Blaugust Day 13: Packrat Problems (GW2)

I always had the impression that I was a hopeless pack rat when it came to all things MMO – or really, anything that has an inventory and allows you to collect stuff (including Diablo-style ARPGs and real life.)

Today, I was logging into my GW2 characters at random, wincing at the messes I was looking at – bags half to three quarters full on actively played characters, filled to the brim on storage alts, an account bank stuffed with account-bound souvenirs of nothing but sentimental value mixed with items that might conceivably be worth something later (maybe), two guild banks full of non-account-bound tradeable commodities that were being kept for the dual reasons of “it might be worth more later” and “what if Anet tweaks something that makes this super-expensive and I want to craft something super-desirable that suddenly requires it?”

As usual, I was telling myself, “you hopeless packrat, you, I don’t even know where to begin…” when it suddenly hit me.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong.

It’s not really a -hoarding- problem, is it?

Folks define hoarding as the accumulation of stuff (mostly seen as worthless by other people) to the extent that it starts to impede someone’s quality and standard of living, possibly posing a health hazard, yadda yadda.

Even though I have a lot of GW2 stuff – admittedly, some of it sentimental, in the sense that they were one-off souvenirs:

a) many of the other items are not seen as worthless by other people, and has the potential to go up in value over time

b) and/or I will -really- regret it if I throw them away or sell them now, given Anet’s proven track record of suddenly making valueless items valuable (and vice versa)

c) it’s not that I have run out of virtual space to keep all the stuff – I have two empty character slots, and two of my lowbies are new, have completely empty bags and aren’t presently being used to store anything

No, I don’t have a -packrat- (as in collecting or hoarding) problem per se.

What I have is a severe lack of any organization system, or a good way to find and retrieve any desired item among the amorphous piles of unsorted stuff.

In GTD terms, I’ve only collected, but I’ve barely processed any of it, nor thought about any way to systematically organize the things I want to keep, and certainly I don’t regularly -review- my inventory AT ALL.

Sadly, better defining the problem or seeing it from a new perspective doesn’t immediately lead to any magic solutions.

I did drool a little after Googling up a third party add-on for LOTRO that apparently allowed the player to look at the inventories of all their alts in-game, and search them by keyword, listing how many quantities were on which character. Wrong game, alas.

GW2 apparently has an inventory API out, but bleh, frankly, the thought of letting a third party website have an authorization token to look at my account inventory makes me more than a little nervous, so that’s not a great solution either.

It may end up being a case of old-fashioned Excel to keep track of the 17 of 19 character slots… (yeah, I’m not sure how that happened either. What can I say, I’m an altholic, and it’s nearly been three years) though I’ve also been browsing some home inventory programs for general ideas on how I’m going to handle this.

I also bit the bullet and logged in every one of them, to take a screenshot of their inventories and do an initial “obvious junk” cleanup.

Hopefully, it will sort of provide me with a brief overview of the entire scope of the task that lies before me… Maybe.

I suspect part of the problem is that it’s very difficult to sort anything if my account bank is completely stuffed and thus posing a bottleneck to transfer items from one character to another.

So that’s something that needs to be addressed too. *sighs*

I have this feeling that I will need to print out everything onto sheets of paper to draw little arrows and circles to group “like” items togther, before I can even begin to grasp how I can best get this organized…

… that or cut and pasting in a paint program or something.

Somehow.

Here, this sort of contains the problem.
Here, this kind of encapsulates the problem. One thing’s pretty obvious. Too much dragonite. Need to get Princess chomping more of those.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, P for Perplexed, S for Stumped, and the number 13.

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GW2: Early Days in the Crown Pavilion

So refreshing, minus dome and zerg...

Funny story about Liadri.

Stayed up for the patch.

Patched.

Jumped almost headlong into Crown Pavilion…

…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.

Crown Pavilion isn’t a zerg farm fest anymore! No more Monty Haul loot! Oh noes. Don’t come in to zerg it up, it’s an awful waste of your time! You get no T6 mats. You get no XP, so it’s pointless bringing in your low levels. EOTM karma train is where it’s at! Please spare my toaster all those FPS drops! Kthxbai!

sixgroup

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.

goldbossblitz

Welcome to the new champion bag farm.

Not inclusive of extra green stuff that I lost track of, after salvaging. And there might be a couple more festival tokens
Not inclusive of extra green stuff that I lost track of, after salvaging. I spent a bunch of tickets doing the gauntlet achievements. And there might be a couple more festival tokens from what I started with originally.

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.)

GW2: Needs of the Many, Needs of the Few

Random picnic party

I’ve had some great reactions to my recent musings on raids.

Syl posted a nice response, and one of the things she mentions is what she misses most about raids – that sense of steady group progression with a well-oiled and well-groomed team that trusts each other implicitly. I can’t help but draw some parallels to a very tight knit WvW zerg busting guild (though the inclusiveness or exclusiveness of each guild differs by individual guild culture.)

Murf shared some of the things he enjoyed about raids as well.

I’m especially amused by some of the comments over by MMO Gypsy who automatically assume that I’ve never raided, and thus my opinion is invalid or *shrug* raiding is not for him, period.

Or was somehow spurned by an elitist raider once upon a time and thus carry an awful grudge against all raiders, lumping them together as evil elitists, boo hoo. Go cry somewhere else.

Ok, I’m exaggerating for effect, I don’t actually think any of you guys meant that, but I see similar simplistic comments carrying that essence of trolling on forum message boards all the time, probably due to the subject being endlessly debated back and forth.

And there were plenty of other reasonable rational responses, which we will try to touch on later, but ask yourselves, WHY did your mind immediately flow that way?

It’s due to what we understand ‘raids’ are, especially if we come from a World of Warcraft background.

It may surprise some of you that pretty much my only activity for the past three days in Guild Wars 2 has been camping out as part of a huge group of 100+ people on a map, listening in on a Teamspeak, occasionally wandering off AFK for the 1.5 hours between exciting fights (of a world boss raid attempt) or enjoying some of the social aspects if the crazies happen to be in the same group together.

In fact, I’ve chosen to do this non-profit activity over other more lucrative options – such as running around in a mindless Frostgorge champion zerg or participating in a marionette fight that caters more to players without sufficient time or the inclination for organization on a massive scale (that rewards a regular stream of silver/crafting materials/lucky drops and a less regular stream of blues/greens/yellows respectively.)

A little background:

The Triple Trouble jungle wurm in Bloodtide Coast is a new world boss in the Origins of Madness update that has been specifically designed for hardcore groups that are all about the organization and figuring out the strategy and tactics.

At the same time, the Living World content involves the Twisted Marionette boss fight that involves -some- coordination but not as much. It’s on a scale where random overflows might conceivably achieve full success, whereas the intensity and complexity of the jungle wurm fight pretty much requires hefty leadership and organization.

It’s provoked some hefty discussion over why these bosses exist in open world zones instead of private raid instances, given the level of intended coordination involved.

One subset of players are in favor of exclusion by private raid instance, where they can invite their friends and players they trust have the level of ability required to produce serious attempts on the raid bosses. It wastes less time for the lucky collective, and makes it easier to control the group and organize specialized builds and functions, since there is always the threat of outcasting. It produces less frustration for these players as they don’t have to endure interacting with others who don’t match their unique criteria of worth, whatever it may be.

On the other hand, we have the existing case of open world bosses, where people in the same Reddit discussion thread linked above are giving examples of how they organically stumbled onto an organized group attempt, met up with nice people, joined their Teamspeak and had their eyes opened as to how rewarding such ‘hardmode’ content can feel, as many raiders already know.

We also have the rare maniacal leader-types that love the “extra work” that comes with guiding others, improving team work and progressing together. For these treasures, there is an emotion called naches, where they take pride in the achievement of those they have so patiently grown and trained from the ground up.

On the NA servers, the founder of the TTS community, Ahlou, can deservedly indulge in this as he created something that had never been seen before. A server-agnostic collection of 11 guilds, dedicated to being inclusive and take down hard mode raid bosses in GW2. It has a waiting list hundreds of people long, only stalled out by the lack of leadership types that have stepped up and volunteered their time. We’re blessed as it is that a small council of 10+ leader types stepped up to support and grow Ahlou’s vision, with a minimum of ego and drama.

(I believe an equivalent TxS community exists on the Euro servers.)

The sad truth is, there is still unavoidable exclusion.

A map is hard capped at 100+ players. (I don’t know the exact number, but it’s around there.)

Exclusion is by a sort of lottery, whoever is first able to zone in to the maps where there is sufficient leadership to attempt the bosses get to do it. Those who can’t zone in, for whatever reason, are shit outta luck. Until the next time, anyhow.

It also favors those who have oodles of time to stand around waiting for the next spawn, even if it is an hour and a half away.

It favors those who are willing to make the effort to download a voice program and join a Teamspeak, if only to listen in to leader commands, as taxis are first offered by voice to those gathered in the channels.

It favors those who are ballsy and persistent, observant and determined enough to read guild member rosters and note down the names of leaders and those who commonly taxi into instances and pretty much blindly /join and wiggle their way into the instance, as long as checking on Teamspeak reveals that an attempt is going on.

It favors those who are dedicated and driven and -crazy- enough to sit around for an hour spamming right-click on a party member’s portrait, clicking “Join party member in X zone” repeatedly, for a chance of merely participating in non-guaranteed discovery attempts at the correct tactics and strategy, leading up to a potential world first. Loot is not at all guaranteed, but potential fame and glory.

It’s produced quite a number of indignant complaints from those who feel excluded, since they don’t have sufficient time for such madness, or can’t be arsed to go through all that kind of trouble for a non-100% chance at good loot.

You may be surprised, but after some thinking it over, I am more or less okay with this particular sort of exclusion in this particular set of circumstances.

Me, the champion of being philosophically inclusive.

I think, in the end, everything seems to be about tradeoffs. We exclude one group of people, at the cost of another group that don’t meet some set of criteria.

We endure mind-numbing wait time for the potential memories and social connections we build through people being bored out of their skulls.

Deathrifyerr Cobalt team synced /rank on an unsuspecting Crimson.
Deathrifyerr’s Cobalt team synced /rank on an unsuspecting Crimson.

But maybe only a hundred people (and probably less since a good percentage may be AFK) got to enjoy such socializing, compared to how many people playing Guild Wars 2 at any one time?

Is it fair to cater to the needs of the few as compared to the needs of the many?

Should we be concerned about being fair? Or making sure that there’s something for everyone?

In this particular case anyway, it’s probably a temporary state of affairs.

The TTS leaders (and probably a decent amount of its members) share and espouse a very similar sort of inclusive philosophy as I do.

The jungle wurm is in a “discovery of strategy” phase, not an “on farm” phase. There’s insufficient leadership to spread out to create multiple overflows, as was promptly done once an effective strategy to down Tequatl was found. Then information spread out and disseminated as experienced leaders and members felt confident enough to teach the strategy to others.

It’s most likely the case that the same will happen with the jungle wurm once some optimal strategies have been found. More space will open up. Anyone who wants to attempt the bosses will be invited and taught, as long as they open their mouths and ask, and even those who randomly stumble into the boss being taken down by the group will get a chance.

The danger, of course, is when designers tweak up the challenge to a level where only certain groups have sufficient stats or builds or reactions (or whatever form of player or character ability) and other groups simply don’t, regardless of how much teaching and training and information dissemination is done.

The automatic response of players optimizing for the best solution is, naturally, exclusion of players who don’t meet those criteria.

You may ask, why do I feel that this is such “a danger” given that I have accepted that -some- kind of exclusion is likely to happen, no matter what kind of raid variant is designed?

Well, part of it is naturally self-centered. I personally have a better shot of seeing raids completed in a TTS-style organization than your typical raid organization. They match my on-again, off-again type of scheduling. I like that I can just jump in when I have the time to one of the scheduled raids, and as long as there’s space in the overflow, I get a spot.

Whereas I would simply go nuts in a dedicated raid style organization. What? Perform the same role over and over? Prepare laboriously for days before the main event? Set an alarm clock to raid at a certain hour or let down the group of people that are counting on me? When real life interrupts, I can’t just sneak out of the raid and let someone else who desperately wants in get in? Do the same thing over and over for WEEKS and MONTHS?

I’m an explorer. I like the new and shiny. I’m crazy enough to enjoy the discovery aspect of developing a strategy. That’s why I’m camped out at the jungle wurm, giving up loot and gold earning time from all the other alternatives I could be doing. I KNOW I will get bored within three months once the thing is on farm. Like how I can’t endlessly show up in WvW night after night doing the same thing over and over. Fixed schedules and me don’t really mix well. They lead to obligation and obligation leads to erosion of fun, for me.

The other revelation I’ve had is that I’d personally much rather enjoy raids as a social club, not a competitive sports club. I don’t mind having the leeway for 30 to carry 10. Because after all, we are all good at different things. And there’s no chance to learn and improve if you aren’t allowed to keep practicing something for fear of wiping or letting down the team.

The other part of it is what I think it implies for the overall health of a game.

Closed raid communities become insular, deriding PUGs as part of a very human ‘us vs them’ tribal mentality. It becomes hard to penetrate into such social environments. Sure, the community is GREAT once you get in and stay in. But can your average newbie or person with irregular time schedules get a chance at it?

A more open and inclusive raid community allows for penetration. It makes room for those who just want to or have time to show up for one kill, just to say they did it or saw it or whatever. It makes room for those with irregular schedules. It still gives the crazy dedicated a chance to shine, especially by leading and organizing or just staying longer for insane amounts of time, at the cost of them occasionally having to put up with the company of those they consider ‘lesser’ than them.

It promotes a culture of positive behavior, of friendly encouragement to each other, cheering each other on, rather than a toxic mindset of blame and shame and only interacting with a special select group, reducing the occurrence of a negative hostile atmosphere that discourages new people from participating.

I’m not going to ask which game will have a larger population over time or be more successful.

Folks can point to World of Warcraft and Eve Online and demonstrate how they are thriving and doing great, despite the reputation of a toxic, hostile culture. Hell, for that matter, look at the success of League of Legends.

But -I- know which game I’d rather be playing and supporting.

Signing off,

Your neighborhood carebear furry blogger.

P.S. The last thing I sort of wanted to say regarding the needs of the many and the needs of the few.

I think there’s room in the MMO gamespace, and indeed in each MMO as multiple activity types, for many options and alternatives to cater to all sorts on whatever spectrum you draw up. Hardcore or casual. Time-plentiful or time-starved. Competitive or cooperative. Inclusive or exclusive. Hard difficulty or easy. Majority or minority.

But we need to stop assuming that what we have is all that will ever be.

That raids are THUS, as defined by World of Warcraft, or Everquest. (And I’m sure connoisseurs will tell you the differences between both games’ raids.)

That if you don’t like it, shut up and go to your solo leveling corner of the world, you antisocial excuse who should be playing a single-player game instead of whining.

Instead, we need to break down all the aspects of raids that we like, and all those we don’t like.

So that a creative team of developers out there can start taking a little of column A and a little from column B and glomming them together to give us new raids and new challenges that we haven’t seen, that cater to different groups of players.

Only then will we see progress and innovation and novelty.

GW2: Today I Smiled (And Yesterday Too)

Quick, hide behind that tent!

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

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

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

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

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

(Oh, how times have changed now.)

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

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

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

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

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

The guy deserves a tribute for the good times regardless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But did we run like chickens?

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

We ran like fucking SAMURAI.

We strung the enemy out.

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

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

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

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

Yesterday’s social experience was also all about morale.

And a great leader.

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

Y’see, it starts with dance offs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Circular orbits with jumping princess dolls!

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

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

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

And then there was Hodor.

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

While they suffered a stampede of dolyaks.

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

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

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

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

GW2: Morale and The Psychology of Losing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m only human, alas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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