GW2: First Thoughts on the Feature Patch and the New Leveling Experience

Truth is, it’s going to take me a while to absorb everything that just came down in a big info dump in the Game Update patch notes.

I haven’t quite made it through all the profession changes yet, just sort of went through the guardian notes that are my primary interest and glanced at the rest.

collections

The Collections are interesting, if a tide underwhelming at present. I’d been under the impression that many little tchotchkes would become easy collections to get some achiever dings over – things like food, or drinks or bags of loot.

Instead, the only fun one seems to be the junk collector with the Honorary Skritt title and the rest look a little more laborious. There’s -some- food, but only steak so far. No burgers, no pizza, no soup or vegetarian collections or stuff like that.

There’s certainly potential to expand, and I hope it will soon(TM), but at the moment, I’m finding it more attractive to offload some of the named exotics I’d been hoarding in the bank, wondering if they’d ever turn into precursors – looks like they won’t, but at least they’re collectibles now – at the currently inflated prices.

combatlog

The Combat Log is something I’d really like to gush over.

I think it’s gone unnoticed by many, but it’s actually USEFUL now.

The color scheme used in the combat log is a touch eyebrow raising, but sort of oddly reminiscent of oldschool MUDs where stuff is color-coded with a bunch of esoteric meaning. Presumably, since only those interested in the technical and numerical stuff would ever look at it, it’s ok.

Purple is being used for condition damage and orange for direct damage and green for healing, as far as I could tell from a quick glance at it.

All the condition damage is being reported *swoons in ecstasy* and even my clone damage from exploding was captured, so I presume other professions’ pets are also getting logged. That’s really really sweet.

I don’t know if someone will figure out a way to parse this yet, but there’s at least some -clear- data here.

One still can’t see other peoples’ damage and so on, which I think is for the best, since that might lead to comparisons and exclusion, but in the interests of -personal- improvement or optimization/efficiency, this is at least a tool that can actually be read and used now – rather than having to video record stuff and manually count white damage numbers and guess at other things.

The Miniature changes are surprisingly underwhelming for now.

I bound a few of my favorite minis that had been sitting in my bags, but was mildly dismayed to see that it was likely going to be hidden all the time (even from me!) on my toaster settings anyway.

Considering how I normally struggle with frame rates, perhaps it’s for the best that I don’t even see my own puppy following me most of the time. (Though if I’m alone and wandering the open world, even if the map is crowded, you’d think I ought to be able to see my own mini until I walk into the equivalent of world boss or WvW zerg congestion on my screen.)

The Trading Post changes have been mildly disorientating.

I’m not sure if it loads faster, and I kind of miss the tab that was just for taking items away from the TP. Right now, I have to load the whole damn TP and extra info just to collect some money, feels a little more clunky in that respect.

I haven't sold a Foxfire Cluster in forever, those are definitely NOT "my latest trades."
I haven’t sold a Foxfire Cluster in forever, those are definitely NOT “my latest trades.”

I -do- like the new filters, though it takes a bit of getting used to, after you’re accustomed to the old way of doing things.

Searching for armor my new mesmer alt could wear, within his level range, and with some Power on it, was a lot smoother and gave easier to choose from options.

The new filters are nice.
The new armor filters are nice, as sifting through on my guardian demonstrates.

But then again, I tried to type “Superior rune of the flame legion” into the search box and ended up cut off before being able to specify “flame legion” – which led to a whole bunch of other superior runes displayed.

Instead, the right keywords to use are “sup rune flame” or something oddly truncated like that.

That character text limitation is a little annoying to work around.

selling1

-Selling- things feels like one has to absorb a lot more info than before.

Having to drag a slider bar when one could previously just click a button to sell all is a step up in annoyance.

Sure, you list both fees now, but you don’t even helpfully provide a net profit summation, so now we’re expected to mentally subtract both fees ourselves. I think it’s -far- more likely that more people will be deceived by the total price and continue to pay TP tax without realizing it.

It’s more than a bit annoying to see that only the last 5 prices are visible at any time and that you have to scroll down to see the rest.This is a lot more game-able than the old system which let you see more prices at a glance, -if- you looked up the buy prices. Many won’t bother to scroll down. Expect traders to put up little honey traps in groups of 5 to knock the old prices off visibility.

selling2

Take, for example, this random rare dagger that drops as random loot.

The first trap is easy to spot, someone posted one for 64.46 silver when the rest are selling at 66.46 silver.

selling3

If you take the trouble to scroll down past the 66 silvers, there’s a jump that’s almost invisible here, between 66 and 69 silver.

It is entirely possible that someone may buy up daggers up to this price on a fairly regular basis and that if you post this dagger for anywhere 69 silver and under, it’ll sell. How many people will be bothered to look through this, scrolling through a pathetic 5 prices at a time? Much less than before, I suspect. Expect lots of lazy selling at whatever minimum is offered.

I don’t know if all the changes really made anything clearer or not, it just feels like there are different places people will get caught out, and different places wily traders can come in to profit from those too lazy to work it all out.

And finally, the New Player Leveling Experience.

I’m not really radically against it, like many screaming over the forums and on Reddit.

I took a new charr mesmer up from level 1, playing through like a complete newbie, up to about level 9.

The tutorial tips that show up seem to be quite explanatory, with the option of leaving it up or quickly closing it via pressing the ‘X’ for close window. This catches that group of slower tactical learners who want time to read through instructions over just jumping in and doing it.

The leveling experience at low levels does seem to have been sped up slightly, which means that those used to the game can very quickly speed through the most limiting and annoying ‘locked weapon skill’ stage past level 2 and 4.

In truth, the only time I really chafed at the weapon skill lock was when I was trying to tag mobs in a crowded Defend the Armory from Flame Legion event, which had somehow attracted a good seven veterans or so – presumably in search of the new hearts. Only having mesmer scepter skill 1 is NUTS, it is so SO SLOW when you’re trying to tag or cleave as many things as possible before all these crazy exotic-geared 80s blow everything up. I got about 2 of every 4 mobs that spawned, if I was lucky.

I was really happy to finish that heart and get the event xp and then run as fast as my little clawed feet could take me out of there and go back to slowly and methodically single-targeting random mobs to death.

Going from heart to heart following the content guide did offer a more streamlined experience than previously, rate of experience gain included.

The profession loot seemed to be working for me, as I got a number of white and blue drops that were usable upgrades. Some +Power clothes that I could wear, and very attractively, new weapons like a sword, pistol (level 2, but not usable until level 7 when offhand unlocks, *gasp*), a greatsword and a staff.

Since I was getting bored out of my mind with the slow rate of the scepter autoattack – but the torment isn’t half bad if you can successfully block with skill 2 and layer 6-7 stacks of torment on , and the skill 3 confusion stacks are SICK, thank you combat log – I took advantage of this to swap and try out the other weapons, presumably as intended, though lord knows if new players will figure it out if it isn’t spelled out for them too.

Plains of Ashford apparently had two new hearts added to it. My memory isn’t the best, but it appears to be the cows immediately next to the starting drop-off point and the skritt/cannon area, which I did always think was a little weird that the area had nothing but a skill point and a dynamic event up there.

The clarity and fanfare with each level up does feel more pronounced now.

Can't you just hear the guitar riffs? It's as if a dev said, "Not rewarding enough, eh? HERE!"
Can’t you just hear the guitar riffs? It’s as if a dev was thinking, “Geez, they keep saying it doesn’t feel rewarding enough! Well, fine, HERE!”

Around level 9, I started getting a bit restless with the pace and took a break away from the content guide, heading into the Black Citadel and for the nearest Trading Post. Why they removed the handy one near the starting drop-off point is beyond me – too confusing for newbies? A little subtle proding to veterans seeking convenience to pop one if they want to use one, maybe?

There I grabbed all the usual twink gear – the cheapest +Power stuff at the off-level of 6, minor runes of +Power and level 10 +Power jewellery, wandered off the beaten track to hit a few yellow mobs and push myself to level 10.

Then I went through the Personal Story in a big chunk and rather enjoyed it. Mobs stayed at level 10, even as the Personal Story completions were awarding XP and pushing me through the levels, so things felt more doable and there was less of those old ‘stuck’ points where you were facing a +3 level challenge and unwilling to go off and get more levels before coming back, leading to repeated deaths and restart at checkpoints. I was level 12 by the time I finished.

Considering that I hadn’t even map explored through half of the Plains of Ashford, -HOPEFULLY- this will finally stop those ridiculous complaints of “help, I’m underleveled and have completed my starting zone” and the equally ridiculous advice to jump through portals and map complete another race’s starting zone to fix that. HOPEFULLY, newbies will find themselves level 15 at the point they’re really supposed to transition to the level 15-25 zone.

The one thing I did find a little disappointing was skill points being pushed so far back to level 13. This invalidates a number of skill trainers in the starting zone, which give you the “successfully passed” message and is somewhat disorientating, especially when you realize later that you’ll have to retrace your footsteps -back- to them to get SP. That’s… more than a bit weird.

So far, so good, I guess. I got to level 13 in a couple of hours, which -seems- like the pace that newbies would expect.

The biggest mixed feelings I get from this new player experience is the distinct sensation that we’ve moved over from stressing an Explorer experience to focusing on an Achiever one.

Personally, it doesn’t disturb me too much either way because I have tendencies in either direction. I can adapt to Achiever signposts if a game chooses to go that way, and I can jump into a sandbox with the best of them and explore and go read third-party wikis and websites to figure out what to do next.

I’m an EASK, after all, both playstyles are my primary and secondary, and I’m also strong enough an Explorer to figure out how to set the defaults back to the way I prefer it.

I mean, if I really let my inner elitist speak, I’d say, “If folks aren’t Explorer enough to figure out how to shut the upper-right compass off, then they’re the subset that the straightforward little arrow was meant for.”

That was the FIRST thing I went for, when I logged into my level 80 main and went, OMG, what is this awful thing in the corner, TURN IT OFF, TURN IT OFF.

So I brought up the Options menu, read through stuff, saw the new “Content Guide” drop down bar option, and promptly set it from Default to Off, glancing through the other options in the process and thinking, ok, those might come in useful when I’m leveling a new alt or going on focused map exploration. (It -would- be handy if we could set it per character, and not a one-size-fits-all account setting though.)

Then I went for my regular jumping puzzle visit, popped an Enchanted Map piece, went “Kewl, a sekrit to explore!” and promptly ran around visiting jumping puzzles I hadn’t visited for a long time, hoping to pop another map piece. Somewhere in Diessa Plateau, I overheard mapchat complaining bitterly about compass arrow, how it was hand-holding and so on, while another person asked if it was possible to turn it off, and the complainer went ahead and said something like, oh, I don’t think it’s possible until you hit level 80 or complete the Personal Story or something.

Rolling my eyes with the utter INCORRECTNESS of this, I had to speak up over mapchat and pointedly “handhold” the map into looking at Options => Content Guide, whereupon they realized, OH, we -can- turn it off, after all, while other people went, oh, these other options might be useful for map exploring, etc.

PSA: You can turn off the compass or content guide via the options here!
PSA: You can turn off the “compass” or content guide via the options here!

No, really, some things -aren’t- obvious to everybody, and I don’t see too much harm in clearly spelling it out for them if they require it. The clearly demarcated dodge tutorial, for example, at least ensures that more lowbies will figure out that they do have a dodge button. If that’s what they need to learn, so be it.

The only sadness I get is that it’ll be a bit trickier to guide an Explorer down this Achiever centered road now. Gone is the “world is completely open and ripe for the plucking” feeling from having weapon skills unlock from use, from having a wealth of skills and traits and options at an early stage. What is “overwhelm, too many options, too little direction” to an Achiever or a newbie is the “world is my oyster, ooh, so much complexity and depth” discovery feeling for an Explorer.

We somehow have to get the message out that it’s still going to be okay to turn off the Content Guide and strike out cross-country, immersing into the world, poking one’s head into every nook and cranny.

I know I will, on my other alts when I want the exploration and world immersion feel, but I’m used to the old way of doing things and can figure these things out for myself.

Maybe I guess it’s better to trust that the Explorers will know how to tweak settings to match their preferences over the Achievers. Maybe.

Did we want to risk losing the Explorer cohort in favor of the Achiever crowds? I guess one subset pays better than the other? Or many of the Explorers are already here and past the lowbie experience… the novelty of new content is still pretty far away in November, though.

Dunno. Certainly there’s still one thing Explorers can explore. The entire new level up system, its rewards and the whole ‘feel’ of taking a character through it.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see on how it plays out over time, once the knee jerk reactions to sudden change are done.

Glitch: Updates

So much for good intentions and the vagaries of real life. Long overdue on this post, but nevermind, we push on.

I haven’t managed to spend a lot of time in The Secret World lately. The story and atmosphere are still interesting, but I haven’t been able to shake the feeling this week that it all takes too long. Wait for patch, wait for client to load, wait for loadscreens per zone, wait for the NPC to finish voice-over talking (I -could- skip it, but then what would be the point of playing the game?), wander over to whatever area, killing several umpteen dozen mobs along the way for the quest, rinse and repeat.

It’s not bad, by any means, but anticipating the many waits puts me off even starting. Sort of MMO procrastination. How strange.

So instead, I have been dabbling. My current retreat has been Glitch, with a side of desultorily attempting Fallen London/Echo Bazaar once more. (I’m stuck in a Nightmares loop, and haven’t had the patience to keep logging in every couple hours for the measly 10 turns to get out.)

I’ve been messing around with Glitch since Massively introduced the game, but taking it slow and steady and with many breaks in between. To me, it’s a whimsical, musical crafting sandbox. It’s amusing how many A Tale in the Desert players also play the game (I see a lot of recognizable names on the global chat.)

Yep, I said sandbox. Mostly because there is no one linear commonly-accepted path to advancing in the game, and there are also too many things to do all at once. To me, a sandbox game is one where you have to pick your own goal and work on it and choose your next direction when you’re done. It’s also a toy, in that you can play with it and have fun in a totally non-productive way if you so wish.

Glitch, to me, works that way. You can run around the world exploring and seeing new sights, taking screenshots along the way. You can visit and socialize with people. You can choose to chase the umpteen Achievement badges. You can work on the quests that pop up as you earn new skills and do new things (mostly it’s a good goal for newbies, but in the mid-game, I’ve mostly stopped paying attention to those. My personal goals are more interesting and take precedence.) You can customize and decorate your avatar or your house, or arrange furniture around like you’re playing with a dollhouse (though extreme vanity would cost real money to buy the pretty stuff. Me, I’m cheap, I’m okay with my house looking like all the furnishing came from IKEA.)

An interesting trend are the new additions which are pushing Glitch in the direction of being also a platforming game. I previously teased Guild Wars 2 for being a 3D platformer with all their jumping puzzles, and Glitch seems to be the new 2D kid on the block. They added two new areas, Roobrik and Balzare. I have no idea what they’re really called, but my name for them is Imagination Forests.

They’ve quite a number of imagination quoins (those floaty things) in each room/zone, and the whole place is made up of lots of tall trees and platforms. So you get to jump back and forth to collect all the quoins to the accompaniment of bouncy cheerful music. There’s a random chance of each IMG quoin having a higher than average multiplier on them, so you stand to earn a higher total IMG per Glitch day from them to make all that bouncing around worth it.

I quite like them. The place to go for really high multiplier quoins is still the Ancestral Lands, but I don’t really like to visit AL daily. The time limit on staying in the Ancestral Lands always adds “gogogo” pressure, you may chance on juju bandits you have to dodge or lose an item (easy enough, but stressful when you worry about browser lag) and worse of all, AL is crowded. Everyone’s already been by and scooped all the good stuff, usually.

My uncompetitive bone would much rather meander about the forests, sending my avatar playing around the branches like a little boy with nary a care in the world, having the freedom to back and forth in and out of my house as I feel like it.

Seeing as I never regularly managed to fill my quoin limits for the Glitch day previously, these forests come in very handily. Now I can. And bonus IMG is always good for spending on the upgrade cards, which is a relatively new system the devs added around the same time as the new housing, when they removed xp and replaced it with IMG that could be spent.

Speaking of the upgrade cards, the other contributions to platforming include the triple jump cards, which increase the height of the triple jump you can do, and a new series of “Ticket to” various places called Arbor Hollow, Cloud Flight, Sky Plunge and Radial Heights. Activating the cards brings you to a special room where you get to jump around and collect quoins, and if you manage a special pattern (at least in Radial Heights) you may get bonus rewards. Mostly, I love them for the sheer glee and delight of flying around and soaring, screw the quoins.

Radial Heights especially has fantastic music. (Take a gander at the youtube video.) When I first visited that special room, the music charmed me to such an extent, after finishing lighting up all the stars and picking up all the goodies, I decided not to leave and spent a good fifteen minutes just bouncing around in no set order, hitting stars and having them chime along to the music. Sort of impromptu music making. I bet many kids would be mesmerized by that room.

I think part of the charm of Glitch, especially for adults, is that it gives us permission to unwind and harken back to days of childlike imagination. It’s very good at what it does.

Nothing you do is wrong in Glitch. Inefficient, maybe, but if efficiency is not your goal, why bother? And even if you accidentally do something “bad,” like mismanage your energy and run out and “die,” you go to Hell – which is an amusing enough place for being dead, affords an exploration badge the first time, and increments a death badge achievement, which encourages some to die on purpose daily.

And like I found out, by sheer accident, there’s also a new death-related badge added recently.

Rofl’ing on reading the text truly cut the pain of accidentally falling over and conking off when I didn’t want to.

As for what I’ve been doing in there, about a week or two ago, all my house-related skills (furniture making, fiber arts, etc.) finally completed their long offline learning times, and I decided to start belated house improvement. (I think most established Glitch players have long completed those things, and me, I’m just starting, heh.)

You can hurry the learning of skills by regular donation to favor shrines of the Giants, but I kept metagaming and thinking “grinding” and “itemsinks” and “my god, I’m actively wasting my time buying into this hamster wheel of frantic activity that gets swallowed by the trash cans of the game, just to speed up something that’ll take 14 days to maybe 7 days if you work your fingers to the bone.”

Seeing as Glitch isn’t the only MMO I’m playing, it was less stressful to just set the offline skill and forget about the game and let it do its thing in its own time. Patience works wonders.

Now I could have hurried house improvements by buying stuff from other players, but I just don’t get my fun from the game that way. I prefer self-sufficiency and do-it-yourself over currency trading. I worked on the second floor addition to my house – something which took a surprisingly huge amount of resources I never bothered to collect, so I had to go around to get them (the players have developed various resource routes using their home streets – something truly ingenious, if a little game-breaking, imo, as it concentrates a lot of previously spread out resources into one place. Using these resources grants the player who created them extra IMG, so it is a mutual benefit social exchange.)

I don’t know if there are hardcore Glitch players who bother visiting all the streets to collect the total amount of potential resources a day. I do know that after 2-3 streets, my already-quite-full-of-random-crap bags were close unto bursting and I headed back home instead.

That done, I’m back to my goal of carpeting the walls in Storage Display Boxes or SDBs.

Previously, the only way to store goods in houses was to chuck them all over the floor. This makes for a distressingly messy house and makes it hard to find anything in the piles of stuff. (You could also lock them away in bags in cupboards, but it involved lots of clicking and opening of storage items to find what you wanted also.)

My house is unfortunately still mostly in that state, but if I get enough SDBs on the walls, I figure I should be able to take most of the junk off the floors eventually.

And maybe even get the pets out into the yard.