GW2: Lost Shores – Part 3

In all honesty, the thought did occur to me that I should maybe skip phase 3, phase 1 and 2 having sucked as much as it did.

If I had, no doubt I would have joined that group of really unhappy people over yonder.

But… in for a penny, in for a pound and all that. I want to experience it all. (Even if it’s just to complain bitterly later. Or ahem, provide -informed- feedback.) That’s just how I am.

Before phase 3 began though, I had some time to explore Southsun Cove at leisure, and I did. It was fairly enjoyable.

I killed a bunch of karka, working towards completing the monthly achievement. I picked passionfruit. Did a DE or two. Mined some ore, even orichalcum. Attempted the steam platform jumping puzzle for five minutes before deciding to do it much much later.

And overheard a group of people exploring the karka hive and oohing and aahing over the rich orichalcum node there at the top.


That sounds… intriguing.

I made my way over, and it turns out that this enterprising group of people had found a little hidden gap in the webbing blocking the entryway into the karka hive and were having lots of fun peeking at it. They’d wiped on a champion karka, and enough of them went back again for me to follow the group into the hive.

It was one of my most exciting Lost Shores experiences ever.

Why? The total number of players we had with us was only around 10-15. This is enough to have an adventure with, to have more than half get wiped by a karka barrel roll down the slope and still be picked up by the survivors, but not too many, so that we can actually see the karka and react to its animations, keep track of the other players with us, and fire our skills with no lag whatsoever.

We made it to the top of the incredible structure, went pick-happy on the rich orichalcum node there, joking about the orichalcum price dropping after this, then attempted the champion. Alas, we wiped too, thanks to a well-placed barrel roll that knocked out way too many of us, but it was a fun attempt.

Later, this sneak peek at the karka hive gave me a little foreknowledge at where phase 3 would likely end up, and a nearby waypoint to port to, rather than run around lost and confused.

It so happens I got in at 8 minutes after the noon hour (server time) for phase 3 of the one-off event.

To my surprise (after the previous debacle of phase 2, my expectations weren’t very high), the event had already kicked off. Not a problem. I was actually quite pleased they had apparently managed to get the event to start on time.

I waypointed to Southsun Cove, read the event text in the corner that said the Lionguard was advancing on the karka nesting ground to place explosives in the karka hive, and waypointed again to rush quickly to where I knew the hive was.

The hive assault was distinctly laggier with more people participating, and I couldn’t help but reflect back to my sneak peek experience and think how much more fun that was in a smaller group.

Still, it wasn’t too bad. Skills were firing with not that much lag time, we were able to move upwards through the hive at a good pace, following the lionguard explosive team (which thankfully did not bug out – after phase 1 and 2, I was almost expecting that to happen or something else to go wrong…)

There was even enough leisure time to get into casual groups with people (for better loot, or xp, or support, and what not) and invite in some lowbies who weren’t getting much xp by themselves. (Gogo guardian greatsword or staff farmers…)

The explosives were set. And then we went down the hive again, working on getting them exploded, with some hilarity – apparently the lionguard aren’t too concerned about friendly fire where bombs are involved.

The Ancient Karka came out. There was a brief period of disorientation as folks milled around a little lost, with nothing in their immediate vicinity but lots of veteran karka to shoot at. Being somewhat more situationally aware, I spotted the symbol on the map (what the hell was it doing all the way over THERE?) and made my way towards the Ancient Karka with others who were equally more alert.

We dropped a tree or two on it. Which was amusing. And a well-paced part of the event chain.

Then we fought the first set of karka reinforcements, which was anything but.

You may wish to note the timestamp. It’s half an hour into killing endless waves of karka. Reviving people. Focusing down a single karka to break its armor again and again, to the point of each veteran having, oh I dunno, three health bars? And then repeating -that- for the next veteran karka. And the next. And the next.

And oh, they’re back, with a group of young karka and hatchlings to burn down. Pity the first guys who went too far ahead and took point or aggro. My prior experience in dealing with young karka on Southsun Cove taught me I couldn’t tank a group of them rushing at me – at least, not without a well placed wall of reflection to reflect their ranged spikes back into them. In that kind of crowded lag, you’d go down before you even register that a bunch of karka had rushed you.

I made a point of being the oh, sixth guy there, or something. Near enough to staff attack them down, not at all in the vanguard to be bumrushed down. Then revive the sacrificial meatshields who -were- downed.

Now we rinse and repeat to focus down the big ones x 3 health bars.

Somewhere along the way, I think people started getting bored and losing focus. Some backed off to AFK for a bit. No doubt plenty of people like me gave up using skills and just went to autoattack as the combat dragged on and on and things got laggier and laggier. Those that had died, rather than just merely downed, just lay there and waited for a revive, rather than waypoint rush back. The progress bar crept upward steadily, but at a snail’s pace…

…then the champion karka popped and wiped out pretty much everybody.

Except a few of the more alert players who managed to retreat to the bridge to hold it off, a la Gandalf or the 300.

On the whole, it was okay. A bit long, but a decent enough fight, and one phase of it would have been sufficient and gone a long way.

Eventually, we finished this and chased the Ancient Karka back some more, to the steam vents. This was pretty creative and well-paced too.

I appreciated the inclusion of the in-game hints, so that you could figure out what to do by reading, and carry boulders over to the vents and thus solve the DE.

The Ancient Karka broke and ran…

And everyone had an “Oh shit” moment as we realized there was a second phase of karka reinforcements and yet another bar that would only ever creep its way slowly up again.

This was the worse part of the entire event chain for me. Probably for a good many others too. I’m not sure if it’s because all of us were online for too long, or that particular location with all the steam vent massive wall effect consuming either graphical or CPU resources, but the lag that hit me here was phenomenally incredible.

It took a good FIVE seconds (I counted, there was nothing else to do) for a single skill of mine to trigger. Yeah, my autoattack… wasn’t. It just sat there blinking and only five seconds later, it would fire one little ball of light. Wait another five seconds… then the next.

On the other hand, I’d have to grant Anet the massive feat of engineering that I never once did -crash- out of the game. I just sat there…stalled… for what seemed like an eternity,trying to fight a bunch of armored out the ass karka.

Eventually, reeling around trying to move and rubberbanding relentlessly in place as the server kept telling my client that I was still HERE while my client was trying to tell it that I had moved in several directions at once, I managed to stumble to the edge of the fracas, where I saw some people had found mortar emplacements to help in fighting off the karka waves.

The idea was sound in theory.

In practice, as I found out after grabbing a mortar from someone who had given up with them, a five second delay on your skills means it is fairly impossible to turn and adjust the mortar accurately, or place your shots accurately either as you cannot really tell how long you’ve held the button for.

Still, because the alternative was watching my scepter shoot dinky balls of light five seconds apart, and I’d already done that to death in the first reinforcement stage, I decided to hog one of the mortars anyway because it was a fun change. Something novel.

(There was one more unused mortar next to me, so it wasn’t as if someone with better framerates or response time wanted a mortar anyway.)

And I’d occasionally manage a lucky hit by sheer guesswork and the feel of things, which was fun.

45 minutes of this unending hell later, the expected champion karka popped up to signal the end of this stage.

I think the guy in the screenshot echoed all our feelings when he yelled, “JUST DIE!!!”

A surfeit of refreshed health bars later, it eventually did.

More maneuvering of the Ancient Karka with explosive gas later, which I’d note, only took 10 minutes as compared to the previous stage and was perfectly tolerable and interesting…

…it finally retreated to its hive, where we exploded more stuff on it and finally cornered it and took it down.

Two and a half hours later from event start at noon server time, we were finally staring at the dead ancient karka in the “one-time ever” cutscene.

Now, I’d be the first to admit that I am rather tickled and pleased at the reflection of the ‘lasting consequence’ of this chain right into the scenery of Southsun Cove.

Even now, in Southsun Cove proper, the dead ancient karka still peeks out of that lava crater.

Looking at it, reminds me of Event B in Syl’s little cartoon depiction of how someone can later come across the crater and wonder at how and what created that impact.

But then I think about the guys who were putting aside real life to suffer through Event A, bug-ridden and tedious as it was…

…Add to that my suspicion that more people would really prefer to enjoy a good and fun Event A, rather than stare at Event B and wonder or worse -know- what they missed out on (hi, precursor envy!)…

And I have to ask, are these one-off events really worth it?

My criticism would be that the Lost Shores pace and schedule was too hectic and badly timed. Three days, ending on a frickin’ Monday for some parts of the world.

If stuff breaks, and we know that GW2’s DE system isn’t foolproof (we’ve had skill challenges breaking since beta,) that’s a really short time for Anet to scramble, fix and respond. It’s also an insanely short interval for players to attempt it in. Less players get to see and appreciate it.

My memory of phase 1 and 2 has been mollified somewhat by opening the chest at the end, getting a 20 slot bag and two named exotics out of it. Not precursors, but one of them is a nifty greatsword named Ebonblade, which sounds cool, was worth 4 gold when I last checked, and who knows, maybe they’ll make it a precusor when they have time to make more legendaries? Probably not, but I think my future warrior alt should be quite happy to make use of it down the road.

I’m sure, however, there is a big contingent of people who missed out on this chest at the end who are not at all happy.

What puzzles me is why ArenaNet can’t make “one-off events” that last for several weeks to a month, with event or dungeon instances that help tell the story at a more immersive pace. Once the entire event is over, they are also one-off, in that they’ll never repeat again, right?

After all, with all the overflow servers creating various “zone instances,” it’s not as if defeating the Ancient Karka was really a one time ever event either. There were multiple Ancient Karkas for different folks on different overflow servers. I hear some enterprising fellows even managed to use the partying/guest invite system to defeat multiple Ancient Karkas on alts and get more stuff out of that very nice chest.

So why not limit the group sizes even further to something a little more sane?

Such as that experienced in the Mad King’s Clock Tower, about oh, 15-20 people?

Or go back to dungeon sizes and have it for 1-5 people… I am loving Fractal of the Mists, by the by, and I’ll cover that in a later post.

If we really must, then oh, cap it at 30-50 players a zone or something.

Phase 2 already was showing random staggered timings per overflow instance. On purpose or by accident, I don’t know. But if you’re going to do that, then fer heavens’ sake, stagger it to 3 hour intervals and let folks from all timezones participate, just as in Guild Wars 1.

Lock out the reward if you want, and have it only a one-time claimable reward.

I truly see no functional difference between a limited time event and these so-called “one-off” events except the former is fairer for more parties, and the latter a whole lot more exclusionary for no real meaningful reason.

Story is no excuse. I helped Kormir do you-know-what in Guild Wars 1 after defeating Abaddon. It was a ONE-TIME per character event (unless you joined another player’s party to help them.) It was just staggered off from other peoples’ experiences, and I think that’s perfectly okay and a lot more respectful of everyone’s time.

Trying to make all people at all times in the world share that one singular event?

Guarantees that they will share a laggy crowded un-immersive bugfest.

(If they didn’t miss out entirely, that is.)

CoH: In-Depth Look at Casino Heist

Casino Heist is like a four-man version of Ocean’s Eleven.

The aim: To rob the Tyrant’s Palace Casino for all it’s worth.

Players get to choose from four roles in the Theatre Lobby: The Grifter, The Hitter, The Hacker and The Thief by clicking on a movie poster glowie.

This awards a temporary power that describe the role in detail, so that new players have an introduction to what they’re supposed to be doing when they get inside the mission proper, before the time starts counting down.

When people were new to the event, players took a bit more time here to explain and describe what to do. By now, most people in PUGs automatically just look at where people are standing and take the roles that aren’t already taken. Clicking on a movie poster will indicate whether the role is available or is already in use.

Once everyone enters through door 1, signaling their readiness, a cutscene begins. This serves as both a short introductory narrative of the movie as well as more explanatory exposition to elaborate on what each player needs to do.

The Hitter – Part 1

First, the Hitter came to this room to knock out these generators so the Thief would be able to more easily access the vault.

What it doesn’t tell you is that Hitters are able to help the Hacker as well by taking on the patrol that walks around the hacker’s target room. Paragon Wiki suggests it, and I concur.

As long as I’m on a character that can do quick heavy hits, I like to take a left into the hacker’s room before the hacker even knows it and stomp on the two casino security patrols. This saves the hacker from needing to wait on the third computer, which is where the patrol usually ends up pathing around.

Then as the hacker is clicking on the first computer, I’m out of there and headed right into the power generator room to click the four power generators.

The Hacker – Part 1

Meanwhile, the hacker went to this room to install an outdated OS to these servers.

The Hacker is the one role that is given an extra temp power of Stealth. His objective: click three computer glowies without killing the patrol in the room.

As mentioned, his job is made much easier if the Hitter bothered to care. If not, the patrol starts on the left side of the room and it’s a matter of giving the patrol a little time to walk away from the leftmost computer to click on it.

(Come to think of it, one might be able to click on the rightmost computer first, then go left, but I haven’t tested this. I tend to like to start from the left, then middle, then wait for the patrol to walk away before clicking the last computer on the right.)

Worse come to the worse, if the patrols start shooting because you’re clumsy (and I am clumsy), there’s always just eating a purple for enough defence to click the computer without being interrupted. Then run out of the room and the poor AI is dumbfounded by this.

I’m sure it’s a limitation of the mission system that no major alarm or cascade failure is set off by this, but I think it works out well for the casual PUG nature of it.

I don’t know if a control character is able to just hold the patrols and get on with it, or if any attack on the patrols is allowable, but it might be interesting to try one day to test the flexibility of the limits. The only issue is the group dynamic nature of the event, which makes one feel obliged to do it perfectly in the way that is learnt/taught/explained and not inclined to experiment, in case other people get upset they don’t get their badge or something.

The Grifter – Part 1

The Grifter intercepted Sylvia Rexson here in order to distract her and keep her out of Ted Dubois’ office…

Lots of people try to snatch the Grifter’s role. It’s all simple clicky “talking.” No sneaking required, no heavy navigating.

The one thing I’m not so fond of is that I think there is one set ‘good’ solution to the Grifter’s role in Part 1.

At least, I haven’t experimented yet, but the option everyone is told in order to get the Perfect Grifter badge is to first “flirt” with her, and then “say something crass.” Wait a few moments, and then “say something even more crass.”

This becomes an exercise in meme-spreading and memory work. Everyone do it this way. End-of-story.

It’ll be nice if it turns out that the other options are also possible and work to get the badge. But it doesn’t appear that way.

The Thief – Part 1

While the Thief was upstairs in that very same office stealing vital items from Ted Dubois.

No one seems to like being the Thief. Or at least, I end up playing the role 60% of the time when I wait for everyone else to choose first. Not sure why.

It was the first role I learnt and it’s not really that hard. It’s just a number of varied tasks.

In the first part, you’re alone upstairs in the office, and there are nine desk glowies. Three of them can be clicked simultaneously by walking up to the desks and clicking on each in turn, as long as you don’t move or twitch or somehow interrupt your own clicking action.

Somewhat randomly, each glowie may yield a desired item that increments the progress bar for the Thief forward until you find all three necessary items. Just keep clicking until done.

Battle Phase – Part 1

Once everyone has executed their roles perfectly (or not, as the case may be, and the timer runs out), everyone gets teleported back to a warehouse where there is a standard minion/goon fight as a warmup, and then Sylvia Rexson as the AV boss battle.

I’d assure you that we were fighting one of the AVs here, but I frankly don’t know which one. I’ll blame it on the dark defender’s power effects, which I can, since it’s my character. Maybe it’s Sylvia.

The AVs in Casino Heist are not really that hard, which I do like, for appropriate immersion purposes. They’re humans. A little tougher to beat on, but they don’t really have flashy OMG Ultimate Power gimmicks as opposed to either the Incarnate Trial bosses or even the Time Gladiator bosses. They reflect a believable power level.

The only thing is Sylvia has some phenomenal regeneration going on (may be her powerset) so someone with some -regen is helpful, or one will have to lay on the damage with a thick knife. She defeated my poor stalker’s attempt at soloing naturally without inspirational aid, but a stalker and scrapper duo worked fine.

On her defeat, we enter into Part 2.

With their operation half-over, the team swung into high gear.

The Hacker – Part 2

The hacker came to this room to manually disable security cameras that might capture their identities.

Same as before, just without the Hitter’s potential help. Avoid patrol, click on computers, done.

The Thief – Part 2

While the Thief entered this vent, bypassed the security on the other side and accessed the vault…

So here’s where I confess to roleplaying. I habitually dismiss pets if I’m playing a class with them, and turn off any flashy toggles before I click on the vent.

I don’t think the game actually cares, but it just doesn’t make immersive sense for my character to fit into that vent with 5 clanking robots of various sizes trailing after him. (I guess it’ll make a great comedy movie.)

It also helps (my peace of mind, at any rate) when I navigate this series of laser alarm-like things which come after the vent.

There are three sets of them, and a fixed safe path through. I’ve never tried tripping them on purpose, so I don’t know what happens. I suspect you simply don’t get the Perfect Thief badge.

Those safe paths only exist, by the way, if the power generators are down. One of the notable differences/consequences that the mission’s scripting was able to generate – as I found out when we attempted with three after one player crashed and we decided the least necessary might be the role of the Hitter.

Houston, we may have a problem.

The movement inhibition power also slows you down to a terrible crawl.

I discovered a little late that it may, just may, be possible to sneak past via the absolute sides of the corridor, but i didn’t make it very far because I was too slowed and paused for far too long to stare agawk at the laser display.

And lastly, once into the vault, one simply waits for the grifter to obtain the passphrase and the keypad glowie to light up, before clicking on it to ostensibly key it in and make off with the loot.

The Grifter – Part 2

Which brings us to…

That required the Grifter to meet Ted Dubois in his own office in order to record each segment of the Verbal Pass Code so that the Thief could actually open the vault.

This is the segment I like from the Grifter. It’s a conversation segment with choices, and you pretend that you’re a reporter from some magazine or other.

All the options work. You can pick any one of them, and Ted will eventually say all the words that get the Thief into the vault. So there are two benefits: one, you can actually roleplay a little and express the most suitable line your character would say, and two, you can experiment safely (without fear that people will curse you behind your back) to find the most efficient option.

What I find most amusing is that most people are scared to experiment. They have been taught by example to pick the most “officious” response and they follow it slavishly because hey, it works. Don’t break what’s working, right?

It turns out that that second option, the officious, “pieces on high-profile security experts” one is actually the slow route. It takes Ted the better part of three conversation dialogues for him to say the final word to the passphrase.

By gutsy experimentation earlier on, I found out that the very first option, the “casino-focused interior decorating” magazine,  the first question will get him to say the phrase much faster, without having to ask him a second or third question.

I’ve been using that option since, because I feel obliged to be a speed freak when someone is waiting on me in order to click their glowie. Some day, I’m going to have to experiment with the last magazine option, I really want to want to see the NPC’s conversation as well as find out if it’s faster or slower.

The Hitter – Part 2

Finally, the Hitter came here to the Game Room to teach one of these three patrons how to count cards. Their attempt to cheat the house would trigger the recognition software and buy the team time.

Now this one, I don’t like. It is clued into the subsequent prompt captions that show up for the Hitter that one of these options may work better than the other two.

It’s the spectre of the “only one good solution” again. This one, I was watching when others chose differently, and I can confirm you don’t get the Perfect Hitter badge if the Hitter makes the wrong choice and picks, for example, the High Roller.

You MUST choose the disheveled drifter and teach him to count cards if you want the shiny badge award to be enabled for all.

So yeah, follow the walkthrough, kthxbai. Else you screwed some poor alt out of their badge and the player might grumble a bit behind your back (if he’s polite enough to keep it to himself) and wait the next day for “a better team who knows what they’re doing and plays the way they’re supposed to” to go get the badge. (Lucky it’s just a badge. If it was mission success contingency and the shiny reward awarded or not, I can just picture the bad-tempered screaming at each other now.)

Then what was the point of the poor mission writer putting in all that conversation content for the other two options? For the first people to trial-and-error it by penalty and for all subsequent people to ignore, inflicting on themselves less variety to a mission they’re going to repeat for the shiny regardless?

Battle Phase – Part 2

When done, the second part of the fight begins. Again a standard goon/minion fight, followed by two AVs, one of them Ted Dubois.

Once defeated, everyone is teleported back to the Theatre Lobby where each person’s performance in the role is tallied up and the Perfect (Insert Role Here) badge awarded for everyone as long as the person in the role did it “right” by the mysterious badge rules.

Once you pick up all four badges (it can be through multiple event runs), the “Roleplayer” badge is awarded as a bonus.

Which ultimately is what the mission is trying to achieve, I think. Sorta kinda.

It’s a bit awkward in that roleplaying is hard to do on a time limit, with one  ‘correct’ solution in places, and lack of room for self-expression, what with folks relying on you to perform cooperatively and speed them through. But it’s got the willing suspension of disbelief and giving you a role to play at immersing in portion.

Still, it’s a very creative new use of the new conversation choices, mission and trial mechanics, and I’d like to see more come out of it.