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.
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.