…with one tiny stopover to experience the story instance first, because I’m a sucker for narrative and getting properly situated in game lore…
…with the initial fistful of Queen’s Gauntlet tickets, hoping to beat the queue which might naturally get distracted by the shiny skins, story instance, Labyrinthine Cliffs and wannabe boss zerging below.
Got a cage with one other person thinking the same thing.
Noted with immense pleasure the missing dome, so less constricting camera angles
(though I still managed some awkward ones on a sylvari necro later.)
The NPC medic, which revived you, so no waypoint fee and bloodboiling frustrated running back between tries
(though I still managed to pick a cage with a buggy asura medic which would sometimes not bother to revive – dang those snotty asura and their bookah prejudices)
No repair fee, from the prior patch.
BEAUTIFULLY clear orange AoE indicators, making it a lot clearer where Shadowfall was going to land, so the fight felt a lot fairer from the get go.
Jumped in the first time, thinking, man, I’m screwed, I didn’t read my own phase 1 guide from the last time, I’ve forgotten her patterns and where exactly to run, it’s going to take a while to figure out all over again.
Was shocked to make it to phase 2 running purely blind, based on reflexes alone, being in bad positions about 50% of the time (screaming my head off and relying on dodge invincibility frame or renewed focus to scrape by) and got her to about half her health before all my poor timing finally caught up with me and whittled me down out of health and endurance and cooldowns.
Huh. Felt a lot easier than last time, I thought.
Checked my FPS, which was holding at 20-24.
Gave it another two tries, which came fairly close, though I was starting to train myself to adopt the more optimal positioning in relation to the patterns again from old memories of yesteryear…
I had to exit the map to pick up more tickets saved from last year from the bank, and also swapped characters to a condi necro because I was curious as to how it would go.
…then the weird shit started.
Occasionally dying from Visions that didn’t even seem to be close at all.
One or two cases of what felt like extreme lag and dropped frames, causing the whole entourage of Liadris to turn up a lot closer than expected
(yes, taking into consideration her teleporting – the point was not even seeing her teleport, and the visions stuttered in like they were flicker-stepping in too)
Checked my FPS, and lo and behold, it was at 10-12.
The zerg was in my map, trying out the boss blitz.
Spent another 30 tickets or so ramming my head against the problem, lucking in one attempt that had her almost dead before something happened… unknown, the floor fell out, but the announcer had only spoken the first time running out line, there didn’t -seem- be a vision near me…
…I can only conclude that a vision perhaps spawned on top of me and I didn’t see it with my low FPS before being returned.
It was nearly 5am local time (or evening North American time) and I decided that each attempt was getting worse and worse.
Either possible sleep deprivation, the oncoming NA zerg thronging the Pavilion or both.
Went for a nap.
Woke up mid morning. (Had a day off today, so no work.)
Got back into the Crown Pavilion.
Noted that the zerg had died down to some 30-40 odd individuals in my particular map – generally wiping on a boss after having killed 2.
Picked a cage away from the boss they were fighting.
Noted I was back to 20 FPS.
Killed Liadri on the second go.
Then I joined TTS doing a 6 group version (10ish people per boss, simultaneous kill) of the boss blitz for the next two hours.
The selfish part of me that wants a clear gauntlet run is telling me to propagate the message that is being spread on Reddit.
On the other hand, if you achieve this level of pretty – and I do seem to recall quite a number of people wanting interesting 10-man group boss fight content, and quite a few megaguilds or server communities who could field this number of players, not to mention the eventual wising up and learning of the playerbase:
The six bosses are fairly entertaining in their mechanics.
There’s enough people around to rez a downed player if individual mistakes happen, and a waypoint if things really go wrong.
It is quite doable to finish within the 7 minute time limit – though the issue is coordination and communication, of knowing when to stop DPS and start killing in sync when all groups are ready.
Welcome to the new champion bag farm.
Honestly, I can’t fault this new turn of events.
Fair is fair.
There’s considerable amounts of solo content available with the update – Labyrinthine Cliffs is a solo explorer’s haven. Queen’s Gauntlet is a solo challenge-seeker’s refuge.
It’s even in the interests of those playing the Queen’s Gauntlet to NOT have the unwashed masses piling it up in a group of 50 under some unfortunate person’s cage.
A group of 10 underneath shouldn’t create as many issues.
It goes back to the original intent of the design, which -was- zerg splitting, with all the anti-zerg mechanics given to the mobs, except the zerg outsmarted the designers the first time around.
It’s nice to have a little playground for coordinated groups – and it’s temporary content, doesn’t give anything special that you can’t get elsewhere so no elitism issues…
…but hey, you get the fun of playing in a coordinated team, fighting not-too-hard but not-too-easy bosses, and can rack up a lot of festival tokens, gauntlet tickets and champion bags quite fast. Very fast, even. Together.
Folks who don’t want to or have the time to play together, there’s Frostgorge, Cursed Shore, EOTM to choo choo around for champion bags too. The only tradeoff is no festival tokens, and no chance at Festival Favors for the seasonal vanity stuff.
Soloists who want those Festival things, there’s Labyrinthine Cliffs to play at leisure (and small groups can do this too – I see mesmer portals being popular and casual guild events doing the half hour event pop ups as being -very- very fun and cooperative and friendly) and the Gauntlet – which is a lot less agonizing without said 50 man zerg under you.
Those who have a more competitive streak might be happier with Aspect Arena and Sanctum Sprint.
Everybody has viable options. Everybody wins.
(Except those hoping to spam 1 and get rich. Don’t worry. Anet will screw it up at some point and there will be another farm fest again.)
Over on the Terraria end, hard-mode has been my drug of choice.
I find that I enjoy the challenge of facing something difficult and initially pwns your face off, but then steadily working out how to defeat it via better and creative tactics (and possibly incrementally better gear.)
The big BUT is that I can accept this quite easily in a singleplayer or small multiplayer game, but somehow the flow seeking for optimal challenge seems to break down in a big MMO.
One major difference that I can think of is that Terraria allows creativity of block placement and the ability to alter your scenery. You get to dig trap pits, walls and barriers to shield yourself, plot and plan and set up regeneration stations (<3 my honey pits) and the eventual reward of this industry is the capacity for “easy fun” when the mob progresses to the “on farm” phase, where you stand around, hold down a mouse button and cackle as things die and loot drops.
In a big MMO, progress is more measured by how good your gear gets, and how well your group/raid members play.
In Terraria, there is incrementally better gear as well, but progress on that front is generally a lot faster.
RNG chances of 0.5% – 1% are a LOT more palatable when you can go through one mob in under a few seconds and can generate hundreds of them in under an hour.
Contrast this with an MMO raid where you only get to test the favor of the RNG gods once a night for maybe twice a week at best and things start to get annoying very quickly.
Mobs in Terraria can be soloed. I’m not at the mercy of waiting for others to match my timings and praying they or their gear is up to the fight.
They’re also easier in a group, so there is still incentive to come together when everyone is online.
And of course, the most fun in Terraria arises from the creative collaboration. Taking the ideas of one person and then running with it, being inspired by and improving on it.
The old new arena, you may recall, was a clean glitzy place marred only by the record of our untimely demise at the hands of Skeletron when we summoned him on a whim a little -too- close to the dawn.
Post-hardmode, one thing has pretty much led to another.
Our group ‘boss’ project has been the Pumpkin Moon event, a series of 15 waves to be fought during the space of night. Logically and rightfully, it’s a lot easier to push the waves when there’s more of us around than attempting to solo. (But you could always summon it solo and still try it out, so there’s no nasty restriction there.)
Eri and I once attempted the event as a duo, and got to something like Wave… 4? Memory fails. From there, we noticed the tendency of mobs to start falling into certain locations, like a lake bed, and the idea was born to start playing mechanic and wiring up traps to defeat the smaller mobs more easily. (Also conveniently getting all of us familiar with the new stuff to boot.)
Each person has built upon the ideas of the other, and our new arena is pretty danged lethal. (Note: Keep hands and feet and body away from machinery when spiky balls are in operation!)
The assorted junk at the center of the arena was also a collaborative effort. I stuck a honey pit and campfire (and later a heart crystal) there cos I loves me some stacked regen. I put a clock there too cos I hate shuffling around my accessories trying to check when night was coming via a GPS.
Eri set up teleporters for kiting bosses, and a bed spawn point, and a chest and other conveniences have popped on in.
I wanted to play with asphalt.
I had 999 pieces of gel to use up, and the thought of running places at double the speed was very appealing to my lazy soul. Especially for getting to the dungeon quickly to farm all the goodies inside.
What better to use it on than Eri’s already set-up highway?
Of course, sometimes collaboration has a cost. It involves compromises.
The new and improved lethal trap corridor below our arena necessitated the removal of a scenic lake. Someone’s *cough* lazy draining methods have turned it into a somewhat boring rectangular underwater reservoir.
Of course, all this means is the ability to re-collaborate and re-improve on the design.
I’m still pondering what to do with the stored water. I recently worked out how to pump liquids with pumps and wires and am somewhat eager to play with it. Just need a good idea.
I installed a bit better lighting because turtles are still blind as a bat (need to farm my nice white light off dungeon mobs at some point), took the opportunity to redecorate my tunnel in the gaudy fashion of someone who really likes those crystal shards but has no real sense of what’s appropriate, and stuck in a new door for one more minor mob speedbump before they pop in to plague me in the midst of crafting stuff.
Oh, and I also repaved the new way up (the one that doesn’t involve flying head on into a hundred spiky balls) with asphalt, just because.
It makes a hilarious fun slide into the other pond on returning from the castle.
And the cost of the speedy new west highway?
Someone’s pumpkin has a hole in it. A very straight worm drilled through it. That’s what a little bird told me. Yes.
My creations tend to be more on the ugly but functional side of things. Especially for speeding up farming of items I want, but am too impatient to spend hours waiting for.
Terraria has been kind enough to allow increasing mob spawn rates by standing by a water candle and drinking a battle potion, so farming seems to be very much a part of the game.
I want the ability to summon Pirate Invasions, because they’re fun, and that requires a pirate map consumable that is used up per summon. You get a pirate map off a rare chance killing mobs in the Ocean biome. That involves walking to the edge of the map and lots of swimming, and I’ve already killed so many sharks in a prior search for a diving helmet that I could make shark’s fin soup if such an item existed in Terraria.
Solution? Enter the meteor farm. Placing 50 pieces of meteorite anywhere turns it into an artificial meteor biome, and in near end-game armor, a helpful leaf crystal acts like an autoturret that can one-shot the meteor heads that spawn to accompany the biome.
Ugly, but functional. And the wooden platform below catches most of the drops.
It also allows for more active participation when desired, because I can only AFK so long before getting trigger happy.
The other thing that I regularly amuse myself with is the artificial biome project.
I guess I just enjoy taming the wilderness by encasing it in easily accessible little bubbles that preserve its habitat for posterity. I don’t even mind the mobs that keep spawning from them, they make life fairly entertaining (though I do have a certain hatred for a giant fungi bulb that insists on throwing nasty spores in the air that whack an unaware person for 56 damage per spore.)
All attempts at preserving the natural antlion populations are failing miserably. I think I need a longer desert.
Ask and ye shall receive. Want an instance where you can both solo or group as you choose? Want variable difficulty levels that can be player adjusted?
The Candidate Trials are that miracle of game design. For that, the ArenaNet team responsible for building them gets major props and kudos and a big THANK YOU from me for bringing a brilliant theoretical ideal to fruition.
But wait, some of you may be screaming, it has -major- issues with scaling while in a full group! It is terrible! Awful! Tier 4 is so goddamn hard in a group, while others are managing it solo… *cries*
The larger a group size you go to, the more mobs turn up that are level 81. Add to that the fact that veterans spawn at a higher difficulty tier, and most importantly, the fact that some of the Aetherblade mobs throw WEAKNESS around (which immediately cuts group damage by a lot via glancing blows) and it creates the illusion that the mobs are a giant punching bag of hitpoints that you are flailing ineffectually on.
ArenaNet has created something very interesting and laudable in the Candidate Trials.
Difficulty level 1 is what the inclusive folk have asked for, for a very long time now. It is easy mode. Infantile mode. I heard that if you stand around and do nothing, the NPCs may actually successfully fight off the horde on their own. Presumably with some plunderers getting away and you only scoring a bronze and not getting any loot whatsoever. But what it enables is for everyone to participate in the story, small snippet that it is. You get to see a little bit of both Evon and Ellen Kiel’s character and it contributes to the election storyline somewhat.
Difficulty level 2 is like City of Heroes’ flood of minion mobs. You get a few more ordinary mobs than level 1. Tougher types of Aetherblade faction show up. (Strikers, oh how I hate thee still.) The grenadiers with the mortars spawn, introducing the mechanic of having to dodge the giant red circle of death and/or take out the operators. It’s a pretty fun but doable challenge solo, and given the fact that one achievement ends with this level, I suspect that’s where most soloists are expected to stop.
At difficulty level 3, veterans turn up. This, presumably, is meant for groups and for the really hardcore soloist to attempt. With each rising tier of difficulty, your buffer for mistakes go down (ie. the lower amount of treasure you begin with, and the amount of time you need to hold out is longer.)
It is also at level 3 where people begin to run into issues. Some cannot manage it solo. And even some groups find it difficult to get past. With some persistence and luck, it is possible for many to just -somehow- and unknowingly scrape by via the skin of their teeth, whereupon they run headlong into the brick wall of Tier 4 and begin howling their head off.
At difficulty level 4, it feels like everything goes to eleven. Stuff is HARD. They hurt. You get the distinct feeling that this level was meant for the super-hardcore – a well coordinated group that may pick and choose classes and builds, and be possibly on voice, with people fulfilling specific roles. At least, that’s probably the only kind of group that’s going to manage a gold success of 50 kills at this tier.
Which, in a sense, is great. Dungeons were made for this kind of coordinated group in mind, so I suppose ArenaNet knows that they have a subset of players that really dig this sort of hard challenge and always run in a coordinated guild group made out of specialized builds which they can discuss and tune for the occasion. It’s fantastic that the same content can also be tuned up to match that level of challenge desired.
Except, of course, one does wonder where these mythical groups are. Don’t ask me, I don’t have friends like that.
And all the groups I’ve run into that play with the same people on a regular schedule tend to be friends and family type of guilds, which are not exactly hardcore by any stretch of terminology – I mean, it’s really hard to tell your RL buddy or your relative that he or she sucks at getting out of the fire, doesn’t understand how to dodge or manage aggro and that their gear or build blows. You just… don’t. Tact and all that. So by and large, those groups tend to be a little weaker.
Maybe they do exist. I’m waiting for the first video to gleefully announce their total gold mastery of T4 in a group. I’m sure it’s bound to happen at some point.
A possibly unintended consequence of catering to both the ability to solo and play the same content in a group, combined with the ramp up in difficulty level, an achievement for merely completing it and obfuscation of potential rewards from each tier, is the effect it’s had on PUGs.
There’s less of them running at any given moment. And they are, on the whole, weaker because a number of stronger players have opted out to do the same content on their own.
There are a number of reasons for this. There’s the inherent inconvenience of group finding and group assembling and most of all, group coordination. Other players are not within your personal locus of control. The Aetherblade faction meanwhile is built to challenge groups of players to provide sufficient damage and support (or have we forgotten the lessons of the Aetherblade Retreat?) AND this particular instance also stresses the importance of the last member of GW2’s new trinity – Control.
I really have to applaud Anet for being very brilliant here. By putting a time limit on, and creating a spawn pattern of like, 3-4 plunderers from the same spawn before the complexity ramps up and produces two plunderers going simultaneously, control is rewarded over damage in most cases except pure berserker (and even then you have to be very quick on your feet if you’re doing it zerk style.)
This, by the way, is how I managed to solo Tier 4 after a number of attempts at the “kill all plunderers super fast” method and getting screwed up once a second plunderer started going.
It so happened I was on the warrior – so I turned off autoattack on the rifle and used skill 2 (cripple) and skill 5 (knockback) and utilized axe 3 (cripple), even swapping into the leg specialist trait once or twice, though I think the run which successfully completed with bronze didn’t use it. I swapped in bolas for immobilize, and Fear Me! for a fear. I was in berserker gear, but probably could and should have swapped to being tanky and doing less damage.
The goal: Waste the plunderers’ time. Ignore other mobs. Stay alive.
Crippled plunderer = more seconds ticking away. Once cripple wore off, Fear Me! with correct placement of self sent it fleeing back the way it came for a good distance. Immobilize. Cripple again once immob wore off. Knock back. Rinse and repeat. Curse when one accidentally killed it because berserk warrior is too nuts. Though being high damage does come in handy for the must-kill moments when the plunderer comes back loaded with gold and is almost going to make it to its spawn point. I’m sure there’s a balance to be found.
It takes some practice and things do get dicey when the second plunderer spawns (which occasionally makes one wonder if a friend would come in handy to post at the other spawn point) and there will be missed attempts at stopping both of them while trying not to die from veterans and mortars (lose aggro by running behind the rock, but you give up the opportunity to control the plunderers further) but you may eventually be able to scrape by with 500 treasure remaining as the time ticks down.
No “letting the first plunderer steal shit to ensure other stuff doesn’t spawn” glitch was used. (Which may or may not have been patched, according to rumors and reports.) Just lots of dodging and surviving while zeroing in on plunderers.
In my most ideal dreams, I would want a group with the following: two control/damage roles (eg. a warrior specced like I was, a thief with pulls and good damage, possibly a necro or a ranger with fears and knockbacks or a mesmer with pulls – I’m foggy about what they can or can’t do, I’m open to the possibility that all classes can do this) posted at the two spawn points of the plunderers. Their job – waste the plunderers’ time and only kill at the last second when the plunderers are nearly almost back with gold at their starting location. Take out the grenadiers with mortars when they spawn. Help each other if necessary and if a third plunderer shows up.
The remaining three would be damage/support group synergy, just like when one takes on the Aetherblade Retreat. Tons of condition clears and boons. Beat the crap out of the veteran mobs and other adds as they show up.
It’s only a theory at this stage, but I bet it would work.
Of course, the problem is convincing any group to go along with it, with good builds and good players. Is it going to happen in a PUG? Not bloody likely.
I joined a group for fun, after managing the achievements solo, and to re-confirm just how high the mob hp scaling went, because I’d kind of blacked out on my first few attempts in a group with the cookie cutter AH guardian. (The grenadiers by the mortars are way squishy btw, one berserk warrior takes them out, at the same speed as on a solo run. The normal mobs seem to have like 20-30% more hp, possibly from being level 81. The veterans, of course, require a group pounding on them to dent them.)
As you’d expect, we had one party member who had no concept of “control” and consistently decimated the plunderers despite the rest of the group suggesting we leave it alone with damage and only slow/pull/knockback until near the end of its route. Double dagger heartseeker spam thief, of course. One trick pony. (I’m sure there are much better thieves out there who know how to use scorpion wire, cripples and dazes when needed.) Then he or she attacked other mobs at random, drawing aggro onto the whole party and causing everyone’s attention to fritter into five different directions at once.
So we tried the “kill them all super quickly” route several times too, since y’know, THAT GUY. Which almost successfully worked, except two other party members tended to miss the gigantic red mortar circle and failed to dodge out of them for the fifteen seconds or so it took my warrior to rush over to the mortars and whack the grenadiers – resulting in downed players and others scrambling to rez them while getting beat on by multiple Aetherblade veterans – cue the massive condition pileup on everyone’s bars.
Condition clears? As a party, definitely not enough.
We never did get past Tier 3. Yep, 3. Not 4.
We end up with another weakest link kind of situation, where one bad player drags down the group. Is it any wonder why there are very few PUGs forming for this?
Finally, the rewards themselves are unclear and thus not tempting. There is rumored to be a chance at Aetherblade weapon skins for doing this candidate trial. Exactly what counts as success?
Is it better to score 50 kills and earn a gold on tier 2 by oneself? Certainly, you get four loot bags by doing so. The only thing that comes out of them tends to be broken lockpicks worth not much silver at all (compared to say, one of the PvP minigame rewards for mere participation.) You may get 2-6 heavy bags of booty. From very small sample sizes, there does seem to be a little less loot attempting tier 1 than say, tier 2, nor does magic find seem to have much of an effect. Very rarely, you may get a white, or a blue or a green. A pathetic one. And you get a decent amount of support tokens.
Is it better to scrape by with 10 kills or less on say, tier 3 or tier 4 and only get one or two bags at the end? So far, my solo trials have yielded much less lockpicks and heavy bags of booty (0-2), but Salvageable Aetherized Metal has dropped once or twice (possibly from a veteran kill.)
Do you get better rewards in a group? One would think it might logically be so, but so far, my failed attempts at tier 3 have yielded the same miserable amount of consolation lockpicks and bags of booty as doing it alone.
And frankly, even if you told me that there was a 100% chance of getting an Aetherized weapon skin drop from successfully getting 50+ kills in a group of 5 at Tier 4, I would seriously think twice about attempting it because the chance for failure and lots of wasted time (or less wasted time practising group coordination to get it down right) would be very high.
I’m sure we all know what the odds of that happening are, what with Anet’s love of 2% or less RNG.
Anyhow, since I don’t have any interest in this round of skins either, (hooray for me, though I did just spend 10 gold putting up buy orders for blue and green miniatures… everyone needs a vice, y’know?) I’m not stressing about it.
I prefer to just enjoy the sheer fact that a variable difficulty challenge has been made, that can be done both solo or in a group, according to one’s preferences and bash the heck out of it for fun.
I like level 2. Its difficulty is just right for me.
So far, I’ve managed 60 on the mostly berserk axe/horn + rifle banner support warrior, though the average is more in the 51-55 range. My non-cookie cutter charrdian managed level 1 in magic find at about 44 kills, and went up to 51-54 in his berserker gear for both level 1 and 2. (Obviously, there is a bias towards berserker when you are soloing and want to score as many kills as possible. Surviving and delaying in a group may require different gear and builds – which may just account for why so many people find grouping so hard and solo to be much easier with the current dungeon meta being what it is.)
Who knows, I may eventually get brave enough to attempt level 3 and think/tweak my builds for the challenge. There’s a week or so to play with it anyway.
So, I got carried away with a wall-of-text comment reply and I’m -still- not done mulling on the issues brought up. Best to post this on my own blog, no doubt.
Spinks over at Spinksville expresses frustration over facing solo quests in an MMO world. It’s a bit of a rant that covers a number of game design topics and I just keep feeling that they’re not being properly broken down into their component bits to be examined properly. “Solo quests” is too general and may end up going down to the old and stale solo vs group debate road all over again.
Spinks conflates a number of issues into one, I think.
There’s having problems with:
Badly Designed, Unfair Challenges
That do not clue you in on the correct solution or offer good feedback towards this.
Or that are unfairly skewed towards a particular aspect of combat – eg. if you can’t dps this down within a certain time, you’re screwed. Fuck healers. Fuck tanks.
Or if you can’t heal this squishy escort NPC, you’re done for. Sorry, all classes without a heal. DPS moar and pray. Taunt it a second time, maybe.
This is especially bad in MMOs that aren’t designed for character classes to be flexible or re-specs to happen easily. If one is say, in RIFT or some such, one at least has the option of completely changing up one’s character to tune it to solve the challenge (though some would still complain that this is “forcing” them to play in a way that contravenes their preference. One could argue though, that proper mastery of a class means knowing how to play all its aspects.)
On the other hand, if the correct solution can be arrived at by reading the quest text, or by taking some time out to readjust one’s skill build (eg, in TSW or GW), or if there are multiple solutions to overcome the challenge that all classes have some access to, then that’s a lot more reasonable design in that any one player on any one character might possibly be expected to manage this.
Then there’s the challenge that doesn’t really offer any learning opportunities for the player. It’s really a time-gate. Grind this much repeatedly so that you can earn this set of gear with incrementally higher numbers that will now allow you to pass the challenge that you couldn’t manage before because the punching bag’s hitpoints are really that high.
I’m prejudiced, yes, I find this boring. But I suppose if you’re playing a game where nearly all the challenges are set out this way, then that’s how that particular game works. If you play it, you’ve accepted its premises. The challenge has to be consistent for that particular game.
Which leads us to…
The Bait And Switch
Seriously, stop this one. It’s dumb as fuck.
Here’s a trail of breadcrumbs on how to steadily progress with my game…
Now whoops, here comes something completely different, involving a diferent playstyle which may not be to your preference, WHAP, do it and enjoy!
The player is left blinking, going, hey, where’s the game I was enjoying before this blindsided me? Am I going to find more of the stuff I liked after finishing this weird shit, or do I face a future of this? Maybe I should be re-evaluating my future with -your- suddenly new and different game.
Don’t plunk a solo quest in the middle of a whole bunch of group quests. Don’t plunk a group quest (haha, fooled you, go spam LFG now!) in the middle of a solo quest sequence.
The ‘real’ game is raids. Now let’s spend the next five years trying to fast-forward raiders through the leveling game that they don’t appreciate going through to begin with.
Oh, the leveling through quest experience that you enjoy? You can still do it, but you’ll never be as strong or powerful as those playing ‘the real game’ and be forever looked down upon.
I have no idea what they’re trying to pull here. Give me a game where the PvPers get to PvP in peace with their separate progression and arenas, and the PvErs do PvE stuff, and everyone progresses in their own way, any day. For those who enjoy both, well, hooray, lateral progression paths! Do both!
Solo or Group Preferences
Are just that. A preference. Stop blaming soloists or groupies (or content designed for them) for all the ills of the earth.
It’s a false dichotomy anyway. Lots of people both solo and group. They do both solo quests and group up for dungeons and raids.
They may like doing one or the other more. That’s preference.
What we more often hate are that we have no alternatives. No options. Backed into a corner because -somebody- decided it would be a good idea to have this solo quest or group raid be completion-required-for-overall-progress or the only content drop in an update with a game-changing, playing field-unleveling shiny attached.
Forcing Players Into a Playstyle They Dislike (or Face Progress Blocked For Good)
No contest here. This is highly unpopular.
Make an “I-only-PvP” player PvE for gear just to be on an even playing field with their opponents, and the howling will be just as loud as forcing an” I-only-PvE” player into a PvP zone in order to get a shiny.
Making it a requirement for people who prefer to solo to group up for the best rewards and to see new content yields a whole bunch of very surly, possibly bad-at-working-in-a-group loners joining PUGs and everyone having a miserable time.
Just as making it a requirement for people who prefer to group all the time to separate and wait for each other to pass a certain solo threshold, “be-this-good-by-yourself-or-your-path-together-is-blocked” yields a very frustrated person who will wield the “M” is for multiplayer stance like a bludgeon.
Devs may still do it, as they may be aiming to lay a trail of breadcrumbs to lead players into trying out a certain activity, or they simply have no time to create alternatives or options but I’m sure they brace themselves for the complaint storm ahead.
Y’see, part of why this is so complicated is the large group of in-betweens who might be willing to do both. If tempted a certain way. And getting them to do both gives them variety. But I do think this should be “soft” encouragement and temptation, rather than “hard” roadblocks and forcing.
A cosmetic item with the same stats, but looking very much special and prestigious and unavailable elsewhere, is one idea. No one is forcing you to get it – in the sense that your playing field will still be level with or without it. Or a reward that can be gotten in a few places, so that players have at least a choice of the least onerous they would prefer. Or extra helpings of a shiny obtainable elsewhere or through other means, so that it’s most optimal to go for one path over another. (As long as it’s not ridiculously hard or lengthy to go the other route.)
Not being able to advance to next level, or get the next quest in the questline, or having no other means to get a reward with incrementally higher stats? Forcing. Bad. Prepare for tons of player protest.
Finally, we have the problem that I touched on in the comments but failed to resolve there.
What can we do with players who are not up to the challenge? That, for whatever reasons (some may be good ones – have a handicap, legally blind, ill, etc.), are not performing as hoped?
It’s harsh to have just one benchmark and say, “You must be this tall to pass. The end.”
That leads to elitism. (Though one might argue that in some games, both devs and players don’t give a shit whether they create an elitist community or not. It may even seem like their goal is to glorify the hardcore at the expense of everyone else.)
That leads to people failing to make the grade being miserable, pissed, frustrated, angry, feeling hopeless and all in all, ready to dump your game and move on to a more reasonable one. (Did you want their money or did you not care?)
I think the solution is obvious, but no doubt, hard to implement. Adjustable or scaling difficulty. With commensurate rewards, if you like.
The easiest difficulty is baby mode. Handhold them. Make it easy. Tutorial mode your special gimmicks. Just let players see the nice graphic models your artists spent so much time and hard work on, and maybe the story if there is one. Let any blocking progress be unlocked. That’s reward enough.
(I know I personally appreciated Super Adventure Box’s Infantile Mode before I graduated to jumping the normal course that most just started out with. Whee! Rainbows catch clumsy charr from falling and splattering to horrible doom! Except when charr chooses to keep leaping for sneaky hidden secret room of his own accord! Charr took 7 hours but finally got comfortable with it!)
The idea is to just get shaky players familiar with their surroundings and either content to be “done with it” or comfortable enough to move on to practising a slightly harder challenge now that they’ve managed to grasp a few necessary concepts (rather than learn how to juggle, pull, kite, fight, use strange skills, heal stuff and not stand in fire all at the same time while getting beat on in completely unfamiliar surroundings that are a maze of twisty passages and getting yelled at by their supposed “teammates” or feeling pressured to succeed alone because someone else has finished and is waiting for them.)
Optional desirable shinies are to be attained at harder difficulty levels. Introduce the more advanced concepts. Bring in the more complex dance routines and gimmicks and so on. If they want them, then they must improve to the standards being demanded of them by the challenge.
But make the first progress-unblocker doable by all.
Because if you don’t, the player won’t have a reason to even play your game any longer.
Almost as if ArenaNet was listening to feedback and said, “Oh, you sure you want what you’re asking for? Let’s give you what you want then, and see if you really like it!”
Imagine if you will, an instance with no trash mobs, doesn’t waste your time, and isn’t an ordinary tank-and-spank boss.
Or as some others might more bitterly say, a one-room “dungeon” which is so short it produces a “that’s it?” feeling at the end comprising of a very gimmick fight.
Depending on who you ask, the rewards of completion may be “crap” or “not worth it” or indeed, so worth it that it risks being farmed via character deletion and remaking exploit-line-skirting.
And of course, the very strange decision to enforce a -solo- instance went down as well as enforcing a -group- dungeon might, just with a completely different subset of people.
Poor Anet just can’t win, can they?
For the record, on the whole, I like it just fine. With some quantifiable nitpicks.
Let’s just get the venting about OPTIONS out of the way, shall we? Forcing anything is bad. Some people like to group. Let them fucking group.
I’m a solo-preferring player, I spend a lot of time arguing for the option to solo, but it sure doesn’t mean I want the option for people to group taken away. That just makes a different set of people unhappy.
The only thing I can possibly think of that this achieves is the idea of a “solo” tutorial, where it is guaranteed that everyone has been exposed to the mechanic in simpler form before unleashing them to wreck their unique brand of (un)communicative havoc in a group.
I’d live without the guarantee personally, if it means all the “forcing” goes away.
I like the concept of the step up tutorial though, as I made good use of it, going through the solo version to learn the mechanics in peace by myself, then poked my head alone into the explorable group version to see what else I could figure out there, and then finally joined a group or two.
The Solo Instance
I took my most masochistic character in first. Yes, my spirit weapon guardian who has been wandering around Southsun in magic find gear. This was on purpose, as I wanted to experience a glass cannon pop gun baseline. Just to see how a badly built casual player might find it.
Story-wise, I felt the linkage was a bit abrupt. We never really got to track Canach down. We’re just suddenly told, oh, look, we found him, he’s here, go get him.
The explanation of the mine detector gimmick was okay, as long as you’re the sort of player that bothers to talk to NPCs and read what they say. (Which apparently, some people don’t.)
I liked that there was an uninterrupted short stretch in front to play with the mine detector gun and get familiar with the scanning and conversion mechanic. The icon indicators for the traps were also decently clear, though the fog and steam doesn’t really help visibility-wise.
I’ve mentioned I like solo instances because it gives me time to take screenshots uninterrupted and admire the scenery – which was nifty.
Figuring out the Canach fight itself was pretty tough on first contact. This has a lot to do with the build, if you ask me.
I got the idea fairly quickly to get Canach into the converted land mines, as the caltrops or poison ones didn’t appear to do much to his health bar. I was able to read the buff he had on to figure out that he was immune to any standard weapon attacks.
I did miss until much later the helpful yellow text in my chat bar as to when he was doing what with the mines, as I was staring in the center of my screen, at him, trying to figure out his animations while dancing around the numerous traps and trying to scan and convert them and play the memory game of where is the land mine I’m looking for…
This led to a few accidents of getting knocked about by Canach and into traps, which then exploded and knocked off considerable amounts of hp, which led to me scrambling around trying to recover on a build not really made for healing up quickly and rapidly, which led to more opportunities for him to rush me and knock me down, or blow up all his mines, and generally set up a cascade chain of eventual failure.
I swapped utility skills to put on the more standard stun-breaker shouts, Stand Your Ground and Save Yourselves, and Retreat! for swiftness.
Which went a little better, though I was still having trouble using skill 5 to knock him back into traps a sufficient distance, and I was finding it tough as a squishy to stay in his melee range for long enough to kite him over a mine, and the charr still felt cumbersome and slowass. After about 3-4 deaths, I finally managed to lead him through enough land mines and down all his health.
I enjoyed the little story conversation epilogue between him and Ellen Kiel after. I appreciate that they put that into the solo instance so soloists didn’t miss that part of the story.
Then I logged on my asura guardian, having been now convinced through firsthand experience that this is a “dungeon” where squishy dps glass cannon builds do not help and a bunker build might very well excel. I even left on my WvW gear – soldier/clerics because I suspected the more tanky I was, the more it was going to be lol-worthy ez-mode.
It was. I pretty much stood next to Canach and watched as he hit me for 340 hp, then healed up 168 hp x 2 in the next few seconds before he could wind up for his next attack. This made kiting him onto the land mines extremely painless. This was the character I used to get the Lair-Light Foot achievement as it is much easier to look carefully where you’re stepping when you’re not worried about the possibility of dying.
So if you’re ever wondering why some players think Canach’s Lair is so damn easy, while others are struggling, I’d take a long hard look at what builds they’re running.
Not to mention, what classes.
Because I am slightly greedy and wanted to grab at least one more of the possibly unintended character reward of 26 silver plus 1 bag of 1 gold (found a CoF-like dungeon reward rate, woo!), but also too wussy to log ALL my lowbies and possibly risk a ban for exploiting, I decided to bring my last level 80 in and stop at three.
That last level 80 is a thief. He has swiftness on dodge, and signet of shadows. Canach couldn’t fucking touch him. And remember, I am a POOR thief. Game, set, mined and caught.
The Group Instance
As mentioned above, I poked my head in solo to check out how the explorable differed from the story version, and see if the cave had grown any extra rooms. (It hadn’t.)
I poked in on Mr Squishy Magic Find Charr so you can call me either brave or stupid too.
I did last long enough to note that the golem didn’t have the buff that made him immune to weapon attacks, attempted to attack it and noted with pleasure that I was actually denting him to the tune of 3-5% of his total hp bar (not bad for one person in magic find gear against a mob meant for five, it suggested that the devs had indeed erred on the side of easy with this instance and that it might conceivably be possible if difficult to accomplish solo.)
I lasted long enough to see his purple shield come up and work out the mechanic that he needed to be led onto land mines for his shield to fall off.
But the rate at which I was damaging it wasn’t really very quick and it was a struggle to keep alive alone on squishy charr and guildchat was starting the call for folks to do the explorable with, so I gracefully did a Brave Sir Robin and ran away.
Swapped to Mr Surprisingly Sturdy For His Stature, joined the guild group and went in.
The first go was messy. We were tackling Subdirector NULL with four members, as one was still making his way over and having problems with the zoning / party instancing / directions, while some others had triggered the fight. One of our party members was still trying to lead / talk the lost member to where we were, mid-battle, which couldn’t have been terribly good for his mobility. The automatic reaction was to spread out, and no one else had figured out what the purple shield did, so it made kiting the golem onto a land mine quite tricky. The orbiting energy things were an interesting pickle that made us dodge and move around quite a bit, and when the repair turret message came up, it took some time to scan the room and find where it was to take it down.
Despite all that, the health of the golem dropped quite rapidly. What eventually did us in was the electrolyze mini-enrage timer at the end, as I don’t think anyone realized what was happening in between all the party conversation going on trying to get the last member over, and scramble to revive people who were downed by getting too close to the golem.
The other three’s hp were close to one sliver from being downed and mine was at half full, while I was still trying to pick people up, before I finally noticed the little debuff on my bar that had 3-4 stacks of electrolyze going. Ohhh…
We wiped, and left the dungeon to get the last member properly zoned in. Second go was much better, we sorta kinda clumped together a little more, though it was still tricky to kite the golem to a mine when everyone seemed to have a different idea of which mine to lead the golem to. Plenty of damage burned the golem down once the shield eventually fell off though. Cue achievement. Cue reward chest (oooh, 50 silver, a rare, suhweet!) Cue chest in cave (two greens.) Pretty yummy for not very high difficulty, even if the fight was gimmicky.
Coordination is pretty important in this instance though.
There was one more guild group call out, two members had been attempting it in a duo and were defeated by the enrage timer at the end. I decided to test if the rewards for the group dungeon were character or account bound and logged on the squishy charr. (I did swap out of magic find and into pure berserker though.)
They were on voice and they had a plan.
We went to a corner of the cave that was apparently out of the way of the orbiting energy things, and was near to two traps – one a land mine, one a poison trap, both of which could break the shield. Mechanics were explained to those doing it for the first time. Then Null was attracted over and pounded on.
Went flawlessly. Went so quickly and easily it prompted a “Wow, that’s it?” from one or two people, and started a search for the third instance hinted at in the patch notes. (Which apparently will only exist next week, and is probably just a storytelling epilogue/finale.)
One nitpick is that there isn’t much of a story to the group instance. Perhaps that’s intended, so as to not leave the soloists in the lurch. The issue is probably with a sense of pacing, in that there’s no beginning, middle or end. With no trash mobs, it’s just “boss” then that’s it. And not a terribly difficult boss at that.
Stuff I Liked
The inclusion of soloists with a solo instance (with the caveat that group-ists shouldn’t be excluded either)
The story being told in an instance with time to enjoy it at one’s own pace and read the text
The rewards of silver and stuff are pretty insanely good (to me, anyway, I don’t run CoF farms) for something so short and quickly achieved (If this is a daily feature, I’d be in here every day for sure. If it’s meant to be one-time ever only, then ok, not as great as I thought, but still nice for a one-time bonus.)
The fairly painless difficulty level (this is subjective, of course, but I’d rather not waste hours of my time beating my head against a dungeon with a possibly ‘fail’ group for something that is merely part of a short-lived event. I have WvW XP to farm at doubled rates.)
Stuff I Didn’t Mind
The whole mine detector gimmick (I’m sure some people felt they didn’t like it, especially when it made their class or skills fairly irrelevant. I kind of think that’s part of the point, to have everyone on the same playing field using the same skills – though builds and classes still do matter somewhat. GW1 had similar minigames. Canach may have been slightly cheesy in that he was immune to everything but mines though. Something more similar to Null where mines break a shield may have gone down better.)
How short it was. (I suppose it could have been a room or two longer, with better pacing, but I’m not keen on all day dungeon marathon runs either. It’s probably friendlier for the largest amount of people to make it short and sweet.)
All in all, I don’t have anything that I strongly HATE in this. I don’t anticipate frustration factor building up very high. At most, people might get bored of it much quicker. So what? It’s a limited time one-off. The meta event is the one that we should be looking at with a fine tooth comb to see if it feels great, because -that’s- the one that’s going to go on repeat loop permanently.