trying to roll out of one-hit KO ice elemental shards, and so on.

(Yes, there are a few safe zones where one can stand in the fire’s warmth and not aggro anything and swap skills, but really, if your team lacks teamwork and communication to begin with, d’ya really think they can manage that?)

Compare and contrast this with the fractal level 10 I attempted one day, mostly in the hopes of getting a quick daily speedily done, where it became rather obvious that the somewhat cute and somewhat pathetic guardian in our party, who only had 740+ AP, was an inexperienced newbie with no AR worth speaking of.

Not merely because he kept falling off every last Cliffside obstacle – entirely likely that he’d never seen the wind blowing statues or the little exploding knockback thingmajigs before – but also due to his tendency to instantly melt in 4-5 ticks when an agony pulse hit while the other four people remained upright and untouched.

He said nothing about being new, or indeed, anything at all, possibly due to the fear of being kicked for his inexperience or noobness.

It did, however, leave me feeling somewhat uncomfortable and uncertain how best to help.

The group kind of just “selfishly” ran to each stage of the fractal and sat there waiting for the straggler(s) to catch up, though the two who seemed to have the most clue (ie. me and another person, probably the one who started the party) took care/charge of the hammer and we did, more or less, wait for the guy to finally catch up before progressing on to the next stage.

Everything in silence.

Granted, it is hard to know just -how- to help. It’s not like I could portal him past anything, he has to press keys in the proper sequence and timing in order to get past the obstacle, the only thing I could do is either give him swiftness or cure his conditions (not useful in this situation) and/or advise him to take his time getting the timing down and/or suggest swapping in a skill with stability.

As for the AR problem, well, it’s blatantly an artificial stat barrier meant to produce vertical progression grind (one reason why I never bothered much with fractals before this either.)

With something as ‘meta’ as this, it’s really hard to know just what to say or do. It ultimately boils down on each player to have done their research beforehand, figured out just exactly how much AR they need before stepping into the ‘correct’ level fractal, which is, objectively a -weird- expectation that a player would have scrutinized the wiki and/or stepped into the fractal portal to have this all explained to them via NPC beforehand… especially when you think the first way a player is likely to encounter the fractals is via a LFG party, especially when a daily tells them to do a level 1-10 fractal. (Granted, the guy was optimistic jumping straight away into level 10.)

Anyhow, the discomfort was mostly mitigated by the fact that fractals 10 is really quite easy, so we just brute forced our way through most of it and ‘carried’ the slightly more clueless individuals through. Only way they’ll learn in the end, via experiencing it, right?

Which segues me to point 2), in that as the fractal levels rise, the failure of others to ‘carry’ me, or cover for my own lack of mastery, has essentially forced me into getting better.

(Mostly through encountering a really disastrous situation, and post-fractal, asking myself what I could have done to not contribute to that.)

After sneaking by many many fractals without really learning the jumps in the Swamp by either not running the wisp. or helping only with the closest ones and brute-forcing most of them, somewhere in the 30s, I decided it was time to solo roll a Swamp fractal and practice some of the wisp runs under the tutelage of ample referencing of gw2dungeons.net.

I’m happy to report that I can actually take on the spider one now without triggering a million baby spiders (by virtue of *duh* jumping on the rocks without eggs nearby) and can deal with all the near ones with full confidence, having memorized a reliable jump path that will work even if the nearest gates are closed.

(Previously, one just used to run and pray that one got lucky.)

The far ones are still tricky, mostly due to my continual inability to distinguish traps from ground (bulky charr is bulky and clumsy) and tendency to run right into the mossman or fail the jumps, but well, there’s always room for more practice later.

I’ve at least memorized the far northwestern one, whose path seems somewhat easy and clear cut, even if my practical implementation leaves something to be desired in between trying to dodge one-hit-kill skelk, traps and getting tangled in-combat and failing jumps as a result.

The one real take-home from actually attempting some of these runs is that I’ve realized it behooves me – if not actually running – to amble on by to support the person running far with swiftness and condition clears and so on, rather than sit like a lump of lard at the logs and hope for others to magically reach the stumps with the wisps without my help.

Ditto the heat room in the Thaumanova fractal. Most of the time, someone much better practiced at it volunteers to take it on and I see neither sight nor sound of the encounter.

In one particularly memorable fractal group, it turned out that -none- of us knew how to do the heat room very well at all. Since it was an over-40s group, doing it was compulsory.

Rather fortunately, I had previously scanned through that fractal on gw2dungeons.net to learn a few tips for just how it might be possible for my class to manage it (not to mention, what the hell it was all about and how the mechanisms worked) and suggested to the group that we may as well collect and use all the cooling rods first, before attempting it as the final thing.

This was done, and all of us had ample time and opportunity to actually -practice- the room (for once) since the whole group decided to throw themselves at it in the hopes that -somebody- would make it.

After my share of failed theory and implementation, I eventually hit on a personal working combination of stacking swiftness through warhorn and banner, Bull’s Rush (thank you, gw2dungeons.net), Rampage’s number 3 rush, falling over and hitting 4 to regain a bit of health while waiting for vengeance 3, hitting that and powering through the rest of the way, amidst double dodging, spamming 1 and generally cursing Asian latency when it comes to needing to physically spam a button.

While I’m still not going to be the first to volunteer to solo that darned room, I no longer feel completely helpless regarding it. If no one else can do it better, I can at least give it a shot and probably get by.

If anything, I think my fractals journey has suggested that it’s unrealistic to get uptight about ‘the perfect run.’

Is it nice if it happens? Yes. I’ve had super-smooth runs where everyone knows how to use ice bows and strips defiance for near absolutely frozen statues, the dps is phenomenal, and the whole fractals sequence is over in 40 minutes or thereabouts. Countable on one hand though.

I’ve had just as many runs or more where mistakes happen, people screw up somewhere, and no one says anything, just picks people up or peels themselves off the floor, and the team completes regardless.

And I’ve had the odd completely baffling run when there are 3 elementalists and myself in the party and we can only reach about 15 might stacks maximum because not a single elementalist even lays out a fire field for me to blast or use a banner in, let alone appears to know how to stack blasts for might… or conjures an ice bow, and I’m *cough* guiltily not strictly 100% meta compliant either because *cough* have you SEEN the price of those runes of Strength, and was using the then-cheap Pack runes as a not-great substitute… except now they’re not exactly cheap either, leaving me at an impasse where runes are concerned. To leave in or replace? (WHEN OH WHEN CAN WE SWAP RUNES LIKE IN PVP, SHEESH.)

Still completed, despite me being disturbed to the point of re-scrutinizing my runes to figure out what was going on, and having a serious rethink re: whether I really should put in Strength runes some day and/or reviewing my food choices to see if something else can make up for that. The thought of using up food worth 40-100+ silver per PUG run is somewhat cringe-worthy though. (I think, where I’m concerned, there are practical limits beyond the holy grail of theoretical optimisation some folks say we should be seeking.)

I think I’ve learned that the unpredictability of a fractals run can be fairly interesting and enjoyable, if looked upon with an open mindset, and preferably more staggered out to every few days or once a week after this mad rush to 50 ends.

I’ve come to the realization that many many people running fractals are absolutely where I am – still in the process of learning to get better – and so there is very little reason to feel inferior or afraid – what’s the worst that can happen, really? The party disintegrates or you get kicked by some strangers whom you’ll never see again. A bit of time wasted. Group up with the next band of strangers that comes along and have a fresh start. Try not to repeat the same mistakes of the past.

Eventually, progress gets made.

I don’t know, I find it quite hard to wrap my mind around this associated concept of “prestige” and “showing off one’s skill in an arrogant manner” that some people relate to ‘difficult content.’

My interpretation of most skillful performances tends to be that heaps of patience and lots of practice went on behind the scenes, and what we see on display is persistence finally paying off.

If anything, I should think going through the difficult learning and mastery process would make one more humble.

Imo, the loudest braggarts, quick to find fault with others, are often not the most skilled.