Fault-Finding vs Solutions


I overheard this conversation in one of my guilds, herefore to remained unnamed.

Person A was having a moderate dramatic episode, presumably why it was being publicly broadcast over guild chat.

Now I have zero context for what actually happened.

It may very well be that Person A’s performance was indeed abysmal and was pulling down the group, be it a 10-member raid or a 5-person fractal or dungeon.

In order not to feed any drama flames further, I, like probably 10-30 other online guild members overhearing, said nothing over guild chat to aggravate the situation and it ended there without devolving into a full-blown histrionic fit.

Inside though, I was fully sympathizing with Person A.

It reminded me of my own fairly recent experience at one of the “training” raids said guild had organized.

Every now and then I try to make the effort to attend one of these scheduled events, under the vague possibly-mistaken impression that I might be able to contribute in a positive way to the success of one of these training raids and help out others.

After all, while I’m not top-of-the-line with action/reaction and the video-watching meta strategies (merely passable to decent,) I do have all three wings’ encounters experience under my belt with my static raid group and multiple geared classes to offer. There’s something to be said for practice, after all.

Not to mention, it’s also a good opportunity for -myself- to practice a class that I’m less familiar with, since the phrase “training raid” usually equates to everyone having the expectation that success is not guaranteed (and to be frank, given the experience level of some of the players that join, not at all likely) but whom are also committed to offering a low-stress non-hostile environment for everyone to get some experience with the encounter.

Unfortunately, what usually ends up unfurling before my naturally critical eyes are some forehead-to-desk examples of the blind leading the blind.

Fault and blame can be apportioned to the wrong party, in a fairly haphazard, if attempted constructive manner. (Of course, in the conversation above, Person B was anything but.)

More specifically, the difficulty Person B exhibits is pinpointing the exact issue causing the problem and telling Person A how to solve it (or conversely, telling person C or changing the situation so that the problem is minimized.)

All they can see is, Person A is dying, therefore Person A must be the problem.

But -what- is killing Person A?

Is it something that Person A is doing, and really shouldn’t be doing?

Then what should be addressed is that action: “Hey, Person A, don’t stand in front of the boss. He cleaves / does a fire breath / whatever.”



That’s just me though. I have fairly thick skin. If I can learn something from it, I will.

Some guy did that to me in the dredge underground fractal, “FUCK YOUR PET,” and I silently acknowledged that this was the first time I was playing a necro in that particular fractal and that I had -no idea whatsoever- that the bone fiend would sit there and stop the boss from being pulled over to the lava bucket.

Issue succinctly if rudely identified. Issue promptly addressed.

I triggered the heal skill again, killing off the pet, and made sure that I didn’t spawn the bone fiend again, consuming it when I needed a heal.

(I might not group with you again though, cos that’s not a relaxing low-energy encounter.)

Something even more helpful, if you can see the person struggling, is to point the tell for the attack. “When Slothasor stands up on two feet, he’s about to fire breath.”

And even better, describe how to avoid it in a manner the person might be able to follow. “Dodge sideways or dodge -through- him to avoid it.” Or double dodge or jump or use skill X for other mechanics.

But what if Person A -is- doing everything (or most things, cos no one’s perfect) right? And -still- dying?

I found myself in that kind of awkward situation just the other day.

Mea culpa things: I was playing a staff elementalist. I have very little experience with staff eles, I have very little ability to self-adapt skills/traits/weapons to the situation.

I tend to play higher hp classes in raids and do accidentally run facefirst into damaging things without meaning to, because my other characters can take the hit AND I’m spoiled in my static raid with a very good healer that carries all of us and tops up our health in a couple seconds.

I may have tried to take on more responsibility than I could chew, under the impression that it would help the raid succeed.

Objective fact things: Staff eles are very squishy. The training raid group had no revenant in their group composition.

Non mea culpa things: My placement in the raid team’s group composition. The task assigned to me by the raid leader. Imperfect play by other raid members.

Basically, we were doing VG, and the instructions I received were, “Since you’re playing staff elementalist, which is ranged, please run green circles with the rest in phase 3 onwards.”

Beyond internally wincing, because I’ve never seen non-heal build staff eles running green circles to go very well, and said, “Okay.”

On the very first attempt, as I’m setting up my rotations and cheerfully beginning what I came to do, which is to practice doing as much dps as possible on a staff ele, out of the corner of my eye – what do I see? One, two… three? people running to the green circle.

Yikes. So I fling myself over to the green circle, just before the distributed magic strike happens, and then decide that well, I usually run green circles anyway as condi in my static group, I might as well just be the fifth all the time SINCE the raid leader had no confidence in the first place that four people could do it past phase 3.

This ended up not that great a decision because our particular group’s druid seemed only capable of topping up our health bars every second green circle at best, and did not seem to be predicting distributed magic strikes accordingly and topping up after.

The druid, frankly, seemed more focused on trying to heal the tank and melee group, running forward after every green circle to do so.

Mind you, in GW2 raids, the strict tank/dps/heal holy trinity doesn’t quite exist.

In VG, specifically, everybody in the raid takes overall periodic pulsing damage (thus encouraging the presence of a healer, because the self-heal is insufficient) and one biggest source of unavoidable damage is the distributed magic strike that comes from standing in the green circle.

(The boss’ forward cleaving punch also hurts, but some tanks can deal with it themselves better than others; and running into a seeker also hurts, but is generally avoidable if people bring enough control.)

I started taking an alarming amount of damage, so much so that I was forced to learn what my water attunement skills were in a hurry, losing all the dps I was supposed to be providing if I could stay in fire.

And let’s face it, I have very little experience on an elementalist, I have zero idea if my half filled red hp reservoir showing 5600 out of 11,000 health is sufficient to withstand a green circle strike.

Turns out, with no revenant or druid pulsing protection and me not having a faintest clue how to give myself prot or heal up further, 5600 is not enough.

I go down as the distributed magic strike hits the green circle, and blam, the raid takes a raid wiping amount of damage.


I get called out for this, because hey, you’re taking a heap of damage and going down A LOT. What’s happening?

I point out that I’m at half hp just before the green circle strike hits, and going down as a result.

There’s a fun little discussion where the raid leader says, well, you’re not even supposed to be in the green circles anyway before phase 3, and I’m thinking to myself, if I wasn’t, how is it that just me going down in the green circles equals raid wipe? ie. someone else wasn’t running them.

I’m also internally thinking that there’s something a little wrong with the team composition because we’re apparently in a 4/4/2 split, minus a revenant (so I can’t even remember who was with the chronotank in the 2) but we only have one primary healer – of which I, and two daredevils are in.

There is another druid, which I suspect is primarily condi, in the other group of 4, along with another tempest elementalist and a burnzerker and something else I can’t recall, probably a reaper condi.

Normally, if there is one primary healer, a 7/2/1 split is used, so that heals and buffs from the 1 druid go out equally to all.

But here we have a situation where the primary healer and condi team is running circles, and they’re not even in the same group… and yet I am in the same group as the primary healer, but somehow not catching sufficient heals?

Is it a group priority buff/heal problem? Or is the healer just not aiming their heals in the right place, or using them well at all?

But you know, you don’t want to be THAT GUY.

Especially NOT that guy who blames the healer.

It just doesn’t look at all kosher.

So I say nothing about my internal thoughts, and agree very publicly and loudly-on-purpose that I will not be running green circles any longer until phase 3.

At least, I think, I will FINALLY be able to practice the skill rotation which was the reason I attended this training raid in the first place… right up to the moment when the green circle team falls apart because something else went wrong.

I also notice, though I am not sure anyone else does, that my character has been sneakily shifted out of the primary healing druid’s party and put into the group with the other elementalist and other druid.

The burnzerker takes my place in the first party.

The next VG attempt, we hit a 6.45 phase time, much faster than the previous goes, and my health bar doesn’t shift from 90-100% at all.

Unfortunately, we hit a bit of carnage in phase 3 when seekers are knocked into the green team and that attempt was a wash.

(I am also not trying -super- hard to rush for green circles. Hey, I’m the fifth, right? If I can make it, I’ll go. If I have low health and am going to go down in the green circle anyway, I’m not going. Because someone took issue with my going down a lot. So I will NOT go down a lot.)

In the subsequent attempts, we don’t get to phase 3 about 50% of the time, because in two highly entertaining tries, I see the -druid- go down in the green circle (where previously I’d drop first) and in the other also pretty entertaining attempts, I watch as the burnzerker drops to 3/4 health and starts expressing befuddlement that they’re suddenly taking a LOT of damage.

Hmm. Odd. -I’m- not taking any damage now. Must be you, huh?

Of course, in the interests of politeness and a civil experience, I leave all the above unsaid.

Instead, I mostly sneak peeks at my combat log, having resigned myself to the fact that I’m not going to get a really good opportunity to practice staff dps rotations (I have to switch to water every now and then and throw extra heals, the chronotank has started to periodically go down too.)

I’ve replaced the hope for practising staff rotations with a vague curiosity to figure out what the hell is going on with the heals, and just how exactly our leet static group healer can do what they do.

I still don’t really understand what was going on fully, but I did notice with some bemusement that I was catching more heals from the other tempest and myself in the new group I was in, than I was catching in my combat log from the prior group.

In the next static group raid I did, I started screen capping my combat log to record the leet druid’s skills that were hitting me. It was about 6-8 more skills than the other druid, including a water blast combo. (Dayum.)

Some day, if I ever get my ranger his elite spec, and maybe start doing more PvP or PvE with him… I wanna grow up to be more like leet druid.

It does make me wonder about the effectiveness of so-called “training raids” though.

We failed on VG several more times, never getting to the second split, and the raid leader decided to call it there.

I got some mumbled, almost condescending sounding, feedback about “you can improve by not going down so much” (no, really, did you notice I -stopped- taking damage once I was shifted to the other group and ceased running green circles?) and seemingly out of left field, a “tip” that I could use Overload Earth to give myself protection.

Which I’d grant is useful, as a potential survival tactic when shit hits the fan, if a little bit non-meta in terms of actually doing dps by not swapping out of fire.

It’s okay, I learned something else inadvertently – aka my static raid group’s healer is a god that works in mysterious ways – so it was still a valuable learning experience.

The point of raids is group coverage and skill synergies. The rev or guardian or druid with stone spirit gives protection, the PS warrior gives might and banners, freeing up the elementalist and daredevil to dps. (That is, assuming your ele is built for dps. You could build it to heal or what not.)

“Training raids” become almost a raid “hard mode,” in the sense that the group coordination and skill synergies probably aren’t there at all, and the group/role coverage is imperfect at best.

Best of all, I wonder if participants can actually learn anything from them, if they don’t have a self-driven analytical mind and/or lack the experience to contrast a “training raid” with a successful one.

(Not everyone is lucky enough to have a static raid group that knows what they’re doing. My raid guild has some 8-9 statics formed and only 2 clear all three wings regularly. The knowledge is disseminating though, the guild leader announced some substantial progress, eg. killed Xera, or killed Matthias, or finally got Sab, for other groups recently.)

Especially if they aren’t getting any feedback because other people don’t want to hurt their feelings or cause drama… or because other people don’t quite know how to give the useful, constructive kind of feedback.

I mean, don’t look at me, I couldn’t teach anyone how to druid for nuts, for example. I know nuthing. Zilch about healing. Please ask my static group’s druids. That’s what I’ll do if I eventually make one.

(But I -could- probably sit and dissect with someone all the ways to generate might as a PS warrior, and figure out why Person C isn’t giving 25 might stacks to his raid group. Or suggest a more helpful heal skill to use to a warrior that’s consistently falling over with healing signet slotted, and point out tells to look out for in order to dodge attacks.

Except no one will probably ever ask me, and I’d make a terrible grumpy hermit teacher anyway.

Nor am I about to just come out and say it to randoms and PUGs where the chances of them being receptive aren’t terribly high to begin with, unless I just happen to be -there- in that situation and I think one or two sentences might help fix the issue.)

This blind leading the blind, and those-who-know being unwilling to teach is a situation which I have not yet worked out a satisfactory solution to.

I often just end up wussing out, keeping quiet and bowing gracefully out of the entire situation after some time to leave the ignorant to it.

No doubt, others have decided to leave me in the dark and just vamoosed away from my noobish ways as well.

It’s not a new problem. Some three years ago, I was in one of those semi-casual, semi-hardcore mid-range guilds that prided itself on WvW participation. This guild worked out great for me, being unwilling to be insanely hardcore committed, but also wanting a little bit more organization than totally casual guilds.

It was, you know, fairly chill – meta builds not -required- but if you wanted to, you were welcome to and it helped strengthen the guild force being fielded, so all’s well that ends well.

Various guild officers would take turns leading, if you had the interest, the guild was also very open to letting anyone command, and the members would dutifully (if more than a little suicidally) follow your orders and let you learn what works and doesn’t work when commandering a rag tag bunch of the semi-hardcore.

Except. We had -one- commander that was incapable of learning.

Without fail, he would be decked out in the hardiest set of high toughness high vitality gear on his guardian and he would cheerfully fling himself head-on into a much larger force. Over-extending doesn’t even begin to describe what he did. Over and over.

Mind you, he died too, just ten seconds later than everyone else who had already been run over, either from following him into the fray and dropping to AoEs, or by getting surrounded because he’d entirely separated his front and backline by his own orders.

This guy was constantly expressing sheer bamboozlement that his strategy wasn’t working. “Guys, please, please follow me. We can do this.” (Cue the faithful group wipe.)

“Let’s try again.” (Cue less faithful less willing followers.)

“Guys, we went down because we were separated! All together now!” (Cue mostly massive carnage, and one or two people, me included, beating feet and running far far away from the suspected, then confirmed, train wreck.)

As usual, I had the fortune of being able to contrast this guy’s commanding style with other ever-so-slightly-more tactically sound ones. The contrast helped -me- to learn what worked and what didn’t.

(Granted, I do make a pretty terrible follower, being liable to independently up and decide to do something else, if the leader’s not convincing or competent enough for my standards.)

I’m not sure that commander ever did realize why people started making excuses and politely leaving his WvW raids some 30-60 minutes into the event.

I notice most of the time we just leave things be and assume that over time, people will bang into enough practice and learning encounters to figure out, or be told outright by someone sharp and thick-skinned enough to pinpoint the real issue.

I just wonder if there are any shortcuts to this process.

Guides could be written and recorded, but people still have to have the motivation to read and watch in the first place. Those types usually have the self-motivation to learn by themselves in most situations anyway.

Hell, they could be told outright by someone, but still be unwilling to receive the message, and/or the someone could be wrong as well.

Granted, one could also -not- have to tell someone in a nice way that they suck at X in the first place. A bit of clever diplomacy and swapping of roles, and the issue might go away entirely because the player is -good- at Y and someone else can do X.

I have very little skill with this sort of diplomacy and indirect constructive solution finding. It may however be one of the better ways to resolve these types of people problems.

It’s something to think about, at any rate.

MMOs and the Einstellung Effect

While idly browsing through a magazine rack, I came across an article in a psychology magazine whose name I’ve now forgotten. It talked about the Einstellung effect, which describes the propensity of humans to stick to familiar solutions to problems, while unconsciously overlooking new and better solutions.

It’s amazing how this effect can be seen at work in almost every avenue of our MMO games.

Take the recent example of GW2’s Battle for Lion’s Arch assault knights, where zerging down the assault knights in blue, green, red sequence was the first established solution. For a few days and even up to a week later, there were still people in map chat trying to push this solution, despite a patch that hard-limited the number of people that could attack the knights.

On a more general scale, we can see this in players who are used to traditional MMO leveling and questing making the switch over to GW2 and becoming lost and directionless, asking “Am I doing this wrong?” and “What are my goals? What am I striving towards?

(Hint: It’s very hard to play GW2 wrong. Doing practically anything in the game is somewhat rewarding. Seeking optimal efficiency is one valid style of play, but is not the -only- thing to strive towards, especially when one is still leveling. That stage, especially, is a good time for exploration and discovery.

As for goals, you gotta set them yourself. Scary thought, yes, but if you play or want to play more sandbox-style MMOs, this is something that one should get used to. Analysis paralysis and the paradox of choice are just things that come along with the overwhelm of options that one could be doing at any moment.)

Then there are the players that simply can’t get used to a game that doesn’t utilize defined holy trinity roles, and insist on trying to shoehorn their builds into less than optimal do-one-thing-only functions. “I heal gud!” said the wannabe GW1 monk pretending to be a GW2 guardian and the CoH healbot masquerading as an empathy defender. “Why is there no taunt?” cried the traditional tanks, at a loss with GW2’s active combat, “I can’t tell who has aggro anymore!”

But existing GW2 players are not immune to the effect as well. DPS META UBER ALLES! They cry. MELEE MELEE MELEE. It is mathematically proven to be better!

I wonder how many of them have actually checked, or have simply listened to some person posting what they claim to be the best build for a particular very-specialized purpose online?

Every so often, in a particular encounter, we see the devs trying to design in the need for more control (pushing mobs away from laser emplacements at Tequatl, for example), or places where reflects can come in handy (it’s always worth asking oneself if that ranged attack is a projectile and whether it can be reflected, I find), or places where sustained ranged damage is made more equivalent to what melee players can output (usually by making sure it’s very fatal to be in melee range and forcing periodic interruptions of an attack chain to retreat.)

Sometimes it still doesn’t work so well, mostly because the sheer power of stacked buffs, blasting combo fields, dodge invincibility frames,  and joint rezzing / mass warbanners can paper over the obstacles and allow the existing melee cleave damage meta builds to unleash their power, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time.

Warden Number 3 of the marionette fight, fer instance, was quite notorious for being much safer to keep mobile and range than melee, with its constant spinning attacks and bombs.

Hell, I’m not immune to the effect.

My warrior has had healing signet slotted for… oh, I don’t know, ages, since I leveled him up and decided that the passive heal was really powerful and worked really well in Aetherblade Retreat, where one tended to absorb lots of small hits from stray cannon blasts that needed to be healed up over time.

While this keeps me alive in assault knight fights and the holograms, by virtue of needing to retreat out of melee every now and then and ranging while the steady heal pulses my health back up… today, while pondering the Einstellung effect, I found myself asking if this heal was really the best I could be using.

I didn’t want to use Mending, the condition eating heal, because it didn’t heal for very much. Conditions would layer on too fast during the reflect phase if there was someone undisciplined firing them anyway, and the hologram fight didn’t have much conditions to deal with. (Though with a 20 second recharge, I should actually try it out at one point before dismissing it.)

I tried out Healing Surge, since I’m almost always at full adrenaline when meleeing, and it seemed to be worse than healing signet. I wasn’t healing up the smaller hits from the assault knight, and so had to back away to heal up only 1/3 of my health, and then get stuck trying to decide if I should go in at half health and risk dying, or stay out.

But wait.. what is this new heal that was introduced recently?

Defiant Stance. Heal a small amount. For 3 seconds, all incoming attacks heal you for the full amount that would otherwise be dealt.

WUT. WAIT. These are fights which pulse high damage at relatively predictable intervals…

While I’m still pretty crappy at knowing when the assault knight is going to lash out with high hammer damage, I did feel that I was able to stay in melee range longer by first utilizing my high health to absorb some attacks, balanced stance for stability to counter the knockdowns, and defiant stance to heal up the health reservoir when I felt the knight was going to start its AoE hammer attack chain.

But more importantly, I found out that defiant stance countered the major problem I was having meleeing the prime hologram in the first phase. Which is my inability to retreat out of prime blast range in time.

Usually, by the time I see the orange circle and the hologram float up, I do a 180 degree turn, double dodge and try to hammer swiftness to get out of range… and end up about one foot away from safety…

The prime blast sends me flying. If I’m lucky, I end up with 3000hp left with torment on (aka toot warhorn to remove it.) If I’m not, bang, I’m downed and have to wait for someone to pick me up.

I have to say, it’s ridiculously fun to now see Scarlet float up, pop defiant stance, and suddenly heal back up to full from that five digit used-to-be-damage, now-heal.

I only have to beat feet now when Scarlet is mean and decides to do it again while the heal is on cooldown.

So how does one beat the Einstellung effect?

Unfortunately, the literature doesn’t really say. Some research suggests that experts may be more blind to the possibilities than novices, and some research suggests the exact opposite of that – pretty much like all research.

But being aware of it is probably a good start.

And periodically questioning and testing if the “accepted” or “obvious” solution is really the only solution that can and should be used.

GW2: Escape From Lion’s Arch – First Thoughts

Aw, we just got it fixed.

No time for long posts.

The impending signs were ignored….

Dolyak prophet
Dolyak prophet spurned by Commodore, contemplates suicide
Giganticus Moosicus photo bombs Lion's Arch
Giganticus Moosicus sighting in photo bomb
Quaggans have had it with being refugees, ploOots woOorld doOominatioOn

…and now the apocalypse is upon us.

"I think of my beautiful city in flames..."
“I think of my beautiful city in flames…”

I’d talk about how neat it is that one can do the event solo, in small groups or in zergs, and marvel at the human propensity to glom together in search of easy kills (who then promptly die in droves to the scaling that throws up heaps and heaps of elites – anti-zerg mechanics are part of the design, people! Spreading out lowers the scaling, but no risk, no reward! Still, you’d be surprised at how much more often I get 5 bags from a single kill when soloing, as compared to trying to tag all the things with staff 1 and failing to either do enough damage or blowing up to something unseen) but I’m really too busy fighting and collecting bags and bags of loot.

The only thing I wish for is the ability to attempt this in slightly more organized fashion and aim for 1500 citizens in a single go, to exist alongside the random grouping in overflows where people are more self-focused on their personal loot rather than a collective effort to reach the larger goal.

I’m a little scared that “be careful what you wish for” might come true, because you know me, I’m allergic to elitism and exclusion, but in this specific case, because the pickup group aspect is already pretty rewarding and gives out bags like candy, I think it probably would be safe enough.

Anyway, less talk, more fight.

Moar bags.

GW2: Molten Weapons Facility – Analysis and Opinions

Now that the “on principle” philosophical argument about “forced” grouping is out of the way, let’s get down to some of the nuts and bolts of the dungeon design itself:

Bottom line is, I’m still heavily playing repeated instances of the dungeon, which suggests that a whole bunch of things -did- go right.

The crux of it is that I decided I really like the look of the Molten Firestorm and Molten Berserker bosses, and -choose- to keep striving for a lucky miniature drop and/or a tonic recipe that I can slooowly build up the mats for later.

Philosophically, I much prefer a token system over RNG drops (mostly because my luck sucks – see Venom precursor, and I keep getting turnip soup most of the time) but I respect that RNG has its uses and it’s a sneaky way to keep experienced people continually playing the dungeon for the time period because they are either unlucky, or are very lucky and want more drops to sell.

I am also able to tolerate the dungeon and most groups quite well because of the design which strives to prevent as much rushing past as possible. I like to fight everything. I’m playing an MMO to fight stuff and have a good time, not skip past everything to the end reward. (Which, I am aware, puts me at odds with a good many habitual dungeon speedrun farmers out there.)

I greatly appreciate the enforced pauses, because it gives a better sense of pace, allows new people to appreciate more of the story and NPC interactions, lets one switch out utilities as needed before the group members with ADD have rushed into the next set of mobs, and even, horror of horrors – gives people time to type sentences in party chat and interact socially.

I’ve had some hilarious groups with Tarnished Coast servermates – being TC’ers, I figure they must be used to RP weirdoes and have indulged in very shallow roleplay by speaking like a snarky, snotty Asura (which is never hard to do) and adding color commentary to NPC lines.

I really do. They are sexy sexy ears.
I really do. They are sexy sexy ears.

The best bit is the no-real-consequence atmospheric epilogue, which is a tremendously good time to just let one’s hair down and have a little fun after successfully beating the bosses and making people laugh or keeping them entertained. (I hope, anyway.)

(last bit while running around in little asura circles of panic)
(while aflame)
Of course we did.

And then there was the party with the engineer who insisted he did NOT have an elixir B drinking problem:


I try to leave the bookahs to burn every run, but they keep following...
I try to leave the bookahs to burn every run, but they keep following…

Alas, enjoyable groups where -someone- else talks and helps to keep the immersion and entertainment going with wisecracks are few and far between (which is why I’ve immortalized the fun I had in the screenies above.)

In groups where I see no one talking, or don’t seem like they’d be open to a bit of fun, I just shut up and be a good little silent robot cranking out one’s path to the shinies. (Or running vainly with short legs trying to catch up with the speed freaks.)

Which sometimes leads to horrendous messes. I gotta give kudos to ArenaNet’s design team for creating stuff which challenges the group to cooperate well together. Too many times, I see a player rush ahead and accidentally aggro a whole load of Molten Alliance mobs – which leads to a great chaotic frenzy of jumping around, dodging, healing, buff-throwing, seeing folks get downed, trying to rez them up, etc. Disagreements on whether to kill the Molten Brawler or the Molten Gunner first are also another cause of extreme chaos. Fortunately, the difficulty is not too insane, so strong group-focused builds will more or less keep the team upright.

I confess to preferring something neater, where no one’s hp bar ever moves into the danger zone. I feel like something’s gone wrong if someone falls over into the downed state, let alone, dead. Maybe it’s just a carry over from tanky days in City of Heroes. I relish the rare groups which, by chance or by cookie cutter build, are well synergized to the point where buffs are flying all over and no one is in real danger of dying.

And then there was this fantastic party: a lvl 80 mesmer, me, a lvl 68 elementalist, a lvl 35 guardian, a lvl 35 thief. The non-80s had 1k-2k achievement points and I was wondering if this was going to be another fiasco. It wasn’t.

You know why? All the players were great playing their classes, and the three lowbies appeared to know each other and were used to fighting together. The group also had the patience to recognize and wait the mere 5 seconds for me to wordlessly corner pull and separate out Gunner and Brawler spawns, so that we tended to only fight one at a time, with the other stuff all stacked up neatly on the corner where the mesmer could unleash all his stuff and everyone just unloaded. The only time one or two of them fell over was during the last boss fight (and were promptly rezzed), though they were all masterful at movement and dodging… I still think non-80s are working with considerably less buffer and I have to give them kudos for being very very good. Neat, super smooth, no deaths, a few downs.

And there are groups like this, where apparently pulling means shooting shit to death while backing away slowly in a straight line.

Lamenting the lost art of pulling properly
Lamenting the lost art of pulling properly

I’m a hammer/staff guardian, I don’t have any range worth speaking of, if you don’t warn me in advance to switch to scepter.

Of course, the nice thing I really appreciate about ArenaNet’s trinity is that there are many ways to achieve the same goal. You -could- focus fire them down from range if your party was built that way. I’ve seen other guardians charge in and use greatsword’s binding blade to great grouping/clumping effect with less time than scenery pulling. Some classes use a whole bunch of pets/minions to split aggro.

And yes, you can just rush it all pell mell using your own bodies to split aggro, relying on shouts, banners and other buffs to keep you upright, with or without a focus target, with varying degrees of messiness depending on how everyone’s build is set up. Whatever works. The variance at least keeps it lively.

The ambush at the start is a nice touch story-wise. I try not to ruin it when I know someone is new in the party, but more and more, you see the couldn’t-care-less people just stand by where they spawn. A repeat group is, of course, another matter.


I enjoy the enforced delay in the tunnel here. You see all the ADD folks humping the coals and getting burned. There’s built in time to buff up for each encounter, you can’t skip past it, and if you haven’t mined the nodes, you can usually get it mined and catch up with the people who wouldn’t wait at all if not for the big fat drill in the way.

The random spawn of Champion Ooze, Champion Troll or Champion Ember in the hall beyond is an interesting touch. I’ve seen the most chaos tends to occur when the Ember is in play.

The hidden orichalcum ore was a fun mini-puzzle to figure out the very first time. It gets problematic later on with a group with split priorities here though. Impatient people don’t wait. They turn left, rush through the steam vents and are dashing through the corridor to trigger the weapons test, while the new ones who want the ore are still being guided through the path and the cutscene no doubt triggers at a confusing time for them, ruining the narrative effect completely. At least someone who’s seen it before has just enough time to dash through the spiders, mine their ore, and get out.

If the NPCs make it there with the impatient people, you get thrown into a disorienting loadscreen teleport and end up in the weapons test with no pre-warning whatsoever.


That said, I again appreciate the length of path here when done properly, with party in sync, and traveling with NPCs. There’s a sense of drama as you move down the rocks, and crucial valuable time to type information for people who haven’t done it before.


The weapons test encounter is truly excellent though. There was a fun sense of panic when first experiencing and learning what all the stages consisted of, and also fun inherent in figuring out the solution(s) and mastering them. I appreciate that there are multiple solutions, not just one thing that -must- be done.

My screenshot is poor quality, I know, but you can sort of make out the nimble people moving around. I like to hold out near the core, where there is a safe area most of the time, and use a ton of stability to negate the knockdown (barely anyone else recognizes hallowed ground when I use it though – you can stand in it too, folks!) and heal through any accidental damage (it’s a guardian thing, and I’m not very nimble so it works well.) I only move when it comes to the fire circles everywhere stage, and again, it’s nice there are multiple areas of safety to identify on the fly.

There are one or two guys hiding in the absolute corner, which no one is really sure whether it was intended or no, but you know some players, if they find a glitch, they’ll glitch it. And then demand stridently that everyone else glitches it in the exact same way with them.

My evolved preference is to sit where I am, where the molten protector spawns, because Hammer 4 (Banish) has a wind up time. Playing dredge golf and launching it out of the way before it can get its invulnerable fire shield up is SO satisfying. If I hide in the corner, it’s hard to get back in position in time. I believe other classes also have pulls and knockbacks that they can use to play with it. And worse come to the worse, people can also wait for the fire shield to drop. Multiple solutions. I like.


The supercooled section is all right. Again, multiple solutions. You could scream BANZAI and charge in like a number of groups do, with debuff on and everything, and just soldier your way on through, taking your chances on whether you fall over based on the builds of your party. Some rush the coolant boxes. Some will have one or two high damage people take them down. Some pull back to no-debuff areas. I’m a big fan of utilizing corners to pull. It’s so sad it’s such a lost art though. When the stars and toughness attributes of the party align to give me the innate aggro, I love to do it and watch the ranged mobs come rushing up to regain line of sight.

The “Kill Brawler or Kill Gunner” first debate goes on. It seems to be evolving towards get brawler, then gunner. Either way works, in my opinion, but it’s really whether the party uses focus targets and follows them. You can negate the brawler’s shockwaves with jumping, dodging, and I liberally apply stability (others can provide regen.) But the waves do seem quite deadly to squishies who can’t jump or dodge well. He’s melee, so he’s usually ends up closer to the party and everyone using target nearest has a tendency to go for him too, so you may as well burn him down first, that kinda thing.

Other people like to block the ranged mobs’ projectiles with reflects. Which I’ve tried, but when only two people are using the wall, and everyone has rushed out in front of it because the gunner has jumped backward, you end up either joining them to thwap the gunner or hanging with the wall feeling forlorn. The gunner’s projectiles are also easier to avoid at range, though I did hear someone say it does the most damage at maximum range too. And there’s the just-suck-it-up-and-heal-it-up guardian method which I often end up doing because I’m clumsy and lack finesse and it’s really quite hard to see where those projectiles are coming from, when you’re short and are in melee range.


Prisoner section. I like that there’s a little pause here again. Utility skill switching time if needed. Insert wisecrack about not wishing mining on your worst enemy. (But I have a shiny molten pick!)

This is where the speed freak people also tend to get a little caged up stir crazy. I’ve seen one of them jump past the gate above using the spiky rocks to the right. Which promptly ended up with him getting aggro from everything beyond while the rest of us looked on from behind the closed gate. *chuckle* We got over in time to get his downed body up. Then another one who tried the same thing, but ended up falling into the lava below. *snicker*

Probably an unintended glitch, but I’m not looking forward to the day when the majority of the party learns this, and insists everyone do it, and/or laughs at falling people dropping into the lava below. (You know it’ll happen, right?)

Yeah, so the rest of this section is an extended debate between the party on which Molten Alliance mobs to kill first, some parties which work smoothly together, and others that don’t, while the NPCs do their thing freeing prisoners and stuff. (And watching Frostbite fall over, a lot. Noooooo, poor baby devourer…)

Some people feel it’s too long, I personally don’t have an opinion either way. I’ve seen it go super smooth and fast with a good group. I’ve seen it go pear-shaped and be very drawn out and messy.


The protector schtick is interesting. I like that you can kite the protector out of the shield, which gives parties without pulls or launches a perfectly viable option to take them down. (You’ll be amazed at how many people fail to notice the shield and continue flailing away though.) And there’s always waiting for the shield to drop when all else fails.

The orichalcum ore and mechanical crusher ore trap is hilarious. I think everyone gets caught by it once when it’s their first time.


This gate. It is the best gate ever. I am a big big fan of this gate. Besides giving people the time to marvel up and down at the size of the structure, and take screenshots if they want to, it serves the ULTRA IMPORTANT PURPOSE of giving people enough time to type the question of “which boss are we killing first?”

Communication. Oh, thank god there is something in the design that helps it along. It’s interesting, and probably a big compliment to the team who designed the final boss encounter, that three days in, there’s still no real consensus on which boss “must” go down first.

(Or rather, in each team you end up, there’s normally a few guys convinced with high passion that so-and-so is easier, and that one needs to go down because they’ve always done it that way. And so you go along with them and help their self-fulfilling prophecy along. Oh, I am so going to hell for that. :P)

I’ve done it all ways now, and they’re all possible. There’s go all out burn on firestorm. There’s go all out burn on berserker. There’s take the time to swap targets and remove the enrage stacks from either of them. There’s assign one or two people to do the enrage stack stripping, or the people self-assign themselves.

The only way that isn’t so cool is to all stack up inside berserker to avoid the waves. Fortunately, only one group I’ve gotten into has wanted/demanded people do that. I hope it doesn’t evolve to only that before day 10.

It’s a lot more fun to do it the proper ways – because again, there are multiple solutions. I simply cannot jump in time with the shockwaves. I don’t know if it’s instance lag, or ping, or what, but it just doesn’t work. You jump it on your screen, but eat the damage anyway. But dodging works, and I often dodge forwards to close the distance to berserker to hit him. And stability/soak damage covers up most accidents, though there can be a run of bad luck when you just eat a shockwave, get knocked back and down into a big pool of fire that firestorm has thrown, which pwns you. As for the flame circle attack, turning the camera 180 degrees and running like a coward far far away works best for me. Other people jump or dodge or whatever, I just don’t like the risk. Whatever works.

And then the denouement, after the grand chest of mostly turnip soup recipes (and the odd beet soup one), there’s a bit of quiet time to catch one’s breath, load up on explosives, before the big bang and harmless but highly dramatic and cheesy fun (or is that the other way around) escape sequence. Which, as I’ve mentioned at the top, is a nice social space time to actually have time to talk before everyone quits out the instance.

I see some ArenaNet person agrees with the Natural Selection folks that being stuck in an elevator is a kind of ‘social together’ experience.

The TL:DR conclusion?

I generally like it. I’m still playing it. Even if I’m running a cookie cutter build to give more leeway for mistakes and the weird chaos that can happen in PUGs. (Huge repair bills and multiple deaths make me very grumpy. So much easier to do my best preventing that from happening to me with an AH guardian.)

And I probably won’t stop until a majority of my groups sour to the point of being elitist and speed freaky. I don’t know how long that will take.

I think the devs did their best to prevent/slow that down from happening and achieved that respectably well, though I’m a cynic and am convinced it’ll happen at some point.

The burning question’s still up on whether it’ll happen before the dungeon disappears.