GW2: Why I Haven’t Quit GW2 Raids Yet

Despite being rather sympathetic and in agreement with the general tenor that Heart of Thorns added a bunch of content that was pitched a little out there towards the hardcore (and frustrating those less so, encouraging thoughts of quitting,) I thought I’d try a smidgen of positivity today.

I’d like to point out what GW2 raids did -right.-

Or at least, right enough that I haven’t (yet) thrown up my hands in exasperation and hurled GW2 on the trash pile with the carcasses of pretty much all the other MMOs I’ve played, especially those that introduced raids late in the process.

Just as Bhagpuss finds that the phrase “the trinity” conjures up associated ideas that aren’t, strictly speaking, contigent upon having a trinity of combat roles, I tend to use the phrase “holy trinity MMO” as a shorthand for a bunch of inconveniences that I’ve decided aren’t worth putting up with in the games I’ve chosen to play.

Beyond the lack of pure, restrictive dependencies-on-others for specialized roles (which we’ve touched on in other rants):

  • No raid boss loot-based vertical progression

I just don’t do the hamster wheel gear grind. It doesn’t make sense to me that a player is defined as “good” or “bad” by the virtue of the stats he or she happens to have, as defined by their avatar being a coatrack for greatness.

It’s also very linearly simplistic and boring. Do X easier bosses first, to do Y middling boss next, and then when you’ve earned enough gear, then you get to do Z. Ugh. Can anyone say, artificial gating?

The ever-increasing gear stats also create a moving baseline that makes it difficult for newer entrants to get past the entry barrier. (Any game or game mode that discourages newbies is a soon-to-be “ded gam.”)

With the introduction of Ascended tier quality, GW2 isn’t perfect right now either, but at least it has (hopefully) reached the peak of what it can do, beyond some sneaky increases in stat numbers on four-stat gear like what we’ve seen in HoT.

A new tier would incite a riot, so thankfully, an exponential increase in power is highly unlikely to happen. (Unless the designers fuck up the next round of elite specializations to make them the only desirable ones.)

What this does mean is that raid difficulty can be held at a constant level of challenge without ever being diminished or invalidated by players growing exponential stronger stat-wise. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that ‘if a raid is conquered, it means something,” as has been used by a marketing spiel at some point, but I would say it shows that the players have gained in specific encounter / build knowledge in order to defeat that raid boss.

At least the baseline isn’t going to move exponentially stat-wise.

(Alas, players being players, they are still going to create their own fairly absurd entry requirements to pose a barrier to newbies.

The latest one I’ve heard about is to ping a certain number of Legendary Insights, which no doubt will turn into a catch-22 problem for newbies down the road, along the lines of “if I can’t get into any raid groups, how do I earn Legendary Insights in the first place?”)

  • The partial option to “selectively” choose a raid boss, and fight them in nonlinear fashion

Linearity is boring. If you always -had- to kill the very first boss of the raid wing in order to progress on to learning the rest, and if your group was unlucky enough to screw that up for a day or two, I can foresee some raid drama coming on in short order, as people get tired of being stuck at particular boss X.

It isn’t a full and complete option to select any boss in GW2 (yet), but there is at least some possibility for variation by joining a raid instance that has been opened to a specific boss (by said instance holder having killed the other bosses prior, within the week.)

Last week, our group actually did Spirit Vale backwards, as most of the group just had Sabetha to go. Once she’d died, then the group did Gorseval and Vale Guardian for the one or two members that hadn’t killed them that week yet, which was a somewhat welcome change from -always- doing the Vale Guardian fight.

  • No strict instance or boss-based raid lockouts. Only a loot-based lockout with a time period of a week.

The problem with the former kinds of lockouts is that they limit a player to -one- set specific raid group.

If one only gets one opportunity to fight said boss per week, the natural optimizer in many players will seek out the most competent group they can find, and to hell with the rest.

It’s that “to hell with the rest” that fosters even more divisiveness and toxicity and drama.

In GW2, if you’re willing to just fight the boss without receiving any further loot reward, you are not prevented by the game from doing so. This allows for players to help others run the same boss within the week, and/or fight the boss for the fun of it.

Much like the whole idea of node-sharing, this is a concept that screams, “Why not? It doesn’t hurt and only helps.”

  • Little consolation prizes for failure or repeat-killing of the same boss (up to a weekly cap)

You get a random number of 0-5 magnetite shards for nearly but not quite killing the raid boss, or bringing it to a certain phase, following some kind of completely opaque logic for discouraging purposefully fail-farming a raid boss, but encouraging people to make the attempt or help others succeed at killing said boss.

This caps at about 100 a week, not a huge amount, considering that most things cost at least 300-400 magnetite shards plus gold, but at least a small acknowledgement.


  • A token buy system, for the times RNG screws you over

Yep, on a personal level, I really need this one.

I’ve seen other people get a ghostly infusion pop worth hundreds of gold. The guild has been chattering about some other guy whose “selling” run popped -three- ghostly infusions, two for the members selling the raid and one for the extremely lucky buyer (who presumably recouped the fee with that pop, and then some.)

I’ve heard a guy complaining that he’s got three mini Gorsevals already, and here I am, looking at my still incomplete collection of mini Vale Guardians and just wanting -one- mini Gorseval some day.

All I pop are randomly named exotics of the extremely boring Prefix Affix variety (Weird-Stat Shortbow of the Blah Blah) and now and then, one with a unique name and skin that I probably don’t have in my collection yet (but could have bought on the TP for less than 2 gold, eg. Firelighter, Jora’s Defender, etc.)

For the moment, I’m still saving up the shards, since I have no idea how much, if any, Legendary Armor is going to need. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I eventually buy myself something pretty I want, when I’ve gotten tired of getting shafted by RNG drops.

  • No Need/Greed or Leader-controlled mob-drops-limited-loot systems, everyone gets personal loot.

This is a biggy.

This is, in fact, I think the biggest biggy as to why I tend to drop all other MMOs with raids and group-based content.

I have never played a single PUG dungeon in which someone (that wasn’t me) didn’t ninja all the loot with a Need roll.

Even after you give up and join all the rest in the perversion of rolling Need on everything, my perennial streak of no-luck means I get low rolls on everything and walk away from an hours-long dungeon with nothing. Zilch. No stat improvement. Nada. Waste of time.

All of the former kinds of loot systems end up with emotional drama from bringing humans into the equation, along with the fact that they’re competing for limited resources.

All of this is completely unnecessary competition. Cue the whole resource-node sharing, eradication of mob-tapping as a concept again.

Personal loot is where it’s at.

The computer knows that ten people participated in the fight. The computer says, ok, ALL ten of you get a reward. Now some of your rewards may be better than others, but I will roll it up for you and you WILL get it, and no one else can see what you got, unless you choose to tell them (which is your business.)

There is no human to blame in this equation. It’s just whether the computer RNG screwed you over or no, in terms of the jackpot or bonus prize you were hoping for.

But it also gave you something and didn’t let you leave home empty-handed.

  • No repair bill. No penalty for death besides failure to defeat the encounter and time spent.

This reduces player hostility towards others a ton, in my opinion.

This makes wipes and failures caused by other people or things beyond anybody’s control tolerable, without the sting of additional negative progress in some fashion.

It encourages players to be more open to experimentation, to be okay with trying things out for fun and not expecting immediate success every single go. It reduces the need for super min-max cookie cutter strategies, in order not to be penalized by failing.

  • Trash mobs scaffold and teach mechanics that will be necessary for the upcoming boss.

Unnecessary mobs in the way of the raid boss are just a waste of everybody’s time.

What mobs are present in Spirit Vale tend to have a purpose of introducing individual mechanics separately, before combining them all up in the next boss encounter.

There’s a certain admirable elegance to that sort of level design.


Don’t ask. Someone must have gotten especially creative with guild decoration limits to come up with this monstrosity made out of boss trophies.

What’s less admirable: I’m not really in favor of any story being gated behind these raid bosses.

And the jury’s still out on whether raiding is viewed as the be-all and end-all of the PvE world yet.

But we’ll save those criticisms for another day.

GW2: SAB – The Lemonade Perspective

It's a boar, it's a shade, no, it's Rhino Charr!

I’m more or less killing time while waiting for tweaks to arrive to the Super Adventure Box, so I thought: I’ve already spent the last three posts kvetching, let’s try a positive post for a change!

I mean, if I didn’t like the SAB at all, I would have opted out like Bhagpuss and save myself the bouts of occasional grumpiness.

I’ve just been mostly puttering around in the World 1 levels because they’re a lot less stressful.

One piece of good news: The secret rooms are not once a day only like the dig locations.

The earlier rooms unfortunately only give 5 baubles or thereabouts, minus the one bauble spent on the bomb, which isn’t much profit for time spent but there are a few exceptions I’ve been marking out. Presumably someone else will figure out the most optimal route for least amount of time, but that someone ain’t me.


This one in 1-1 yields a 15 bauble profit.

This one in 1-2 is worth 24 baubles.

This one in 1-2 is worth 24 baubles.

I suspect World 1-2 will still be the friendliest one to farm even after all the dig locations have been used up.

The other thing I think will become popular is unlocking chests. If you slaughter stuff until a key drops, the chests deliver anywhere from 20-40 baubles.

I mentioned before that I really appreciate the Quality of Life tweaks made to the earlier levels.


Much❤ for this barrel, since I can now take the “pro” route without pressing dodge-jump and praying to the latency gods.


These trees now have friendly outgrowths so that all the monkeys are accessible, if you don’t like being pelted by them.

Maybe they’re used in Tribulation Mode, who knows, I haven’t watched a video yet or attempted it, since I do want to buy an Infinite Continue Coin for that mode, but am holding back until normal mode is less crazy.

(I have certain principles about contributing to datamined statistics, especially where a cash shop is concerned, and I strongly suspect the amount of people who flung their hands up and bought a convenient way out is already high enough. Slippery slope and all that. We may rant a lot but sometimes it boils down to numbers and wallet votes.)

I like that they’ve got a Mini Moto for 20 baubles and Mini Miya to forge. It’s a casual’s sort of reward, being less costly to accumulate than the weapon skins and thus easier to strive for.

The components for Mini Miya seem to be fairly readily available – they’re also avaliable on the TP. The wig seems to drop just by killing random mobs. I believe I got a dress out of a jumping puzzle chest. My tiara came from a Metrica Province Fire Elemental chest, so it looks like it’s a reward from chasing dragons (ie. the open world bosses on a timer).

Information for obtaining the nunchaku or chain-sticks from the secret shop have filtered their way into the Reddit hivemind, so today’s mini-goal was to farm up World 1 for enough baubles to revisit the World 2 level on Infantile and buy that upgrade.

With dig locations, which are sadly, once a day only, I got about 465 by the time I hit the Queen Bee Dog area in World 1-3 so I left before King Toad and slooowly clambered my way on rainbows to the correct location. (Seriously, still too large a map, as much as I deeply appreciate Josh’s enthusiasm and willingness to put in excessive overtime to make the SAB an epic experience.)

The chainsticks were absolutely worth it though. I tackled a few assassins after that and felt like I had better reach and slightly faster animation time per swing, which does help in scrums.

I finally noticed the sword assassins had a knockback – which led to a few deaths hurtling involuntarily from a long height – but did my best to try and position myself with back to walls and so on.

If I successfully dodged their first swing, the fights generally went well. Things tended to get more difficult if I caught their charge with my body because I would get knocked down, frozen in position with invulnerable on, and then slowly clamber up in time to catch another charge from the assassin, sometimes just as invulnerable wore off. I wonder if the charr getting up animation is slightly longer than other races, or just a latency problem?

Sorry, got diverted for a sec there. Back to positivity again.

You know the one part of the SAB I really really like? As a Bartle Explorer first and Achiever second?

Discovering nifty secrets.

Sometimes I just stumble into them without really trying because my eyes are always going, “what’s that funny thing over there, why is there like a path here that doesn’t seem to go anywhere?” then before I know it, I’m gambling away lives trying to get to places that maybe were unintended to get to, or maybe absolutely were intended.

Why is that flower all the way down there?

Why is that flower all the way down there?

Aiming in the most probable and suspicious location (always look behind waterfalls, you know?) and voila, secret passageway with cool stuff.

Bears' secret sign stash

Bears’ secret sign stash

That eventually leads to a chest and bypassing of the first bit of annoying rapids via high platforms. (WTB: More ways to bypass moving water.)

I told you all I was waiting for someone else to nicely compile dig locations in a guide for me, right?

I can’t help it, I am sometimes magnetically attracted to these things. Maybe why I take so long in levels is that I sometimes succumb to the urge to compulsively dig per square inch, because those dig locations are so finnicky, y’know? Maybe there’s something here no one else has found yet…


World 2-1: Just before the long bridge with the assassins that leads to the raft, take a right and slip down the edge of the cliff…


…Sliding down all the way here and digging reveals a chest of 50 baubles! Yes, 50! Once a day, but still, not 5, not 20, 50!

There’s someone else on Reddit that has been nice enough to share the other stuff he’s found. There seems to be quite a bit in 2-1 that I’m quite eager to get to… eventually…

…I really can’t wait for the water / rapids / geyser bits to get tweaked a bit more. It actually is fairly peaceful to roam 2-1, if not for the lingering hydrophobia.

The best lemonade from malfunctioning water?

As usual, I got kicked off some rapids or other, flung bodily into the abyss, and somehow between lag and appearing and disappearing in funky locations because client and server couldn’t quite agree on which x,y,z coordinates my character was in… somehow managed to steer myself through a waterfall which I suspect was never meant to be reached.

The prelude to nothingness: a platform going nowhere.

The prelude to nothingness: a platform going nowhere.

I dug around, threw bombs, didn’t find anything, though granted I didn’t dig in every single pixel or tile.

When I got tired, I threw myself off the side, thinking to commit suicide and… ended up in another world altogether. (Ok, ok, at the very bottom of the map.)

Welcome to the LOVE MMO, GW2 edition.

Welcome to the LOVE MMO, GW2 edition.

There was something poetically awe-inspiring about running on all fours as a silhouette.

There was something poetically awe-inspiring about running on all fours as a silhouette.

You know me, I am so easily bribed by a memorable screenshot.

I’ll put up with funky water for a few days if it inadvertently leads to one moment of perfect beauty.

(Just a few days though. I can’t quite reach the end of the level by falling under it.)

I do have this to say, though: One of the best things about the SAB team is their willingness to interact on the forums, share their insights and respond to feedback.

Josh Foreman catches a lot of flak and negativity from frustrated people looking for an outlet, and he’s just right in there, soaking it up and learning lessons and being willing to iterate and learn lessons and make things better.

That’s a special brand of masochism right there, which probably explains why he can make and play through sadistic platformers in the first place. The “live, learn, and constantly iterate” attitude is worthy of serious respect, and for that, I salute the SAB dev team.

Please keep striving to make things better. As a player of your game, I am very happy that my devs care.

P.S. My prior grumpiness has pushed me off my arse and gotten me to update FRAPS. Yet another positive. I may actually dabble a little in videos now and then.

I present for your viewing pleasure (please have a strong stomach) World 1-2 cage fight on a charr.

It’s not a complaint, by the way. It’s not something the SAB devs can fix specifically, I don’t think. I’ve lived with it since the previous SAB, and I’ll live with it this time around too.

I just wanted to share, since sometimes people don’t see or think there’s a problem when they don’t see things from another person’s or computer’s persective.

Have a good laugh, give thanks that you main a human/sylvari/asura, and continue to have fun.

Signing off, your furry friend.


GW2: Fixing the Fractures

At the moment, it's ugly as sin, but there's always hope for tomorrow...

I still can’t stop thinking about fractals.

But rather, it’s nagging me at a deeper theoretical level.

Design is so important to a game. It’s so easy to nudge players into behaving one way or another, and inadvertently, I fear Guild Wars 2 has let players slip back into some of their older, negative gaming habits with how effectively current day fractals are -fracturing- the community.

Everyone knows the gathering node example by now. If two players are set up in competition for that one resource, very quickly, people start cursing that other bastard for ‘stealing’ ‘their’ node.

If it’s a shared node, then there’s less of a rush and time pressure, and opens out the option for the two players to cooperate on their way to the node, and harvest it together, both benefitting.

Of course, in practice even in Guild Wars 2, we see a certain subset of players having created their own personal version of rush and time pressure (get as many nodes as possible in a short period of time) and acting selfishly as a result. These would be the ones that ignore the mobs on the way, either using you to fight for them or assuming everyone is equally in a hurry and will run past, grab their nodes and go.

Depending on your expectations of their behavior, you might either get upset by their actions, or just aim a muttered curse in your thoughts in their direction, or shrug and ignore them because you like killing the mobs anyway. Or you may quickly change and adapt and follow their example, snatch the node and head off yourself. Or maybe you and they were on the same page from the beginning and both snatched and went without a moment’s thought that other players might play differently.

Complete unity is impossible. A well-populated MMO naturally contains different groupings of players with differing priorities. It’s quite natural that they will gravitate to those that share their own interests. What is important in the game’s design though is to try not to shove them at each other and force them to accept one group or the other’s playstyle because that’s just asking for a headlong confrontation complete with screaming, yelling and kicking in-game and across all manner of internet channels and bad blood across both divides. (Unless that result is what is desirable for the game for whatever reason.)

Ideally, you might want the different players to still come in contact with each other from time to time and find reason to work together or tolerate each other if the sum contribution is still valuable. GW2 was striving towards this in its world events, where pretty much any body is welcome, an extra hand, to do damage or rez or support, even if some levels are better than others, some builds are better than others and so on.

WvW also still relies on a sizeable militia body as well as organised groups, (if only because no one server can field sufficient organized group numbers 24/7 and maintain that for long),  even if differing values and strategies and opinions and the flood of adrenaline and competition can occasionally lead to some dramatic implosions or fractures in a community.  This generally results in fairly controlled, mostly mature behavior even through numerous disagreements from a majority of players, if only because overall unity is still the only way to get somewhere. But you can see some of the hidden, negative behaviors shine through when the situation breaks down – griefers, forum trolling, exploiters, back seat commanders, commanders turning on each other, individuals fleeing to save themselves, the works.

Failing which, another alternative is to separate out and leave the different players with differing priorities hobnobbing in their separate circles, achieving success in their own way and having little reason to quarrel with each other.

In retrospect, it seems Guild Wars 1 used this route quite considerably. PvPers did their own thing – make a PvP character, get all the skills already unlocked for your meta building contentment and eventually the devs did separate out PvE and PvP skills from affecting each other (there may have been some screaming in the meantime, I’m not sure, I wasn’t paying attention back then.)

For PvE, they included heroes and henchmen, and a very shallow level and stat cap. You know what this did? It immediately allowed all the soloists to segregate themselves and -still- feel like they were making successful progress in their own staggered time. You might race through all the missions in a week or two, I might take a month or more to get there. Doesn’t matter, we all got there in the end, and me being slower does not have to affect you because I would never join your group, my heroes would do just fine.

Of course, the drawback was that this left out the sociable groupers to quite an extent, who complained that it felt too lonely, the lobby instancing made it less ‘world-like’ and couldn’t find groups easily. However, the partial solution for them matched their nature – they could find a good guild, whom they might socialize with, group and play with and progress that way with others. No one’s solved the guild matching problem just yet, though.

World of Warcraft is perhaps another interesting study. There’s the obvious achievement focused hardcore raiders, whom are all found at the max level plateau, happily chugging through their vertical progression ladder of tiered raids and item levels. And, though I’m lumping them very generally here, there are more casual-oriented players who spend most of their time in the leveling game, socializing and what not. What is their unique focus? Chris Whiteside mentioned it in the GW2 AMA and I thought it very intriguing. Collection. They collect stables of alts of various races and classes, god-knows-how many cute pets, mounts, achievements, costumes, etc.

The real fanatics, of course, do both.

All kidding aside, to me, it seems they generally do operate in their own little spheres, content to ignore each others’ playstyles. However, it is contingent on the WoW casuals having cheerfully accepted that they will never ever reach the level of perceived ‘progress’ as the raiders. Any discontentment along that front and you can get quite the war.

And it does seem these days that Blizzard has had to stagger things out along a casual to hardcore spectrum or continuum in order to try and make everyone happy, rather than carry on with the bait and switch leveling/raid divide. The drawback in their system? People getting tired or jaded and burning out from running an endless treadmill of vertical progression.

Guild Wars 2 has an exceptionally tricky puzzle in their hands now. Both the Clock Tower and the fractals have demonstrated just how violent the uproar can become when one inadvertently forms and highlights divides in the playerbase (even along arbitrary lines, hello, character SIZE as a discriminating factor? Wow), and how reflexively negative behavior aimed at others can result.

Which is completely counter to the overall goal of having players cooperating and working with each other in relative unity, even if they do have to segregate out now and then into their little ghettos to hang with others of their kind.

We’ll have to leave it in the devs’ hands to see what they will do next.

If it were up to me though?

The first thing that comes to mind is to try and diminish the immediate divides. Fractal levels are way too fractured, and players are only receiving progression benefit from players of their specific level tier (or higher, if they would deign to come down to join the hoi polloi, which rarely occurs.)

The pool of players that can offer each other benefits has to expand a lot more rapidly, including making it easier for cross-server groups or guildmates of currently different fractal levels to play with each other, and indeed, for players to find and draw from the totality of the pool (aka LFG spam is not the most ideal of group finding methods.)

They’ve already said they will be including opportunities to obtain Ascended gear through other activities. Which should help to keep the separate groups happy doing their own thing.

What now concerns me is that the divides have already happened. This will leave scars in the psyche of the playerbase. We might already have gotten meaner, more elitist, less trusting, more selfish.

We’ve already seen most of the world abandoned, except for Cursed Shore and Frostgorge Sound, little comfort zone areas of the farmers – despite tweaks that have made other zones decently viable to run level 80s about in. The profusion of things to do at any one time also separates people – harvest nodes, chase world completion, WvW, PvP, jumping puzzle, umpteen dungeons including an infinite one now, farm DEs for loot, farm DEs for karma, farm mobs for crafting items, I’m sure there’s more I’ve missed in my casual run-on sentence list.

What I’d really like to see ArenaNet focus on in the next few months, or even in the long-term (because realistically, companies can’t react that fast) is to try and reiterate a sense of unity in the playerbase. Make us value cooperation and coming together again, if only for a little while.

I know it sounds very cheesy-Treahearne heal-the-scars-of-the-land at the moment. And lord knows I don’t want another one-off lagfest of epic proportions.

But I’d like to be able to run with a group of 10-20 out in the world again, taking down world bosses, running through mini-dungeons, falling and being helped through jumping puzzles, loling and laughing in a friendly manner with each other, cracking jokes and bonding with each other.

Hell, even a costume brawl. Or revive an interest in Keg Brawl. New mini-game activities of a nonserious non-end-of-the-world omg-the-dragons-are-here nature.

Get a guild, you say? I got one, thanks. And we -do- do this sort of thing in WvW, which has helped quite a bit with my recent morale problems.

But why dump the sole load and responsibility on individual guild leaders and officers and players? Design for the feature and give us players a hand here. Throw us already premade into random groups of 10 or 20 into not-too-difficult fun instances. Help us laugh and have fun with each other, not resort to blamethrowing and shit slinging for whatever twisted behaviorial reason. The dragons are always fun to take down together, but it’s notable that players have had to resort to an out-of-game dragon timer in order to congregate en masse. Guilds might benefit from more tools and features to get their members working together and hanging out together in one place. Hell, if you can solve the age-old problem of player matching with suitable guilds, that would be a design miracle and be ripped off by all future MMOs just like the uber-customizable character creator.

Here’s hoping to good things coming for Wintersday. Toys. Toys equate to casual fun, right? How could they possibly screw this one up?