GW2: The Nerfs Will Continue Until Morale Improves

The watchword of the day is annoyance.

I suppose this is a change from the past month, where the operating phrase was “cruise control.”

However, I am not sure this is a terribly positive change.

The silver lining, of course, is that I finally got frustrated enough to break through into coherence on this blog again.

Most of last month was me questioning myself, “What are you feeling when you play the games you’re playing? Do you have anything to write or blog about?”

And the reply, as always, was “ehh… nothing very much. I’m not sure I’m feeling anything. Kinda numb. Empty. Just cruising. Kinda contented, I guess. Not happy happy. But not depressed or sad either. I’m just doing what needs to be done.

“A chore is a chore is a chore. It’s not super-tedious, but it’s nothing to get excited over either. You do it, mark it off the to-do list for the day or week, and proceed not to think about it any longer. You certainly don’t find a dire need to wax eloquently on a blog about brushing your teeth, bathing, cleaning the house, picking up groceries, paying the bills, doing GW2 dailies, doing PoE dailies, -every- day and -every- post.

“You know what? This is too much thinking about trying to write about nothing. Let’s go play Path of Exile. Your next build is waiting to be leveled or improved incrementally.”

The result: zero blog posts.

Until now. Where ArenaNet’s somewhat overzealous nerf of the standard chronomancer and necromancer raid meta builds promises ripple effects that will shake up the meta, in as yet unknown ways.

Doom and gloom has a way of spreading across Reddit and the forums though, and the knee-jerk reactions of others are not doing wonders for -my- mood either.

The reason why I’m blogging about it though is mostly a need to work out a bunch of conflicting emotions, and having no other outlet but to lay it all out here.

I have an underlying foundation of stability throughout whatever the hell excuse for “balance” occurs in GW2. The fact is that it is possible to own one of every class, if not more. I am also quite confident in being able to equip each class with whatever the hell is defined as “good” in the next meta, even if it will cost time and money to do so.

So even as one class gets hit with the nerf bat, another class will naturally be in ascendance, and if I have to equip and change to that class, SO BE IT. It is doable.

I know that I can -eventually- adapt to whatever’s needed. My raid group is full of people who can multiclass, so chances are fairly good that eventually the team will sort itself out into a new configuration that can cope – even if we might have to wait for the new strategies to be developed and then faithfully ape in cookie-cutter fashion.

Of course, doable does not mean easy, cheap or enjoyable.

Some classes aesthetically appeal to different personalities more. Some classes are easier to play without having to manage a concerto on the keyboard. Some classes have cheaper builds or less specific role responsibility to tax one’s concentration and reflexes.

I’d previously found a very happy place in raids as a condi PS berzerker-warrior.

I fulfill a support role by buffing might and providing banners. It even gives fury and added condition damage. Adding on burns on a boss ups the dps of the necromancer-reapers, who get a serious amount of burns to epidemic bounce.

I enjoy condition damage, it’s strategically different from straight up direct damage, there’s having to pay attention to layering on stacks and yet being able to pause and dodge and deal with other mechanics for a breath while still pulsing damage.

Also it is FIRE. My readers should know my pyromaniac obsession by now. I have the most luck sticking to classes and builds that let me play with fire, be it City of Heroes, Path of Exile or GW2. Fire particle effects just make me happy.

dropbearonfire

morefire

Not terribly original, perhaps, being a darkity dark lord with shoulder spikes and on fire, but who freaking cares when you can watch the world burn?

coh_worldburn

Warriors are straightforward. They hit things with their head. A perfect match personality-wise. They’re fairly survivable and sturdy – which is good because I tend to be clumsy and insta-die on squishier classes.

They contribute a decent amount of control. Condi PS especially excels with immobilizes, and I have felt successful in my niche but not terribly demanding role holding Gorseval spirits and escort wargs.

And I am now sulking and in a spot of mourning because it looks like the ripple effect is going to catch condi PS warriors in its wake.

The “common knowledge” being bandied about is that condi PS can no longer keep up 25 might stacks without a mesmer’s signet of inspiration to help it along.

This is true. If you’re in the standard condi PS build.

I spent a fairly fruitful if moderately frustrated night of testing with the dps golem ways and means to keep up 25 might stacks on a condi PS.

After a bunch of experiments, I determined that it was possible to stretch boon duration in various ways (with the understandable tradeoff of a slight drop in personal dps.)

Instead of rare veggie pizza, for example, one could eat dumplings and gain 20% boon duration at the cost of 20% condition duration. This, of course, is not terribly desirable.

So I invested a bunch of gold, leveled a scribe to 225 (hoorah for hoarding materials), and made a superior sigil of concentration. Dump that on the bow, dump a sigil of battle (cheap option, I was ready to go two sigil of concentrations if needed) on the torch, and voila, extended boon duration and a few more might stacks at the cost of some bleed dps from two sigils of earth.

Actual raid testing proved it was possible to maintain 25 might stacks with blasting might on the bow, For Great Justice and a bunch of extended might duration from sigil of strength crits.

Unfortunately, even as that bit of personal testing proved a success, our raid group was discovering the other ramifications of the nerf.

No one brought a rev, so our break bars – which were previously heavily dependent on rev breaking – ended up getting broken more slowly.

No one brought a necro, except in a few odd tests after repeated failures with a new comp, so the group struggled with mechanics that previously the necros with their many minions were taking care of. So… cage on trio caught a bunch of damage from adds that were previously tied up with minions and downed by epidemic. Conditions were flying left, right and center on Matthias and to a lesser extent, on sloth, without plague signet. Unmanaged adds on Xera were lethal distractions.

Without minions to heal, the druids had less astral force to go into celestial avatar and less healing ability, which was not really able to keep up with a spoiled bunch of clumsy souls used to getting topped off despite mistakes. Said clumsy souls were also mostly adapting to new builds or rotations and distracted, hence the mistakes.

It’s unknown what strategy our raid group is going to settle on. We were previously very necro heavy and banking heavily on conditions and epidemic bounce. I don’t know if the viper horror minion nerf means they are now off the table for good – the only hope for them is if their epidemic bounces are still strong enough to deal sufficient dps – but it’s not looking terribly promising.

This puts my condi PS warrior in a really bad spot as well, despite managing 25 might stacks, because to me, I exist to help boost necromancer epidemics with plenty of burns. The fact that a ranged build is easier to play in a number of these raid encounters was a bonus.

If there are no more necromancers, there is much less reason for me to be playing condi PS in a raid.

I am better off going normal power PS, in melee, where I can pretty much close my eyes and shit out 25 might stacks without working as hard for it.

Bonus, a power PS has more break bar management than condi PS, which would compensate for the loss of a revenant. They support direct power based builds better, because they never have to decide whether to trade off burning arrows for empower allies, and it looks like the new golden children are going to be elementalists (what’s new?), guardians and thieves, all of whom are direct damage builds.

*sigh*

redvsblue

Again, there’s an odd sense of conflict. I -shouldn’t- feel too terribly upset.

I already have a staff elementalist decked out in ascended (which I still barely know how to play, but have managed successful kills in some off-class runs.)

I have a decked out thief, which I’ve taken to Gorseval before, and can play (but somehow don’t terribly enjoy. Either I don’t have a thief mindset, or I can’t gel with how that particular thief character looks.)

I have lived and breathed guardian life for four years. I can play a guardian in my sleep. My main is a guardian, albeit I was waiting for legendary armor before upgrading his still exotic armor. I also have a second guardian alt that I can easily resurrect – especially since I decked out a revenant which never saw much play (thank goodness, I wasn’t terribly comfy with it) – so I can easily just transfer a whole bunch of ascended heavy armor weight stuff over, if need be.

I have an 80 ranger-druid (that I was going to practice on via world completion, eventually) and a boosted 80 mesmer and engineer (that I was eventually going to take beginner steps to learn, so that I can at least appreciate what the other classes bring to the table), and enough leather and magnetite shards and random ascended drops hoarded that it’s not going to be impossible to equip whatever is needful.

A change in the meta is theoretically a good excuse to learn how to play a new build, and be exposed to more variety in gameplay.

So why is it that I just generally feel annoyed? Like something that was tolerable just got even more tedious?

Well, for one thing, changing over builds means I have to look at my completely unmanaged inventories and try to get them in some semblance of order once again. I have to think and make uncomfortable decisions over which currency to use to buy X ascended item, or grapple with crafting and the mystic forge to make said item or switch stats.

For another, the change in meta means that raid team roles are now in flux once more, and my particular raid group hasn’t even settled on a workable raid composition, let alone who will be in which role most of the time. This leads to discomfort, rather than the numbing comfortable familiarity of knowing that such-and-such player will be here and doing this, and that player will be there doing that.

And while discomfort is all very well when you want to incite players to step up to the challenge and adapt, every time I hit a frustration or discomfort or pain point these days, I start asking myself, “it’s been four years, maybe it’s enough, maybe I’m done with discomfort?”

At the level that I’m playing Path of Exile, there is no discomfort whatsoever –

plagueoffrogs
– only a plague of frogs.

(No doubt at the higher levels, there is great unhappiness every time a patch comes and throws something out of whack. But I have to point out that in PoE, there’s usually something else that can be the new OP thing that patch.)

This leads to a path of least resistance where I find myself double-clicking the PoE icon on the desktop a lot more often than the GW2 icon.

I’m not quitting GW2, of course. I think I’m still too attached to it for now, even if the -developers- seem to be checking out more than moi. (Hi, Amazon Game Studios!)

Both me and my raid group are likely to settle for the path of least resistance too, which is to just wait until the theorycrafters with the interest and too much time on their hands publish their “findings” (regardless of how true the facts are objectively, what is copied and repeated becomes history.)

Or it’ll hit a drama patch and break up. (Always have to prep for that possibility as well. Human nature is human nature.)

Whatever.

Even Legendary Armor can’t get me excited these days.

(I will leave it to a new generation to bitch about exclusivity and lack of alternatives. Bitching implies caring or giving a fuck, something I no longer have the energy for.)

Yeah, it looks pretty acceptably great. The heavy version, anyway, which is all I care about. I can only hope that it doesn’t look fugly as sin on a charr or asura, which are the two main body types on my character stable.

The new raid will probably arrive some time in November, after Halloween. Perhaps there will be more collection steps to work on then. With enough patience, I presume my raid group will eventually get there. Or it will be sad pug life like many others already suffering now to steadily unlock the collection. Or if it proves too painful, then the other alternative is giving up. Then I’ll move on, to some other game.

I can neither get excited or feel stressed about it either way. What happens, happens.

All I am, is a little bit sad about my condi PS, and a little bit annoyed that I have to suffer through more ‘work’ and unenjoyable bits, in order to arrive at a self-chosen goal.

(Not complaining, it’s self-inflicted, delayed gratification is a thing… but just…annoyed.)

In the meantime, in order to get over my annoyance and forget everything but the cheerful meditative smoothness of things falling over and dying without a struggle, I’ll be over in Wraecrast, procrastinating on GW2 stuff I probably oughta do but can’t be arsed to yet.

uniquestrongbox
Likely more exciting loot than I’ll ever see in GW2.
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Blaugust Day 5: A Day in the Life of

Today is idea drought day.

It’s 11.32 pm and I’m cutting it super close.

It’s like I’m hoping the sheer time pressure of having to hit the post button before 11.59pm will shake something loose.

Well, it’s not.

In fact, I’m a little grumpy about it because I’m paused in the middle of a Dota 2 International match replay, having to put entertainment on hold to write this post.

The International, by the way, seems to be full of a number of surprises and upsets this year. I haven’t watched every game, but it seems like famous favorites like Na’Vi or Newbee (with good track records behind them) have been eliminated from the tournament early.

Tonight, I was busy watching Team Secret vs EHome – Team Secret being a strong favorite since they were apparently a sort of dream team put together by long time players previously from strong teams like Na’Vi and so on, and EHome being a strong Chinese team as well.

Since I don’t know enough Dota 2 to appreciate deep nuances or skilled technique, I tend to gravitate towards matches that last a long time. Why? Because I like to see the swings and the struggle that you almost never see in a PUG game.

In a PUG, the moment one team gets an upper hand, the whole thing starts to snowball. The losing players start blaming each other (never themselves, of course), morale evaporates faster than water in a desert, and basically one side crumbles because they don’t see any hope of a comeback.

But Dota 2 is a little more elegant than that and it -is- possible, if not terribly likely, that a good draft pick, good movement/positioning, the other team’s overconfidence or small mistake or -something- will trip them up and cause a swing in the other direction. The only time I really get to see it is when pro players duke it out in clutch matches.

The matches mentioned above were definitely some of those. I really enjoy seeing a team stay calm and claw their way back from what looks like utter disaster.

As for why I’m out of blog post ideas, here’s what I’ve done for the rest of the gaming day (night):

  • Finished the daily in GW2 by visiting one vista, chopping some wood, and beating on the Svanir Shaman. I could have played a PvP match to complete the daily too, but I just couldn’t muster the energy or interest.
  • Finished the daily in Trove by running around fairly easy Uber-2 lairs and dungeons, and essentially autoattacking, while Dota 2 matches were playing in the other screen.
  • Tried to level Gardening in Trove, and got about 100 skill points in, before realising that further progress would require ingredients from earlier tiers to grow and be harvested – taking anywhere from 1 – 4 hours to be fully mature and ready to go.

Yeah. Nothing exciting. No pretty screenshots. Nuthing.

Oh here, I found an old screenshot of quaggans in the new Lion’s Arch fountain / quaggan pool. Guess that will have to tide you over till tomorrow.

quaggans

This post was brought to you by the letter B for Belghast and Blaugust, the letter D for Drought, Dry and Desperate, and (only) the number 5. (Darn.)

GW2: Today I Smiled (And Yesterday Too)

Quick, hide behind that tent!

Yesterday, I had one of the best social experiences in Guild Wars 2 that will be etched in my memory’s hall of fame.

On a social level, it matched the first time I ever encountered the Font of Rhand mini-dungeon while leveling with the first wave of GW2 fans.

That was the time when six of us met, seemingly by chance, and in truth due to cunning dynamic event design, and explored it together, steadily solving all the puzzles until we reached the final boss.

Where upon we endured wave after wave of death by roasting, one last survivor swimming out to the outer chamber to break aggro and stealthily swim back to manually rez the others, trying to free Rhendak the Crazed from his glitchy insistence on swimming into the ceiling, blowing up repeatedly from his steam/fire bubbles which no one had a clue then how to read and dodge/advoid, and FINALLY, wearing down his hp and defeating him.

To be surrounded by a sea of chests, one for each person that was present, collecting with glee all the blues and greens until our bags were overloaded and amazed by the bountiful haul.

(Oh, how times have changed now.)

There was mass love and bromance by everyone present, excitedly friending each other. They were the first people I put on my friends list in GW2.

(I still see one or two of them around to this day. One is ironically in the same SEA guild that I joined. The other is a massive achievement hound, too hardcore for me to feel comfortable socializing with – but is also in a TTS guild – who mostly serves as my distant barometer of how high the bar is now for maximum possible AP.)

It matched the most memorable and social WvW experiences I would ever have, coming in to Tarnished Coast as a wide-eyed newbie, getting educated in all manner of tactics during the age of celebrity commanders and siege masters.

Fer instance, there were the multiple times people would lemming off a cliff following Commander Jadon and laugh uproariously at the aftermath. The intensively detailed siege placement and mortar usage trainings of Theongreyjoy, the ‘balls deep’ charges and ‘playing zombies’ zerg vs zerg learn-by-doing trainings of EP’s  Odinzu and CERN’s Nightlight. The defiantly masterful map-hopping and outmanned last stands utilizing chokepoints during offpeak hours of the then PiNK’s Deyja.

Deyja, especially, provided some of the best times I would ever have. As far as I know, he’s gone now, having seemingly gotten burned out PUGmandering and first spending a lot of time enjoying more individual style PvP on the WvW maps, then joining KH and maybe moving with them to another server or having quit the game entirely. Completely understandable and natural attrition over time.

The guy deserves a tribute for the good times regardless.

Notoriously foul-mouthed and with a drill sergeant style of commanding that no doubt got him at odds with certain more thin-skinned people, he had a great sense of wry humor and a good heart that was audible in his tone, despite the expletives peppering every other word.

He had also an UNCANNY knack of reading the enemy, making fantastic tactical calls, and was a natural leader, knowing how to keep morale going in the darkest of hours when 10-20 lone stalwarts faced the teeming hordes of other servers outmanned.

We would hide in corners that most zergs would naturally fail to check with their eyes focused ahead on the prize, and plow them over from behind before they even knew what hit them. When all else was lost, instead of crawling away with our tails between our legs, Deyja would lead his ragtag group and set up defiant camp in the lord room of hills keep, spamming AoE and siege with such fury in the chokepoint that whole 80 man zergs would bog down for 1-2 crucial hours, stuck outside, trying and escalating one siege tactic after another to break the encampment.

And there was the crowning classic moment which etched into my heart how to never give up if you don’t want to.

Our zerg, such as it was, had dwindled down to a mere five people.

This was in the days when during late Aussie/SEA hours, you were lucky if there were ten people on all the maps. Deyja switched tactics without hesitation and took us skirmishing. We’d swipe a supply camp, try a ninja here and there, and when the opposing zerg came upon us with righteous fury, we ran.

But did we run like chickens?

Hell, no. His voice kept us together. Paraphrasing, it was something like “Ahhhhhh, fuck, FUCK, run, run, you bastards, run! Follow me, keep up! You get caught, yer screwed. Run like the wind!” But said with a grin in his voice that you had to be there to hear.

We ran like fucking SAMURAI.

We strung the enemy out.

“Wait for it… wait for it…” he said, as we dashed into the outskirts of the hylek camp. Just as we cleared the second exit, “NOW,” he said, “TURN AROUND.”

And the three of us that remained ganked the three fastest pursuers that had thought they were going to get easy outmanned kills.

Not at all being a professional PvPer by ANY stretch of the imagination, and being scared to death that I would let the other two down, it was one of the most adrenaline charged experiences (and victories) of my GW2 life.

Of course, we booked it out of there before the rest of the zerg caught up. And broke up shortly after as there was nothing more he could do for us. But I learned a hell of a lot that fateful day about keeping morale up and ending on a high note.

Yesterday’s social experience was also all about morale.

And a great leader.

Ironically, it was during one of the times I dread most. Playing the WAITING game.

Y’see, it starts with dance offs.

There are three teams that deal with each of the jungle wurms. Crimson, Cobalt and Amber.

In certain TTS runs, a crazy asura named Merforga (he of the Tequatl pre-flight briefing fame) leads the Crimson team.

Every time Amber and Crimson meet up to take down the first wurm, there is a small waiting period while the poor Cobalt team walks their long scenic beachfront route with an NPC who loves to sidetrek off crabs, risen and anything red within his sights.

During this time, Crimson and Amber face off with each other and DANCE. In a zerg, then in lines, and then with synchronized /dance * and even /rank offs.

Things soon evolved during the one and a half hour long wait in between jungle wurm spawns, when one team commander (I have no idea who first came up with the idea) decided to take his zerg on a showy synchronized movement display in circles around the other two stationary teams.

You know, the sort of thing all WvW zerg commanders do – “stay on my tag and follow.” Easily performed by anyone not AFK.

So, very soon, each team was taking it in turns to orbit each of the other two stationary teams, everyone cackling madly.

In all good nuclear escalation scenarios, princess doll tonics are involved.

Crimson popped a trading post and members gleefully spent 16 silver on a belated Wintersday celebration. I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

Circular orbits with jumping princess dolls!

(If you’ve never heard them screaming, you can check out a sample in this video here. Now imagine about 20 of those running around in circles.)

The flock heads back after a job well done. (I clean forgot to screenshot during. Too busy laughing.)
The flock heads back after a job well done. (I clean forgot to screenshot during. Too busy laughing and circling and screaming like a demented little girl.)

Then yesterday, Merforga decided to bring a music bot into the Crimson team’s teamspeak channel. Where a gleeful half hour was spent in intra-team trolling of fairly ridiculous songs pilfered off Youtube. (Yes, there were rickrolls.)

And then there was Hodor.

Before you know it, a brilliant plan was hatched to rename the music bot Hodor and send it into the other team’s channels, merrily singing Hodor!

While they suffered a stampede of dolyaks.

Screen cap off Merforga's Twitch stream - You can watch the whole gleeful setup at http://www.twitch.tv/merforga1/b/497725115
Screen cap off Merforga’s Twitch stream – You can watch the whole gleeful setup at http://www.twitch.tv/merforga1/b/497725115 – the sound is a little screwed up by “User Joined/Left Your Channel”, folks who turned off that audio messaging got the full effect.

(And a naked tiger charr whose only excuse was that yours truly couldn’t open the trading post. It was down for my client. Much sadness. Still, on fours and hairy…)

I haven’t laughed as hard for a very very long time. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

It’s gotten me thinking very hard about the pros and cons of wait time, and creating experiences meant for very organized groups as opposed to the general majority. I’ll try to cover that in my next post – The Needs of the Many, The Needs of the Few (coming soonTM). (Update: Post is now here.)

GW2: Completely Wrong Ways To Have Fun in WvW

Or allowing “baddies” their day in the sun.

I used to play the heck out of Team Fortress Classic. As a pubbie, cos I got none of that competitive dedication. My favorite class? The engineer.

Yeah, the one that let you cover up your lack of good aim (or lack of an aimbot) with an in-game auto-aiming sentry gun.

The one that let you emplace a sentry gun, yourself with a shotty, and your ammo dispenser (read: bomb. Who uses it for ammo, really…) in three different places at once to make life difficult for the medic who loved nothing better to poke his head in gingerly, back out, then rush in, grenade your sentry, concussion bomb jump (catching me in the blast in the process) and zip past up the ramp.

I imagine he must have been laughing uproariously as he sped full tilt into the little small room, suddenly banged right into a dispenser blocking the doorway, and then BOOOOOM.

*snicker* That never got old, though some guys did catch on in the end and successfully got the flag. I counted it as a moral victory if the guy had to bring a second friend though.

The point of the engineer was to outthink the other guy strategically, and come up with the best sentry gun and dispenser emplacements (and yourself – can’t count the number of times someone stopped to nade or gun down my sentry and got shotgunned plinked to death from behind, who needs aim when you got a point-blank shotgun) to really perplex your opponent and prevent them getting your team’s flag.

Sometimes you couldn’t win. They’d get your flag over your dead body. (Figuratively and literally.) But god, were they delayed. Your team could grab 1.5-2 flags in the time they got one.

And then there were the nades. The oh so fun EMP grenades. I could never play TF2 for long, even before the cash shop craziness, I missed the nades too damn much.

I was that fucking punch-drunk crazy kamikaze engineer who would run full tilt into the enemy team with an EMP nade primed and go BANZZZAAI and boom, take out 5 of them with 1 of me. Giggling hysterically. I doubt it did much for my K:D ratio. Nor was it meaningful to overall team score unless well-timed (like clearing out a bunch of defenders at a chokepoint for one’s team to rush in.) And I’m sure some would rage about no-skill kills. But it was still funny and fun to do from time to time.

Why have such things in a game?

Because it lowers the entry barrier into a game and brings more people into the game by catering for different playstyles. Because as people dip their toes in, and find something they are comfortable with, they keep playing, and one day, maybe they’ll decide they want to learn more and master something else.

Hunted maps were a bit of a pain for me at first, because, oh god, no engineer *sob*. As a sniper, I would suck. As the civilian, I would probably be brain dead and not have great timing with whatever nade jump I would be expected to do. Default option left: Soldier. Four goddamn rockets. Wtf was I supposed to do with them?

I was just one of those random useless soldiers who ran around shooting rockets into walls and windows for a while. But hey, I liked the other maps in the rotation as an engineer so I stuck with it. I read Hunted guides. I read soldier guides. I watched soldiers who seemed to know what the heck they were doing. I practiced rocket-jumping up the vent like those guys were doing.

It took me a while, but eventually I had it down to a decent enough science that I could join one of those three guys getting the civilian up the vent, shoot a useful preventative rocket into the windows snipers liked to use even as the civilian hopped onto a nade and did a graceful arcing jump across the courtyard and zipped into the exit point. Game, set, match. The snipers barely ever won.

I even downloaded maps to try out conc-jumping because I kept seeing some really good medics perform some amazing feats right in front of my eyes in the flag room. Fucking double conc jumps up into the flag room up high, bypassing all my defences except the dispenser (with which I got them with only once before they learned to take it down) and zoom, out again, before I could ever catch them.

Repeated practice and playing as an engineer eventually got me routinely up to the second highest scorer on the scoreboard, second only to the one offensive pro who was normally doing the job of capping the other team’s flag while I did my job making life hell for people poking their nose into MY goddamn flag room.

But I would never even have started down the path if the game wasn’t interesting or easy enough to give someone with initially no skill some ways to have “wins.”

So what does this longwinded story have to do with WvW?

One of the biggest factors affecting the number of people playing has to do with morale (besides the obvious ‘timezones’ factor.)

This is so important that commanders are advised to pay a good deal of attention to it. Shaky morale means people drifting off, falling behind, running away or logging out of WvW.

But why only wait for those few commanders who know how to manipulate and boost your morale?

I didn’t like the uncertain feeling I was getting when getting shaky on morale, and after some thinking, I narrowed down precisely where I personally was having issues. Losing control. Feeling like the situation is beyond your ability to affect. That other people are doing to you, and not you doing unto them.

Fleeing and logging off at this stage has never made me feel any better.

But you don’t have to fall prey to it, because there are always ways to to affect something or do something in WvW and regain a sense of control that way.

Disengaging from a fight you can’t win and going elsewhere to do something is always a valid option. It’s only running away if you never come back.

Do I have to list examples? You see it everywhere. Stop beating your head on the 3 min righteous indignation buffed supervisor if you can’t get dark fields and life stealing going (and even that’s going away next patch, I hear.) Zergs smoothly do a tactical retreat, rebuff and surge right in from another direction. Stealth classes losing battles go poof all the time and get the hell out of dodge.

Yea, though I live in the valley of the shadow of suck, I shall fear no death.

Especially for an objective.

Random funny mini-stories:

I went yak-slapping a couple days ago with my then level 79 to get the last few smidgens of xp. At that level, I’m sure the upscaled 71-74 rares were very sucky. I ran into some Kaineng mesmer at a sentry I had converted to help in my yak-nomming, and it turned into the most hilarious “fight” I have ever had in game. I couldn’t kill him, my damage sucked. I just focused on trying to stay alive with my new and unfamiliar skillset and build, just about narrowly making it, though to this hour, I still don’t know precisely how. It got to the point where I had the sentry help by stunning him and the hammer was still hitting like a wet sock. Then he figured out to kill the sentry first. Oh shit. Back to dodging and staying alive within that tiny circle. I somehow held on so long that the sentry actually respawned. Rinse and repeat.

I was wondering how the hell to get out of the situation, though I noticed in the minimap that [PiNK] was busy taking the nearby hills keep some time ago. Oh right! I am HOLDING OFF a lone Kaineng reinforcement (though I’m sure he wasn’t stupid enough to run into the zerg there anyway) from reaching the keep. The instant the keep flipped, I jumped out of the circle and ran full swiftness tilt downhill hoping to get within vicinity of friends before getting offed. He kindly didn’t chase and waved, remaining behind to take the sentry.

Got in a zerg. Zerg got very badly ran over by [RET] and the commander decided to fling the remnants off a cliff instead. Oh hey, lucky break, this place a bunch of us leapt off is still shallow enough to not die.

A couple of very dedicated-to-fighting-and-killing [RET] jumped down to finish us off and got gibbed by combined fall damage helping our ineffectual builds.

We milled around wondering how to get down past the next very steep fall while some ranged guys kept us in combat and unable to waypoint. Last order from the commander was jump the hell off the cliff, kill yourself, come back to spawn and regroup. Oh well. Geronimo!

I hit the ground with 300hp left and blinked. LOL. Still alive. I forgot to screenshot it, but I spent a couple seconds doing a celebratory Asura hop at the two [RET] guys looking down at the survivors before waypointing.

Then there was the time Mendon’s was getting ninja’ed by 5 Kaineng and a ram and I was first on scene to report numbers. Two guys caught sight of me and decided to go after me. I took off in the opposite direction with my lil legs pumping. They must have learned the value of “DON’T CHASE” that day because as they gibbed me near Speldan’s, I was watching 4 green dots on the minimap converge on their three remaining guys and a ram at the front door of Mendon’s. I respawned and got back in time to watch the remaining two get swarmed down by the now 7+ TC’ers and got my hit in. Mendon saved. Mwahaha.

Oh, and the things I do for yak noms.

deadyak
That yak had extra delicious cookies, I swear. Keep guards? I laugh in the face of keep guards, lying here under this dead yak…

This was when I was still downleveled and hitting like a wet sock. Who cares? I wanted the objective and I got it. Delicious xp to level 80. My hammer’s much better now, thank you.

Even in the worse case scenario of it being guarded and you know you’re going to die if you engage and there’s no one else around to help, there’s always roleplaying a zombie and pulling the yak down with your cold undead hands before you get stomped. And coming back. Zombies never stop coming, even if they fall apart with a sneeze. (And then randomly disengage and hit another yak after they’ve gotten used to your pattern. Very few people have the patience to walk a yak for long periods of time, most will wander off after some time.)

It’s good practice for the time when you need to rush a siege knowing you probably will die but just going all out to fuck it up before falling over.

Repairs cost next to nothing these days. The shittiest dungeon run or repeated WvW deaths will barely take off 11 silver. One sold rare on the TP makes it back with extras, even without a quick dungeon run. Death ain’t nothing to be afraid of.

Oh, and teachable moment. Met someone who asked if I wanted to come along and take a supply camp. I can’t solo a supply camp, they said. Huh? I wasn’t sure if they were pulling my leg. Hey, look, you can so solo a supply camp, I told them as I jogged along with them to the nearest camp. Let me show you.

They were disbelieving. All of them come at me and I’m berserker, they said. You’re a goddamn guardian, I think to myself. Don’t give my favorite class a bad name. A squishy thief could solo a supply camp with patience. But out loud, I say, No, no, you just have to back away far enough. And pick off the scouts first. Let me show you how to pull.

And I did.

They still rushed in while we only separated a scout and a guard (and the supervisor was starting to come towards us) so I don’t know if the lesson on pulling and backing away far enough FULLY sank in. But the principle was demonstrated, and they seemed confident they got it, so what the hey.

One more ever-so-slightly-educated person now capable of soloing a supply camp and feeling like they have the capacity to affect something on the map.

Control. Morale. Strategic thinking. Interesting new moments that make good blog stories and good memories.

Fun.

That’s what’s it’s about in WvW. For me anyhow. And the killers should be happy, because with those mini-wins, I keep coming back for them to slaughter. Take those away and I’ll take my ball and my body home with me. Enjoy post-Trammel UO.

GW2: Morale and The Psychology of Losing

This Sunday, the strongest stand out memories are the two hour breaks of -not- playing Guild Wars 2, in order to get away from the hidden dangers of WvW to a newbie dipping one’s toes into a competitive format. 🙂

You see, I started getting an inkling something was wrong when I developed a headache. An honest to goodness -real- headache from playing a computer game.

The last 12 hours or so have been pretty bad. No doubt, some of this is due to sleep deprivation as I’ve been up at weird hours looking in on this week’s match, catching both NA and Oceanics in action. (I do crazy shit like this from time to time.)

I had an incredible morale high this morning (NA night time) as combined arms and lots of siege broke open a keep, along with an incredible continuous reinforcement rush (died three times easily) to hold one successfully even as a horde was knocking on the keep lord.

Then plunged to an abyssal low during the afternoon and night (NA wee morning hours and Sunday morning) as it grew obvious that the bulk of whoever was on during this time was not organized, failed to grasp strategy or spend siege to take or defend places, and worse of all, did not pay attention to the team/map chat.

A trebuchet knocked down a tower’s wall. Around 30-40 were outside zerging the place. 10-15 defenders. Guesses on how many people looked up from AoEing what was in front of them, read the chat, went left and into the tower. You are correct if you surmised less than the number of fingers on one hand. After dying horribly inside, I looked about at the 4-5 corpses inside and sighed.

A keep was lost when no one communicated clearly until it was nigh unto too late to do anything, and the frantic panicked screaming of “THEIR INSIDE KEEP” “INNER GATE” failed to move the said zerg that were still obsessed with failing to take above tower.

Yet another keep was lost as a significant bulk of people failed to read the chat and come to the rescue of those fighting off invaders at the keep lord, preferring instead to continue zerg duking it out on the bridge on the courtyard between outer and inner keep walls, failing to realize that they would be wiped out the moment the keep changed hands, with the walls locking in place around them and the happy victors emerging to scour the grounds.

Stuff like that does terrible things to one’s morale.

I’m only human, alas.

And yes, it gets frustrating and aggravating when things happen beyond your control, and despite your best efforts, the situation still seems helplessly uncontrollable and doomed to fail.

After quickly withdrawing to variously take a nap, go for a swim, have some tea, plan the next blog post (and reading up on the functions of morale in combat, the psychology of losing and how sportsmen and competitive gamers handle defeat well, badly or otherwise) and hovering between attempting to calm down and gritting one’s teeth from the pain of the headache, it was rather obvious that the tension and stress and pent up frustration were getting to me.

I especially have a personal problem with this since if you recall, I straddle two divides:

1) The primarily PvE player dipping toes into PvP and/or competitive formats

PvE players are used to having easy fun. That is, we want to win 85-100% of the time, as long as we play passably well.

Logically, this does not and cannot happen in PvP. There is always a winner and a loser to a match.

In a balanced game, that means even the best will be winning 50% of the time at most, as they eventually get matched against people just as good.

The slightest misbalance due to the other guy’s skill and strategy, your personal lack of it or emotional composure or circumstances otherwise beyond your control, and guess what, you’ll be losing a majority of the time, rather than just 50%.

Hell, in WvW format, there are always two losers to one winner, if you want to look at it in that light. So as some guy in a forums mentioned, 2/3 of the people are “losing” at any point in time.

2) Having a tendency to be obsessively hardcore and fixate upon success / winning / a goal

Normal (casual playing) people don’t frequent game forums twice a day or more, don’t write blogs dissecting games, and spend their time alternatively brooding on the moment-to-moment point scoring in a week-long match and reading up obsessively on potential strategies and ways to improve one’s play.

Nor do they sit around looking and reading up all manner of articles on a particular topic of interest wondering how other people deal with the problem they are having.

It’s just a small subset of the population that is blessed/plagued with such a personality, and I happen to be one of those individuals.

Been there, done that, don’t like how it made me.

I don’t want to be constantly tense and angry, I don’t want to blow up on people or insult or abuse them, I don’t want all my self-worth to be predicated on being number 1 and being so scared and ego-driven to maintain it.

Worse, taken to an extreme, we get folks who even go past the controversial edge of Sirlin’s Play to Win philosophy and start cheating, hacking and exploiting for the sake of a) a number on a scoreboard or b) to make other people angry (their new ‘win’ condition.)

That’s a definitive line for me. Much to my misfortune, I have too much bloody integrity to ever consider doing shit like that.

Besides, I already get in enough trouble emotionally and physically (I’m getting too old for sleep deprivation and alarm-clock gaming, dammit) before I go past that line.

When looked at objectively in this fashion, it becomes clear that if we want to continue playing around with PvP and competitive formats, we need to get used to “losing” and get out of the mindset of playing to win being all important.

This is not a new concept. It’s as old as competition and sports.

Just idly flipping through stuff people have written, I’ve found such disparate things as a discussion thread about losing Starcraft 2 matches and how different players deal with the blow to one’s morale, an advice article on a wiki about Starcraft 2 anxiety playing ladder games that run the risk of doing horrible things to one’s ranking with a loss (or so I gather, I don’t own SC2 yet,) a Warhammer article about the impact of losing on player morale and how it impacts one’s judgement and decision-making while tabletop gaming, and even a general sports article on emotional mastery and how various athletes may react in a competition.

I’m especially amused by the last one, because it gives one of those cheesy classifications that group people into different styles. He differentiates between the seether, the rager, the brooder and the Zen Master.

Watch any sports competition and there’s a pretty hefty grain of truth in the simplistic classification. Everyone can tell the explosive ragers, who wear their frustration on their sleeves, have little self-control and will no doubt be voted ‘most likely to break their wrists punching a wall.’ The seethers also steadily become obvious if the match doesn’t go their way, and you can see them gradually lose it and their play deteriorating.

I identify most strongly with a brooder, alas. My impulse is to think bad thoughts, look upon a situation helplessly and then become avoidant and sneak off without a word or quit silently, because it’s just as pointless to scream and yell at idiots or the just plain ignorant.

The Zen Master, naturally, is the ideal goal to strive toward. Being unaffected by emotions, being focused and playing consistently, win or lose.

I’m thinking I need to make something like that my new goal, rather than obsess about winning or the scoreboard. I believe competition has some very important life lessons to teach – about teamwork, about handling loss, about self-improvement, maturity and so on.

And Guild Wars 2 is a nice format to do it in, because of the whole server togetherness thing. By design, it doesn’t make you feel alone (as one would be if playing a 1 vs 1 competition match) or in a completely hostile world with anyone ready to backstab you at any time (see other open world PvP formats.)

It straddles the line of organized groups being decisively more effective, which is a little personally disappointing to me as I’m reluctant to invest that sort of commitment, but I’ll respect that others really enjoy that playstyle, and it’s beautiful to watch in action.

And I really like that the design encourages organized guilds to pay attention to the lonely souls like me – any warm body can be a help at times.

And while we sometimes cannot expect much of a pug zerg and want to chew nails in frustration trying to herd cats and teach people who don’t even seem to read chat or understand English, let alone talk back and communicate, successfully respecting and teaching/training the average pug to become an effective militia seems to have been one of the factors why Henge of Denravi is in the top position it is.

It’s just going to take time, a lot of patience and kindness and teaching towards both the self and others.

From a calmer, objective perspective though, I find it both alternatively great and fascinating that WvWvW is capable of replicating such ‘combat’ situations in miniature.

I’ve always found that MMOs are a great way to learn about real life in microcosm. In 4-5 years of playing an MMO, you can learn a lot of life lessons that would normally take folks 40 years to work through in real time.

Any student of war and history knows the importance of morale to overall success in an engagement. In this monograph by a Major Cox from the School of Advanced Military Studies, he states:

Morale and unit cohesion are a reality of warfare. They are as much a factor of war as wounds and death. The commander that fails to recognize the importance of these factors is the commander who will fail in combat.

These two components of war are segments of the undeniably human influence in warfare. This human influence is the element of warfare that is unpredictable and as Michael Howard states, contributes to the ‘fog of war.’

Anyone who has been within various kinds of WvW zergs can no doubt recognize the truth within those words. Some groups are full of confidence and plow right on through any opposition. (See any successful orb running zerg for a good example, folks tend to throw themselves at the enemy in order to protect the orb runner, and conversely, people hellbent on destroying the orb runner may also fling themselves into certain death without worrying about the cost.)  Some are hesitant and full of individuals bent on self-preservation, rather than the achievement of a goal, and quickly break apart in all directions, fleeing with shattered morale in the face of more confident seeming opposition.

The real question, of course, is how to make the latter group more like the former.

A lot seems to hinge on good leadership. Sun Tzu’s Art of War is always a fun read, as he talks about the importance of always having a strategic plan of attack and all warfare being based on a deception. It’s painfully obvious that Isle of Janthir is still lacking such a focus at times as the point score gets run away with, now and then, but well, since I’m not prepared to sacrifice my time or life to be commander-ing anything, I will shut up armchair general-ing and just wait patiently for such leaders to emerge.

(We have some, we’re not completely bereft, but apparently the more definitely hardcore servers are arranging crazy shit like scheduling commanders at all hours of a day. That may be a bit too crazy for IoJ to ever contemplate, in which case, we will have to settle with being where we are and come to accept that we choose to balance our WvW game time with other things of import.)

But morale is also contingent on good communication and the teamwork/trust bond between individuals until they feel like part of something greater than themselves.

In this, I think every individual has a part they can play if they so choose. We can practice reporting sightings of enemy servers by how many there are (roughly), which server and what location. We can learn the locations that are being referenced. We can learn the maps, all the nooks and crannies. We can work on improving our play, our gear/stats/skills/traits.

And we can teach. Or just talk out loud and mention obvious things like “remember to take supply” even though we sound like a broken record, because it may not be obvious at all to someone just joining WvW for the first time. Given the number of casual players playing GW2 and just hitting the mid and high levels that may make them feel brave enough to step into WvW, they may still be figuring things out.

It’s not easy, certainly. I don’t really like to say anything aloud if there’s no plan. Take supply for what, if we’re not going to siege anywhere? And there’s the fear of rejection aka wild n00b l33tspeak attack frenzy, but maybe others feel less inhibited.

I do tells and whispers fine though. Perhaps I can work on that.

I sent a tell once to a random person who was looking for the entrance to the jumping puzzle, he had trouble finding it and I took him there. He was grateful and it made me feel warm and fuzzy. Then I sent a tell offering to sight for another person who seemed to having trouble aiming a treb and it was like speaking into a black hole. A simple “no” would have sufficed, but maybe the person didn’t even know how to reply. *sighs*

I also sent a tell to a guy operating a ballista who was blowing up trebs that I couldn’t seem to target for the life of me, and asked how the heck he was doing it. He was nice enough to tell me to click the bottom of the treb to target it, and while it still seemed ridiculously far and impossible to target (were my graphics settings the problem?), I’ll be working on improving that part of my game the next time. So this stuff goes both ways.

We have to eventually create an atmosphere where it’s okay to talk to each other and ask stupid questions and teach each other. It’s really hard when we’re working uphill against the solo in an MMO – WoW Barrens chat abuse impulse, but if we don’t work on it, then it will be no one’s fault but ours that we’re standing alone. Time will tell, I guess.

If there’s a good lesson to be learnt from WvW and PvP, it’s how to be patient, persistent and pick oneself up when one falls down. Keep trying. Keep fighting the good fight.

(And no, that does not mean look straight ahead and target nearest enemy. You get flanked that way. Please pick up some situational awareness. Please…)

I’m referring to a social fight, an organization fight, a strategic fight, a community fight.